Figures show that BBC TV license evasion is on the rise, but can you get in legal trouble for not paying the fee?

The BBC has been the primary source for factual and entertainment programming in the UK for over 100 years and unlike private channels like SKY, the broadcasting organisation is owned by the British government.

In order to fund the mammoth network of TV, Radio and News outlets, those who use the services provided by the BBC are required to pay an annual fee to help keep the organisation afloat.

But on the back of new data that shows a steep incline in people not paying the fee, we’ve delved into the legalities of the BBC TV license, and have explained who exactly is required to pay it.

New figures outline the scale of BBC TV licence fee evasion

Amid a hectic week for the BBC, the broadcasters have suffered another blow as it was revealed that evasion rates had reached a new high.

Estimates published by the UK Parliament showed that evasion rates in 2021/22 were believed to have increased to 8.93%, meaning almost 9% of those who should be paying their TV licence were not doing so, an increase of 1.35%.

A TV license fee must be paid if you watch live BBC programming on any device, including games consoles and mobiles, or if you watch live or pre-recorded content on BBC iPlayer.

A full BBC TV license for a coloured television will set you back £159 annually, or £53.50 for a black and white television. In 2021/22, the license fee accounted for around 71% of the BBC’s total revenue.

Is it a crime to not pay the BBC TV licence?

Yes, it is a crime to not pay the BBC TV license, assuming you watch any live programming or watch or download anything from the BBC iPlayer.

The TV licensing company use a national database to detect unlicensed viewing and can send around visiting officers to your property – a visit that may result in a maximum fine of £1000 on mainland Britain, or up to £2000 in Guernsey.

However, we should point out that TV License Enforcement officers do not have the same power as police and cannot demand entry to your home. Matters can escalate to involve a police warrant, though.

Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

The parliamentary findings state that there were 49,126 prosecutions and 45,380 convictions for license fee evasion in 2021, a figure that reportedly ranks the crime as the third most convicted crime in the UK.

Are students and pensioners exempt from paying the license fee?

While there are some exemptions to the rule, just about everyone who watches BBC TV is required to pay the license fee.

Students, for example, are not exempt and are required to pay the fee in its entirety, provided they watch live TV, or use the iPlayer.

Generally, pensioners are not exempt from paying it either, though if you are 74 or older and receive pension credit from the government, then you can apply for a free license.

The parliament research credited the rise of license fee rate for over 75s as the “main driver” for the rise in evasion, as people in the age bracket were not required to pay the licensing fee prior to June 2020.

Check out the TV Licensing information page for more information on the rules surrounding the BBC license fee.

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