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BBC licence fee replaced by broadband levy?

April 1, 2020

The BBC has indicated that its licence fee could be replaced by a monthly levy on broadband connections, in response to the UK government’s proposals to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee.

The Corporation said it supported keeping the current court-enforced TV licence fee system in place for the medium-term, but it is willing to consider following other European countries and implement a funding model “linked directly to an existing common household bill” such as an Internet connection, council tax, or electricity supply.

“This would be a significant change for the UK and we are not, at this stage, advocating it,” the Corporation said in its submission. “It does however raise an interesting question as to whether the current system could be made much simpler, more efficient and more automated. We are open to exploring this further.”

The BBC warns that the initial cost of creating a new system where non-payment is enforced as a civil debt – similar to a utility bill – would be around £300 million. It estimates that evasion of the licence fee would almost double to about 10 per cent of households as people realised non-payment was no longer a criminal offence, costing the public service broadcaster £200 million a year on an ongoing basis in lost revenue and requiring further substantial cuts to BBC output.

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