Non-payment of the TV Licence fee could result in a civil offence instead of a criminal one, according to plans being discussed by MPs.
Currently, refusing to pay £145.50 a year for a colour licence can see you fined up to £1,000 and landed with a criminal record. Refusing to pay fines can result in a jail sentence.
By making licence fee non-payment a civil offense, you can still be fined and potentially visited by debt collectors instead of the police.
The news, broken by the Telegraph, reveals that justice secretary Chris Grayling and culture secretary Maria Miller are in favour of the idea and 101 cross party MPs have backed the idea.
The BBC is wary of the move, arguing that it could encourage people to skip paying the fee altogether. A BBC spokesperson said: “Legislation is a matter for the government, however changing the law could lead to higher evasion.
“Just a 1 per cent increase in evasion would lead to the loss of around £35m, the equivalent of around 10 BBC local radio stations.”
The news arrives in the wake of the BBC announcing that BBC Three could be dropped from the airwaves. The plans involve future BBC Three programmes being streamed online and the free spectrum being used for forthcoming timeshift channel BBC One +1.
The BBC has already experimented with launching BBC Three content on iPlayer as a more cost effective way to pilot future programmes. It’s also been hinted that a similar fate could befall BBC Four.
The cost of the licence fee is due to be negotiated in 2016. Until then, the BBC has pledged to keep the licence fee frozen at its current rate. As income from licences isn’t due to rise for the next two years, the BBC has had to look at how it can save money.