Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

‘Do the right thing!’ BBC blasted for ‘flawed’ plot to crackdown on licence fee dodgers

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Sources from within the corporations said BBC chiefs are set to urge people to “do the right thing — pay up” by sending out leaflets. The campaign is set to target homes thought to be failing to pay the £157.50 annual charge.

It is hoped the initiative will raise more than £1million in total.

Sources said yesterday the BBC intends for its “softer line” to persuade fee dodgers to pay.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who has spoken out in favour of decriminalising non-payment, has condemned the new strategy.

He told the Sun: “It is good that they will be nudging people rather than threatening them.

“But it is a flawed argument by the BBC because if you have Netflix you’re happy to pay for it rather than being forced to.”

The corporation has discussed the campaign with London advertising agencies.

A source said: “It’s a real break from the past, and adverts showing detector vans and threats about not paying.

“The aim now is to get people to do the right thing, morally, and to adopt a softer line.

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“The leaflets or emails will tell people if they are happy to pay for Netflix or Amazon, then they should also be paying for the BBC.”

Fines of £1,000 apply to those who fail to pay the fee, with tens of thousands of prosecutions each year over missed payments.

A TV Licensing spokeswoman said: “There are no plans for targeted leaflets to go to households urging them to ‘Do the right thing’ from next month.

“On behalf of the majority who do pay, TV Licensing writes to unlicensed addresses as we have a duty to enforce the law.

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“We do everything we can to help customers including providing a wide range of ways to pay and last year we worked with over 350 money advice and community organisations to help support customers stay correctly licensed.”

The BBC faced backlash last April when it raised TV licenses £3 to £157.50, just before scrapping free ones for over 75s.

Those who purchased the package before April 1 2020 will be under the reduced rate.

Following the move, Britons took to social media channels to protest the decision to raise the fees.

One Twitter used tweeted: “Paying for your propaganda – the ultimate con.”

Another wrote: “Seriously, the BBC are putting the licence up after the appalling coverage and bias re Brexit and the general election. Cancel the licence, Boris…”

The corporation has strong competition from cheaper streaming services including Netflix, where prices from £4.99 a month.

Leading presenters are at risk as the corporation attempts to cut costs to try to save £80million.

Figures from the 2018-2019 period show that 6.6 percent of people avoided paying the license charge.

A further 130,000 were prosecuted last year and five were jailed.

Almost 3.5million people cancelled their TV licence fee between 2014 and 2018 — a rate of almost one million a year.

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