The TV licence Fee, in the words of Andrew Bridgen, MP

(The following are excerpts and quotations from parliamentary discussions on the debate for decriminalisation of the BBC licence fee or taken from interviews.)

bridgen

It [the TV licence fee] is probably the most regressive tax in the UK today.

At its extreme, it is criminalising people simply for the crime of being poor and that should never be a crime.

Imagine the condemnation if the BBC had learned of a banana republic introducing a poll tax on its citizens, irrespective of income, for them to be able to have access to television. Imagine also that that poll tax was enforced by the threat of prison sentences that disproportionately saw women with children detained by the state. Well, there is no need to imagine that scenario, because that is exactly the position in this country.

On the “Unique Way of Funding”

While gas, electricity, water, telephone and pay TV suppliers have to use the civil system to recover their funds, we continue to let the BBC enjoy the luxury of having the state act as its debt collector. That special status only serves to fuel an arrogance and sense of entitlement at the BBC and distances the corporation from the very people it is there to serve.

On the Consequences of the Criminal Sanctions

James Purnell, director of strategy and digital at the BBC—whatever that means—has gone on the record as saying that the current system of licence fee and enforcement and criminalisation, in his view, “works pretty well”. Well, it may work pretty well for Mr Purnell, who is on £295,000 a year of taxpayers’ money, and his chums, but I do not think it works pretty well for the 182,000 people who are dragged through the magistrates court, and it certainly does not work pretty well for the 51 people who went to prison. Although the BBC is trying to downplay the impact on the courts system of prosecuting for non-payment of the TV licence, there is no doubt that the impact is considerable. The BBC is the biggest criminaliser of the public on a regular basis in the UK—responsible for one in nine of all magistrates’ cases. The average cost of keeping a prisoner in prison is about £1,000 a week. A disproportionate number of [people who go to prison as a result of the legislation] are women—50%, whereas women make up only 4% of the prison population. Many of those prosecuted are single mothers. Retention of the law comes, then, at a substantial human and financial cost.

On Changing the TV Licence Fee

I believe that the BBC needs to look at this as an opportunity, not a threat, and as a chance to reignite that linkage with the people it is there to serve, rather than subjugating them and forcing them to pay a tax. It is my belief that [the] protected and privileged status that the BBC has enjoyed for so long is not its saviour and salvation, but instead has allowed it to become distant and remote from, and in some cases despised by, the very people it is supposed to serve. The BBC thinks that the licence fee is their life jacket but it’s the anchor that is actually pulling them down.

In England and Wales, more people are imprisoned each year for the non-payment of fines associated with TV licensing than are prosecuted for evasion in Scotland, with little, if any, difference in the evasion rate.

The BBC has been saying, in very emotive language, that even a 1% reduction in its income will result in the removal of 10 local radio stations. This was later ramped up to saying that the BBC might lose £200 million a year, leading to the axing of CBBC and CBeebies—clever media management from the BBC, using the most emotive channels and options, rather than, for instance, using the amount written off by the digital media initiative, when the BBC wrote off £100 million of taxpayers’ money. The comments of the BBC are, to me, symptomatic of an organisation that is showing no interest or desire to move away from the licence fee model backed up by law on criminalisation. I can understand that no organisation or private company that is having its income stream protected by the threat of criminalisation would ever want to give that up.

On freezing the licence fee

If the BBC has had such a tough financial settlement and it can no longer go on with a freeze on the licence fee, can [it] explain why the number of managers—not staff, but managers—who work for the BBC and are paid more than the Prime Minister has increased by 10% in the past 12 months?

On the Future

In March 2014, Andrew Bridgen said “We will perhaps have a wider debate about the future of the BBC at some point.” That moment might be just around the corner.

Later that month, he said [Decriminalisation of the BBC licence fee evasion] “will happen, I’m convinced of it and I will drive it through … it’s a matter of how and when. What I’m going to try to engineer is that whatever happens at the next charter review, criminalising people for non-payment of it [the licence fee] will not be on the table.”

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Andrew Bridgen and Caroline Levesque-Bartlett, September 2015

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20 thoughts on “The TV licence Fee, in the words of Andrew Bridgen, MP

  1. BBC licence as got to go the programme s are not worth all the money I pay for just repeated over and over again once again just been rip off by the BBC.

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  2. For me, it’s not a matter how good or bad the BBC is at doing things it’s about choice. With any other telly service provider I have that choice but not so with the BBC. We live in a digital age & BBC can easily encrypt its output making a subscription model a fairer way to fund the BBC.

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  3. I’m fed up with watching the same shit on tv and I pay £150 a year there is nothing knew on tv I watch my DVDs more then watching what they put on there TV is SHIT why can’t we just pay for what we watch

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    1. In a 21st centaury digital age a subscription model as you suggest would be one BBC could implement without too much difficulty as all modern TV’s are fitted with a common interface (CI) slot & signal could be encrypted. But BBC resists any idea of consumer choice as its revenues would decline probably by as much as 30% or more.

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      1. Well let’s hope that you’re campaign to de-criminalize telly tax succeeds as without the sledgehammer of the courts to extract money from those who do not want BBC services this should concentrate BBC minds to moving to a subscription model to protect their content – a much fairer system.

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      2. “decline by 30%” more like 99% the bbc’s shite! who the fuk wants to watch biased news programmes. and the rest of the programmes are 20/30 years behind the times..the whole thing is on the brink of collaspe..they think the world swivels around them. they’ve already started slipping in they pro eu stance into they programming.. (which they’ve been warned against, but totally ignored it). how the fuk they hold the country to ransom, is beyond me.

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      3. I & probably many others in country happen to like some of the programmes BBC transmits & I quite rightly, pay my telly tax to view it. But I do share Caroline’s view that it is wrong to criminalise those who do not want BBC services which is why I am happy to support her campaign. The substance of your point may indeed be valid but I also share the teachings of my parents that one should not cause offence to others by using bad language.

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  4. what I find annoying is the bbc senior mangament and its associates are MORE than happy to see the poor members of the public be constantly fined and or imprisioned to keep them in a millionaire lifestyle.. if you want to see a sample of a poor person criminalised by the system,, go to your local magistrates court and speak to these people before they go into the courtroom, (like I did last year), you’ll find they are mainly single mothers with no money, just struggling to to bring-up they kids in a never-ending cycle of scrimping and just about surviving on what little money they have at the end of the month! do you really think the bbc gives a rats arse? nooo…they want to increase the payments (which they have done by another tenner next year), and keep it going indefinitley! the bbc gets 4 BILLION, pounds off the british people every year, tax free. its fuking disgusting!

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    1. I agree, and there is worst. My local magistrate court is not dealing with TV licence (I asked). For Devon and Cornwall, we have to go to Weymouth, Dorset. I can’t imagine what good that does for justice, if you have to travel hundreds of miles to defend yourself.

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  5. HERES A SAMPLE OF COURT CASES (8) POSTED IN MY LOCAL RAG LAST WEEK. NOTE: THEY ARE ALL WOMEN.

    ALSO NOTE’ YOU WILL SEE “VICTIM SURCHARGE £20” FOR EACH CASE. THIS MONEY GOES TO THE BBC (TV LICENCING). THEY OBVIOSLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THE DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF THE WORD “VICTIM” AND GOT THE WRONG WAY ROUND, COS THESE ARE THE VICTIMS SHOWN BELOW.

    OF COURSE, IF THEY DON’T PAY THE FINE, THEY GO TO JAIL.

    THE BBC……… LAUGHTING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK!

    Court Round-up: Eight Hartlepool TV licence dodgers who ended up in the dock

    10:53Friday 25 September 2015

    The following cases were dealt with by Hartlepool magistrates. All addresses are Hartlepool unless stated.

    Janet Devine, 49, of Siddington Walk, Middlesbrough, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence.

    She was fined £200 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £120.

    Antonia Dixon, 21, of Coatham Close, Hemlington, Middlesbrough, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence.

    She was fined £100 and ordered to pay costs of £120 and a criminal courts charge of £150.

    Stephen Dowd, 41, of Collins Avenue, Stockton, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence.

    He was fined £40 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £120.

    Kimberley Galloway, 25, of West View Road, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence.

    She was fined £55 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £120.

    Emma Green, 40, of Neasham Avenue, Billingham, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence.

    She was fined £55 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £120.

    Michelle Grist, no age stated, of Garside Drive, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence.

    She was fined £55 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £120.

    Stephen Hart Hamilton, 41, of Bedale Avenue, Billingham, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence.

    He was fined £55 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £120.

    Tracy Harkess, 46, of Scurfield Road, Stockton, was found guilty of using a colour television receiver without a licence and was fined £500 and ordered to pay £50 victim surcharge.

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