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Should the TV Licence be Decriminalised?


Should the TV Licence be Decriminalised?

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The UK Government has announced it is considering whether to decriminalise not paying the BBC TV Licence.

This comes as welcome news for many, who either oppose the idea of a TV Licence or struggle every year to cover the cost.

According to 2017 industry figures, 184,595 people were charged for not paying their TV Licences; of those, 140,000 were charged and taken to court and astonishingly out of that, 101,000 were women.

This means up to potentially 126,000 people received a criminal record in 2017 for not paying their TV licences (the conviction rate is believed to be about 90%). It is believed TV Licence prosecutions actually account for up to 10% of all prosecutions.

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The majority will also have been fined, but dozens will also have been sent to prison for not paying the fine (rather than the licence).

The exception to this is in Scotland, where because of changes in the law made by the Scottish Government, it is believed no-one has been sent to prison for non-payment of a TV licence in over 10 years.

Should non-payment of the TV Licence be decriminalised?

The disparaging figures highlight the stark difficulty faced by thousands across the country, particularly women who are most affected, encouraging campaigners to call for change.

And following reports last year that of the £3.83 billion raised by the TV Licence fee it is believed £148 million was spent on presenter’s pay alone – with Match of the Day Host Gary Lineker taking home £1.8 million and more than 100 behind-the-scenes executives earning more than the Prime Minster Boris Johnson – there is a rising number of people looking for justification of the charge.

This is not to say there shouldn’t be a licence fee.

Many people, for example, pay for other TV services like Now TV, Sky and Netflix; but none of risk criminal records and even imprisonment for not paying.

However, there are calls for the era of not paying your TV licence being one where people hide behind their curtains and are scared to open their door to come to an end.

What is the TV Licence – do you need one?

Currently, the UK TV Licence costs £154.50 per year or £52 if it is a black and white TV set.

The charge is payable if you watch or record programmes on a TV, computer or other devices as they are broadcast live; or if you download or watch TV Programmes on the BBC iPlayer and its catch-up service.

You don’t, however, need a TV Licence if you only watch or download non-BBC programmes online; or don’t have an aerial and only watch DVDs.

You may also be entitled to a 50% concession if you are blind (or suffer from severe sight impairment) and although currently, you can apply for a free TV Licence when you are over 74, this Government-funded scheme comes to an end in June 2020 (it’s also not automatic, you do need to apply).

After June 2020, the BBC have announced those over 74 will have to apply for exemption and show they are in receipt of Pension Credit to qualify for the free Licence.

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What happens if you don’t pay your TV Licence?

If you don’t pay your TV Licence and are caught by a TV Licence Enforcement Officer, you can face prosecution (and hundreds of thousands are prosecuted each year). You can also face a fine of up to £1,000 and although not having a licence cannot see you being sent to prison, non-payment of the fine can. Although as mentioned, in Scotland, it is not believed anyone has been imprisoned in over ten years for not paying a TV Licence fine.

You can also end up with a criminal record.

If you are struggling to pay your TV Licence, because of other debts, speak with a Creditfix Money advisor on 0808 2234 104


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