It was announced this week that the television licensing fee is to rise from April 1. The fee will increase from £157.50 to £159 , this being the the fifth year the license fee has been increased.
The increase in price will rise to £3.06 a week or £13.25 a month. The cost of an annual black and white licence is to rise from £52 to £53.
In 2016 the government announced and agreed that the licence fee would rise in line with inflation each year for five years from April 1, 2017.
No reductions have been announced in respect of the pandemic, nor have the BBC taken into the account the financial impact that it has had and continues to have on it’s viewers.
The television licence fee is compulsory for everyone that watches live TV or on BBC iPlayer on any device. It also applies to watching other live programmes on online TV service such as YouTube, Sky Go and Now Tv.
There is a maximum penalty of £1,000 for people that have been watching live television without a license which impacts low income people the most with fines being garnished upon Universal Credit payments and suchlike.
The government had been considering whether non-payment should be decriminalised however not surprisingly they decided not to stop the licence fee increase saying that it would ‘remain under active consideration’.
Whilst the television licence fee might not appear to be a lot to many, for low income people and families it is a cost that they can’t afford to pay. Whilst the BBC has dedicated air time for educational programmes during lockdown many can’t afford to access them. Eat or heat is a priority put before paying for a television license.
The BBC confirmed that 2.7 million over-75s had paid for their licence after loosing their access to a free television license from August 1 2020, leaving a deficit of about 1 million over 75s not applying for a licence.
It’s extremely worrying that so many people are excluded by poverty from accessing educational programmes that have been aired for children. Many families and over 75s might try to watch the television without a licence because they can’t afford to pay for it.
No one should be excluded from a vital service such as the educational television programmes that are being broadcast by the BBC, but they are and as usual the poorest will bear the burden of this more than anyone else.
The impact of fines for non payment is huge. Fines take away money otherwise dedicated to food, energy bills and suchlike, pushing people into even more poverty.
Not everyone can find childcare to go to court to face a magistrate and set a payment plan. In their absence an amount is agreed by the courts that they can’t afford to pay because the courts can’t take their income into account. These fines are then garnished from Universal Credit payments and other benefit payments.
Personally I believe that school children should be able to access their educational programmes for free. I also agree that television licenses should have remained free for over 75’s.
Whilst I agree that the BBC does need to be funded and they do make some excellent programmes, the poorest shouldn’t be the ones carrying the heaviest financial burden of this. Their payment structure needs to be re looked at and revised to enable everyone to have access to their programmes and channels.
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