BBC accused of ‘bullying’ public into paying licence fee

Almost 1,000 people a week are prosecuted for not paying their TV licence, the latest figures show. About 70 percent of those receiving fines are women. Licence fee evasion now makes up about a fifth of all criminal prosecutions against women, according to the numbers from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Rebecca Ryan, Campaign Director at Defund the BBC, told “The BBC has broken its contract with the British people. It is simply immoral for one thousand people a week to be prosecuted for refusing to fund an organisation that can’t obey its own impartiality obligation.

“The BBC has this week shown that Gary Lineker can say whatever politically divisive things he likes without repercussion and the broadcaster will still bully and coerce the British public to keep him paying him.

“Worse still is the fact it is the most vulnerable that the BBC seeks to criminalise if they don’t pay up, whilst they refuse to adhere to their charter. That is not how a free democracy works. The BBC must enforce impartiality, or the licence fee must go.”

A TV licence costs £159 per year although free licences can be issued to those aged over 74 who are in receipt of pension credit themselves or living with someone that is. The licence costs £53.50 for people who only watch a black and white TV.

People who refuse to pay for a TV licence receive a criminal record whereas failure to pay utility bills or parking tickets is treated as a civil matter.

There were 47,622 prosecutions and 44,106 convictions for failing to pay the TV licence in the year ending June 2022, according to the most recent figures from the MoJ.

Almost all cases are now dealt with under the controversial Single Justice Procedure (SJP), which means they are heard behind closed doors without the person accused needing to enter a plea.


If a person fails to respond to the letter informing them of being charged, the court can simply issue a guilty verdict and dish out a fine of up to £1,000.

Anyone who fails to pay a court-imposed fine can be sent to prison.

Data obtained by the Telegraph has shown most people who are prosecuted for TV licence evasion under SJP failed to enter a plea.

Campaigners have called for reform of the system, arguing for the gender disparity in prosecutions to be addressed.

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There are also concerns SJP does not account for “vulnerable” people.

Tara Casey, women’s justice caseworker at Appeal, told the Telegraph: “As countless families across Britain experience food and energy poverty this year, the BBC is set to dish out tens of thousands of prosecutions for the non-payment of the TV licence fee.

“A staggering three-quarters of those prosecuted will be women and many will have vulnerabilities that have been neither identified nor taken into account.

“The cherry on the cake is that most of this will happen under the guise of the opaque and secretive Single Justice Procedure automatic convictions, without any input from defendants in the vast majority of cases.

“These prosecutions are the clearest example of the criminalisation of poverty that persists in this country.”

Appeal is calling on the Government to decriminalise the offence and urged the BBC to suspend prosecutions of those in genuine hardship during the cost-of-living crisis.

But the organisation says BBC chiefs have so far refused to amend its prosecution policies.

The BBC has been approached for comment.

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “We are doing all we can to support people and have various payment options to help spread the cost of a licence for those experiencing financial difficulty.

“We work with groups throughout the UK to raise awareness of these options. Prosecution is only ever a last resort and the majority of first time offenders are not prosecuted if they buy a licence before their court date.”

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