BBC fury: Plan to target unpaid licences leaves MP 'astonished'

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Richard Holden grilled BBC director-general Tim Davie and Chief Operating Officer Leigh Tavaziva on the subject during their appearance before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday. During their testimony, Ms Tavaziva confirmed prosecutions, which have dropped off during the pandemic, are set to return to pre-2020 levels.

Speaking on Thursday Mr Holden, the member for North West Durham, told Express.co.uk: “I am astonished they have decided to double down on prosecutions, especially when it’s quite clear that this has been a major concern.

“We are talking about 125,000 people a year – this is a huge group of people.”

He added: “I followed up that question with ‘who are these people, have you got demographic breakdown?’, that sort of thing.

“And she said that three-quarters of the people will be women, and I imagine they’ll probably be women in quite straitened circumstances.

“All the Labour members were just silent. If this was something which affected men three-to-one, or women three-to-one in a different way, they’d be up in arms about it, but because it’s the BBC, they seem to be quiet about it.”

Mr Holden said he had been assured in practice the BBC would not prosecute people over the age of 75.

However, he added: “The thing is, you still have vulnerable groups who could be facing prosecution. And if you had somebody who was 74 rather than 75, what difference does it make?

“It just seems to me that rather than rather than targeting prosecutions, the BBC should be focused on making great programmes for people who, for the time being, while it is still there, are happy to pay for TV licences.”‘

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The BBC needed to get itself into a position where it can operate without a “blanket licensing tax”, Mr Holden stressed.

He explained: “I just think that the model that existed so far just does not work in a subscription model age. And I think the BBC need to use the time and space it has now to get fully ready for that transition.

“The BBC should be leveraging what it has, which is a worldwide reputation. And it should be leveraging that in every possible way, in order to minimise the actual costs to people.

“I don’t think a subscription model based on UK and a blanket tax, which involves clogging up the courts with 125,000 cases a year, the way forward.”

Speaking to Express.co.uk earlier this week, a TV Licensing spokesman said:

“There has been no enforcement action against over-75s who previously held a free licence and are yet to make arrangements.

“More than nine in ten over-75s customers have now made arrangements for a free or paid licence, or updated us on a change in their circumstances, in line with the broader population, and we are supporting a small remaining group to get correctly licensed.”



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