MPs call on BBC to ‘clarify’ scale of licence fee evasion
MPs have called on the BBC to “clarify” the scale of licence fee evasion – saying they have been “left asking whether there is something to hide”.
The BBC’s annual reports identify a rise in evasion, from just over 5% some 10 years ago, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said.
The most recently published figures for estimated evasion are now between 6.5% and 7.5%.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee says the broadcaster has not provided more precise figures to its inquiry into public service broadcasting.
But it says the BBC has given more detailed information to Lord Botham on another issue – licence fee figures for those over-75s.
The universal right to a free TV licence ended for the age group and only those in receipt of pension credit do not have to pay.
The committee’s chair, Julian Knight MP, said: “We want the BBC to address real concerns about licence fee evasion – we’ve heard that current rates are significantly higher than the figures it has published to date.
“When we asked for this information we were pointed to published annual reports that were nowhere near as detailed as what appears to have been sent to Lord Botham about the over-75s. We are left asking whether there is something to hide.
“This matters because there is a real risk that the BBC licence fee funding model could become unsustainable as a result of evasion.”
The BBC said the evasion rate has remained steady for a number of years, with no evidence that it is increasing.
Former cricketer Lord Botham had called for over-75s not to be threatened with legal action over the non-payment of the TV licence.
BBC director-general Tim Davie has signalled that over-75s will not be threatened with legal action over non-payment.
A BBC spokesman said: “The overwhelming majority of people in the UK are correctly licensed.
“A small minority evade and this figure has remained broadly steady over the past five years.
“The over-75s are entirely separate. We are giving people time to transition to the new system and it is misleading to link these two issues.”