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Licence Fee decriminalisation debate put on ice ’til 2017

Former BBC chairman Lord Grade has forced plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee to be put on hold until 2017. 

A host of MPs, led by Andrew Bridgen, backed plans to make licence fee evasion a civic rather than criminal offence last year. 

Despite the plans receiving widespread backing in the Commons, the Lords proposed to delay decriminalisation until April 2017, when the current licence fee settlement expires. 

Lord Grade said: “I would love to see non-payment of the licence fee decriminalised, but there are risks in doing that. 

Should the TV Licence stay or go? “There are risks that the enemies of the BBC will see it as an opportunity to remove the compulsory element of the licence fee and move the BBC to a subscription model, which would completely undermine the whole concept of public service broadcasting.”

Last November a group of MPs appealed to culture secretary Sajid Javid to scrap the licence fee and replace it with a voluntary subscription. 

Mr. Javid, who is currently overseeing a separate investigation of the fee, said that the current system needs to be looked into in greater depth: “When over 10 per cent of magistrates court cases concern this one offence, you have to ask whether the current system is really working.”

While over 10 per cent of cases in 2012 were related to licence fee evasion, TV Licensing, the body that maintains a database of licence fee payers, said that most court cases were dealt with in bulk and only a small number of people actually attended court. 

Update: TV Licensing has informed us that 32 people were imprisoned in 2014, for failing to pay court fines relating to licence fee non-payment.  


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