'You become prisoners inside four walls': Leeds pensioners demand their free TV licences

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Dozens of Yorkshire pensioners gathered outside the BBC offices in Leeds today in protest against the decision to scrap free TV licences for over 75s.

-> Yorkshire pensioners will protest in Leeds today against scrapped free TV licences

BBC protest

BBC protest

The protest, organised by the Yorkshire and the Humber Pensioners Convention (YHPC), took place on St Peter's Square this afternoon.

The senior citizens were hoping to get the attention of representatives from the BBC to discuss their concerns.

From next summer, only those over 75 years old who get the pension credit will be given a free TV licence.

Everyone else will have to pay the full cost of £154 a year, including people entitled to pension credit who do not claim it.

BBC protest

BBC protest

Protesters were promised a representative from the BBC would come out to meet them and listen to their demands.

Roy Rix, a 79-year-old from Stockton-on-Tees, called the plans a 'great injustice'.

He travelled down to the protest on his own, but planned to meet up with friends at the protest.

Roy, a retired road sweeper, said: "They want to make me pay £154 a year, when I don't have an income that allows me to pay that.

BBC protest

BBC protest

"It means a lot to pensioners - it's often the only contact we have with anything.

"You become prisoners inside four walls and that TV is one of the main outlets for contact.

"If you take that away then basically you just fade away."

Roy said he would refuse to pay the TV licence if the plans go ahead.

BBC protest

BBC protest

He added: "I'll go to jail for it, I've got nothing to lose."

The Labour Parliamentary candidate for Pudsey, Jane Aitchson, was supporting the senior activists.

She said: "In 2017 the Tories said they would defend free TV licences for pensioners, but what they've done is an absolute disgrace.

"There are millions of pensioners who are due to lose their TV license and it might seem like a small thing, but it isn't.

"It puts off loneliness, it's company in the house and it's entertainment - something we all like it do."

How have the BBC responded?

A BBC spokesperson said: “It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for all over 75s, and Parliament gave the BBC the clear responsibility to decide and consult on the future policy.

"If the BBC were to fund free licences for all over 75s it would mean unprecedented closures of services and make the BBC substantially worse for all audiences, so we chose the fairest option by helping the poorest older pensioners.

We want to raise the visibility of Pension Credit and have already written to charities and older people’s groups to work together to do this.

We have started a public information campaign which includes using our airwaves and writing to all 4.6 million households setting out the new scheme.

We hope that pensioners will consider claiming pension credit as they could then be eligible for around £2,500 and other benefits as well as a free TV licence."