They launched a petition calling for prosecutions to be banned against anyone in financial hardship, over 75 or otherwise vulnerable if they fail to pay their TV Licence fee. Appeal’s Naima Sakande said: “As food and energy prices skyrocket in Britain, countless numbers of people will be left without enough to pay their bills.
“Although the government is set to announce a support package, the BBC – a body funded by the people – must also do its part.
“Year on year it has been criminally prosecuting people in genuine hardship for not paying their TV Licence.
“Those numbers are now set to soar as people run out of cash. The BBC must stop criminalising poverty.”
Around three-quarters of those prosecuted by TV Licensing for failing to pay the fine after being caught without a licence are women.
Around 4.2 million pensioners lost their free licence in 2020 and only those who claim pension credit are exempt from paying.
Just under one in ten have held out from paying the charge.
TV Licensing last year brought criminal prosecutions against nearly 50,000 people for not paying their TV Licence.
The petition on the change.org website says there will be increasing numbers of people struggling to pay their bills and the “last thing anyone needs is a criminal conviction on top”.
Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said: The BBC must stop being hypocritical.
“While promising that over 75s would be treated with ‘the utmost sympathy’ they continue to allow their Capita debt collectors to send multiple threatening letters to the very same households.
“All national agencies should be pulling together to support families in crisis, not adding to the financial stress by taking legal action against them. The BBC must do its bit to help vulnerable households get through the winter.”
TV Licensing insisted prosecution is a last resort and subject to evidential and public interest tests.
A spokesman said: “More than nine out of ten households previously in receipt of a free TV Licence have made arrangements for a new free or paid-for licence, in line with the broader population.
“No enforcement or prosecutions against over-75s who previously held a free licence have been authorised.
“More broadly, we work with groups throughout the UK which support people who fall into financial difficulty and we have payment plans available to help spread the cost, including our simple payment plan designed for people who are struggling.”