Broadcaster Ben Fogle has said he will donate one year’s salary from presenting TV show Animal Park to help pensioners pay for their TV licences.
It comes after the BBC scrapped free TV licences for most over-75s, allowing only those who claim pension credit benefit to receive a free licence.
Mr Fogle said he was “disappointed” in the decision, arguing: “Let’s not penalise those who most value the BBC”.
The BBC has said the change to free licences was “the fairest outcome”.
In a message posted on Twitter, Mr Fogle said he thought the BBC was “one of the greatest institutions in the world”.
“But I am disappointed in the recent announcement on the abolition of free licences to the over-75s,” he said.
“I don’t entirely blame the BBC. I think the government forced their hand.”
In 2015, ministers decided the BBC would take over the cost of providing free licences for over-75s by 2020 as part of the licence fee settlement.
It would have cost £745m by 2021/22, a fifth of the BBC’s budget, and would have resulted in “unprecedented closures”, the corporation said.
Mr Fogle said his late grandparents “loved the BBC” and “would have been lost without it in their twilight years”.
He said: “We owe it to those over-75s who have served their country in the armed forces, the NHS, the fire service etc.
“I think society is in danger of losing its moral compass.”
He said donating his salary was “the least I can do for those over 75, an often neglected sector of society”.
Changes to the fee
- The new scheme will cost the BBC around £250m a year by 2021/22, depending on the take-up
- If the BBC continued to provide free TV licences to all over-75s, it would cost around £500m extra, the corporation said
- The BBC said that’s equivalent to the cost of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live and a number of local radio stations – so services like that would be at risk
- By comparison, the total pay for on-air talent was £148m in 2017/2018
- The pay bill for senior managers in the same year was £37.7m