The Express.co.uk poll, which ran from 9.05am until 7.50pm today and attracted 20,544 votes, asked readers: “Should the BBC scrap free TV licences for over 75s?” Nearly four in five (79 percent or 16,197) people said the benefit should not be abolished, with the remaining 21 percent (4,203) in favour of getting rid of it completely. Just 144 readers were unsure about the decision. The decision from the BBC has been met with a furious reaction from Express.co.uk readers.

One said: “The BBC have betrayed 17.4 million people for the last 3 years and are now about to betray millions of pensioners.

“This disgraceful broadcaster must be forced to move to a subscription service, as it no longer provides a public service. It is just a gravy train.”

Another commented: “All pensioners should refuse to pay it.

“What are they going to do? Throw them all in prison? At least they’d get free meals and accommodation and free TV!”

READ MORE: BBC needs to rethink its duty to the core viewers – EXPRESS COMMENT

A third furious reader added: “Everyone should stop paying the licence fee all at once. There are not enough courts nor jails to enforce it.

“The BBC should compete against all other free to air channels as it’s lost its sense of direction, is over-staffed and pours money down the drain for it’s overpaid so called “celebrity” employees.”

The angry backlash comes after the BBC announced that under new rules, only low-income households where one person receives pension credit benefit would be eligible for a free television licence.

This means from June 2020, up to 3.7 million pensioners across the country will have to pay the £154.50 fee every year should they want to watch television.

It is thought 1.5 million households will be eligible for the free licence under the new scheme, which will cost the BBC around £250 million by 2021/22 depending on the take-up.

Licence fees were being reviewed by the BBC, with the full cost of concession due to be passed to the corporation from Government in June 2020.

But Theresa May has urged the taxpayer-funded corporation to rethink its decision

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We are very disappointed with this decision.

“We have been clear that we expected the BBC to continue this concession. We want the BBC to look again at ways of supporting older people.”

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned the changes to free TV licences for the elderly could push pensioners into criminality.

The Labour politician said that the BBC’s decision was an attack on the poorest, and “taxation without representation”.

But BBC Director-General Tony Hall described it as a “difficult” decision” but the “fairest for the poorest pensioner”.

He said: “This has not been an easy decision.

“Whilst we know that pensioner incomes have improved since 2000, we also know that for some the TV licence is a lot of money.

“I believe we have reached the fairest judgment after weighing up all the different arguments.

“It would not be right simply to abolish all free licences. Equally, it would not be right to maintain it in perpetuity given the very profound impact that would have on many BBC services.

Lord Hall added: “This decision is fairest for the poorest pensioners. Around 1.5 million households could get free TV licences if someone is over 75 and receives Pension Credit. It protects those most in need.

“And importantly, it is not the BBC making that judgment about poverty; it is the Government who sets and controls that measure.

“It is fairest for all audiences – of all generations, old and young – who we know value the BBC and the programmes and services we provide. It means these services can continue.”

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