TV licence alert: France set to scrap telly tax – should the UK do the same?

Dan Wootton slams BBC licence fee as a 'stain' on our country

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Last week (August 2), the French Senate agreed to end the country’s television licence fee after a heated debate. Similar to the UK’s TV licence which pays for the BBC, France’s equivalent television tax is used to fund public broadcasting. Instead of a licence fee, the French Government plans to fund its public broadcasters through VAT revenues.

However, France’s Senate also adopted an amendment that this funding will only last until December 31, 2024.

France’s decision to scrap the tax could incentivise the UK Government to make a similar decision, however the same funding issues will likely arise.

The UK’s licence fee is undergoing a two-year freeze as the Government explores alternative funding options for the BBC.

The television licence is needed to watch or stream programming content as it is being broadcast live in the UK.

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As it stands, around 27 million homes in France have to pay €138 a year towards the TV licence.

This is around £115 a year which is less than what Britons have to pay annually towards their licence fee.

Following the tax freeze, households in the UK have to pay £159 every year but how long this levy will be in place remains to be seen.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has confirmed the country’s current licence agreement with the BBC will come to an end in 2027.

On the tax freeze, Ms Dorries said: “The BBC is a great national institution with a unique place in our cultural heritage.

“It broadcasts British values and identities all over the world and reaches hundreds of millions of people every day.

“But at a time when families are facing a sharp increase in their living costs we simply could not justify asking hard-working households to pay even more for their TV licence.

“This is a fair settlement for the BBC and for licence fee payers. The BBC must support people at a time when their finances are strained, make savings and efficiencies, and use the billions in public funding it receives to deliver for viewers, listeners and users.”

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Among the funding options being considered to replace the licence fee is a subscription-service model.

Advocates of this funding method have cited the popularity of services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

A move to the subscription model would also be optional and stop people being forced to pay a levy.

In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, Liz Truss promised to order a review into whether failing to pay for a TV licence should be a criminal offence if she were to become Prime Minister.

Ms Truss said: “What I’m very concerned about on the TV licence fee is how many women have ended up in prison for non-payment, a disproportionate number.”

It should be noted that it is not possible to be sent to prison for not paying the television licence fee.

People only face this consequence if they fail to pay a court-imposed fine in connection with a conviction for not paying the tax.

Rishi Sunak is also reportedly open to scrapping the television licence fee if he were to get the keys to Number 10.

A decision over the future of BBC funding will likely be made after the end of the two-year TV licence freeze.

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