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Petition

Monday 21 March 2016

Observations

Culture, Media and Sport

BBC licence fee

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the petitioners are dissatisfied with the BBC licence fee; further that up to 50 MPs recently demanded an urgent Government review of the BBC funding; further that the Magistrates’ Association has been calling for the decriminalisation of TV licence evasion for nearly 20 years, concerned that evaders are punished disproportionately; further that 52.8 million letters were sent in 2014 to suspected evaders which were followed up by 3.8 million visits by TV licence officers, 204,018 prosecutions (or out of court disposals), of which 24,025 were unsuccessful, and 40 imprisonments, for an average of 20 days; further that the licence fee represents a much higher proportion of income for poor households; further that it gives an unfair advantage to one broadcaster; further that the UK is now perceived less favourably internationally by countries that have never enforced TV licence fees or have abolished their TV licence due to its public broadcaster funding model; further that the petitioners find the BBC's content outdated and biased and therefore do not wish to fund it; and further that an online petition on the matter was signed by 170,000 individuals.


The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to end the BBC licence fee.


And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Bridgen , Official Report, 20 January 2016; Vol. 604, c. 1518.]

[P001669]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): The way in which the BBC is funded is one of the core issues being considered as part of the on-going Charter Review.

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The BBC is a world-renowned, and highly regarded Public Service Broadcaster, known and respected for the quality of its output, and serves as a strong representative of the United Kingdom on the global stage. The security of its funding—currently provided by the licence fee—is an important element in its ability to fulfil this role.

As part of Charter Review, the Government are considering whether the licence fee remains the best way to ensure this security, and fund the BBC, in a continually evolving modern media environment.

In July 2015, our public consultation asked for views on a wide range of issues, including how the BBC is funded, the licence fee, and alternative models. Over 190,000 people responded—and many of the signatories to this petition may have also taken the opportunity to share their views with us as part of this consultation. All of the responses have been read, analysed, and are being considered. They contribute to a large evidence base, of which this petition now becomes part.

The issues that have been raised about the cost of the licence fee for those on low incomes, and decriminalisation of the TV licensing offence, are important considerations, which are forming part of the on-going debate. An independent review by David Perry QC concluded that decriminalisation would have damaging consequences under the current licence fee model, and the Government continue to consider his recommendations.

It is also true that other countries have adopted or considered different Public Service Broadcasting funding models, and we have noted the lessons learned in these instances, as part of our thinking about the appropriate funding model for the UK.

The petition also notes the enforcement process for the licence fee. David Perry QC’s review concluded that while the current regime represents a broadly fair and proportionate response to the problem of licence fee evasion and provides good value for money (both for licence fee payers and taxpayers), a number of improvements could be made to the current collection and enforcement process. The Government continue to consider these recommendations as part of the wide-ranging review.

The Government’s position on BBC funding for the next Charter period, and in the longer term, will be set out in the White Paper.