TV licence fee non-payment 'could be decriminalised'

A person watching television The licence fee currently costs £145.50 a year

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Not paying the TV licence fee could become a civil offence, rather than a criminal one, under plans being considered by ministers.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said "decriminalisation of the licence fee should be on the table" during the BBC's charter review before 2017.

The BBC said changing the law could lead to more people failing to pay.

In 2012 about 155,000 were convicted and fined for not paying the £145.50 fee.

In total 180,000 people were prosecuted for not paying their licence - which is needed to watch or record live broadcasts on any device - accounting for more than one in 10 criminal prosecutions that year.

In October 2013 Huffington Post reported that in response to a Freedom of Information Request the Ministry of Justice had revealed that 107 people were jailed between January 2011 and March 2013 for failing to pay fines related to not having a TV licence.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has now told the Daily Telegraph "serious work" would be done on the proposal to make non-payment a civil offence and that it could ease the pressure on criminal courts.

He said: "The culture secretary and I both agree that this is a really interesting idea - particularly given the pressure on our courts system.

"Our departments will be doing some serious work on the proposal."

Culture Secretary Maria Miller Maria Miller said timing on the matter was 'crucial'

Ms Miller said: "This is an interesting idea but timing is crucial and decriminalisation of the licence fee should be on the table during charter review, not separate to the process.''

The BBC's current Royal Charter, which expires in 2016, sets out how it should be funded, what it does and how it is managed.

Start Quote

Just a 1% increase in evasion would lead to the loss of around £35m, the equivalent of around 10 BBC local radio stations”

End Quote BBC spokesman

A spokesman for the culture secretary added: "Maria will put decriminalisation of the licence fee on the table during charter review discussions, but to do it before makes no sense.

"She has made clear that the BBC needs to get its house in order, particularly when it comes to governance and transparency, having decriminalisation on the table during the negotiations will focus the BBC's minds."

But Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen is seeking to introduce the change through an amendment to the government's Deregulation Bill.

It would make non-payment of the licence fee a civil matter, with a fine for offenders set by the government.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "It is outrageous that so many people are brought in to the criminal justice system through this means.

"I believe that non-payment should be treated in the way that parking tickets are.

"It is absurd that the courts are being clogged up by such a minor offence."

The newspaper reported that the amendment had been backed by 101 cross-party MPs.

A BBC spokesman said: "Legislation is a matter for the government, however changing the law could lead to higher evasion.

"Just a 1% increase in evasion would lead to the loss of around £35m, the equivalent of around 10 BBC local radio stations."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 966.

    @903 Dopey
    The North Korea jibe was at the moderators.
    I would prefer to get my news from the BBC over any other medium.
    Because you may not care for the item be you right or left wing does not make it propaganda, despite the Tory protests the BBC have been evenhanded trawl back to Labour days and you will see news that would upset the left.

  • rate this

    Comment number 965.

    I don't think anyone should be surprised that an extreme right wing organisation like the BBC is in favour of using strong arm state bullying to extort money from people . but that's the same of all officialdom now and we have no option but to pay . complain yes but always pay

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    and clegg says he is a big fan of the bbc and wants to keep the tv licence fee as it is..... my reply to that is very impolite even the other partys have said they do not want the lib/dems in bed with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.

    It's only fair that if you use a service, you pay your way *but* the way that the BBC is funded is from a bygone era and over the years, it's reputation has been tainted and it's lost it's place as the nation's impartial and 'trusted' broadcaster. It's a reasonable value service but give the public the choice to buy. It's always trying to compete with ITV and Sky, so let it on a subscription basis

  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    @ 955.Pozidriva - I disagree as I quite like watching or listening without adverts and at less than 50p per day I think it is good value. However, that was not my point.

    My point is this funny situation where so many people claiming to dislike paying for the BBC are actually using the BBC right now, reading the stories, commenting on the forums etc.


Comments 5 of 966


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