Piers Morgan accused the BBC of “total cowardice” during a debate on the axing of free TV licences for over-75s. The TV host labelled the ban “ironic”, claiming if pensioners did go to prison, they would “get television for free”. Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Piers pointed out: “The irony being, if they did go to prison, they’d get television for free. I mean what has it come to?”
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Later in the show, Piers argued: “It’s just total cowardice. Where are you the BBC?
“Seriously, your job is not to hide in your bunker when you unleash these bombs.
“When you say to 3.7million pensioners ‘you’re now going to pay for your licence fee’. Your job is to come and defend them.”
A pensioner, Maureen Sales, also appeared on Good Morning Britain to discuss the BBC controversy.
She told Piers: “I lost my husband in an accident 22 years ago on our wedding anniversary, couldn’t have been a worse day at all, if at all.
“What’s happened to his pension? That’s what I’m asking. All his life he’d worked.”
On how important television is to her life, Ms Sales commented: “Well it is my life, it’s my family. I plan my day by my magazine every week and I sit and ring off everything I want to see and am going to see. Without that, I’ve got nothing. I live in the country very much so, very beautiful side of Sussex.”
The BBC has come under fire after announcing that, from June 2020, the concession will be available only to households where someone receives Pension Credit.
Only around 1.5 million households will be eligible for a free TV licence under the new scheme.
As part of the charter agreement which came into effect in 2017, the BBC would take on the burden of paying for free licences by June 2020.
From that date, following a review by the broadcaster, only households with someone over the age of 75 who receives Pension Credit will be eligible for a free TV licence funded by the BBC.
It is thought that around 3.7 million pensioners will lose out.
The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22, depending on the take-up.
Ex-Commons leader Andrea Leadsom told the Press Association: “I think that’s unacceptable. It’s a commitment in the Conservatives’ manifesto and we need to find a way to reverse that.”
Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said she will back a campaign by ITV’s Good Morning Britain asking the BBC to reverse its decision.
She wrote on Twitter: “As someone who used to work for the BBC I am ashamed of them for this decision.
“Our ‘public service broadcaster’ who has forgotten the public they are supposed to serve. Agree with @RuthDavidsonMSP & @GMB campaign.”
Labour has launched a campaign to restore free TV licences for all over-75s, describing the move as “an act of cruelty”. Leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter: “Pensioners have spent their lives contributing to our society. Providing over-75s with free TV licences is not too much to ask. Sign the petition if you agree.”
Nearly 300,000 people have signed an Age UK petition opposing the move, at the time of writing.
A similar petition on the UK Parliament website received upwards of 12,000 signatures while more than 50,000 also called for the licence fee to be abolished altogether, claiming the bill was “far too expensive for ordinary people”.
The free licence fee was first paid for by a Labour government in 2000. Under the Conservatives in 2015, ministers announced that an agreement had been reached between the Government and the BBC, and the broadcaster would shoulder the cost.