POLITICS

BBC Under Fire For Spending £11m A Year On TV Licence Fee Letters

25/04/2014 17:01 BST | Updated 25/04/2014 17:59 BST
Steve Parsons/PA Wire
EDS NOTE ADDRESS HAS BEEN PIXELATED BY PA PICTURE DESK A TV licence as a review of the penalties for non-payment of it is set to move a step closer today, paving the way for possible decriminalisation.

The BBC has come under fire for spending over £11 million of taxpayers' money a year on printing and sending TV licence letters to households.

The corporation revealed that it had sent around 55 million letters to unlicensed properties each year, equivalent to more than two letters a year for each household in Britain, in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Huffington Post UK.

Tory MP Rob Wilson told HuffPostUK: “In an age where many people receive paperless bills to their email accounts and mobile phones, and pay bills and subscriptions by direct debit, it does seem rather anachronistic for the BBC to be sending two paper letters for every household in the UK every single year.

"This comes at a cost of over £11 million a year, a substantial chunk of the total spending on collecting licence fee revenue. By modernising its methods, the BBC could collect the television licence more efficiently, so that more money is available for making programmes.

“The BBC Trust has proved to be a deeply flawed steward of the licence fee revenues, but you would expect them to be looking into this and holding the BBC to account. I would be surprised if they weren’t.”

At an average cost of around £0.2 per mailing, the corporation is responsible for spending more than £11 million a year on printing and sending out TV Licence letters.

The BBC receives most of its income, at around £3.7 billion, from people paying the £145.50 annual TV licence fee in order to watch television live. The corporation said it sent reminders to unlicensed properties and sent paper copies of TV Licences as part of its "statutory duty" to ensure households have properly licensed televisions.

John O'Connell, director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "This is a huge amount of taxpayers' money to be spent on chasing unpaid licence fees, and again highlights how completely outdated the whole model is. With the technology in place for people to subscribe to their choice of hundreds of channels, more cost effective ways of delivering programming should be explored.

"Perhaps if the BBC cut out the waste the licence fee could be lowered, meaning more people could afford to pay it and fewer reminders being sent out."

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “We collected £3.7bn in licence fees in 2012/3 from more than 25 million licences with collection costs of just 3% of revenue. Reminder letters are cost effective and all have a positive return on investment. We encourage customers to receive our communications by email and transact with us online.”

HuffPostUK previously revealed that the 107 people had been jailed in just over two years for failing to paying fines for not having a TV licence.

MPs voted last month in favour of letting the government decriminalise non-payment of the TV licence fee, in a move that could see ministers move to a system of civil penalties next summer.

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