The UK Government has launched a consultation on whether or not failure to pay for your TV licence should be a criminal offence. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re in the UK, you might be asking if you still need a TV licence.
You might also be wondering, what am I paying for? Currently, failure to pay for your TV licence can, in some cases, lead to criminal prosecution.
Most people only think about their TV licence when considering a TV licence change of address. However, the TV licence costs £154.50 for the entire year. What’s more, this will actually increase by £3 in April 2020.
The money we pay for the TV licence is paid to the BBC, who provide public service broadcasting. So, this begs the question ‘what do they do with the money?’ Well, their mission is to provide “impartial, high-quality and distinctive content”. Their mission, according to their website, is “to act in the public interest”.
According to the BBC’s Charter & Agreement, the TV licence’s fee is guaranteed to be in place until the end of 2027. The BBC’s Royal Charter outlines their purpose and funding
This might surprise you to learn, but the BBC rose just under £3.7 bn in 2019 from the licencing fee. This accounts for roughly 75% of their entire income. The money collected from this licence fee covers the BBC’s services. This includes the BBC website, their podcasts, TV etc…
So, what happens if you don’t pay the licence? We might also wonder if this why the Government has launched an investigation to see if it should be decriminalised. In 2018 over 100,000 people were convicted of evasion. From this 100,000 convictions, only 5 people went to prison. The maximum penalty for failure to pay for the TV licence is £1,000.
There was recent controversy around citizens aged 75 and over paying for their TV licence. The UK Government pays for the TV licence of those aged 75 or older. However, from May 2020 the BBC will foot this bill. The BBC tried to pass this charge onto the elderly, but public outrage was such that they were pressured into withdrawing the proposal.
For the time being, if you watch or record live TV programmes, stream live TV, or watch any BBC programmes it is still necessary to pay for your TV licence. And if you’re changing address, it’s important that you keep them informed also.
Where this government investigation will lead is anyone’s guess, but with growing public dissentient we can only imagine it won’t be too long until it is abolished entirely.