Prosecuting people for failing to pay their TV Licence fee is “morally indefensible”, the Culture Secretary has said, as she announced the process will be reviewed.
Lucy Frazer on Thursday announced a £10.50 rise in the annual fee, lower than the BBC expected.
The household payment, which funds much of the corporation’s operations, had been frozen at £159 and was set to rise in line with inflation next year.
However, the expected 9% increase – which would have meant an increase of around £15 from April 2024 was reduced by the Government.
Speaking in the Commons, Ms Frazer said the increase will instead be based on September’s consumer prices index (CPI) rate of inflation which was 6.7%. This will mean an increase of £10.50 to £169.50 per year.
She also announced a review into the licence fee model, which will look at alternative funding and report next autumn.
People found guilty of using television receiving equipment without a licence can be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000.
A prison sentence cannot follow for a TV licensing conviction although the court may decide to impose one on someone who deliberately refuses to pay court fines.
The Culture Secretary wrote in the Daily Mail: “We need to ask searching questions about the licence fee in the long term. Would other models help the BBC generate commercial revenue from its huge range of creative output? How can we best support the BBC while keeping costs down for households? To help us answer these questions, we are launching a review to look at a range of options for funding the corporation.
“It will look at the evidence, speak to experts and analyse the options. It will conclude its work so it can inform the next BBC charter in 2027.
“It will also specifically look at the issue of criminal prosecution of the licence fee – something I personally feel is morally indefensible in modern times – an issue that can only be changed at the charter review.”
The BBC board said in a statement: “We note that the Government has restored a link to inflation on the licence fee after two years of no increases during a time of high inflation.
“The BBC is focused on providing great value, as well as programmes and services that audiences love. However, this outcome will still require further changes on top of the major savings that we are already delivering.
“Our content budgets are now impacted, which in turn will have a significant impact on the wider creative sector across the UK.
“We will confirm the consequences of this as we work through our budgets in the coming months.”