The charity believes this change will harm millions of older people who rely on their TV for companionship, news and entertainment. Many older people have told the charity just how important their TV is to them, using phrases such as a "lifeline", "my link to the outside world", "not just a pastime but a necessity… my life-support machine."
Over four fifths (83 per cent) of those polled by Age UK believe the Conservative Party should keep its manifesto pledge to fund free TV licences for the over-75s for the duration of this Parliament.
As from June 2020, the new plans will see over-75s required to buy a TV licence, or ‘self-validate’ that they are in receipt of Pension Credit, entitling them to a free one.
If they are not able to do this they will be breaking the law, unless they give up watching TV. The BBC has also announced that it is commissioning Capita to set up teams to visit older people in their own homes if they are unable to complete their new processes – an idea described as ‘threatening’ by some commentators.
To take this fight to the government, the charity turned the Treasury, Conservative Party HQ (above) and Parliament into ‘switched off’ television sets.
The #Switchedoff campaign launched in November 2018 and has achieved thousands of pieces of coverage via their in-house Media and PR team. The agency’s brief was to produce and execute visual creatives for the #Switched off campaign at the moment the new PM came into power. Alpaca were responsible for the creative execution and assets of a photographic stunt for the campaign designed to target the new Prime Minister.
Director at Alpaca Communications Peter Elms said: "Bringing to life big ideas for things that really matter is what we come to work for." He added: "It turns out you really don’t have long to set up a living room in the middle of the road on Horse Guards Parade without men with big guns appearing and threatening to arrest you."
Age UK’s online petition to save the licenses has surpassed the 600,000 mark.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said older people should not have to jump through hoops just to keep watching their TV. "The idea that more than a million over-75s, who are coping with serious health and care challenges, will be able to comply with a new TV licence process, having never done so before, is cloud cuckoo land.
She added: "This is what happens when a government tries to outsource social policy and delivery to a body like the BBC with no experience or expertise in this field – nor with any in-depth understanding of our over-75s and their lives."