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Threatening letters (Read 4260 times)
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Threatening letters
Aug 14th, 2014, 2:28pm
This is taken from The Times:

BBC sends 100,000 TV licence letters a day
Last updated at 12:01AM, August 13 2014

The BBC is sending out almost 100,000 enforcement letters each day demanding payment of the licence fee.

MPs and campaigners rounded on the corporation last night as it emerged that more than 46 million letters have been sent out by TV Licensing in the past two years. This is despite the BBC admitting that evasion remains low, at a rate of between 5 and 6 per cent of households with a television.

A freedom of information request revealed that the BBC sent 25.1 million of the letters last year, four million more than in 2013. This is enough to contact almost all the 26.4 million households in Britain. At 20p per letter, the minimum cost over the two years is nearly £10 million, equivalent to the licence fee paid by 70,000 homes. The real cost is thought to be far higher.

Last year the number of cautions and convictions for failure to pay the TV licence fell to 153,369. Between 50 and 60 people are jailed each year for not paying the fine.

Andrew Bridgen, the Tory MP for North West Leicestershire, said: “I think the heavy-handed way in which the BBC tries to collect the licence fee underlines the divide which has developed between the corporation and the people who fund it.”

The MP, who led a campaign by fellow backbenchers to remove criminal sanctions for evading the fee, said: “The BBC is the biggest criminaliser of people in the UK.” He added that he had come across voters who had paid the licence fee for empty homes simply to stop the barrage of letters. “It shows that they regard the TV licence as a poll tax.”

The BBC recently admitted paying £100,000 over three years in “goodwill payments” to licence-payers who complained of harassment.

Its £3.7 billion in annual funding has come under intense scrutiny after a succession of embarrassing failures, including the Jimmy Savile scandal and excessive payoffs to former executives.

John O’Connell, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This seems like an excessive number of warning letters given how many people actually dodge the licence fee. If the BBC cut out wasteful spending they could make cuts to the TV tax, meaning more people could afford it in the first place. In the longer term, the existing licence fee model needs a serious overhaul to make it fit for the 21st century.”

The broadcaster has warned that if evasion increases it will lose revenue and have to cut services such as BBC Four and children’s programmes.

There has been growing public discontent that the fee is compulsory and that failure to pay can result in prosecution.

The government pushed back the issue of decriminalisation until after the election, when it will be considered as part of the wider negotiation about the BBC’s size, remit and funding, but the threat for the corporation remains.

The BBC argues that the licence fee remains the best funding mechanism and is expected to push for an increase in the £145.50 levy in negotiations about renewal of its royal charter after the next general election. It will also lobby for a loophole that allows viewers to watch its shows online on the iPlayer catch-up service without a TV licence to be closed.

Industry observers believe, however, that it will have difficulty convincing politicians from any of the main parties to increase its funding. In June, Sajid Javid, the culture secretary, said that the current fee was “a large amount for many families up and down the country”.

A TV Licensing spokesman said: “It’s only right we do everything we can to ensure people buy a licence, and letters are a cost-effective way to get people to pay. We use letters where we don’t have email addresses.

“Thanks to the effectiveness of licence fee collection, an additional £25 million was available to spend on BBC content in 2013-14 and the cost of collecting the licence fee was the lowest to date at just 2.7p for every £1 collected.”
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