BBC licence fee evaders will 'no longer face prison'

BRITS who don't pay the BBC licence fee won't face prison under new Government plans.

Failure to buy a licence will be decriminalised – and those caught watching TV without one will instead face fines or visits from bailiffs.

Ministers are set to announce the change as soon as next month, with non-payment being treated as 'civil debt' – the same way it is for those who don't pay utility bills, The Times reports.

The BBC will still be entitled to chase people who don't pay up – but it'll be done through county courts.

Failure to pay the fee will also affect credit ratings.

A Government source told the paper decriminalising the licence fee was a “done deal”.

However, officials are debating how to replace it.

The source said: “We have to be careful that what we replace the licence fee with isn’t worse than what we have.

“We’re talking about higher fines, using bailiffs and damaging people’s credit ratings. We need to tread carefully.”

The news comes days after it was revealed that former Daily Telegraph editor Lord Moore is close to becoming chairman of the BBC.

The 63-year-old, Boris Johnson's former boss, has waged a decade-long war on the BBC’s licence fee.

What do Brits think about the licence fee?

More than half of Brits think the fee should be scrapped, according to a poll

Fifty seven per cent instead want a subscription service like Netflix or Sky, it was revealed last month.

Out of 1,000 questioned in a Sun-commissioned survey by OnePoll, just 43 per cent feel the BBC provides value for money with its annual £157.50 licence fee.

Only ten per cent said they would be prepared to pay £160 or more.

On August 1, over 75s stopped benefitting from free TV licences.

The decision was met with widespread dismay with petitions calling for a U-turn attracting hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: "This is the wrong decision.

"We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe that they should be funded by the BBC."

In 2010, a court fined him £262 for refusing to pay it.

He has compared the £3.5bn tax that funds the BBC to “compulsory tithes” for the church that forced people to pay for “a public religion whether they believed in it or not”.

The PM also wants former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre as boss of broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

The moves would propel two leading Brexiteers to the top of the broadcasting sector.

Mr Johnson held drinks in No10 with Dacre in February and is now in talks over the role, it has been reported.

Dacre, 71, will encourage the BBC to downsize, focus on core public service duties and tackle bias, it was reported.

Whitehall sources revealed he “passionately believes it needs saving from itself”.

If the replacement scheme is brought in, there will be a consultation and a bill is passed in Parliament before it can be brought into law.

Critics are said to be concerned that penalties could be more expensive than the current average of £176 for licence fee evasion – as it's been suggested a £500 fine would be needed as a deterrent.

A total of 129,446 people in England were prosecuted for not having a licence in 2018, but only five were jailed.

In its submission to the consultation, the BBC said that civil enforcement would allow items to be “sold by a bailiff”.

It added: “Action taken by bailiffs is by its very nature intrusive . . . TV Licensing does not use them to recover arrears.”

Source: Read Full Article