Should non-payment of the TV licence be decriminalised?

A review of the penalties for non-payment of the TV licence is set to move a step closer today, paving the way for possible decriminalisation. 


MPs are expected to back an amendment to the Deregulation Bill that will require an examination of reform options and give ministers the power to make it a civil offence.

Significant cross-party backbench support to remove the threat of a criminal record and jail sentence for non-payers prompted the Government to propose the review, which Labour also backs.

The BBC, which had warned an immediate switch would hit funding for its services by encouraging evasion, has signalled a willingness to discuss changes as part of negotiations over the renewal of its charter, due in 2017.

Cases of people accused of evading the £145.50 fee accounted for more than one in 10 criminal prosecutions last year, with 155,000 convicted and fined, encouraging more than 150 MPs to back a decriminalisation campaign led by Tory Andrew Bridgen.

The new proposals require Culture Secretary Maria Miller to carry out a review of the sanctions, lasting up to a year, within three months of the Deregulation Bill being passed.

The findings of the review will be presented to the BBC Trust as well as both Houses of Parliament.

The BBC's director of strategy and digital, James Purnell, said the present system "works pretty well" and questioned some of the evidence put forward by proponents of decriminalisation.

TV licence cases accounted for only 0.3% of court time because cases were processed on average in about three minutes, he said.

But he added: "We want to look at the facts and work with Mr Bridgen and other people in Parliament who have expressed a concern and with the Government to come up with the best possible system.

"That is what this set of amendments allows us to do. It avoids the risk of doing it in a rush, it allows it to be looked at in the round and that is something we welcome."

Chancellor George Osborne said the Government was " looking very closely" at decriminalisation .

"It is getting more and more support across the political parties and you can see it is all heading in a particular direction," he said.

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Comments for: "Should non-payment of the TV licence be decriminalised?"

Annie Bro

The 40% who voted no ( against decriminalisation), do THEY actually pay the 'licencefeepolltax' themselves or r they benefitting from the £4bn income it generates every year for the heinous, left wing biased, pro-EU, anti-middle classes, BBC?

If you lot want it, by all means pay for it out of your OWN pockets, not taking it from those who find the BBC a spendthrift,London/Manchester centric, sleaze infested, cesspit of avarice

Margaret Hamilton

I disagree with your accusation of "left wing bias" at the BBC. Just because the usual right wing bias in the media is absent at the BBC does not necessarily make it left wing.


Time the BBC came into the 21st Century and worked for its money. Pay per view, or advertising works for all the other channels, so why not the Beeb?



The licence should be totally abolished.


It is only public bodies that have retained the criminal option for debt. The next step must be de-criminalising non payment of council tax.

The licence fee represents really good value for money and should be retained


It may be a good channel, but the licence fee is unfair and always has been. All the other suppliers have to pay their own way, so it is time for the Beeb to do the same. How would you feel if you had to pay a licence fee to microsoft every year just to use Internet explorer, even though Google chrome is free to use? But the rule s would state no licence fee to microsoft..No computer use on the internet?


I think the question is not whether non-payment of the TV licence be decriminalised. I think the question is just how this corporation has been *seemingly* allowed to menace and fleece the general population and for years on end. The corporation is still living in the last century, much the like the government. Further, you know this issue has been raised - its not because it's morally, legally or lawfully right to do. No, the real reason behind this is because this government, like the BBC, is so hated it seems, and thinks it can fool enough of the people enough of the time to such an extent they'll re-elect it. Sorry guys, the damage you've caused this country is so great no amount of money you use (our money), will buy you enough wool to pull over enough eyes. A sad, desperate act from a sad, desperate and failing coalition. Best thing to do is not play by their rules. Be grateful for nothing from them other than the day they trundle off back under their respective rocks. That'll be real change, not this rubbish.

Margaret Hamilton

Pay per view is a total rip-off and adverts are simply horrible. The licence fee is dead cheap for what you get!


I think thats the first time I've ever agreed with you, Margaret


Pay per view is a fairer way of doing things. How is it fair to have to pay a licence fee for just one channel, but you have to pay it or no TV?The Beeb is a good channel, but it's time to come into the modern age like everyone else.

Margaret Hamilton

Err, how about all the radio and Internet stuff the BBC do? And don't they do 7 or 8 channels? Pay per view means paying to receive your programme and getting adverts as well!!


I didn't mean one channel as in one channel, but one provider would probably be a better term to use.


I think the comments on here are actually missing the point. We are the only country that is FORCED to buy something, whether we want it or not, and why shouldn't we choose for ourselves if we want to buy this service.

The BBC has for years been broadcasting its programs to other countries, FOR FREE while we in the British isles have been forced to pay for them to get it free. I really believe that it's about time this was sorted out and abolished, they don't need to advertise IF their programmes are as good as they make out they would be able to get by with subscription and sponsorship deals, but then, they're not are they.


I'm agreeing again, Margaret!


The problem with pay-per-view and funding from advertising is that high viewing numbers doesn't necessarily mean high quality (see the X Factor and Big Brother)


Come on ste..The BBC is hardley the best quality in the world compared to the other channels is it now? Loss of half of the F1 races because they wouldn't fund any more. The voice?. Eastenders? Plenty of repeats on BBC3. The best thing to come out of the Beeb for years is Dr Who.


I'm not saying everything the BBC produces is high quality or aimed at a limited audience. But a lot of their output is (more so than commercial channels imo). I'm thinking of things like BBC4s documentaries, wild life documentaries etc.

Also BBC radio plays a big part in promoting and breaking new bands. It may not be to everyone's tastes, but without it a hell of a lot of music wouldn't get any further than their home towns. If it wasn't for certain dj's championing particular artists or genres the Uk's music and cultural scene would be quite different and I don't think that would happen if all of the output was about audience/listening figures


its a channel that people are forced to pay for even if you don't want it.

you should at least be able to choose.


We pay our licence fee and the BBC then fritter it away on hush money and big payoffs. They also make TV programs with it, a lot of which eventually make it to DVD or end up getting sold to different countries around the world. The revenue from these commercial activities goes back into the BBC coffers. Surely as investors (licence payers) we should be entitled to a share of the profits...?


Like most I have a choice of a couple of hundred channels, but sport aside, most of the best channels are on the Beeb, especially at prime time.

I dont think there is a better radio station than 5 live, in fact, aside from its left wing bias, I find it hard to fault the BBC. It also is much cheaper than Sky or the cable services and represents great value for money.

Dont forget, also, that lots or old BBC programs are repeated on lots of the pay for channels.

No one is forced to pay a licence fee, if you dont like it dont watch telly!


That's just the point though..You should still be able to watch TV without being held to ransom by a single channel provider.You should be able to watch the free channels with fear of being prosecuted. Like I said above, if you read the comments..Would you pay a licence to microsoft to use a pc, but not be able to use all the freeware around untill you have?


You almost are held to ransom by microsoft. Try buying a computer that doesn't come with microsoft windows when there are other free operating systems around.

How many people use Internet Explorer as their browser due to choice rather than the fact that that was what was already installed on their PC?


You're missing the point here Ste...Its about being able to watch TV (Even if its only the free channels you are allowed to watch)..same as with owning a pc and using freeware.. We are not allowed to own or use a TV unless we pay a licence to the beeb, even though other channels are there to watch for free. That is what is wrong. Give people the choice whether they want the BBC, or just get the free channels and ARE allowed to watch them without the TV detector van fear.


Personaly I don't think we will ever get that choice, simply because the powers that be are scared the paying public won't want to pay for a licence for the BBC, and will choose to live without it. And even if only a portion choose no BBC that will still affect them.


Sorry.... should have read 'without fear'

Margaret Hamilton

New Zealand got rid of their national TV station and scrapped it's licence fee. "Go commercial" said the New Zealanders, "we don't like paying this tax thrust upon us". They ended up with continuous 4 minutes adverts, 8 minutes programmes, 4 minutes adverts, 8 minutes programmes. All the other channels followed suit. Just how many hours can anybody take that before they realise how valuable that licence fee model actually is?


I don't have a problem paying the "License fee" what I do have a problem with is being forced to pay it, then receiving a penalty If I don't pay it. Why don't they make it that If you want BBC channels you pay for the license, If you don't pay you get no BBC channels seems very simple to me. I get Sky channels because I pay for the privilege, This should be the same for BBC.