January 25, 2021
The consultation asked whether the Government should decriminalise TV licence evasion by replacing the criminal sanction with an alternative civil enforcement scheme. It looked at how far alternative schemes would be fairer or more proportionate, their cost and the challenges of implementation. The Government says that it “remains concerned” that a criminal sanction is increasingly disproportionate and unfair in a modern public service broadcasting system. However, it wants to ensure that any future changes to the TV licence sanction or enforcement scheme are not seen as an invitation to evade the TV licence requirement, nor privilege the rule-breaking minority over the rule-abiding majority.
The consultation received more than 150,000 responses from individuals, campaigners and stakeholders. Responses revealed that a significant number of people are opposed to a criminal sanction, and some highlighted the considerable stress and anxiety it can cause for individuals, particularly the most vulnerable in society, such as the elderly.
Many consultation responses noted changing the sanctions could have wide-ranging impacts for licence fee payers including significantly higher fines and costs for individuals who evade the licence fee.
Decriminalisation will now be considered alongside the licence fee settlement negotiations that began in November 2020. The negotiations will set the level of the licence free for a period of at least five years from 2022 and will provide the context within which any future decision on decriminalisation will be taken. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here. To read the Secretary of State’s written statement to Parliament, click here.