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BBC warning it will enforce the law

The BBC is warning that it will “enforce the law” if pensioners refuse to pay but continue watching television.
 
In a task expected to take at least two months 16-page letters are being sent to 4.5 million pensioners giving the recipients two months to respond or their licence will be cancelled automatically. It also offers the option of cancelling an existing licence if recipients state that they no longer watch, record live television programmes, or use iPlayer.
 
In a scheme due to cost a total of £90 million over the next five years the BBC has set up new call centres and hired 800 staff to take payments and deal with queries. The implementation costs currently stand at £38 million with a yearly cost of £13 million per year thereafter.
 
When asked what would happen if over-75s did not pay for a new licence, but were later found to be watching television, a spokesman for the BBC said, “When TV Licensing is informed a property does not need a licence, our records are immediately updated to reflect this, and no further letters are sent for approximately two years. TV Licensing (TVL) may visit the address to verify the situation.”

The spokesman added: “TVL does its best not to trouble genuine non-viewers. TVL never presumes guilt, but people do say they do not need a licence when they do. TVL has a duty to enforce the law on behalf of those who pay.”
 
Silver Voices, a group that lobbies for the rights of the over-60s, said it had gained 500 new members in the past week after launching its Gum Up The Works campaign, and its campaigners are urging pensioners to disrupt the payment system by using cheques rather than direct debits.

It is asking people to come up with “creative” ways of complicating the system for the BBC. Such tactics include settling licence fee matters by cheque or postal order and sending 12 postdated cheques rather than paying the £157.50 licence fee upfront. 

Director Dennis Reed said, “We have been getting a fantastic response. People have been coming up with interesting new ideas. At the moment, paying by monthly cheque is not an acceptable method – you are only allowed to pay by monthly direct debit – so TVL would have to write back and tell you this is not an appropriate way of paying. But we would urge people to appeal and say it is clearly age discrimination not to accept a form of payment that older people may prefer to use.” 
 
Mr Reed said, “Imagine if 100,000 or 200,000 pensioners managed to delay their payment by four or five months – what that would do to the cash flow. The Government has been blaming the BBC and vice versa. There needs to be some discussion about a solution.”

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