Free TV licences: Ricky Tomlinson leads BBC Salford protest

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Ricky Tomlinson said the government should fund free TV licences

Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson has led a protest outside the BBC’s northern headquarters against plans to axe free TV licences for the over-75s.

The actor, 79, and about 60 pensioners demonstrated at MediaCityUK in Salford – the home of BBC 5 Live and BBC Sport.

“I don’t think the BBC should be funding this at all – I think the government should be,” he said.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it was “disappointed” with the BBC.

Mr Tomlinson, 79, an ambassador for Age UK, said of elderly people: “One of the biggest things they’ve got to keep them going is the television.

“It’s a lifeline to them and we are talking about taking it away and if not taking it away, charging them for having it.

“I think it’s an absolute disgrace. And anyone who votes for that should be ashamed of themselves and quit their job as an MP.”

He added: “They have worked all their life. We’ve paid into the system and the little bit you’ve given them back you are now taking away.”

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The demonstration was organised by the National Pensioners Convention.

At present, all over-75s receive a free TV licence, but from next year it will be means-tested with only households which receive pension credit being eligible.

The BBC has said the move aims to protect programming while dealing with the extra funding burden sparked by the government passing the cost of funding free licences onto the BBC as part of an updated charter agreement.

More than three million people over 75 will have to pay for their TV licence when the new scheme comes into effect on 1 June 2020.

A DCMS statement said: “We’ve been clear that we want and expect the BBC to continue this concession.”

The demo in Salford was organised by the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), which is meeting in Blackpool.