The former England cricketer has launched a scathing attack on the corporation as millions of pensioners face a second successive year of having to pay to watch TV. The 65-year-old revealed his inbox has been inundated with messages from angry pensioners.
Lord Botham said Britons elderly were “already furious with a BBC” and, in the wake of the damning Martin Bashir inquiry, he claimed they are now “incandescent” with the corporation.
A report by Lord Dyson found the former BBC journalist had used “deceitful behaviour” to secure his 1995 Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales.
The BBC removed free TV licences for the over-75s in August 2020, meaning an estimated 3.7 million people are subject to the £159 fee.
Only those receiving Pension Credit remain entitled to a free TV licence.
Lord Botham has taken aim at former BBC director-general Tony Hall, who also led the corporation during the Diana interview, for breaking his promise over the licence fee.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “In 2015, Tony Hall announced that, in return for a big increase in the TV licence fee, the BBC would pay for all pensioners over 75.
“Tony Hall then broke that promise, and as a result the BBC will shortly be sending the over-75s a second year of licence fee demands.
“My inbox showed that these pensioners were already furious with a BBC that was drifting ever further from their values. Now they are incandescent.
“The problem for the BBC is that these pensioners are growing in confidence that the BBC would never dare prosecute them for non-payment. Its moral force is empty.
“To them, the threatening letters are just pieces of paper.”
Lord Botham says most pensioners are particularly fond of the Royal Family and the inquiry into the Diana interview scoop has been particularly damaging to the BBC audience.
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But he warned door-to-door visits by TV Licencing authorities would resume once the coronavirus pandemic ends.
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC Board has made an unconditional apology following the findings of the Lord Dyson report.
“Today’s BBC processes and guidelines are much stronger than they were in 1995, but we know we must also do what we can to prevent such an incident happening again.
“As such, the Board will review the effectiveness of the BBC’s editorial policies and governance, and we have announced an investigation into the circumstances around the hiring of Martin Bashir in 2016.”
The BBC added the decision to remove free TV licences for the over-75s was taken by the Government, not the corporation.