Ricky Tomlinson Leads Protest Against Plans To Scrap Free TV Licences For Over-75s

The Royle Family star marched with pensioners in Manchester.

The Royle Family star Ricky Tomlinson has led a protest outside the BBC’s Media City offices, following the decision to axe free TV licences for the over-75s.

The 79-year-old comedian and actor branded politicians a “blood shower of hypocrites” in a rallying cry to his fellow protesters, who gathered outside the Salford Quays building where BBC 5 Live and BBC Sport are based.

The demonstration was organised by the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) and Ricky, 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.”

Ricky Tomlinson
Ricky Tomlinson
PA Ready News UK

He continued: “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.”

Funding the free licences, which have been available to all over-75s for nearly two decades, is due to be transferred from the government to the BBC next year as part of an agreement hammered out in 2015.

The corporation has said free licences will be means-tested under a new scheme that intends to protect programming while dealing with the extra funding burden.

The BBC's decision was announced earlier this week
The BBC's decision was announced earlier this week
PA Entertainment

Explaining that he does not think the BBC should shoulder the cost, Ricky added: “I think the Government should be funding this.

“They’ve got millions and millions of pounds to spend on arms and rockets and things to destroy people, we’re asking them to look after our pensioners and pay the licence for them, which is only £150 a year.

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

“I think people in show business will rally to the cause.

“Don’t take it off the pensioners, leave them alone, let them live out their days with a bit of peace and a bit of dignity.”

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

Those found to be ineligible for a free licence will have to pay £154.50 a year for a colour television and £52 a year for a black and white set.

But the move has been roundly condemned with around half a million people so far signing a petition to oppose the move.

Presenter Ben Fogle is also among those to have called for the government to rethink the agreement, while donating his entire salary from a BBC series to subsidise the licences for over-75s.

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