The row over the BBC's decision to scrap universal free TV licences for the over-75s not only focused on the impact on those affected, but asked a much bigger question: Should a younger demographic (whose consumption of traditional TV continues to decline) be expected to pay for a service that the bulk of their older viewers get for free?
How did this all start?
Free TV licences for the over-75s were introduced by Gordon Brown in his 2000 Budget, and are subsidised by the government.
But in 2015 Chancellor George Osbourne decided that the subsidy would be phased out by 2020, which means the BBC would now be picking up the annual bill of £745m (if it decides to maintain free licences for all over-75s). Just to give that figure a bit of context, it is about a fifth of their overall budget which it spends on making programmes for BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, BBC News, Local Radio, and its children's output. Naturally, this has caused much alarm at the corporation!
What happens next?
Under the BBC's new rules, only low-income households (where one person receives the pension credit benefit) will still be eligible for a free licence. It estimates that its new proposal will reduce its costs to £250 million per year, enabling it to avoid any channel closures.
A look at population numbers casts an interesting light on the over-75s issue and the wider implications of that cost. National Statistics data showed that in 2000 the UK had 4.37m people aged 75 and over. By 2020 this figure is projected to be 5.84m – a jump of 1.47m.
Over the next couple of months, TV Licensing will be writing to everyone who currently has a free over-75 licence to let them know about the new scheme and make clear that they will remain fully covered until 31 May 2020.
A free telephone information line will also be launched this month where older customers and their relatives can access information on the new policy. A new "pay as you go" payment scheme will also be launched from June 2020 which will let people spread the cost in fortnightly or monthly payments.