Plans to end the prosecution of people who fail to pay the BBC licence fee will be delayed until at least 2022.

The government yesterday published its response to the public consultation on decriminalising TV licence evasion.

The consultation asked whether the government should decriminalise TV licence evasion by replacing the criminal sanction with an alternative civil enforcement scheme.

It looked at how far alternative schemes would be fairer or more proportionate, their cost and the challenges of implementation.

Ministers are said to be concerned the move could create an even harsher system than the one currently in place.

The Argus: A standard TV Licence costs £157.50A standard TV Licence costs £157.50

The report stated the government remains concerned that a criminal sanction is increasingly disproportionate and unfair in a modern public service broadcasting system.

However, it wants to ensure that any future changes to the TV licence sanction or enforcement scheme are not seen as an invitation to evade the TV licence requirement, nor privilege the rule-breaking minority over the rule-abiding majority.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

A criminal sanction for TV licence evasion in the digital media age feels outdated and wrong, and many who responded to our consultation agreed. Whilst the delivery of decriminalisation right now is problematic, we intend to keep looking at this as we negotiate the next Licence Fee settlement and push for the reforms at the BBC that the new leadership has recognised are needed.

The consultation received more than 150,000 responses from individuals, campaigners and stakeholders.

Responses revealed that a significant number of people are opposed to a criminal sanction with some highlighting the considerable stress and anxiety it can cause for individuals, particularly the most vulnerable in society, such as the elderly.

Many consultation responses noted changing the sanctions could have wide-ranging impacts for licence fee payers including significantly higher fines and costs for individuals who evade the licence fee.


Decriminalisation will be considered alongside the licence fee settlement negotiations that began in November.

The negotiations will set the level of the licence free for a period of at least five years from 2022 and will provide the context within which any future decision on decriminalisation will be taken.

The BBC claimed decriminalisation could cost the broadcaster more than £1 billion over five years, and would almost certainly necessitate further cuts to the service, on top of those already implemented last year.

Speaking to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee earlier this year, the BBC’s new director-general, Tim Davie, said the plan to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee “doesn’t pass the logic test.”

The Argus: BBC Director General Tim Davie said the plan to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee “doesn’t pass the logic test”BBC Director General Tim Davie said the plan to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee “doesn’t pass the logic test”

He argued the proposed system would mean people unable to pay would face higher fines.

Kevin Brennan, a Labour member of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said he was in favour of keeping the licence fee unchanged.

Brennan cited the departure of Dominic Cummings as a potential reason for the government to climb down, saying it had changed the “mood music” in No 10.

Non-payment of the licence fee is a criminal offence for which more than 100,000 people are prosecuted annually.