Decriminalise the BBC licence fee


If someone fails to pay their electricity bill or their Sky subscription the company concerned can pursue the customer for the money and should  succeed in getting the money back with a civil penalty. The law says the customer should pay for the goods and services supplied, but does not make failure to  payment a criminal offence.

So why is the BBC licence fee, another service charge for customers, any different? Apparently 12% of Magistrates’ courts time is taken up with prosecutions for failure to pay the  BBC licence fee. Anyone found guilty then has a criminal record. The poor and elderly figure prominently in those who get a criminal record by these means.

Andrew Bridgen MP is proposing an amendment  to the Deregulation Bill to shift the BBC licence fee from a criminal matter to a civil matter like any other household bill. Do you agree this would be a good move? It would free Magistrates courts of these criminal cases, and create parity of treatment between the BBC and other tv service providers.


  1. Martyn G
    February 28, 2014

    …. an amendment to the Deregulation Bill to shift the BBC licence fee from a criminal matter to a civil matter like any other household bill….
    Absolutely agree that this should be so. I have never really understood why it should be a criminal matter for the courts in the first place and it is high time for it be decriminalised as soon as possible. I doubt that it will happen, though, because the BBC and no doubt many others with vested interests will strongly object to that happening as it will loosen their control by fear of criminal court action on the public.

    1. Graham
      February 28, 2014

      I agree with that.

      All about fear in the end because they know that civil defense would open up the flood gates – it would with me.

    2. Jagman 84
      February 28, 2014

      Likewise for ticketing “offences” on the rail network, where an innocent mistake can leave you with a large fine and a criminal record.

  2. arschloch
    February 28, 2014

    Just scrap the licence. If there is demand for programming with a liberal bias then they should be able to raise enough money like NPR/PBS do in America. Regardless of the politics, the TV programs seem to be aimed at those in the population with an IQ of around 80.

    1. Jennifer A
      February 28, 2014

      Why does the left support the legalisation of cannabis because “it is a waste of police and court time” and yet none of them argue the enforcement of the BBC licence fee is a waste of police and court time too ?

      1. Jennifer A
        February 28, 2014

        PS – The Conservatives cannot be Conservatives so long as BBC bias exists.

        1. Lifelogic
          February 28, 2014

          Indeed it is the presence of the pro EU, fake green, Guardian think, big government, anti UKIP, forced “equality”, pro uncontrolled immigration, anti science, state funded BBC propaganda that prevent any sensible UK government or even any sensible debate in the UK.

          But then could Cameron types ever be conservatives?

  3. Bernard from Bucks
    February 28, 2014

    John, can I just point out that it is not a BBC licence fee. It is a licence to operate television receiving equipment to receive live programs as they are broadcast. This now includes receiving live programs on computers, mobile phones, games consoles, digital boxes and DVD/VHS recorders. It is not specific to BBC programs and is required to watch any broadcasts and therefore is not really the same as a subscription to Sky.
    Having said all this I do agree with you that it should not be a criminal matter.

    1. John Eustace
      February 28, 2014

      Bernard is correct. I remember being quizzed on this at interview for a summer job in the Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce nearly forty years ago.
      I agree completely that the matter should be decriminalised. I did not realise it was such a burden on the magistrate’s courts.
      The more interesting question is what to do next as the days of the licence fee are clearly numbered. Despite the current faults we will lose something of value when the system becomes purely commercial. What would be your proposal?

      1. low resolution fox
        March 7, 2014

        Commercial? It is not about privatising the BBC.

        As I understand, they purely want to make the matter a civil charge, which will probably end up with debt enforcement officers, rather than clog up the courts with criminal cases.

        It is a delicious irony that the BBC is, indirectly, the largest criminal convictor and cause of criminal records. ‘Criminals’ convicted are almost always poor, students, disabled or elderly. Is it still 12% of all criminal cases?

        It will be more interesting to see the reaction of the judges who preside over these cases. Who will no doubt be handsomely paid – will they support the move – or seek to protect their revenue stream and soft easy work?

    2. Andrew S
      February 28, 2014

      Good amendment and am in agreement with the overall point. I expect that in practice a large part of the funds go towards paying for the BBC. That budget has to come from somewhere.
      My natural reaction is to see the BBC reduced in budget and size, the concern is that the biased agenda would still be there just in a smaller form.
      It’s the leftist/socialist/pro-eu types in there directing things that need to be got out of there or at least reduced in influence. And stop wasting huge sums of money on rubbish and massive salaries.

    3. miami.mode
      February 28, 2014

      Agree with Bernard that this is not a BBC licence fee.

      To all intents and purposes it is a compulsory tax because so few people nowadays do not have a TV.

      Offend against the State – a really serious offence and you very often get a jail sentence e.g. Pryce, Huhne, McShane etc

      Offend against a company or an individual – a far less serious offence and often treated with leniency.

      I fear Mr Bridgen will have a tough ride.

      1. APL
        March 1, 2014

        miami.mode: “a really serious offence and you very often get a jail sentence e.g. Pryce, Huhne, McShane etc”

        Pryce was caught in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. She colluded with her then husband to pretend he not he had broken the speed limit.

        To characterise that as an offence against the State, is, well just a joke.

        A measure of just how offended the State is with Vicky Pryce – she has a brand spanking new job in Downing Street as a government adviser. [Sarcasm] She really really got some backs up! [End of sarcasm]

        Dennis McShane a victim? You must be havin’ a laugh!! He used all the levers of State to prevaricate and disguise his wrongdoing – don’t characterise the convicted thief McShane as a victim.

        If you want a State victim, look at the hapless Dr David Kelly.

    4. James Sutherland
      February 28, 2014

      Bernard, you are correct that it is legally required for reception of any broadcast TV signal in real-time – however, it is collected by and for the BBC, not by the government. (The BBC contracts the enforcement out to various companies, mainly Capita as I recall.)

      I’d prefer it to be put on a level playing field: encrypt the non-free broadcasts, just like Sky, Virgin and others, with the license coming as a viewing card which decrypts the signal while valid. No more “enforcement” at all, criminal or otherwise! Of course, the BBC were terrified of that scenario and made sure to kill off that facility as soon as they could pull the right strings: for all their claims of confidence, they seem to doubt that enough people would continue subscribing to BBC channels if they could get the others without them.

  4. Steve Cox
    February 28, 2014

    I’d certainly support decriminalising failure to pay the licence fee, the BBC and its licensing arm are far too fond of using strongarm bullying tactics to scare the weak and the poor.

    However, I’d much prefer to see the licence fee done away with altogether. They did this in Australia back in the 1970’s I believe, and it hasn’t stopped them from making some excellent TV. If the BBC is so wonderful at what it does then let it compete openly against commercial channels to earn its keep. I’m sure that would focus their accountants’ minds when they knew there was no guaranteed £3 billion a year flowing in, and help bring an end to excessive layers of management, excessive payoffs, excessive pensions and excessive salaries. In a supposedly 21st century economy that desperately needs to improve productivity how can the government justify keeping a wasteful, inefficient state-owned dinosaur like this intact?

  5. APL
    February 28, 2014

    JR: “So why is the BBC licence fee, another service charge for customers, any different?”

    This has been rehearsed on your blog ad nausium.

    JR: “shift the BBC licence fee from a criminal matter to a civil matter like any other household bill.”

    Of course! At the same time, make the BBC a voluntary fee based subscription service, just like Sky.

    But that suggestion has been rehearsed ad nausium too.

    1. APL
      March 1, 2014

      “rehearsed ad nausium too.”

      And after three years, nothing has been done!

  6. Andyvan
    February 28, 2014

    No, changing the licence fee to a civil matter is not the answer. It should be eliminated as it a profoundly unjust tax that benefits the elitist left wing BBC at the expense of everybody that wants to watch other channels. It creates a giant broadcaster that is immune to market forces and can use it’s stolen income to dominate the media in the UK. The BBC constantly fails to live up to it’s own hype in balance and quality of it’s programing and yet it’s staff seem to regard themselves as above criticism. It is a model of what happens when you remove the control of the free market and replace it with theft backed by government force.

    1. Lifelogic
      February 28, 2014

      Taking someone’s money off and then as a tv tax and then using it to bombard them with absurd propaganda is surely something that is both hugely immoral and destroys any real democracy. This by distorting their views and thus their voting. Just as immoral as buying votes with others money in the socialist tradition.

      Needless to say the EU do this tax payer funded propaganda all the time.

      1. Bob
        March 1, 2014

        EU funding for the BBC

        “‘I have grave concerns about the bias of the BBC when it comes to EU matters. I find the whole thing shocking. The lack of transparency is unjustified. Why does it seem so worried about people knowing where it gets its money? What has the BBC got to hide other than knowing that many of us don’t trust them on EU matters and the need for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership?’” Kate Hoey

        Read more:

  7. margaret brandreth-j
    February 28, 2014


  8. alan jutson
    February 28, 2014

    IF you do what you are suggesting, they will want to increase their license fee to cover the Civil Court costs of prosecution.

    Such is the way the BBC thinks and works.

    It simply needs more Impartial control to make it full fill its obligations, but then Governments may have an agenda, and the last thing we want or need is State controlled radio and TV broadcasting media.
    But I would also hate to think yet another off view or some other Quango wasting even more taxpayer money with bloated pay scales for those whom it may employ.

    1. Mark
      February 28, 2014

      It is plainly no longer practical to provide proper impartial control of the BBC at its present size. There are too many heads of the Hydra.

  9. Richard1
    February 28, 2014

    Absolutely, the BBC poll tax should be changed to a straightforward commercial arrangement, and preferably to a voluntary subscription, which is now perfectly possible with conditional access systems. This would save public money and also put more of an onus on the BBC to serve its customers as they wish.

  10. Lifelogic
    February 28, 2014

    Indeed it is an absurdity to drag many & usually poor people through the courts and give them criminal records and fines. The endless offensive letters sent to properties without televisions are also very irritating.

    The BBC produces much good output but its Libdem soft left political agenda is hugely damaging to democracy. Almost without exception it is pro EU, pro EURO, Pro ECHR, pro uncontrolled immigration, pro the fake AGW exaggeration religion, anti business, broadly anti real science & engineering agenda, anti landlord/banker/rich pro the silly equality by law agenda, banker & the rich, pro ever higher taxes, pro ever more government. Almost no one buys the Guardian but we still it pumped into our houses and cars by the BBC and have to pay for it if we listen or not.

    But then Cameron appointed Lord Patten and he appointed Tony Hall so what do we expect but lefty, pro EU, fake green, anti business drivel?

  11. Old Albion
    February 28, 2014

    The licence fee has run it’s course. Time it was scrapped.

  12. Richard Roney
    February 28, 2014

    Andrew Bridgen’s proposal deserves to be passed even if the licence fee is thought to be or was originally introduced as a tax. There could be no argument though about whether or not non-payment was a crime if the BBC were privatised – the fee would inevitably have to become a civil debt. It is ridiculous in this day and age to have a State broadcasting institution – particularly one which abuses its terms of existence every day by its Labour bias.

    1. Lifelogic
      February 28, 2014

      Indeed that last think the county needs is yet more fake green, pro EU, lefty, big government “BBC think”.

  13. Douglas Carter
    February 28, 2014

    I’d agree with you but it’s also worth highlighting the associate operations which go hand-in-hand with the chasing up of non-payers. ‘Detector Vans’, evidence from which – according to a recent FOI request – has never once been utilised in a prosecution, and extremely heavy-handed treatment of those who have decided they do not want a TV.

    In context, I don’t own a car. I do not drive. I know that there are many millions of people who do not own a car and who similarly do not drive. I know of no ongoing operation to carry out door-to-door spot checks of people who do not have a driving licence to ensure they do not ‘own driving equipment’. Certainly that’s never happened to myself. It seems in just this one limited sense, that those who choose to divest themselves of any need to have a TV licence are entitled to be seen as guilty until proven innocent – and must repeatedly suffer intrusion and intimidation to prove that continuity of innocence? It wouldn’t be permitted under other circumstances?

  14. The PrangWizard
    February 28, 2014

    Most certainly I agree to decriminalise the Licence Fee, and it is an imaginative proposal. It will be interesting to hear the arguments made against it because the fact that our State apparatus requires that I must have its consent to receive broadcast news entertainment and sport is wrong in what should be a free society.

    It is a Soviet Union era concept, and it must be ended very soon; there are many who feel strongly enough to risk a criminal record they have my admiration for doing so.

    1. Bob
      February 28, 2014

      @The PrangWizard

      It is a Soviet Union era concept, and it must be ended very soon; there are many who feel strongly enough to risk a criminal record they have my admiration for doing so.

      Why thank you.
      Why don’t you join us?

      @Mr Redwood – It’s not just the Magistrates whose time is wasted, don’t forget that the Police have to accompany the Capita “TV Inspectors” when they execute a search warrant. There are numerous youtube clips showing this and demonstrating that the Police don’t even understand the law pertaining to TV Licensing. In one case an inspector tried to log on to the household PC to access a live program on iPlayer, even though to do so would have been illegal in an unlicensed property – and the police just stood back and allowed it.

  15. TGod
    February 28, 2014

    I think it would be very sensible to remove criminal sanctions from the payment of this domestic bill.

    For several years I lived without a TV set or TV licence and was bombarded with monthly letters threatening to prosecute me, these came from Capita plc who collect the TV license fee on behalf of the BBC.

    Their enforcement officers have no right of access to any property, the TV detector vans do not exist and you do not need to speak to them in any way. Therefore the only way you can be prosecuted is if you choose to incriminate yourself by co-operating with the TV license man.

    I think your figure of 12% of magistrate court time is an exaggeration and part of the BBC spin machine that also says that TV detector vans exist when they do not.

  16. Ex- expat Colin
    February 28, 2014

    The old Wireless & Telegraphy Act and then a great deal more for the likes of Radio 4 (et al) to really get on ones nerves. Radio is not free…..just some dope says it is.

    I regard it contemptuous and should be paid at the point of sale like most things. If it fails then so be it – rather like RBS should have been. Lump sum Road Tax is but another.

    They also spend a fortune on TV detector vehicles…a spectrum analyser on wheels. That compliments the mass volume of repeated junk the BBC pumps out on too many digital channels. Animal/Police/House/Cooking/Soaps etc shows.

    So yes, switch off and keep paying! We need to waste your money.

  17. Liz
    February 28, 2014

    Yes – I agree . This fee belongs to another era when BBC was the only TV outlet.
    The should be converted to a subscription – which would still be cheap compared with other TV providers. BBC has more money than it knows what to do with spending too much of it on property and staff rather than programmes. As a first step it should certainly not be a criminal offence not to buy a licence.

  18. acorn
    February 28, 2014

    The BBC is the licensing authority under the Acts and as far as I remember, the money collected by Capita and others, goes straight into the Treasury Consolidated Fund. I think it still gets “voted” by parliament to the DCMS, who then give it to the BBC. So, as far as I can see a third of the DCMS £9.6 billion budget goes to the BBC.

    It appears that shifting the licence tax to general taxation, would save significant costs all round from policing and prosecuting this miserable tax. I seem to remember that the Magistrates Association highlighted the TV fines problem twenty years ago, and our mickey mouse parliament still hasn’t come up with an intelligent solution for it.

    1. low resolution fox
      March 7, 2014

      I have to laugh at the practical reality this would leave us with!

      If the BBC income came from general taxation, it would end up lobbying the viewers to support 5-10% increases in it’s budget every year.

      As would any other sensibly minded business, attaching itself parasitically to government funds.

  19. Mark B
    February 28, 2014

    12% or, to put another way, 1 in 8 people. That means every 8th person who comes through the door of a Court room, is a potential TV-Tax criminal.

    The fact that so many people are willing to risk prosecution and a criminal record does in itself tell a story. The fact that most of these people, if our kind host is correct, tend to be the less well off, tells you more. This is especially galling when you consider the level of remuneration for people working for, what is in effect a State sanctioned monopoly.

    I believe that this should have been the first thing on the Governments agenda, not one of the last.

    There are many compelling reasons why the TV-Tax should be abolished and this is just one. If the Conservatives really do want to re-brand themselves as the ‘Workers Party’ or New-New Labour, then this would be a good place to start.

    PS Sorry, but I really could not resist a dig at the likes of dear Grant.

  20. Iain Gill
    February 28, 2014

    Yes it is a good idea to decriminalise it.
    While you are at it instruct the police to prosecute the TV licensing people for harassment for their constant bombardment of threatening letters to anyone who dares live without a TV or licence.

  21. Alan Wheatley
    February 28, 2014


    On the face of it a simple proposition, but related issues and implications are wide reaching. At heart, it raised the issue of whether the BBC should be simply another commercial broadcaster, or if it has become, and should remain, so much a part of our national heritage and identity that it should be apart and above such material consideration.

    There is much that is bad with the BBC. But also much that is good. It would be folly to loose the good in a purge to get rid of the bad. The superficially simple and limited measure proposed relating to the licence fee does, in fact, give rise to far deeper issues.

    A time for thought.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      March 1, 2014

      Having read the sixty odd comments there is a clear majority view. But I am not persuaded all understand the issues nor have thought the matter through.

      For instance, no one has mentioned that the government top slice the BBC licence fee money to spend on their own projects; first it was the digital switchover, and as they got away with that one it is currently high speed broadband.

      This “top slicing” habit is going to be difficult to give up!

    2. Alan Wheatley
      March 1, 2014

      A different approach would at least help alleviate some of the criticisms of the way in which the licence fee is collected.

      Seems to me it is the government that has the responsibility for collecting the licence fee that they have imposed, but in true government style do not want the hassle of collecting it, so have delegated the task to the BBC.

      There is some logic in this is as much as the more who pay the more money they get. But the BBC are not a debt collection agency, so sub-contract the task, but still get the blame, as exemplified in the many comments.

      Of course, as the government have now got the habit of obtaining some of the money for themselves, they too have a vested interest in maximising payment. However, by top slicing their avoid the down side. Perhaps they ought to bottom slice, and take on the collection task directly, especially as the offence for not paying is a criminal one.

    3. Alan Wheatley
      March 1, 2014

      The majority of the programmes I watch and listen to are on BBC channels. If the BBC was turned into another commercial broadcaster I expect I would find there are fewer programmes that would catch my interest. So I support the retention of the licence fee.

      But I do not support the BBC as it is, and more importantly the BBC Trust as it is.

      Seems to me the BBC is too big. It broadcasts far too many programmes that are well covered by commercial broadcasters, and far too many repeats that can be handled by the iPlayer. So I suggest the licence fee is frozen for the foreseeable future, and the BBC manage a steady downsizing of their operations. As the cost of the licence fee falls in real terms it will become a smaller financial burden, and should lead to less evasion.

      The BBC will need a revised policy. A smaller size must not mean a dumbing down. They should still attempt to produce a wide range of programmes that set the standard as for quality, and in that way there will be a non-commercial production model against which to compare the output of commercial broadcasters. They should cut down on quantity; too many programmes that are a slightly different slant on the same thing.

      There must also be an understanding that the BBC must not be judge solely in terms of audience figures. We should look to the BBC to produce programmes that serve minority interests; if a licence fee broadcaster does not do this then it seems to me these audiences well never be served. Obviously the audience figures will be low, but that should be accepted. And who knows, perhaps if the programmes are good the minority interest will find the numbers interested will grow. We are all for diversity, are we not?

      So the way forward is to change the BBC and retain a diminishing licence fee, not destroy that which is responsible for much that is good.

    4. Alan Wheatley
      March 1, 2014

      A major barrier that gets in the way of the BBC serving it’s licence fee payers is the BBC Trust.

      The Trust is supposed to be looking after the interests of the licence fee payers, but in my experience that is the last thing they want to have to trouble themselves with.

      The single change that will have the biggest effect on improving the BBC is for the Trustees to be selected by election of the licence fee payers, and for them to choose their own Chairman from themselves.

  22. Horatio McSherry
    February 28, 2014

    John, I agreee. Not only that though; the way the BBC/TV Licencing itself is operated should be made a criminal offence. If some local gangsters came to your shop and offered you an “insurance” service you didn’t want, and then took action against you when you didn’t pay for it, that would be illegal. It’s a protection racket; plain and simple.

  23. Iain Gill
    February 28, 2014

    While you are at it you should decriminalise minor speeding while driving safely.

    If you really must fine someone for doing 35 in a 30 a few times please don’t take their licence and job from them, and don’t clog up court rooms with cases like that.

    There you go you a few more measures like this and the public would start thinking the political class had a clue…

  24. boffin
    February 28, 2014

    Decriminalising is insufficient to create parity with other broadcasters.

    The Licence Fee remains a barely-disguised subsidy of one service provider to the detriment of others seeking to compete on a commercial basis ….. in contravention of the EEC Treaty, yes?

    The European Commission has the power to impose limitless penalties upon the UK when it wakes up to the fact that the Licence Fee is a profoundly anti-competitive stitchup, no?

  25. Atlas
    February 28, 2014

    Agreed – it should be a civil matter.

  26. forthurst
    February 28, 2014

    Educate, Inform, Entertain. In order to justify forcing everyone to pay for it, the BBC broadcasts twaddle in order that it cannot be accused of elitism and forcing most people to pay for something they never watch, but by not differentiating itself from Commercial TV by showing high quality programmes which do not necessarily have a universal appeal, it has destroyed its sole raison d’etre. Conclusion: the BBC should become a subscription only service.

  27. bluedog
    February 28, 2014

    An excellent suggestion, Mr Redwood, and the BBC should simply be funded from consolidated revenue. One could go further. Until fairly recently the British Army was subject to an annual Army Act for its continuance, the Parliament having a residual fear of what the Army might do if unrestrained.

    As the BBC is arguably an even more dangerous threat to the United Kingdom than the British Army, this writer suggests an annual BBC Act.

  28. Ex-expat Colin
    February 28, 2014

    Ben Stephenson, the BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, is calling for better representation of the gay community on television. ummmm, why?

    There is something wrong with that and I sometimes get the feeling that those of us non gay are really on the way to being the minority despite paying in the most.

    There is also a discussion on local radio in the background regarding the competitiveness of the BBC and its impact on commercial radio…like copying?

    Is it in the BBCs mandate to compete as big business (I think yes) or is to create good informative/entertaining material…..not copying for one.

    I also note the amount of “contracted in” programmes, most often rather juvenile and often exhibiting the bleedin obvious. Which brings me to the loons of the World Service…end of message!

    1. Bob
      February 28, 2014

      the BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, is calling for better representation of the gay community on television

      It appears that the BBC are becoming increasingly hetrophobic.

    2. forthurst
      February 28, 2014

      “Ben Stephenson, the BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, is calling for better representation of the gay community on television. ummmm, why?”

      The BBC is riddled with eccentrics, mediocrities and career troughers which is why the best quality programmes are bought in from abroad. etc ed

  29. oldtimer
    February 28, 2014

    Agreed! Stage 2 should convert BBC funding to a subscription service.

    I doubt either will happen because it would mean a weakening of state control over the minds and pockets of its citizens – and that would never do.

  30. Tim Dim
    February 28, 2014

    Yes decriminalise or better still make the BBC subscription only, or even allow ads that I can at least skip through.

    I find myself watching and listening to less and less of the BBC’s output because of its blatant liberal, AGW lefty multicult bias and pro Labour stance (more PIE anyone?). I’m lucky if I can find one program a night that I might want to watch. BBC4 is the only worthwhile channel, that is when its not a repeat (which is often).

    1. APL
      March 1, 2014

      Tim Dim: “(more PIE anyone?).”

      The most ideologically driven feminazi in the Labour party has been caught out (in an organisation that had links with PIE ed) paedophiles, yet there is not a squeak from the ridiculous Tory party.

      In an attempt to defend herself she points the finger at the newspaper industry for printing pictures of ‘scantily clad young females’ – who are all above the age of consent and thus the practice is perfectly legal. Is there a squeak of criticism from the Tory party?

      [….. pin drops …..]

      As an instrument of opposition your party is utterly, utterly worthless!

      Can you imagine the chorus from the Labour party if a member of the Tory party had sanctioned an alliance with PIE all those years ago?

  31. Jeremy Hummerstone
    February 28, 2014

    The BBC website must also cost a fortune, and enables the BBC at our expense to compete unfairly with the newspapers and other internet news services.

    1. Jagman 84
      February 28, 2014

      Agreed. In addition, I would disband the whole of the news and current affairs department, in order to deprive Labour of their propaganda machine.

  32. Robert Taggart
    February 28, 2014

    Absolutely – brilliant idea – GO FOR IT.
    Signed, ‘Normal’ Licence Fee Payer.

  33. Bill
    February 28, 2014

    Count me in as one who agrees. The BBC needs to have its wings clipped.

  34. formula57
    February 28, 2014

    What a spoilsport proposal! Some of us might enjoy having no licence (legally) and thus receiving a constant stream of increasingly rude, threatening letters that mis-describe the law, attribute powers to BBC proxy goons that they do not possess and harass us with warnings about criminalization following some goon turning up with a search warrant to gain entry to our homes. Why would anyone object to a non-supplier with whom one has no relationship having such rights and behaving in such a way?

    I used to have some regard for the BBC but no longer now I know first hand how it treats non-customers, never mind the multiple highly damaging scandals of recent years.

    1. John B
      February 28, 2014

      “…..following some goon turning up with a search warrant to gain entry to our homes.”

      What on earth does the goon expect to find? Does he think that you will be sitting down watching live TV?

      If you have a TV that is totally CAPABLE of receiving live TV but you only use it to view the internet or catch-up TV or video discs etc you do NOT need a licence.

      It is sadly so unfortunate that BBC TV Licensing goon visits can only result in a criminal prosecution if they enter your living room like SAS soldiers, boots first through the window, on a rope affixed to your roof – and catch you in your criminal activity.

  35. simon
    February 28, 2014

    I strongly agree. forcing our arms to pay for somthing I personally don’t want is outrageous. Especially in this day and age.The tactics used to enforce this archaic tax are most defiantly criminal.THe enforcement officers have financial incentives, therefore they are not in my opinion honest and impartial.

  36. Kenneth
    February 28, 2014

    Yes, I agree it should be a civil matter.

    However this whole thing is messy with many people not knowing if have should have licence or not.

    I would suggest a switch from compulsory subscription to voluntary subscription should be quite straightforward with the BBC scrambling (denying access) for those who do not subscribe.

    I would suggest the government phase out the licence fee this way:

    1. For now, let Ofcom have a budget for radio and let the BBC bid for broadcast licences

    2. Set a date to scramble the tv for non-subscribers

    3. Convert the licence fee into an opt-out subscription Provide de-scrambling codes to all viewers except those that opted out

    4. After, say 3 years, convert to opt-in subscription.

    The BBC has a wonderful reputation for quality tv and therefore I would expect a good take-up even at the opt-in phase. I should make a big thing about its USP; no adverts. I think the BBC can compete in the market place if it cuts its costs (e.g. pooling journalists for a start).

  37. bigneil
    February 28, 2014

    Comparing the license fee to electricity – -do we have to keep paying to get the same bit of electricity -we do with the BBC.

  38. behindthefrogs
    February 28, 2014

    So many people use services through other media in addition to those who do not buy a licence. The simple answer is to get rid of the licence completely. The revenue needed should b e raised by other means. My favourite is to raise the council tax for all buildings by a figure equivalent to the licence fee. This removes all the administration costs and costs of chasing those who do not have a licence.

    There are many other “licences” that have to be policed that could be replaced in a similar way. For example car tax by putting the cost on petrol.

    1. formula57
      March 1, 2014

      No, do not add a supplement to the council tax nor any similar arrangement. That is the great prize the BBC will seek as a replacement when the licence fee goes since it will serve to separate the payers from the service they receive (or pay for anyway), thereby insulating even further than now the BBC from any true accountability.

      The BBC suffers badly in the way that any organization does that finds it hard to measure success as it lacks the certain, responsive and speedy metrics that would permit that. Only if its customers can withhold their patronage in the face of unsatisfactory performance can it become properly responsive.

  39. Julian
    February 28, 2014

    Agreed. And in fact the fee can go because the BBC gets lots of income in other ways anyway.

  40. John B
    February 28, 2014

    Agree 100% re. decriminalisation of BBC TV “licence”.

    TV licensing bullies are still trespassing on university sites convincing some students that they need to buy a separate license if they watch live TV on a tablet like an iPad or laptop etc, running off an internal battery.
    A separate licence is NOT needed – the student is already covered if their parents have a licence at their home address

  41. Antisthenes
    February 28, 2014

    I for one agree but better still no licence fee at all break up the BBC and sell it off. The BBC is a media tool that has far to much power and influence and in the wrong hands can be very damaging for democracy. Because of the lefty bias of the controllers and employees of the BBC we frequently are shown programmes and given information that reflect that bias despite it’s charter requiring it to do otherwise.

  42. John B
    February 28, 2014

    Analogue broadcasts in the radiowave spectrum is a Public Good, so there is an argument for a TV licence to fund them, except of course advertising is another way.

    However technology, digital emissions, Internet streaming and encryption, has rendered that argument no longer applicable as this is no longer a Public Good. The freeloader argument no longer applies.

    The BBC should be privatised and broadcasts funded by advertising or encrypted and paid for by subscription, or mix of both.

    It would improve quality and encourage innovation by removing a market distorting monopoly.

  43. Peter Davies
    February 28, 2014

    100%! Another benefit is that it should reduce MOJ department costs for criminal cases whatever that figure is. And whilst your at it share the license fee equally between all the terrestrial channels by treating them all as public good broadcasters.

    Saville has shown us that it took ITV to bring the information surrounding his behaviour into the public domain – lets give all terrestrial channels an even playing field.

  44. Chris Rose
    February 28, 2014

    A very sensible proposal.

  45. simon bailey
    February 28, 2014

    I totally agree, I would prefer it scrapped altogether. I think subscription is the way forward for the bbc.

  46. Monty
    February 28, 2014

    The BBC should be reduced to a single channel radio station dedicated to public information broadcasting. Everything else should be parcelled up and sold off. The eventual buyers can subsequently decide on whether to run as a subscription, or free-to-air service with advertising. Either way, no need for a license fee, Board of Governors, Director General, Sandy Toksvig, etc etc….

  47. Max Dunbar
    February 28, 2014

    I don’t have a telly but if the licence fee were to be abolished the BBC would get some of its money by other means, possibly as in the German system where one pays a tax for any receiving equipment including computers. The only answer is to wind-up the anachronistic BBC once and for all and re-think the whole system. The BBC can’t change and wont change. It is defiantly reactionary/leftist and beyond reform.

  48. Lindsay McDougall
    March 1, 2014

    However, failure to pay income tax is a criminal offence. Rightly or wrongly, the public sector puts itself first.

  49. APL
    March 2, 2014

    People who don’t pay the BBC licence fee get taken to court.

    The don’t know how lucky they are! If it ware council tax non payment, they would only see the inside of a council operated kangaroo court.

  50. sm
    March 3, 2014

    Yes. A first babystep in the right direction.
    It might just be one of those things the EU does not yet directly control or does it?

  51. Peter Kaye
    March 7, 2014

    My fear is that with decriminisation is that with more freedom the BBC will take advantage to start fining homeowners, as the burden of proof is lessened. If we do decriminalise, then safeguard must be brought in to stop general abuse of anyone (the 6% or so) who are ‘evaders’ in the official BBC terminology – say, sending out fines, where the only ‘proof’ is that an explanation has not been given as to why no licence has been purchased. When I stopped watching television, and called the BBC, I was told I needed to write and explain why I no longer watch television, and was actually, incredibly, called a liar!

  52. Alistair Kelman
    March 12, 2014

    John – I fully support Andrew’s amendment to the government’s Deregulation Bill to make non-payment of the licence fee a civil matter, with a fine for offenders set by the government. When I was a young barrister, getting started at the Bar over thirty years ago, I frequently used to go to Horseferry Road Magistrates court on a Saturday morning to prosecute shoplifters who has stolen albums from HMV in Oxford Street. During my times there I was struck by the number of poor people up before the bench who were receiving a criminal conviction for not paying their television licence. Most of them were guilty only because they were very poor. They did not seem to be feckless people, just people who were down on their luck. Prosecuting them was (and is) shameful and remains a blot on our legal system.

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