The government has announced a freeze on the BBC TV licence fee for two years and said it would begin a debate on whether the charge should remain.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries argued the freeze was necessary to help households through “difficult times”, telling the Commons: “When it comes to monthly bills, this is one of the few direct levers that we have in our control as a government.”
She said the BBC had asked for the fee to rise to over £180 by the end of the current settlement, but it will instead be fixed at £159 until April 2024 before rising with inflation for the following four years.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell told parliament the funding freeze was an attack on one of the biggest institutions in British public life and accused Dorries of "cultural vandalism".
Women are far more likely to be convicted for licence fee evasion
Licence fee evasion prosecutions currently disproportionately affect women to a huge extent.
In 2020, three-quarters of license fee evasion convictions were women, a figure rising over the last 10 years.
In total, 39,742 women were convicted in 2020 but the number of men was 12,634.
The convictions were much lower in 2020 due to COVID but the pattern of proportion remained similar.
Since 2010, a total of 1,064,092 women have been convicted for not paying a license fee versus 440,267 men.
Licence fee evasion makes up a considerable proportion of all crimes committed by women, with 22.61% of convictions in 2020 due to license fee evasion.
For non-motoring crimes women are convicted of, 41.18% were license fee evasion.
For men in 2020, license fee evasion was 2.15% of all crimes and 4.85% of non-motoring crimes.
Why are women so much more likely to be convicted?
TV Licensing conducted an internal review into gender disparity in prosecutions in 2017, which concluded it did not have control of most factors that led to the difference.
The review said issues such as habitation patterns (according to 2011 census information there were 9% more female-only households than male ones) led to the disparity.
It added it was likelier a woman would be at home to speak to a licensing officer and there was also a greater chance they would have a positive engagement with them.
The review found although there was a disparity in the proportion of prosecutions between men and women, “there is no evidence of any discriminatory enforcement practices on the part of TV Licensing”.
Meanwhile, the BBC branded the license freeze “disappointing” after Dorries' announcement.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp and director-general Tim Davie issued a statement arguing “very good reasons for investing in what the BBC can do”.
“A freeze in the first two years of this settlement means the BBC will now have to absorb inflation,” they said.
They said they “look forward to the nation debate” on the next charter, accepting that “all options should be considered”, after Dorries said she wants to find a new funding model after the current deal ends in 2027.
Watch: BBC licence fee to be frozen for two years