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Scrap BBC licence fee and replace it with TV tax for everyone, say MPs

A committee of MPs wants to scrap the TV Licence – and replace it with a broadcasting tax for ALL households. 

Even if you don’t own a TV or only watch catch-up TV online you’d still have to pay, if the new proposals are carried out.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, chaired by Conservative MP John Whittingdale, wants the UK to adopt a model similar to Germany’s Rundfunkbeitrag (lit. ‘Broadcasting Post’).  

A broadcasting levy would see all households contributing to the upkeep of BBC services, whether they watch live broadcasts on a TV set, listen to radio or stream catch-up TV. Or don’t. 

While people who don’t use any BBC services at all would be required to pay, the committee cited BARB figures showing that 96 per cent of UK residents tunes in to BBC channels. Cue a #wearethe4percent hashtag. At the same time, licence fee non-payment should be decriminalised

Whittingdale said: “In the short term, there appears to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee, but that model is becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain. 

“We also consider it anachronistic that it is a criminal offence to evade the licence fee, it is completely out of step with non-payment of other services and penalties.”

Scrap BBC licence fee and replace it with TV tax for everyone, say MPs
Fee dodgers who only watch catch-up TV could be spanked by a German model

You can currently, legally, avoid paying for a licence and continue to watch catch-up TV – but this could all change. Launching a broadcasting levy would in theory, remove the need to identify non-payers and be a fairer way of generating revenue for the BBC. 

The committee also argues that the BBC should encrypt its channels and put iPlayer behind a paywall. Non-payers would simply be locked out of watching TV instead of potentially getting locked up. 

Currently, the licence for a colour TV costs £145.50/year per home. This covers you for live TV broadcasts whether you’re watching them on a TV set or you’re streaming programmes live on services like BBC iPlayer. 

In the future you might have to enter a PIN or your licence fee number before you could watch EastEnders. The committee estimated that setting up conditional access on set-top boxes and TVs without such capability would cost about £500 million. 

The committee didn’t say exactly where that money would come from and said that it would take ‘years’ for a nationwide rollout to be completed. Future governments would need to decide whether or not encryption would be applied to all TV services like ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – or just BBC channels. 

The licence fee settlement fixes the fee at the current rate until the end of March 2017, before which a new arrangement will take place. 

Earlier this month, a public consultation on decriminalising licence fee non-payment was launched. Under a separate set of proposals, those found guilty could instead opt to settle out of court to avoid a sentence or non-payment could become a civil offence – meaning that bailiffs could come knocking instead of police officers. 

Should everyone have to pay even if they don’t use all – or any – of the services? Should non-payers simply be locked out? Or should the fee go altogether? Let us know in the comments. 

 

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