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Five reasons why the TV licence fee has to go

While some may passionately argue for the continuation of the TV Licence there’s a few reasons why people aren’t too chuffed about having to pay it. 

As the election draws nearer, expect the debate around the licence fee and the future of the BBC to become increasingly politicised. 

A six year licence fee freeze is due to expire in 2016, which is when we can expect the cost to go up again. 

The corporation has already responded to this real-time cut in revenue by by preparing to relaunch BBC Three as an online-only entity, thereby saving £100 million. Director General Tony Hall has said that the future of BBC Four is also in doubt, leading many to pose the question if you wanted to keep watching it, would you be prepared to pay more for it in the form of a bigger licence – or as a subscription?

Read our feature on the TV Licence, how much is it and why do I need it?1. Non-payers shouldn’t be treated as criminals

You are currently required by law to have a TV Licence and if you’re found to be watching live TV and you don’t have one you can get fined heavily and even earn a criminal record. 

While there’s no such thing as a free lunch, it seems more than a little harsh to criminalise people for not paying a bill. If you can’t afford to pay for something you simply shouldn’t get it. 

As with non-payment of a gas, electricity or water bill, non-payment of the TV Licence should see persistent fee dodgers slapped with a county court judgment to recover the money owed. 

A visit from the bailiffs might be marginally nicer than a visit from the boys in blue, but you won’t end up with a criminal record at the end of it. Unless of course, you continually refuse to pay in which case the threat of a jail sentence can be used as a last resort. 

Perhaps a cheaper licence, similar to BT’s Connected Society plan could be made available to people who meet certain conditions so as not to criminalise people without the means to pay £145 a year. 

2. You don’t have a choice

Whether you decide to get subscription-free telly from Freeview, Freesat or YouView or you want pay TV from Sky, Virgin Media, BT or TalkTalk, you’ll need a licence. 

You don’t have the option to just pay for Sky TV channels or BT Sport channels. Whether you actually watch BBC One or not, you’ll have to pay for it. 

The cheapest Sky TV package – The Original Bundle – costs £21.50/month. When you break down the annual cost of the TV Licence it works out at just over £12/month, which is nearly 60 per cent of that cost. 

You’re paying twice to watch TV. Add into the fact the ad breaks on the pay TV channels and you’re effectively paying three times. 

There are figures to support the claims that the most popular channels out there are in fact the free to air ones is this due to their prominence on pay TV programme guides? Would ratings fall if they weren’t automatically given the top spot?

3. You can get iPlayer catch-up content for free

Under the current terms, you can actually legally watch BBC iPlayer without a licence. The only catch is that you’re not (legally) allowed to watch any live feeds – you can only access catch-up content. 

But why should you? Why should you have any access to this service if you’ve opted out of paying for it? You’re not directly contributing to its upkeep so why should you get to use it?

According to figures from 2013, roughly 13,000 customers still opt for a cheaper black and white licence instead (£96) of a getting a full colour one (£145). 

Why not, in that case have a separate online-only licence for the people who don’t want to watch a TV but want to watch on their laptops, tablets and phones? Why not have a login for each licence fee holder to stop freeloaders streaming catch-up content for nothing?

4. Expats and holidaymakers could watch BBC iPlayer abroad more easily 

While it’s possible for expats and Brits Abroad to watch BBC content from afar thanks to Slingboxes and VPNs, if you had a personal account and a login, this would remove the minor inconvenience of having to set up and run workarounds like this

Depending on the data plan you’ve got (and where you’re going) you’d probably still prefer to download content to your devices first before watching TV in the evenings. 

5. Are adverts really that big a deal?

Advertising is everywhere. In between TV programmes, on train stations, websites – there’s always some colourful crock trying to cram its way into your eyeline. Yes they’re sometimes annoying but they’re a fact of life. 

If you’re that bothered about them during TV programmes, you’ve got the option to pause live TV for a few minutes, go an make a cup of tea and then fast forward through everything. OK so this won’t work everywhere (ITV Player, 4oD) but where it is possible to skip through ads, there’s nothing to stop you. 

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