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Free TV licences for the over-75s

I recently had an e-mail survey/message regarding my opinion on ‘free’ television licences for the over 75s being removed from those who were - or had been eligible - by basically ‘hanging on’ and/or paying their taxes.

I was quite taken by the tone of the supposed ‘survey’ as once again the usual format of box ticking or clicking online was evident, but the standard issue carrot being dangled of ‘You could win £xxxx /a round the world cruise/chrome plated sink un-blocker in presentation gift box by simply completing this survey’ was missing, which made a welcome change as this seems to be the usual inducement to click away.

The key word as always being ‘could’ but to date I have never, ever shaken hands or met anybody who has ‘won’ anything by filling in these ‘surveys’ that come seemingly from everybody, from supermarket chains, to arm wrestling parlours and undertakers.

John Ward (5587649)
John Ward (5587649)

One disturbing fact, to me at any rate, was that it was suggesting I was ‘eligible’ or was in receipt presently of a ‘free’ licence, as I was in this age range.I felt a bit insulted as I thought those new tablets I have were doing me some good, but now I’m not so sure, although I have a glossier coat and quite a few dogs, with the occasional cat, have shown interest in trying to befriend me.

I clicked the boxes purely to get to the bit at the bottom where it asked for ‘other comments’ where I put down the following. ‘I have not reached this most wonderful age bracket, but I have it listed down in my diary under ‘forthcoming attractions’ or ‘things to look out for’. So until I get there, assuming everything goes to plan, I can’t really give an honest answer - but I have done my best. PS I still find ‘Dad’s Army’ very amusing when not filling in online surveys as a form of entertainment, and consider ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ to be a sort of training video, but I am doing so while paying full whack as a bona fide licence payer’.

John Ward (12107610)
John Ward (12107610)

I can appreciate to a degree the stress this may well be causing some people, but on viewing the programme schedules, the sheer amount of the repeat programmes far outweighs the new stuff, with only the supposed news plus the weather being about the only two that are ‘new’ by their very nature or definition.

The eye watering amounts being paid - I won’t use the word earned, but rather obtained being a better word, by some supposed ‘talented’ people.

On the other end of the spectrum before the supposed ‘free licence’ (briefly) came about, my mum, ‘of the people for the people’, had the television licence reminder arrive on the doormat but on the inside of the door. At the time it had ‘done a kangaroo job’ as she phrased such events as price rises (there was no paraphrase for anything going down in price as it never happened) as the price had ‘leapt up’ and she was at a loss trying to work out why.

The following is basically what I gleaned from Roy, who was the sub postmaster at her local shop, that was also the post office that in those days, so paid out pensions and child benefits, accepted payment for your gas and electricity bills, plus plus sold stamps and postal orders.

John Ward (14325636)
John Ward (14325636)

Mum arrived in the ‘post office bit’ one morning. She was armed with a note or list, plus the television licence reminder, and being polite she asked if Roy had a few minutes to spare. He was having a quiet moment so agreed, and the following exchange took place.

She thought the licence fee rise was outrageous, more so as she had paid the year before and could not work out how they had managed to use it all up so fast. During the Second World War they had to ‘make things last’ but clearly the BBC was not heeding these lines and her neighbour Pat had also paid her licence at the very same time so they must be ‘rolling in it’ cash wise.

Roy kept a straight face as he heard her out as she then progressed to the list she had written. It went something like this.

John Ward.
John Ward.

‘She and father didn’t watch the gardening programme since Percy Thrower stopped doing it. Percy was then known by presenting gardening programmes that showed how to look after your flowers in the garden in general as opposed to nowadays where the flowers are all ripped out and replaced with paving slabs, a water feature or waterfall, miles of wooden decking and possibly a Chinese pagoda installed. So she had worked it out that this cost £6 and wanted it ‘deducting’ from her licence fee as it was no longer watched.

‘The Olympics were held every four years so she wanted a discount for the three years or part of, as they were not shown on television - deduct, say, £7.’

She had listed a range of programmes they had never seen as they were either out shopping, gardening or whatever, so generally not available at the time of transmission and they had no video recorder. And she tried to catch the episode of the soap opera ‘Eastenders’ (she called it ‘Depression End’) where the actors were smiling or had intelligent things to say as opposed to the usual ‘wassat all abart?’ or ‘woz going on?’ stuff - deduct £5.

The biggest let down she pointed out was when they stopped making ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ - a weekly series about a London policeman that ran for years - as it showed policemen in uniforms patrolling the streets and brought back happy memories, plus it reminded her of what they looked like if she should see one around her area and could explain them to the youngsters. Deduct £10.

All-in-all she had worked it out the BBC owed her £7 and left the list with Roy who said he would try to ‘sort it out’ - but in the meanwhile she paid for the licence. Unbeknown to her, he gave me ‘the list’ which is still about somewhere in the archives here.

Based on present day activities, she would be looking to have the licence free plus be paid a three figure sum for the inconvenience of having to tune in to watch!


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