Pay for a TV licence – or ditch the BBC and watch another channel instead

PUBLISHED: 11:33 22 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:04 23 July 2020

James suggests we should all pay for a TV licence, or simply ignore the BBC channels and watch something else

James suggests we should all pay for a TV licence, or simply ignore the BBC channels and watch something else


James Marston doesn’t agree with free TV licences for over-75s. Instead he suggests simply avoiding BBC channels and watching something else

What makes, and what doesn’t make the news is always a subject that intrigues me.

From the end of next week, and you’d be forgiven for not hearing that much about it, the over-75s will be paying for their TV licences.

It is a news story, although not completely without coverage, hasn’t, it seems to me, been widely discussed in our national conversation – perhaps because other things have been going on, perhaps because there are vested interests – the BBC in particular springs to mind – in not talking about it too much.

But this week I had a letter:

Dear James,

You will have seen or heard of the intention of the BBC to start charging the over-75s, very many of them on very modest incomes, for their currently free TV licenses. The proposed annual fee will be around £160 There are around three million older folks in this country (many living on their own) that this will affect. 

The thing which really annoys me is the massive salaries paid to the hierarchy at the BBC and the similarly massive figures also paid to so called “celebrities” when viewed against the proposed levy on older folk who, on small incomes and who, in these trying times rely so much on TV for their daily news and entertainment as a foil to isolation and loneliness. Even on a moral basis if nothing else, this surely has to be a totally unacceptable proposal by the BBC.

With kind regards,

Peter Kimpton,

Thorpe St Andrew

My initial response to this wasn’t really very kind – why shouldn’t they pay?

But these rather ungracious thoughts that ran through my head were perhaps a little severe, perhaps ill thought through, perhaps they also missed the point.

The BBC, with whom I have somewhat of love-hate relationship as a regional newspaper journalist, has implemented the plan to charge the over-75s citing “severe financial pressure”, a claim which belies the huge number of people it employs, the massive celebrity salaries it pays, the endless concentration on utterly unnecessary outside broadcasts in central London, the stunning buildings it inhabits, let alone the huge resources it must deploy to report on every nut and bolt of the American election before it has even happened. But all institutions plead poverty don’t they? If it isn’t one it’s another.

Yet despite what might seem an unjust assault on the wallets of the over-75s, news gathering is labour intensive and entertainment doesn’t grow on trees either. If we want these things then we have to cough up. The question I wonder that we forget to ask is would we actually miss the BBC if it wasn’t there? Once upon a time the answer would have been a resounding yes but these days I’m not so sure. Do we even need a state-funded media outlet? There are plenty of others to choose from. I’d be sad to see it go but the world has changed, or so we keep being told.

What do you think? Should the over-75s pay for the TV licence? Why is public service broadcasting necessary in the modern digital age? Write to James at

James Mailbag

A big response this week to the question of face masks. I had, unusually, one or two insults (those who hurl them have usually lost the argument) but mostly letters of support. Below is a selection from those of you who got in touch.

Dear James,

I’m with you on this issue.  I will comply with the letter of the law a week today but it will be just that.  Supermarket and other “necessary” shopping is not something I enjoy so have always tried to get in and out as quickly as possible.  My face covering will go on 2m from the entrance and off the same distance from the exit!

Since the restrictions to contain this pandemic have been introduced and relaxed, I can honestly say I have seen the best and worst of human behaviour.


Mandy Smith


Hi James,

I have no issue in wearing a mask. Maybe it’s because I think of others rather than just myself? I have never worn a “muzzle”, so am unable comment if the feeling is the same. Clearly I haven’t experimented as much as you. I feel that comparing a face mask to a muzzle is a bit extreme and unhelpful. Masks clearly have a massive benefit. Why else would dentists, surgeons etc wear them? Would you be happy if your surgeon or dentist didn’t wear a mask?

Kind regards,

Matthew Waller

Good morning James,

I totally agree and will be avoiding shops unless really necessary. We are adults and it should be time now for us to start making our own decisions. I am 69 and was talking to my 82 year old neighbour who said she is tired of being told what to do. We are law abiding citizens but this is now going too far. The numbers of cases are very low now and most cases are mild. My sympathy goes out to anyone who has lost a friend or family member but surely it is time to get things in perspective.


Mrs Susan Fell

Dear James,

Your article about face masks ‘hit the spot’ for me. I too have resisted wearing one despite a kind neighbour delivering a pretty hand-made one to our home some time ago for my use. 
I hate anything covering my face and to be honest think they look pretty stupid anyway. I like to be able to see people’s whole faces, and, although I have no hearing difficulties, I find seeing people’s mouths does help in interpreting some conversations! However…sad to say, I have to accept that without some sort of penalty many won’t wear face coverings, and ultimately they are a form of protection for both ourselves and the people around us particularly when we are in close proximity to people we don’t know.

With best wishes,

Jane Juby

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press