As the nation prepares for the climax of the general election on 12 December, Prime Minster Boris Johnson has seemingly hinted that he would scrap the BBC TV Licence completely, in a move that could be popular with both Conservative and Tory voters alike.
Speaking in Sunderland in the North East of the UK with just three days until Britain goes to the polls, Boris Johnson obliquely gave an inkling that having to apply for a yearly licence to watch shows on your TV could soon be a thing of the past.
When asked about TV Licence reform, the PM said that: “Well, I don’t think at this late stage in the campaign I’m going to make an unfunded spending commitment like that, but what I certainly think is that the BBC should cough up and pay for the licences for the over-75s as they promised to do.”
“But at this stage we are not planning to get rid of all TV licence fees, though I am certainly looking at it.”
He added: “But you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV, a media organisation still makes sense in the long-term given the way other organisations manage to fund themselves – that’s all I will say.
“I think that the system of funding by what is effectively a general tax, isn’t it, everybody has a TV, it bears reflection – let me put it that way.
“How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels – that is the question.”
Why do I need a BBC TV Licence?
At the moment, anyone in the UK who watches live TV, iPlayer or ITV Player has to pay for a licence to do so. This licence is the TV Licence and is regulated by the BBC as the official UK state broadcaster. Those who also watch programmes on a computer or other device as they’re broadcast also require a TV Licence.
Do I need a TV Licence if I don’t watch BBC programming?
A popular misconception with the TV Licence is that it is only required for those who watch BBC programming. While this would be a popular move, a TV Licence is required for all forms of programming on all major channels, including ITV and Channel 4. So, even if you do not watch anything on the BBC channels but watch solely Dancing on Ice on ITV, you will still require a TV Licence.
What happens if I watch TV but don’t have a licence?
If you are found watching programming without a TV Licence, you could be prosecuted and pay a fine of £1,000. This may also include any legal costs and compensation that you may be ordered to pay.
What do other political parties say about the TV licence?
Boris Johnson and the the Conservative Party are not the only party to be vocal about the TV Licence. After it was revealed earlier in the year that British pensioners over the age of 75 would have to pay for their TV Licences from 2020 onwards after previously getting it for free, the Labour Party said that it would make sure that the 3.7 million older people who would be negatively affected by this change would continue getting their TV Licence for free.
Gordan Brown as then Labour Chancellor originally introduced free TV licences for over-75s in 1999.
The Conservative Party with Theresa May had promised at the 2017 election to protect over 75’s from having to pay for their TV Licence, which had been due to run out in 2022, but a deal made in 2015 meant that the BBC were giving solo responsibility for the policy which meant that pensioners over the age of 75 would not have to pay for their TV Licences.
Is the TV Licence popular?
With sites such as Netflix and Amazon being as popular as ever with viewers, many Brits are ditching the TV Licence and watching traditional TV all together, and instead choosing to subscribe to on-demand streaming services. According to The Sun, almost 3.5 million Brits cancelled their TV Licence fee between 2014 and 2018, with further Brits expected to cancel their licences this year.
What Get Licensed Says
As society evolves and technology allows us to watch on-demand programming, the BBC has failed to capitalise on the changing demographic viewership and peoples need to watch programming instantly, instead paying £1.5 million a year for the likes of retired Footballer Gary Linker to provide commentary while expecting pensioners to pay for something that was originally free for them.
If the BBC and the TV Licence cannot evolve like the society around it, it may be time to leave the TV Licence in the past. With Boris Johnson vaguely hinting at abolishing the TV Licence, maybe that vision could be sooner then we think.