Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the BBC should ‘cough up’ the cash to keep free TV licences for people over 75.
Up to 3.7 million people are set to lose their TV licences after the government effectively cut a fifth of the broadcaster’s budget.
The BBC said it would be forced to either scrap vast swathes of its programming or remove the free licence benefit for over-75s.
The Tory election manifesto in 2017 promised to protect the TV licences for over 75s.
The Wigan Observer along with other JPI media titles have launched a campaign to get the decision revoked, a campaign which has been backed by many celebrities and politicians.
Now the prime Minister has joined the fray.
Speaking at the G7 summit in Biarritz, the Prime Minister said the terms of the BBC’s funding agreement meant it had to pay for the benefit.
A BBC spokeswoman said: “It was the Government who decided to stop funding free TV licences for the over-75s, and Parliament gave responsibility to the BBC to make a decision on the future of the scheme.
“There was no guarantee that the BBC would continue to fund free licences for the over-75s, as the culture secretary at the time has confirmed.
“We’ve reached the fairest decision we can in funding free TV licences for the poorest pensioners, while protecting BBC services.
“If the BBC funded all TV licences for the over-75s it would mean the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland channel, Radio 5 Live, and several local radio stations.
“It is a matter for the Government if it wishes to restore funding for free licences for all over-75s.”
The Express and its sister titles are asking the government to take action to solve the problem.
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said: “This Prime Minister’s disregard for older people is appalling.
“He is trying to blame the BBC for his own Government’s policy, but this obfuscation will not work. The blame for scrapping free TV licences lies firmly with the Government.
“Keeping the free licences was a Tory manifesto promise, but because of this Government’s refusal to fund the concession, millions of older people will have their free TV licences scrapped next year.”
More than 600,000 people have signed a petition organised by charity Age UK calling on the government to fund for the licences. A number of celebrities have also spoken in support of the campaign.