BBC ‘crim­i­nal­is­ing young’ over li­cence fee

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Hay­ley Dixon

THE BBC is crim­i­nal­is­ing thou­sands of young peo­ple ev­ery year with pros­e­cu­tions for TV li­cence fee of­fences.

Gov­ern­ment fig­ures show 18,000 peo­ple un­der 20 were pur­sued since 2014, rais­ing fears that court ap­pear­ances could jeop­ar­dise their fu­tures.

It comes de­spite ev­i­dence that only half of those aged 16 to 24 watch the BBC, pre­fer­ring in­stead chan­nels that stream ex­clu­sively on­line. An­drew Brid­gen MP, who wants to de­crim­i­nalise the li­cence fee, said: “Any in­volve­ment in a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion is a bad start for the young. These sta­tis­tics are wor­ry­ing for any­one con­cerned about the fu­ture of our younger gen­er­a­tion.”

The fig­ures also show that chil­dren as young as 10 have been lined up for pros­e­cu­tion, along with a hand­ful of chil­dren aged be­tween 12 and 14. Be­tween 2008 and 2016, about 400 teenagers were pur­sued for TV li­cence eva­sion. There have been no recorded pros­e­cu­tions since 2016.

How­ever, a TV li­cens­ing spokesman sug­gested the of­fi­cial fig­ures may be wrong as they did not “pros­e­cute peo­ple that young”.

He said: “Our pol­icy is to pros­e­cute peo­ple aged 18 or over. We have re­viewed this is­sue be­fore and found around 10 cases where some­one aged

17 – but no younger – had been pros­e­cuted, and tight­ened our sys­tems fur­ther.”

Calls to de­crim­i­nalise the £154.50 fee are gain­ing pace as con­vic­tions seem to be “crim­i­nal­is­ing poverty” and dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect­ing women. Five peo­ple were jailed for li­cence of­fences in Eng­land last year and 19 peo­ple, mainly women, were jailed in 2017.

A to­tal of 129,446 peo­ple were pros­e­cuted for not hav­ing a li­cence in 2018. Fig­ures show that of 2,226 peo­ple pros­e­cuted aged be­tween 18 and 20, more than 2,000 were con­victed.

The vast ma­jor­ity re­ceived a fine, with a small num­ber pay­ing up to £750.

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