BBC could be blocked to homes that do not pay licence fee
Ministers consider hi-tech proposal, while MPs agree to consult on decriminalising those who do not pay the licence fee
PEOPLE who do not pay the TV licence fee could have their access to BBC channels blocked. The news comes as MPs prepare to decriminalise non-payment of the annual £145.50 charge.
In moves described by the Daily Mail as “a step closer” to the “abolition of the licence fee”, MPs will vote this week on an amendment to the Deregulation Bill.
The amendment would commit the government to complete a consultation on the licence fee within 16 months and could lead to the removal of the threat of prison for those who do not pay the licence fee after 2016, when the BBC’s royal charter is expected to be renewed.
In truth, it is a let-off for the BBC, which had been facing attempts by 150 MPs to immediately decriminalise licence fee evasion, the Guardian reports.
A BBC Trust spokesman said: "This is an issue that should be discussed in the round, including the potential impact on licence fee income and BBC output, with any decisions made as part of the charter review process. This amendment appears to be in line with that."
In 2012, more than 180,000 people appeared in court accused of watching TV without a licence. Most were fined and ended up with a criminal record. Around 70 people were jailed.
An article in The Times suggests that the government is looking into more hi-tech means of enforcing the TV licence, claiming that BBC channels could be blocked to homes that do not pay the charge.
However, the proposals could be expensive to put into practice and "not technically straightforward”. It could involve the addition of a new set top box or card to existing systems.