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BBC gets delay on decriminalising licence fee non-payment debate

The BBC has won a reprieve on a debate which would lead to non-payment of the licence fee being decriminalised. 

Following plans annnounced by justice secretary Chris Grayling, the BBC has asked for the issue to be debated at the time the licence fee is up for negotiation. 

Currently, refusing to pay the licence fee can result in you earning a criminal record or going to prison. By changing licence fee non-payment to a civil offense rather than a criminal one, the BBC would only have the power to send the bailiffs after you rather than the police. 

BBC delays decriminalisation debate on licence fee non-payment
The Big British Castle: Broadcasting House is the BBC’s commissioning and scheduling hub in London

The BBC has argued against decriminalisation, saying that just a one per cent increase in licence fee evasion would equate to a £35 million loss. 

The BBC is already cash strapped, after agreeing to a six year licence fee freeze in 2010. 

This is equivalent to a 16 per cent cut in income for the corporation. As a cost saving measure, the BBC has announced plans to move youth and comedy-focussed channel BBC Three online. Doing so would reportedly save the BBC £100 million a year. 

The Guardian reveals that Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen is pushing for licence fee non-payment to be decriminalised but has also argued for ministers to spend more time debating the issue. 

The timing of this will mean that decriminalisation will be debated alongside the renewal of the BBC’s licence agreement. 

A BBC spokesperson added: “The BBC is content that this proposal balances a timely examination of this issue with a  proper review of the options, while not taking any decisions prior to charter review.” 

Image: Sarah Marshall/Flickr

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