Decriminalising licence fee evasion could lead to the closure of BBC children’s channels and a higher fee for every household, the corporation has warned. Government ministers want to make non-payment of the £145.50 charge a civil offence, thereby freeing up valuable court time.
However, James Purnell, the BBC’s director of strategy and digital, said the move would be a “huge risk” and lead to a rise in the number of people who fail to pay the fee. “Say the rate of evasion was to double from the 5% it is now, that would be £200m, or the equivalent of all of BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC,” Mr Purnell claimed. “The choice would be either we take those services off or the Government would have to have a higher licence fee. At the moment we have one of the lowest evasion rates in Europe. It would be a huge risk to do it now and it would be better to look at it through Charter Review.”
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