The outgoing British Culture minister, Nicky Morgan has started a public consultation on whether non-payment of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television license fee should remain a criminal offense. On Wednesday, February 5, 2020, she also hinted out the possibility of the UK government scrapping the annual BBC TV license fee system from Britain’s households.
The government’s proposed policy on abolishing the payment of TV license caused a confrontation between the corporation and the government amid the shortage of funding for the company.
BBC Under Attack for Various Issues
At present, anyone who watches the BBC’s streaming and catchup service iPlayer must pay a license fee of 154.50-pound ($198) and failure to pay the fee can be guilty of a criminal offense which may result in to pay as much as 1,000 pounds. The British media corporation in the last week had announced to increase the cost of the annual TV license fee by £3, from £154.50 to £157.50, which would be effective from 1st April 2020.
Meanwhile, the 100-year-old BBC has come under severe criticism over recent years on various issues including the accusations of extravagant spending to political biases. Several leaders have been attacking the corporation for spending huge salaries to its star employees, performing unfair salary practices between men and women employees, and considering its political views a London-centric bias.
The UK Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson had raised the license issue and announced to bring a change in the existing license system a few days before the 2019 December general election which he won with a large majority.
Wednesday’s comments on ending the license fee arose after the recent clashes between government and political journalists. Some Cabinet ministers of Johnson administration were boycotting BBC Radio 4’s flagship “Today” news programs and some journalists were barred from a government briefing on Monday.
Question of Decriminalization of Non-Payments
The UK government has started an eight-week public consultation on Wednesday to discuss whether non-payment should be decriminalized. British culture minister, Morgan stated, “The license fee will remain in place this charter period which ends in December 2027, however, we must all be open-minded about the future of the license fee beyond this point… As we move into an increasingly digital age … the time has come to think carefully about how we make sure the TV license fee remains relevant.”
Morgan added, “These are not easy issues and they will require some honest and at times difficult conversations.” Citing the decline of young adults in tuning into the BBC’s radio, TV, and online output, she asserted, “Therefore we do need to look at this funding model” about the canceling of the fee payment model.
As a response to the Government’s plan, the BBC officials said that the decriminalization would cost the company millions in loss of revenue as several people would be encouraged for evading the fee under the plan. The officials continued, “If there are changes, they must be fair to law-abiding license fee payers and delivered in a way that doesn’t fundamentally undermine the BBC’s ability to deliver the services they love.”
Morgan defended that the proposed plan of the UK government was to bring a structural change in the media corporation and extend large benefits for the people of the country. Describing the broadcaster as a “beacon of freedom and light”, Morgan said, “I don’t think anyone should interpret today’s announcement or discussion about the license fee model as any kind of attack on the BBC.”
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