Jeremy Vine panelist criticises removal of free TV licences
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The fire in August last year saw many left without TV whilst still having to pay for it. Now, MPs and campaigners alike are pushing for licence refunds that will reflect the lack of service.
On August 10 last year, the Bilsdale TV transmitter in North Yorkshire caught fire, the cause of which is still under investigation, leaving the structure out of operation.
Almost a million homes reported that they had lost all TV signal due to the fire and additional replacement transmitters were planned to salvage the lost signal.
The construction of the 80 metre replacement mast was set to be completed on August 28 however this was delayed due to legal complications.
By September 8, the site operators Arqiva announced in a media briefing that the construction would be completed within 21 days of permission being granted.
While many believed this meant signal would be restored before the end of the month, the mast was only operational by October 13.
Other transmitters and temporary masts in nearby areas were turned on during this time to help cover the outage and delays in construction.
For those still without a TV signal after the temporary mast was switched on, Arqiva released £50 vouchers for a TV streaming device.
Almost three weeks after the initial fire, the BBC agreed to provide thousands with licence refunds to help those worst affected.
Those without access to BBC iPlayer who had been left without TV for over a month would receive a partial refund or extension to their licence.
However, this announcement did not cover all of those who had been affected by the outages and pressure mounted for the BBC to issue full TV licence refunds instead.
The topical issue was taken into the House of Commons by MP Jacob Young whose constituency of Redcar was greatly affected by the outage.
Mr Young questioned the Minister of State and Media, Data and Digital infrastructure, MP Julia Lopez, saying: “The Minister will know there is growing support for scrapping the licence fee, or ‘axing the TV tax’, not least in Redcar and Cleveland where the Bilsdale mast fire left people without a TV reception.
“Yet most weren’t provided with any sort of refund.
“Does the Minister agree that this is not an acceptable situation and that if this was a satellite, a broadband or phone provider, a refund for time without service, and in some cases even further compensation, would have been expected?”
Ms Lopez responded that she believed roughly 98 percent of household TV signal had been restored and the BBC had also been issuing refunds to her knowledge.
However, she added: “If he wishes to take it up with them, I would recommend it.”
Mr Young explained that while both reports were true, the BBC had only issued a small amount of refunds to those that fit its criteria, which many in his constituency were not eligible for as they had not had signal for just over three weeks but not over a month.
He said: “I just view it as a matter of principle that if I were left without mobile phone coverage, my mobile provider couldn’t say to me, ‘Well we’ll only give you a refund if you’re a month without coverage and you don’t have access to email’.
“The BBC constantly get away with murder because they’re the BBC.
“Meanwhile the license fee climbs, more people are dragged into their net, and they carry on as normal.”
A TV licensing spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We continue to assist customers to claim refunds or licence extensions and so far around 11,000 households have already done so. If a household has been unable to receive TV coverage for a month or more and they are unable to view BBC programming through BBC iPlayer or satellite and cable platforms, they will be able to claim a refund or be offered a free extension.”
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