Prisoners don’t have to pay the TV licence whereas most pensioners will soon have to

11 February 2020
What was claimed

Pensioners have had free TV taken away.

Our verdict

This is partially correct. Free TV licences for all over 75s were due to end from June 2020 and this will be replaced by a scheme where only those over 75 who receive Pension Credit (or whose partner lives with them and receives Pension Credit) will not have to pay. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the BBC has said this scheme will now begin from 1 August.

What was claimed

Prisoners in the UK can watch TV all day for free.

Our verdict

Prisoners rewarded for good behaviour can have a TV in their prison cell. Prisoners are exempt from the TV licence fee, but a rental charge of £1 per cell per week applies.

An image claiming that prisoners can watch TV all day for free, but pensioners have had their free TV taken away, has been shared on Facebook more than 250,000 times. Prisoners are exempt from paying for a TV licence, but are charged to rent a TV in their prison cell. Free licences for the over-75s are due to end at some point in 2020, except for those receiving Pension Credit, although these plans have been delayed due to Covid-19.

This post refers to the announcement last year that TV licences will no longer be free for all people over 75. This was a widely discussed issue and we’ve written about it before here.

A TV licence is a fee for watching live TV, as well as on demand and catch-up TV through BBC iPlayer, in the UK and currently costs £157.50 per household annually. About 4.6 million households received a free over-75s TV licence in 2018/19, funded by the UK government.

Initially, the plan was that changes to TV licensing would be introduced from June 2020. These plans have been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, changes are due to come into place from August. TV Licensing says if you currently have a free TV licence which has expired, or is due to expire on 31 July 2020, you don’t need to do anything to stay licensed. It says: “We will write to you starting in August to explain what you need to do to set up your next licence.” 

Some people over 75 will still be eligible for a free TV licence. From 1 August, the BBC are introducing a scheme that means if you are over 75 and receive Pension Credit, or have a partner living at the same address who receives it, you will be eligible for a free licence.

Last year the BBC estimated that around 1.5 million households will be eligible once the changes are made, which is about one third of households that qualify under current rules.

Prisoners don’t have to pay the TV licence fee

Prisoners who have been rewarded for good behaviour can get a TV in their cell. This allows access to nine free-to-view channels for a weekly TV rental fee of £1 per cell per week. Not paying this fee or bad behaviour are two reasons why a TV may be taken away.

This fee does not include the TV licence fee as TVs used by prisoners in cells and communal prison areas are exempt from this charge.

Update 21 July 2020

We updated this piece after the BBC delayed planned changes to the TV licence due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as true because while prisoners do have to pay a TV rental fee to watch TV in their cells, they do not have to pay a TV licence fee, as will be the case for most over 75s later in 2020.

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