Residents aged over 75 in West Dunbartonshire will not have to pay for the licence fee for at least two months due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The BBC reached the decision this week and Sir David Clementi, the BBC chairman, said: “We are in exceptional circumstances. This is not the right time.”

Millions of pensioners have begun receiving letters telling them that they must pay the £157.50 fee from June.

In a joint statement, the BBC with the UK Government have announced that free licences will continue until August, when the situation will be reviewed.

However, extending the scheme as far as August will cost the BBC an additional £85 million.

The statement said: “The BBC’s priority over the coming period will be to do everything we can to serve the nation at this uniquely challenging time. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a vital role to play in supplying information to the public in the weeks and months ahead.”

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said: “It is right that the BBC have recognised the exceptional circumstances posed by the coronavirus outbreak and the need for the whole country to pull together in the national effort.”