BBC to tackle high proportion of women prosecuted for licence fee evasion

From The Guardian:

The BBC has set out plans to reduce the high proportion of women being prosecuted for licence fee evasion, after suggestions that the charge is sexist.

The measures including free debt advice and allowing all unlicensed households to spread payments, underlining the BBC’s determination to save the licence fee, which was frozen by the government at £159 until 2024.

Campaigners, including a woman who threatened to apply for a judicial review of the licence fee system on the basis of sex discrimination, said the changes did not go far enough.

Figures released last year showed that women made up 76% of the 52,376 people convicted in 2020 over TV licence evasion.

The figures have been seized on by politicians opposed to the BBC’s funding model. During last summer’s Conservative party leadership contest, Liz Truss said: “What I’m very concerned about on the TV licence fee is how many women have ended up in prison for non-payment, a disproportionate number.”

Full Fact pointed out that no one can be imprisoned for failing to pay the licence, only fined, and that while women were more likely to be fined for failing to pay the fee, since 1995 twice as many men as women have been jailed after failing to pay fines.

Earlier this year, the former cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said scrapping the licence fee would stop the prosecution of “primarily women who don’t always remember to pay this poll tax”.

A BBC review led by the crossbench peer Lola Young concluded that the gender disparity in licence fee prosecution was due to societal factors outside the BBC’s control, including greater financial hardship faced by women; women making up more than 60% of single-adult households; and women being more likely to be at home and responsible for domestic bills.

The review also recommended increased support for those struggling to pay the fee, which the BBC has agreed to adopt. This includes extending a payment plan to help spread the cost of the fee in small instalments to all unlicensed households; a pilot scheme for free debt advice; and the offer of a two-month breathing space to those struggling to pay.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

For Americans and others unfamiliar with the British license fee: In the British Islands, any household watching or recording television transmissions at the same time they are being broadcast is required by law to hold a television licence. This applies regardless of transmission method, including terrestrial, satellite, cable, or for BBC iPlayer internet streaming. The television licence is the instrument used to raise revenue to fund the BBC. Businesses, schools and hospitals are also required to pay a license fee.

PG notes that the BBC license fee sounds very queer to most Americans, who are often happy to watch BBC programs when they are broadcast, typically on public television, in the United States. Public television stations often have annual campaigns to solicit voluntary contributions from their viewers who, of course, endure commercials which fund commercial television. (PG’s thumb automatically hits the mute button on his television remote whenever a commercial break appears. His conscious mind is not taxed in the least by his thumb’s auto-mute activities.)

The idea that someone could be imprisoned for failing to financially support the BBC strikes most Americans as extremely outlandish. The annual fee of £159 is the equivalent of about $200 per year, which could be very burdensome for more than a few women (or men) who work at low-paying jobs, especially if they are supporting other family members.

Having watched some British television while enjoying a trip to that lovely place, PG can assure one and all that the Beeb programs we see in the US are generally quite a bit better (in his humble American opinion) than those which aren’t picked up for broadcast by US public television.

4 thoughts on “BBC to tackle high proportion of women prosecuted for licence fee evasion”

  1. I subscribe to both BBC and to Acorn streaming services through Amazon Prime and enjoy the quality of the Brit programs much more than those produced in the United States. The acting is better by far, and the writing is exemplary. But we can’t get the latest seasons (series) of favorite programs, and now I know why. Those are available only to those who pay this silly license fee. But I don’t mind waiting for truly good stories.

    • As PG pointed out, we only get the best shows.
      We don’t get their Jerry Springers or Judge Judy fodder.
      They too have to fill 24×7 airwaves and exports help pay for the quality of what travels.

      Their business model is dated. Paying with eyeballs is more profitable and less offensive than a subsidy tax.

      Evidence from streaming services is that people don’t necessarily mind ads. What they do mind is 3 straight minutes of ads every 10. Even the pay on-demand services see a boost in subscriptions when they add a limited-ads cheaper tier. (typically 3 1-minute breaks and a pre-launch ad or two.)

      Also offensive is cable: $150 a month *plus* the ads.
      No wonder cable lost a third of subscribers from 2015 to 2021 and even more last year. Even cable sports broadcasters are going bankrupt.

  2. I can’t forget a very rainy night many years back in a cheap London hotel. Three TV channels. One had a darts tournament, another featured cricket reruns, and the third had Book Chat.

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