THE BBC has announced that it intends to send squads to the homes of over-75s to make sure that they pay their TV licence when their free licence entitlement ends next year, a move clearly designed to terrorise them into either paying or giving up their TVs.
These visits from what the BBC calls ‘outreach teams’ are intended to scare the elderly and persuade them that either they pay up the cost of a licence, currently £154.50 a year, or provide evidence that they are exempt by being in receipt of Pension Credit.
If they are not entitled to Pension Credit, then these specially recruited teams will make it clear that the BBC will be pursuing them relentlessly for the money. 3.7 million very elderly people who get free TV licences at present are due for a knock on the door.
Clare Sumner, the BBC director of policy, told MPs at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee meeting this week that the visits will be done ‘as sympathetically as possible’.
When asked by an MP if the BBC would be ‘vigorously pursuing non-payers’ with the same methods it uses against others who evade the licence fee, Sumner could only protest that these teams would be different saying: ‘They will be a different cohort to people who enforce the licence fee.’
It was put to Sumner that this was the ‘same tactics but with different faces coming to your door’ and when she was asked point blank: ‘A licence fee person comes to your door and you are a poor pensioner who simply can’t afford to pay it – that will be pretty traumatic, don’t you think?’ – all Sumner could do was complain that: ‘They won’t be coming to your door in quite the way you imply.’
She didn’t specify exactly how it would be different; presumably the fact that the threat is delivered by bailiffs oozing sympathy while they inform vulnerable pensioners that they will be dragged to court makes it different.
The simple fact is that this tactic is designed to instil terror into one of the most vulnerable sections of society, elderly people who can’t afford the licence fee and who in many cases rely on the companionship that TV offers to get through the day.
As for the BBC claim that the poorest over-75s will still be exempt because of Pension Credit, the fact is that last month it was revealed that over a million pensioner households are living in poverty due to unpaid Pension Credit.
According to the charity Independent Age, the Tories Pension Credit scheme is a ‘very complex and intrusive process’ requiring detailed financial information which is not required for any other benefit support, and that, ‘The stress and pressure involved in providing this information – which can only be provided over the phone – acts as a major deterrent’ to claimants.
The Tories deliberately devised a benefit scheme that is so complex it prevents the elderly from claiming. Then in 2015, Tory chancellor George Osborne told the BBC that free TV licences would no longer be funded by the government and that the BBC would have to pick up the tab, which they originally agreed to.
This year the BBC announced it was unilaterally scrapping this agreement and now is promising hit squads to terrorise elderly people into paying money that the vast majority simply cannot afford or face being dragged before the courts and having their TVs confiscated.
This is a stark reality of capitalism; when workers reach an age when they can no longer work and be exploited for profit, then they become an unnecessary expense for the capitalist class and subjected to the same ‘hostile environment’ reserved for every worker too old to have their labour exploited by the bosses and bankers.
The working class must take action to stop this vicious attack on vulnerable pensioners by demanding that trade unions organise mass strikes to ensure no pensioner is terrorised by the BBC and its hit squads by bringing down the Tories and going forward to a workers government and a socialist society that will expropriate the bosses and bankers and provide a decent retirement for every worker.