'Unjustifiable!' BBC faces demand to end licence fee prosecutions in cost of living crisis

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    Pressure is mounting on the BBC to end criminal prosecutions of people who are struggling to pay the BBC licence fee during the cost of living crisis. As low income households including some of the least well off families and pensioners struggle to pay their heating and food bills this winter, the BBC is still pursuing them to help for non-payment of the £159 licence fee to fund the six and seven figure salaries of its top millionaire presenters like Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker.

    A petition calling for the BBC to desist in chasing some of the poorest families in Britain has already gained around 60,000 signatures, at the time of writing, and is winning Parliamentary support from senior MPs.

    Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies, a long time critic of the BBC, said: “It is unjustifiable for the criminal law to force people to pay for the BBC whether they want to watch it or not.

    “It would be best if the licence fee was scrapped completely, but decriminalising non-payment to make it a civil matter would certainly be a step in the right direction.”

    The petition also puts pressure on Liz Truss and her new Culture Secretary Michele Donelan to go ahead with moves to abolish the licence fee altogether.

    Last week former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries warned Ms Truss that if she did not continue with that policy and other 2019 manifesto promises she needs to call a general election.

    APPEAL pointed out that non-payment of the licence fee is “the most common offence for which women are prosecuted.”

    The petition was launched by Josiane B, a single parent from Basildon, who was prosecuted during the covid pandemic.

    She said: “When I got the letter telling me I was being prosecuted, I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even being prosecuted for avoiding them – I had tried to resolve the problem with them directly, calling and emailing to sort out the payment issues.

    “I was a single parent, struggling financially and it was clearly not in the public interest to prosecute me. I’m worried that a criminal conviction might cause all sorts of problems in my life.

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    “It caused me sleepless nights and even impacted my ability to parent as I was so worried and distracted.”

    She went on: “I managed to find free legal help from the charity and law practice APPEAL. The charges were dropped.

    “But not everyone is so lucky. There were 50,000 prosecutions brought by TV licensing last year. I can’t help but think of all the people that are going to be struggling during the cost-of-living crisis – the last thing they need is a criminal conviction on top!

    “As household bills have rocketed across the U.K. I’m calling on TV Licensing to stop prosecuting people who are unable to pay for their TV licences during the cost-of-living crisis. They should stop prosecuting people who are in financial hardship, over 75 or otherwise vulnerable.”

    The Express has asked for a comment from the BBC but not yet received a response.



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