Plans to decriminalise the non-payment of TV licences have been scrapped

Monday, 21st December 2020, 12:08 pm
Updated Monday, 21st December 2020, 12:08 pm

Long-touted plans to end the prosecution of people who fail to pay the BBC licence fee will be shelved until at least 2022, according to the Telegraph.

Ministers have put the plans aside, reportedly over concerns that the move could create an even harsher system than the one currently in place.

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The BBC has claimed that decriminalisation could cost the broadcaster more than £1 billion over five years, and would almost certainly necessitate further cuts to the service, on top of those already implemented in the last year.

‘Doesn’t pass the logic test’

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee earlier this year, the BBC’s new director-general, Tim Davie, said the plan to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee “doesn’t pass the logic test.”

Not only would the move likely lead to further funding woes for the BBC, he argued, but the proposed system would also mean people unable to pay would face higher fines.

The move to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee was thought to be one of the pet projects of former Downing Street adviser, Dominic Cummings, an ardent critic of the BBC.

Some have speculated that the policy being shelved is a sign that Downing Street is changing direction in the wake of Cummings’ resignation last month.

What are the TV licence rules currently?

Under current rules, you could be prosecuted for failing to purchase a TV licence if you’re found to have been watching, recording or downloading programmes illegally.

The maximum fine is £1,000, or £2,000 in Guernsey, plus any legal costs and/or compensation. According to the official website, prosecution is a “last resort,” and you may be offered a payment plan instead.

The current cost of the BBC licence fee is £157.50 per annum for colour television, and £53 for black and white.

Reductions are available for some people, for instance care home residents can apply for a discounted licence at £7.50, and people who are severely sight impaired are entitled to a 50 per cent reduction in the fee.

Those aged 74 and over who receive Pension Credit are eligible to apply for a free TV licence, paid for by the BBC.