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Shropshire Star comment: Look again at TV licence fee changes for over-75s

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Age Concern is right to raise concerns about the impact elderly people will feel as they struggle to pay for TV licences.

The end of the free licence for those aged over 75 will have a huge impact on pensioners – especially those who are by no means rich but have just enough income or savings to be deemed able to pay.

At a time in life when many are struggling with infirmity or illness, it feels wrong that one of the few comforts of old age is being withdrawn.

We are fully aware that there is a significant cost of providing a free licence to over-75s. And we are also aware of the manner in which the Government has passed the buck to the BBC by transferring responsibility for the concession to our national broadcaster.

Successive Governments has raised pensions and benefits so that the elderly no longer face the sort of impoverished final years that was formerly commonplace.

However, Age Concern is entirely right to point out just how important TV is to elderly people as a way to ease isolation. Loneliness is a scourge for our elderly, who all too often have nobody to talk to and whose only daily contact is frequently a postal worker.

There is a national debate to be had here. Is it time for the licence fee as a whole to be looked at?

In an age of multi channels, should we all be funding a non-commercial organisation that is ever expanding not just in broadcasting but in online journalism too?

The BBC is a great institution and does great work – but it also has none of the commercial pressures placed on rival media organisations.

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PM Boris Johnson and his key advisors seem intent on re-imagining the space in which the BBC operates and Aunty Beeb appears more vulnerable than ever. A re-organisation is along the tracks.

That may mean an eventual end to the TV licence for all. In the meantime, steps should be taken to ensure vulnerable pensioners do not suffer by losing one of their only pleasures in life.

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The late Terry Jones achieved greatness. A pioneer of silliness, a master of the absurd, the former Monty Python star was a bona fide comic legend.

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A hero to many, an inspiration to all, Mr Jones created a body of work that has stood the test of time and provides a magnificent legacy to one of the greatest of all time.

He was also a proud Welshman, who in later life lived in Mid Wales.

Britain is full of people who make others laugh. It has a comedy circuit that is the envy of the world and our comics entertain millions around the globe.

Yet few have the reach of Jones. Alongside his Monty Python cohorts he broke the mould and created a new style of comedy that has endured through the years. People continue to delight in Jones’s irreverence and wit, many years after he created his most famous work. He is one of the immortals, a giant upon whose shoulders others now stand.

His passing is a cause of sorrow. And yet we also should rejoice at the remarkable achievements of his unique and brilliant life.

Jones was a comedy colossus the like of whom we seldom see.

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