BBC warned hundreds of thousands now refusing to pay licence fee
Fed-up Britons young and old are refusing to pay the TV licence fee in their “hundreds of thousands” and MPs are calling for the levy to be scrapped. Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer confirmed on Thursday the TV licence fee would rise next April from £159 to £169.50 – a hike of £10.50 or 6.6 per cent.
But the South East Cambridgeshire MP, who launched a funding review on Thursday looking at whether the licence fee should be reformed so it is fair to fee payers and more sustainable for the BBC, said on Friday threatening to send people to jail for not paying the levy was “something I personally feel is morally indefensible in modern times”. In response, Red Wall Tory Jonathan Gullis branded the new TV licence fee hike an “insult” to the British people and demanded that non-payment of the levy be decriminalised.
The MP for Stoke-on-Trent North told the Daily Express: “It is an insult to the people of this country that at a time when every penny counts, the BBC licence fee is rising, as well as threatening to criminalise people for simply turning on their telly. For me and many people in this country it is simple, scrap the licence fee so people can choose if they wish to pay for it and we can decriminalise this vindictive nonsense.”
Dame Andrea Jenkyns argued the fee rise would only serve to line the pockets of the BBC’s “overpaid presenters” so they could “spout their political opinions without having to worry about partiality”. The Brexiteer MP for Morley and Outwood in West Yorkshire, who is deputy chair of the influential right-wing European Research Group of Conservative MPs, said: “The BBC licence fee rise of £10.50 is completely unacceptable and it will hit the most vulnerable first who are already struggling.
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Dennis Reed, a campaigner for senior citizens in the UK, told the Daily Express he knew of a “large number of over-75s refusing to pay their licence fee” after the free benefit was axed.
The head of the Silver Voices organisation said: “Given the remarks by Lucy Frazer it will now be really difficult for the BBC to prosecute anyone struggling with the cost of living crisis, for TV licence non-payment.
“The BBC has itself brought the licence enforcement system into disrepute by pursuing hundreds of thousands of over-75s following the scrapping of free licences but not prosecuting any of them for fear of the political consequences. One of our members has had 33 threatening letters over the years but no one has called at his door to find evidence for prosecution.
“The BBC has refused for three years to discuss a solution for the over-75s and yet has operated an unofficial amnesty. The BBC also refused to consider our request to suspend prosecutions for those struggling with energy and food prices. Now they will find it difficult to prosecute anybody at all.
“Anyone charged will have the ready defence that the prosecution is judged by the responsible Government Minister to be morally indefensible. The Government must bring in a funding solution related to the ability to pay.”
“This fee rise can only be going to make sure the wages of the already overpaid presenters keep going up, so they can spout their political opinions without having to worry about partiality. It is time to reduce the BBC licence fee, defund the BBC and move away from a central broadcaster.”
Defund the BBC campaigner Rebecca Ryan told the Daily Express the British public no longer wanted to pay for a “wasteful” organisation. She said: “Britons are realising that not only do they not want to pay more to line the pockets of BBC fat cats but they don’t have to pay for this wasteful, woke organisation at all – if they only watch non-BBC content on catch-up or on-demand.
“It’s time the BBC was forced to be answerable to the people who pay for it and the only way for that to happen is if we cut Auntie’s apron strings and ditch the licence fee altogether.”
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But it is not just the older in society who are refusing to pay the BBC licence fee as younger audiences also turn away from traditional terrestrial TV in favour of newer streaming services.
George Bailey, 30, from Derbyshire said he opted to not pay the “unnecessary” levy because he did not watch anything live on TV.
The trainee solicitor told the Daily Express: “When I moved house we didn’t get a TV licence because we don’t watch anything live. We keep getting threatening letters warning us that a visit has been authorised but we’re just ignoring them.
“As a household, we have Disney+, Netflix, Prime, NowTV. We have no need to watch anything live and not watch iPlayer. Paying for a TV licence is just unnecessary when we have enough streaming services.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “This is a fair deal that provides value for money for the licence fee payer while also ensuring that the BBC can continue to produce world leading content. We know family budgets are stretched, which is why we have stepped in again – following two years of licence fee freezes – to reduce this year’s increase to less than a £1 a month.
“But this settlement has highlighted other challenges faced by the BBC with the changing media landscape making the battle for audiences more competitive and the number of people paying the licence fee decreasing.
“This raises fundamental questions as to the sustainability of the current licence fee system. So we are also launching a funding review of the BBC that will take a forensic look at the licence fee, and whether a reformed funding model could better support our national broadcaster to remain sustainable and affordable for audiences while driving growth in our creative industries.
“I want a thriving BBC, supported to inform, educate and entertain and this funding review will help us make sure we can deliver this for decades to come.”
A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “More than nine in 10 households – 24.4 million – have a TV Licence. As we have always made clear, TV Licensing’s aim is to help people stay licensed and avoid prosecution – which is always a last resort.”
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