BBC under ‘existential’ threat after losing 250,000 TV licences equalling more than £38m

BBC must take licence fee dispute ‘seriously’ claims activist

Defund the BBC’s Liam Deacon has accused the BBC of being “arrogant” for not looking into any matters before it affected the broadcaster. The BBC Television Licence Trust released its annual report which showed that the number of licence fees sold by the end of March was down by 256,000. The TV licences, which cost £150.50 in 2019, would have equalled £38.2 million. Speaking to talkRADIO, Mr Deacon said: “The rate that it’s going down is quite extraordinary.

“It’s 250,000 fewer people paid a licence fee last year.

“If that carries on at that rate, this is really existential.

“The fact of the matter is the BBC should have taken these questions very, very seriously a long time ago and they obviously didn’t. I think that was to do with arrogance.”

It comes as the Government is not going ahead with plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee but will keep the issue under “active consideration”, it has said.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said switching to a civil enforcement system risked being seen as an “invitation” to evade the fee and could ultimately reward those who declined to pay.

But he said the Government remained concerned that a criminal sanction was “disproportionate and unfair” in the current public service broadcasting landscape.

The Government launched an eight-week consultation in February last year, and it closed after receiving 154,478 responses from individuals, campaign organisations and other stakeholders.

Taken together, the majority of all of the responses which gave an opinion were opposed to decriminalisation.

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Responses from individuals were split with 17,652 for decriminalisation and 19,199 against.

From campaign groups, there were 18,869 for and 92,831 against.

Of stakeholders, 21 were for decriminalisation and 45 against, while 15 offered no overall view.

The issue will be revisited as part of licence fee negotiations between 2022 and 2027, when the BBC’s royal charter expires.


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The BBC has previously warned that decriminalising licence fee evasion and switching to a civil system would cost it more than £1 billion and lead to significant cuts to programmes and services.

In a statement announcing the Government response, Mr Dowden said: “After carefully considering the responses received, the Government remains concerned that a criminal sanction for TV licence evasion is increasingly disproportionate and unfair in a modern public service broadcasting system.

“The consultation responses showed that a significant number of people oppose the criminal sanction with some highlighting the considerable stress and anxiety it can cause for individuals, including for the most vulnerable in society, such as older people.

“However, the Government recognises that changing the sanction for TV licence evasion would have wide-ranging impacts for licence fee payers, including the potential for significantly higher fines and costs for individuals who evade the licence fee requirement under a civil regime.

“The consultation also highlighted significant impacts in terms of both the cost and implementation – particularly as the current system is very efficiently handled in the magistrates’ court – and challenges posed to the ongoing collection of the licence fee.”

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