OPINION: I'm over 75 but will happily pay for a TV licence from August 1

From August 1, over-75s are required to pay for a TV licence

From August 1, over-75s are required to pay for a TV licence - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Television licences will no longer be free for over-75s from August 1 - Paul Thomas, who is 80, says it still represents good value in the modern age

It dropped through the letterbox a week or two ago – a demand for £159! Oh dear, August 1 and the end of the year-long deadline since we ancients have been told to pay for a TV licence. 

But, wait a minute – people reckon that’s for the BBC – but TV isn’t just the BBC anymore is it? There are literally scores of channels showing you everything under the sun – indeed even the moon these days and nights.

Some are free, some charge you lots.

And suddenly loomed the reminder … demand for money to watch television, listen to radio, know what is happening worldwide, in the universe, nationally, here in East Anglia… be informed, entertained, educated… and by whom? What sort of value is it? A rip-off – or great value?


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My life, work and play, has been about communications - and radio and TV, plus newspapers have played a major part of that. And while the over-75s have had it –free in this century at least – now we have to pay. Unless you’re up for health concessions etc.

Which prompts us to analyse just what life would be like without it – any TV or radio, let alone the BBC – the Beeb.

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If “the service” was switched off – for good – life would never be the same. Blank. Silent. No news, or entertainment. Nothing. And whether you want to pay, feel the price is justified, or not – life could not exist without it, and the BBC is the epitome of it today, whatever your opinion may be.

Radio origins started back in the 1850s – but very early 1900s saw black and white “television” created. An annual licence fee of 10 shillings was first introduced under the Wireless Telegraphy Act in November 1923, to cover radio sets. At the time, labourers in the south of England were earning around £2 12s a week.

By the end of 1923, 200,000 licences had been issued. The British Broadcasting Corporation was created to operate public television services in the UK under the terms of a royal charter in 1927. It produced a few television programmes from its own studios from 1932, its regular service since November 1936.

The first combined radio and TV licence, costing £2, was issued in June 1946. The Post Office collected the payments for a cut of the revenue, the Treasury had a cut until October 1963, when excise duty on licences was abolished.

After wartime, in the 1950s television was really dawning on us with competition to the BBC creeping in. Television now enjoyed political as well as popular support, the Beveridge Report having paved the way for the launch of independent TV – ITV - in 1955. Now we had more private stations starting up, radio too – existing on selling advertising.

From next year only households where someone receives Pension Credit will be eligible for a free TV

Only households where someone receives Pension Credit will be eligible for a free TV license - Credit: PA

The BBC was seen as the national TV supplier, and had to develop regional radio stations locally – prompted by and to defeat pirates. I remember sailing out to visit Radio London and Caroline, two pirate broadcasting ships in the North Sea – that subsequently prompted BBC local radio that sunk those pirates, though broadcast stars, Tony Blackburn an example, still with us today, survived. 

Anglia TV was born in Norwich too in 1960 with a few hours a week. Then into success, growth, still with us today.

As a result of the Broadcasting Act 1990, the BBC was made responsible for licence administration and TV Licensing and was sub-contracted to collect the fee – but far from just on its own behalf. In March 2004, there were 24.5m licences in force.

But growth, nationwide, gave the BBC competition and serious broadcasting was now commercial, making money for many. And so over nearly three quarters of a century the industry has grown, hugely – and is today many many times the size of the BBC.

Many other stations with specialist content. Classics on Channels Four and Five – more sport on Sky. Some free via Freeview, others charging. But more entertainment than you could ever seek – or need.

Many of us watch Netflix for its great series of movies – the stature of which we used to go to he cinema to watch. The Crown a classic example. And many more, admittedly for a monthly fee but again good value.

And where is the BBC? Today, much less than the controlling broadcaster we saw as the truth, the only news, view, life? That image has passed and as we entered the 21st century, with Sky, CNN and so much more news. One in four over-65s say the TV is their main form of companionship, according to Age UK. I’d guess much of that is thanks to the “good old Beeb”.

Now its fighting to survive. Money is vital - though saved by cutting pay of some celebrity presenters

Value – still good? Are fees just income to help the BBC survive? No, so much more than that. The BBC still gives us new and wide range subjects – in sport we have Wimbledon fortnight, my favourite of sports TV per annum, plus right now the Olympics. 

The Beeb is still so many different worlds – reflecting life today.

Blinking Brilliant Content… so lets pay up and appreciate it!

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