Baroness Nicky Morgan the culture secretary has launched a public consultation over whether to end it being a criminal offence over non-payment of a TV licence.
Currently those who refuse to pay the licence fee can be prosecuted as it is an offence under Section 363 of the Act making it against the law to watch television or record any programmes as they are being broadcast without a licence.
Each year more than 180,000 people are charged for not paying their licence fee to the BBC, prosecutions account for around one in 10 of all criminal cases across the UK.
Last week it was announced that the licence fee will increase from £154.50 to £157.50 from 1 April.
Boris Johnson said in December prior to him winning the general election, becoming prime minster said he was “looking” into scrapping the licence fee altogether.
Baroness Morgan who is stepping down as the culture secretary said, “As we move into an increasingly digital age, with more and more channels to watch and platforms to choose from, the time has come to think carefully about how we make sure the TV licence fee remains relevant in this changing media landscape.
“Many people consider it wrong that you can be imprisoned for not paying for your TV licence and that its enforcement punishes the vulnerable.
“Today we are launching a public consultation to make sure we have a fair and proportionate approach to licence fee penalties and payments, that protects those most in need in society.
“Alongside this we’re also announcing a new payment plan to allow people who struggle to pay the licence fee to spread out their payments.
“This will help prepare the BBC and public service broadcasting for the future and make sure it continues to work for our society, our economy, and the public which funds it.”
A BBC spokesperson said, “A detailed government-commissioned review found the current system to be the fairest and most effective. It did not recommend change, in part because the current system is effective in ensuring payment with very few people ever going to prison.
“For example, the most recent annual figures show only five people in England and Wales were jailed for not paying court fines.
“So, there is a question about what issue this repeat consultation is trying to solve.
“Of course it is important that any system commands public respect and we hope that any debate about the future is based on the evidence.”
Baroness Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail that the BBC needs to “move with the times” or it could collapse the same way as Blockbuster video rental company did.
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