‘We’ll all get something out of it’ or ‘an anachronism’ – Where do you stand on the BBC licence fee?

Whether you love or loathe the BBC, breaking the law has consequences.

For the first time, this year people aged 75 and over are not exempt from paying the TV licence.

More than 4,000 over-60s were fined up to £750 each for evading payment in 2018.

Government plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence have been shelved while the BBC’s new director general settles in.

Hampstead pensioner Sarah Joseph, 79, believes the licence fee discriminates against poor people and should be a tax based on people’s income.

She suggested the new rules are a government ploy intended to harm the BBC’s popularity.

She said: “I think it’s disgusting the government isn’t supporting people but this government is against the BBC and they’ll do anything. 

“I will pay for it because I listen to the radio and I watch television.

“I can afford to pay it.”

Web technician Christopher Nussey, 37, is part of an online discussion group about defunding the BBC.

He said: “The fact people are fined for not paying the licence fee is an utter disgrace.”

The Ministry of Justice said 4,339 were fined for evading payment in 2018, with most people fined between £200 and £250.

Nussey added: “The licence fee is an anachronism.

“When the BBC was the only broadcaster it could be justified.

“With subscription streaming services and satellite packages which also have to be paid for there is no need for a separate, which is supposed to cover all live TV but in reality only benefits a single corporation.”

LICENCE TO BILL:  More than 4,000 people were fined up to £750 each for evading payment of the TV licence in 2018. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nussey isn’t alone in his views.

Henderson Smith, part of the BBC TV Licence Fee Witholders Facebook group, said it was simple to avoid prosecution.

“Say no thanks and shut the door.

“No talk equals no prosecution.

“Ignore all computer-generated letters.

“Job done.”

However, Southfields resident and former BBC head of regional sport Charles Runcie, 62, believes far more people admire the BBC than dislike it.

Runcie worked at the BBC for 34 years.

He said: “It’s a great institution revered around the world.

“As usual the one place it’s not revered as much is in its own backyard.

“It’s a great force for good.

“What other company would raise £60 million for Children in Need every year?”

In March 94% of the UK population used the BBC at some point during each week and this year the company announced it was reaching 468 million people worldwide. 

Runcie said he doubts whether some people who say they despise the BBC really don’t use the service. 

“They quickly find out – ‘Oh yeah apart from Match of the Day, apart from the Weather, apart from iPlayer.’”

He added: “Look, I never need the army, but I pay for the army. 

“There are certain things in this country that you go, ‘we’ll all pay for it and we’ll all get something out of it and it’ll all be great’ and that’s what’s called democracy and that’s what’s called public life. 

“The reason people complain about the BBC is because it’s very front of mind, whereas no one says, ‘oh I don’t fancy paying for the army this week’. 

“We’re getting more and more molecular, ‘something that suits me and nobody else’.

“It’s a kind of ‘me me’ society.”

Mr Runcie said accusations of bias come from both sides of the political spectrum.

“People that talk about bias have not got a scooby about how journalists operate. 

“You park your political allegiances at the door. 

“You just report as you see it.”

Mr Runcie said the BBC is easy to target because it shows both sides of an argument.

“When people hear something they don’t like they think ‘oh they’re biased.’”

He thinks decriminalising non-payment of the licence is a gambit to attack the BBC.

Although Mr Runcie said he was sorry people feel the need to evade the fee, he doesn’t support the idea to determine the fee’s cost based on income.

“If I buy a car I don’t get it cheaper because I earn less. 

“That argument only goes a little way.”

Mr Runcie said the TV licence is simple and it works.

“It’s a bit like what Winston Churchill said about democracy: ‘It’s probably not the best thing we’ve got but no one’s invented anything better.’”

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