The TV License fee has been collected in various forms since 1946 when there was only one BBC channel and one way to watch.
Today, with hundreds of channels, online streaming and endless other options – should it be scrapped and replaced with an opt-in subscription model?
The BBC says it’s still the best option we’ve got:
“The licence fee ensures that the public get better programmes, for less, than under any other approach, impartial news and programmes the British public love like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Bodyguard’, ‘Match of the Day’ and ‘Killing Eve’are available for everyone, free of advertising and free of subscription because of the way the BBC is funded.”
Only 3% of the public supported a subscription model when the BBC Charter was up for review in 2016, but what do local people say today?
“It should be voluntary, we are essentially forced to fund a program that we might not even consume,” said student Ryan Lowbridge. “Imagine being charged for Netflix but not actually using it.”
Caitlin Pearce says “it’s too expensive”, but doesn’t think it should be voluntary. “It isn’t just propping up BBC, Channel 4 are also owned by the tax payer,” she said.
Ross Bond said: “We should be able to choose to subscribe to it. For the record, I would choose to, but I don’t think it’s fair to force others to.”
Are we forced to have a License?
The law states that if you have a TV set-up to receive live broadcasts, you require a license whether you choose to watch fee-funded content or not.
However, if you do not use a TV but own a computer, laptop, games console, or mobile devices, you only require a license if you actively use them to watch live TV or catch-up services like BBC iPlayer.
Sound confusing? It often is.
“I live in a rented 12-bedroom house with a TV provided in the lounge and a TV license provided by the landlord,” said photographer Shane Smith. “However, we kept receiving letters from the TV license company reminding us to buy a license.”
TV Licensing say if you live in a shared house but have signed an individual tenancy agreement, you may be responsible for your own license for TVs and devices in your private room. The landlord’s license may only cover communal areas.
Students living in Halls must also pay for their own license if they watch TV in their rooms.
Failure to pay for a license when it’s required routinely results in conviction.
TV License convictions in Lincolnshire
• Data collated by LSJ News reveals more than 13,800 people across Lincolnshire have been convicted for TV license evasion since 2007 and the majority received a fine.
• Young adults account for 486 of these convictions.
• More than two-thirds of those convicted were women.
While the maximum fine that can be imposed is £1,000, the average fine issued across the country was £170 according to a 2015 government review. This is a little more than today’s annual fee of £150.50.
Nobody has been jailed for TV License evasion in the past decade, but imprisonment is a possibility if you are convicted and refuse to pay the fine.
Claims of hounding and unnecessary letters
Several local people have expressed concern about TV licensing ‘hounding’ even when they say the license has been paid or isn’t required.
“It’s in my contract that my landlord is obligated to pay the license fee and my agent has sent me a letter that confirms it has been paid, so I have no idea why the company keeps constantly sending me letters,” said English student Milly Webster.
She added: “It’s so difficult because I suffer from anxiety and I have panic attacks when I get the letters.”
Ellia Townsend said: “The wording of their letters and the way they design it is unnecessary. I received a letter this month despite not watching any live TV or BBC.”
If you have similar concerns, TV Licensing say you can easily inform them online:
“You can tell us if you don’t require a TV licence on our website, here.
“This helps us keep our database up to date and means that we won’t write to you again for almost two years. We’ll do so then just to check a licence is still not needed.”
Is the TV license fit for purpose or should it be an opt-in subscription model? Do you have your own story to tell? Let us know in the comments below!