The end of the TV license, what will replace it?

TV Licensing
The TV license was introduced in 1946 when the BBC was the sole broadcaster in the UK, so naturally the media landscape has changed. What are the options for a replacement system so everyone benefits and no-one is left behind.

The announcement that the TV license will be axed to by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorrie has received mixed reactions, but what will replace it?

Dorrie is expected to freeze the annual license fee set at £159.00 on 1st April for the next two years, partly due to inflation as people brace themselves for high energy bills in April.

The TV license modal is being reviewed and is expected to be replaced in 2027 when the latest deal expires.

She said on Twitter:

“This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.”

Current TV License

The current cost of a TV license is £159.00 which equates to £13.25 per month which is the current flat rate for everyone watching TV from any device including BBC iPlayer. There are a few exceptions:

Over 74’s who receive pension credit

The cost for the over 74’s on Pension Credit is currently free.

Care home residents (60 years or over)

For care home residents, supported housing or sheltered accommodation with a TV in their own living area are required to pay £7.50.

You can only work for 15 hours per week.

Registered Blind

50% discounted license fee if registered blind.

Penalties

Watching TV without a license is a crime with the maximum penalty is a £1,000* fine plus any legal costs and/or compensation you may be ordered to pay.

Making a claim for the free or discounted TV license

You do not automatically receive a free TV license once you reach 75 years, you will have to submit an application by:

    1. Register online
    2. Call 0300 790 6117 between 8.30am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday to request an application form.

What is the TV license used for?

Almost £3.7 billion was raised in 2019 by the TV license fee alone, this represents 76% of the BBC’s total income of £4.9 billion.

The income is spent on Radio, TV, the website, apps, BBC iplayer and the new podcasts.

According to the website and Royal Charter the BBC’s mission is:

“to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”

UK total number of licences in force in 2020/21*

The total number of current valid TV licenses in force in the UK is dropping even though for the last two years people have spent more time at home.

Total number of licenses cancelled in 2020/21

The cancellations numbers are taken monthly and those households that have failed to make payment and those that have chosen to cancel.

TV Licenses cancelled

TV license evasion rose to 7.25% in 2019/20.

How much is Netflix in comparison

Netflix subscription is from £5.99 to £13.99 depending on your options, but Netflix content is limited, especially movies. They are launching more and more Netflix series but Netflix is not offering up to the minute news and quality UK drama.

Disadvantages of Netflix

  1. Netflix does not offer real time content.
  2. Much of the content in Netflix is old and the most popular movies are often not available.
  3. Content available depends on your location.
  4. Internet speed requirements make the service unusable for some
  5. You are paying to view movies and content, you have no ownership
  6. Subscription options

Criminalising non payment of the TV license fee

There has been much debate over whether non payment of your TV license should be a criminal offence.

In 2014/15 decriminalising non-payment of the license fee was considered. The conclusion of the “Perry Review” of July 2015 recommended that the current prosecutions should be maintained to act as a deterrent.

In February 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published a consultation on decriminalising the offence. The DCMS said that it was right to look at the issue again given “ongoing concerns that the criminal sanction is unfair and disproportionate”. They received over 150,000 responses.

In January 2021, the Governments conclusion was that any change to the current system would have a direct impact on license fee payers so has put decriminalisation under “active consideration” (in the too hard pile).

Thus, the license fee is now under review until 2027, so many who do not pay their license fee from now until 2027 will be prosecuted by law.

Capita enforce non payment of TV licenses and data shows women more likely to be prosecuted than men.

A BBC source told the Sunday Times:

“There are very good reasons for investing in what the BBC can do for the British public and the creative industries, and the (profile of the) UK around the world.

The TV license will be in place until it is renewal date of 31st December 2027.

New solutions to the TV license problem

The TV license was introduced in 1946 when the BBC was the sole broadcaster in the UK, so naturally the world of media has changed, so what are the options for a new (better) to pay for services such as world news and BBC productions:

  1. Introduce a TV tax onto Internet Service Providers, but what cost would they pass to the consumer?
  2. Increase income tax to pay for TV services, but this then raises the question of Governments having too much influence in tv
  3. Advertising is used to pay for TV fees in countries such as Norway and Denmark but the advertising fees will not be enough to cover the costs.
  4. A subscriptions service similar to that of Netflix, however, with the decline in BBC tv licenses being bought there is also a potential that the number of subscribers will fall short of what is required.
  5. Maybe a mix of different income streams would bring the income necessary for the BBC to continue creating quality content

 

Conclusion

The BBC is regarded as a national treasure much like the NHS and something to protected, but the numbers of licenses is falling and the contentious issue of prosecuting those without a license has been rumbling on for years, with no real action by the Government.

Should the license fee be free? Just like the NHS. I think during the pandemic and being locked away many of us did only have the radio or the tv for company. Should the Government add a tax to cover the cost to reduce all the costs of collecting unpaid fees and legal costs for prosecutions.

There are a whole host of issues with bringing in a subscriptions service for those on benefits, for those unemployed, for those that are on disability living allowance. Having access to basic tv should be something that is available to everyone regardless.

Other countries are having the same discussions, with more and more people turning to YouTube and other media channels, how relevant is the BBC? Is the BBC unbiased? Was the BBC unbiased during Brexit? Was the BBC unbiased during the pandemic. Do Actors and BBC presenters get paid too much? Is the BBC a cash cow to be exploited?

What I do know is that there are thousands of retirees across the country living alone with only the tv for company and good forbid that gets taken away.

Sources:

How the world provides public media

TV license fee non-payment

TV license fee statistics

BBC TV license fee: what is it and why is it under threat?

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