BBC TV licence decriminalisation is ‘done deal’ with evaders to not face jail

The BBC TV licence could soon be decriminalised, according to reports.

Telly viewers who don’t pay it will no longer face the threat of jail under plans being looked at by ministers.

Instead, licence fee evaders will face fines enforced in the civil courts and by bailiffs.

The Government is set to announce the move as early as next month, the Times reported.

It means not paying the £157.50 licence fee will be treated as a “civil debt” like someone not paying their utility bills.

A Government source told the Times: "We have to be careful that what we replace the licence fee with isn't worse than what we have.

"We're talking about higher fines, using bailiffs and damaging people's credit ratings. We need to tread carefully."

The source said it was a “done deal”, although it has yet to be decided how it will be replaced.

There will be a further consultation on details of the replacement scheme.

Figures show 129,446 people were prosecuted in England for not having a TV licence in 2018.

Only five of these were jailed.

The proposals to decriminalise the licence it are due to be outlined when the Government responds to a consultation.

The Beeb said civil enforcement would allow items to be sold by a bailiff.

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In a response to the consultation, it said: "Action taken by bailiffs is by its very nature intrusive.

“TV Licensing does not use them to recover arrears."

Critics are reportedly concerned new penalties could be more expensive than the present average of £176 for evading the licence fee, with a £500 fine previously having been suggested as a necessary deterrent.

The BBC was heavily criticised earlier this year after announcing it was axing free TV licences for the over-75s, although there are some exemptions.

New director-general Tim Davie recently said he has no plans to reverse the decision, which came into effect last month.

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