Anyone with a television at home knows they have to pay for a TV licence to watch or record programmes on their TV, computer or any other device as they’re broadcast… although there are certainly many out there who do their best to get away without paying the required fee (even though it’s a legal requirement).
A debate over the licence has been going on for quite some time and given that the way in which we consume content has changed, with people watching programmes and series in their own time and according to their own schedules, and in a variety of ways, the question must now be asked – is the licence even a necessity any more?
Given that you could find yourself thrown in jail if you don’t pay the tax (which is essentially what it is), it’s probably worth just shelling out for it each year for the time being, even if you don’t watch BBC-produced content and spend money on subscriptions for the likes of Sky and so on instead.
Check out this article on the Irish News website about grandmother Anne Smith who was jailed for failing to pay the TV licence fee, spending two nights in Hydebank prison. Despite the fact that she appealed and someone offered to pay the £1,162 in fines she owed, Ms Smith was told she had to serve her sentence since a bench warrant had been issued for her arrest.
At the moment, a licence for a colour TV is set at £154.50 a year so it’s easy to understand why people might be irritated at having to shell out for the privilege of watching their favourite shows, particularly when they’re not broadcast on BBC channels.
Of course, there are some pros to having the licensing scheme in place, including the fact that you can enjoy advert-free viewing on BBC channels as a result. It’s also worth noting that quality content and material is now available to watch and audiences really are spoiled for choice.
Critics of the scheme, however, say that it’s undemocratic to force people to pay for something that they either don’t use or don’t use that often. The cost of the annual licence has also come under fire in the past, as have the fines that are handed down for failure to pay for the licence in the first place.
The Committee on Intergenerational Fairness has also just called on the government to get rid of age-specific benefits like free TV licences for those over the age of 75, a move decried by some campaigners who have now warned that pensioner poverty is on the rise.
A report, commissioned by the BBC, however, said that pensioners are now less likely than other age groups to live in poverty. And peers have suggested that a fairer society could be delivered by removing age-specific benefits and providing more support for young people instead.
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