Proposal to decriminalise TV licence fee avoidance

The BBC is often accused of a liberal bias most recently by the Today programme’s own John Humphrys. Currently the BBC is paid for by the television licence fee, non payment of which can result in a fine of £1000. Up to 10% of magistrates court appearances are for non payment and if this is not paid it can even result in gaol (107 people were sent to gaol between 2011 and 2013). A cross party group of MPs has suggested changing the nature of the offence to a civil rather than a criminal issue (like car parking fines). Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who is spearheading Commons efforts to change the law, said for some cash-strapped families the current law was “criminalising them for being poor”.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) the BBC, has opposed the idea. It claims that such a change could cost it £200 million. James Purnell the former Labour culture minister and now BBC director of strategy and digital claimed

“it would be a huge risk to do it now” and claimed that downgrading licence fee evasion to a civil offence would penalise the poor.
“Either you have a low penalty – in which case the evasion rates would go up and everyone would have to pay a higher licence fee – or a penalty which is higher and more difficult to pay.”

The idea that decriminalisation of non payment of the licence fee would hit the poor is truly surreal. So possibly the BBC is not so liberal after all?


  • aquifer

    It would be like the Tories to destroy the BBC on behalf of certain media moguls, and a simple way to do that is to make paying the license fee optional.

    If the cost of collection goes up everybody pays more.

  • cynic2

    Why not?

    After all Tony Blairs administration decriminalised murder for some republicans

  • Barnshee

    Have the courage of their convictions -go subscription based

  • Delphin

    I think the logic of the BBC man is that if TV licence avoidance goes up, then those that pay will have to pay more or accept a lesser service. This will obviously have most impact on the less well off.

  • Harry Flashman

    I thought lefties opposed the principal of a poll tax?

    Oh that’s right the licence fee funds their beloved BBC so it’s OK then, doesn’t matter how many single mothers go to jail as long as the luvvies at the Beeb get their handsome salaries that’s the main thing, right?

  • Floreat Ultonia

    This Lefty would fund the BBC from general taxation. More progressive, and it addresses technological changes such as many of us watching wholly or mainly through mobile devices and on catch-up programs eg I-player.