Non-payment of BBC licence fee 'could be decriminalised'

Broadcaster warns it could lose £200m 'to spend on programmes and services our audience loves’

Sunday 15 December 2019 12:12 GMT
The BBC is under increasing pressure to cut costs as licence fee shortfall is revealed
The BBC is under increasing pressure to cut costs as licence fee shortfall is revealed

Watching TV without having paid the BBC licence fee could be decriminalised, according to reports.

Boris Johnson is looking into reviewing whether people who do not pay the £154.50 fee for watching television or BBC iPlayer should be prosecuted, The Sunday Telegraph said.

It comes after Downing Street refused to appear on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme due to what they believe is its pro-Remain bias.

Last financial year, 25.8 million households had TV licences bringing in £3.6bn for the BBC.

A review may recommend replacing the existing criminal sanctions for non-payment of the TV licence fee with a civil system of fines.

In the run-up to last week’s general election, Mr Johnson said he was “looking at” abolishing the BBC licence fee altogether.

He said that while the Tories were currently “not planning to get rid of all TV licence fees”, the current system “bears reflection”.

The current royal charter – which sets out the governance of the BBC – runs until December 2027.

A BBC spokesman said: “The government has already commissioned a QC to take an in-depth look at this matter and he found that ‘the current system of criminal deterrence and prosecution should be maintained’ and that it is fair and value for money to licence fee payers.

“The review also found that non-payment cases accounted for ‘a minute fraction’ – only 0.3 per cent – of court time.

“Decriminalisation could also mean we have at least £200m less to spend on programmes and services our audiences love.”

Press Association

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