BBC ‘criminalising young’ over licence fee
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.