People who refuse to pay their TV licence will no longer face criminal sanctions under plans by the government to overhaul the BBC.
Not purchasing a licence, which currently costs £157.50 a year, would instead be punishable by a fine enforced in the civil courts and by bailiffs. Failure to pay will also affect credit ratings.
A government source reportedly told The Times that decriminalising the licence fee was a “done deal”, but that there was still a debate about how to replace it.
Five people jailed in 2018
In 2018 just five people were jailed out of a total of 129,446 people in England who were prosecuted for not having a TV licence.
The current average penalty for not holding a licence is £176.
When do I need a TV licence?
In the UK you need a TV Licence if you watch or record live TV programmes as they’re being broadcast, or watch or download BBC programmes on iPlayer.
It’s currently a criminal offence to watch live TV or use BBC iPlayer unless you have a valid TV Licence.
If you don’t have a valid TV licence, you will receive a letter asking you to get in touch and to start making payments. If you continue not to pay, an enquiry officer could visit your home to find out if you need a licence. If the officer finds that a licence is needed they will try to get evidence of this.
Failure to pay at this stage can result in court action using the evidence collected by the enquiry officer. The court can issue a fine of up to £1,000 which will show up if your criminal record is checked.