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Petition Hold a binding referendum on the future of the TV licence.

The TV Licence has been a cause of much concern to the general public over a long period of time with many petitions and debates taking place. The BBC say they are answerable to the general public yet the public get very little say into their funding, it's now time to let the public have their say.

More details

The government should give the general public a binding referendum on the future of the TV Licence before the next royal charter, the questions should be how the BBC is funded:

1) remain the same, the licence will remain as it is now
2) change to a Subscription service and be able to have advertising, the bbc will get its funds from subscribers and by showing adverts this will also decriminalise the licence as there will be no need for enforcement.

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Government responded

This response was given on 6 July 2021

The government has committed to maintain the licence fee funding model for the duration of this Charter period, until 2027. The licence fee model will be reconsidered ahead of the next Charter Review.

The requirement to hold, and pay for, a TV Licence is set out in the Communications Act 2003 and the Communications (Television Licensing) 2004. A television licence is required to watch, record or receive television as it is broadcast live on any channel or online service. A licence is also required to watch or download live or on-demand content on BBC iPlayer. It is not a fee or charge for BBC services and is payable regardless of whether the licence holder ever watches the BBC. Licence fee revenue is not just used to fund the BBC, it is also used for other strategic public service objectives including funding the Welsh language broadcaster S4C.

The licence fee funding model was considered as part of the Charter Review 2015-16. The BBC Charter Review consultation received over 192,000 responses and found the majority of the public did not want to see a change in the way that the BBC is funded: 60% thought the current licence fee model did not need to be changed and only 3% of respondents supported a subscription model and 1.5% advertising. As a result, the government committed to maintain the current licence fee funding model for the duration of this 11 year Charter period, until 2027.

However, we have been clear that ahead of the next Charter, set to be introduced in 2027, we will undertake a detailed look at the Licence Fee model itself, and introduce any necessary reforms. The Prime Minister said in 2019: “Funding out of effectively a general tax bears reflection…you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach still makes sense in the long term, given the way other media organisations manage to fund themselves”.

In addition, the BBC has committed to consider and explore whether elements of subscription have a role to play alongside the core licence fee funding model, as it aims to develop and test the scope for additional sources of commercial revenue. The results of this will feed into the next Charter Review.

A government response on the issue of decriminalisation of TV licence evasion was published earlier this year. The responses to the consultation show that a significant number of people oppose the criminal sanction with some highlighting the considerable stress and anxiety it can cause for individuals, including the most vulnerable in society, such as older people.

The government is therefore keeping the issue of decriminalisation under active consideration while more work is done to understand the impact of alternative enforcement schemes.

The Government is also currently in the process of determining the level of the licence fee from 2022. The Government is committed to greater transparency in this settlement. In line with this commitment, on 10 November both the Secretary of State and the Minister for Civil Society laid written statements in Parliament formally announcing the process. On the same day the Government published the formal commissioning letters to the BBC and S4C requesting their financial information and will publish further formal correspondence where appropriate. The Secretary of State will also lay his determination before the House to allow time for parliamentary debate before the settlement takes effect in 2022. We have no plans to hold a referendum on this matter.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/587212)

At 100,000 signatures...

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

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Original Government response

The government has committed to maintain the licence fee funding model for the duration of this Charter period, until 2027. The licence fee model will be reconsidered ahead of the next Charter Review.

The requirement to hold, and pay for, a TV Licence is set out in the Communications Act 2003 and the Communications (Television Licensing) 2004. A television licence is required to watch, record or receive television as it is broadcast live on any channel or online service. A licence is also required to watch or download live or on-demand content on BBC iPlayer. It is not a fee or charge for BBC services and is payable regardless of whether the licence holder ever watches the BBC. Licence fee revenue is not just used to fund the BBC, it is also used for other strategic public service objectives including funding the Welsh language broadcaster S4C.

The licence fee funding model was considered as part of the Charter Review 2015-16. The BBC Charter Review consultation received over 192,000 responses and found the majority of the public did not want to see a change in the way that the BBC is funded: 60% thought the current licence fee model did not need to be changed and only 3% of respondents supported a subscription model and 1.5% advertising. As a result, the government committed to maintain the current licence fee funding model for the duration of this 11 year Charter period, until 2027.

However, we have been clear that ahead of the next Charter, set to be introduced in 2027, we will undertake a detailed look at the Licence Fee model itself, and introduce any necessary reforms. The Prime Minister said in 2019: “Funding out of effectively a general tax bears reflection…you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach still makes sense in the long term, given the way other media organisations manage to fund themselves”.

In addition, the BBC has committed to consider and explore whether elements of subscription have a role to play alongside the core licence fee funding model, as it aims to develop and test the scope for additional sources of commercial revenue. The results of this will feed into the next Charter Review.

A government response on the issue of decriminalisation of TV licence evasion was published earlier this year. The responses to the consultation show that a significant number of people oppose the criminal sanction with some highlighting the considerable stress and anxiety it can cause for individuals, including the most vulnerable in society, such as older people.

The government is therefore keeping the issue of decriminalisation under active consideration while more work is done to understand the impact of alternative enforcement schemes.

The Government is also currently in the process of determining the level of the licence fee from 2022. The Government is committed to greater transparency in this settlement. In line with this commitment, on 10 November both the Secretary of State and the Minister for Civil Society laid written statements in Parliament formally announcing the process. On the same day the Government published the formal commissioning letters to the BBC and S4C requesting their financial information and will publish further formal correspondence where appropriate. The Secretary of State will also lay his determination before the House to allow time for parliamentary debate before the settlement takes effect in 2022.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

This response was given on 22 June 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

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