People who do not purchase a TV licence will no longer be faced with a potential jail sentence with the government set to decriminalise the offence.
At present, those caught not paying for a TV licence face a fine of up to £1,000 which, if ignored, can lead to a prison sentence.
Under new plans the penalty for not paying for a TV licence will be changed to fines that will be enforceable in civil courts, The Times reports.
The Government is set to change the law next month to decriminalise non-payment of the TV licence fee in favour of a civil court-enforceable fine
The BBC will be allowed to take those evaders that are caught watching TV without a licence to county courts and use bailiffs to collect the fines.
Decriminalisation will make non-payment of the licence fee a ‘civil debt’ and will be compared to someone not paying their utility bills.
The changes could be introduced as early as next month and one Government source told The Times that decriminalisation was a ‘done deal’.
However, they also said that they needed to ensure that the new penalty put in place was not more severe than what is already in place.
Non-payments of a TV licence will also affect a person’s credit score under the new Government plans
What do you need a TV licence for?
Current law dictates that a household needs to purchase a TV licence in order to watch or record any television as it is being shown live.
A licence is also needed if shows are watched live on online TV or streaming services.
You are also only allowed to watch shows on BBC iPlayer if you own a TV licence.
However, you are still allowed to watch films and shows on services such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime as well as DVDs and Blu-rays.
Non-BBC catch up services such as ITV Player and Channel 4 on-demand can also be enjoyed without a TV licence as long as live television is not watched through them.
‘We need to tread carefully,’ they said.
Non-payments of a TV licence will also affect a person’s credit score under the new Government plans.
The new plans were developed following a consultation and will be presented to MPs but any replacement penalty will also be subject to a consultation before being passed through Parliament as a bill.
While contributing to the consultation, the BBC said: ‘Action taken by bailiffs is by its very nature intrusive … TV Licensing does not use them to recover arrears.’
In 2018, 129,446 people in England were prosecuted for not owning a TV licence but only five of these cases resulted in a jail sentence.
Earlier this week, the Mail on Sunday reported that the BBC had been facing a TV licence rebellion from pensioners who were refusing to pay the fee.
Before this year, over-75s received free TV licences, but in June the BBC confirmed that the scheme was to end, following a two-month extension because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, an extra three million households were faced with a £157.50 fee and only those who received the Pension Credit would remain exempt from paying the fee.
Meanwhile, former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has been approached by Boris Johnson to become Chairman of Ofcom, in the latest example of Downing Street’s determination to shake up the Left-wing establishment.
The Mail on Sunday claims Dacre, 71, who edited the Daily Mail for 26 years until 2018, was asked to consider the role over drinks at Number 10 earlier this year.
Lord Burns, the current Ofcom Chairman is set to step down later this year after agreeing to end his tenure short, rather than seeing out his four-year term which was due to end in 2022.
During ongoing conversations with Downing Street, Mr Dacre said that he was interested, subject to ‘assurances’ about ‘freedom and independence’.
Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre (pictured) has been approached by Boris Johnson to become Chairman of Ofcom
Paul Dacre: Former Daily Mail editor who dominated journalism for 26 years
By James Gant for MailOnline
Paul Dacre was the editor of the Daily Mail for 26 years.
The journalist was educated at University College School in Hampstead, north London, before studying at Leeds University.
He had a taste for news from a young age, having edited his school magazine and university student paper.
After leaving Leeds he worked for the Daily Express as a reporter but joined the Daily Mail a decade later in 1980.
He spent a year editing the London Evening Standard before taking up the mantle at the Mail in 1992.
He became well known for his campaigning headlines such as ‘Murderers’ in 1997, where he accused five men of killing Stephen Lawrence.
Mr Dacre also received widespread praise for his role in stopping Gary McKinnon being extradited to the US for hacking into Pentagon computers.
He was personally thanked by the 46-year-old Asperger’s sufferer’s mother for ‘standing up for Gary non-stop for years’.
Ahead of his potential role as chairman of Ofcom, Mr Dacre was formerly a member of the Press Complaints Commission and chairman of the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee.
Next year Mr Dacre will lift the lid on his time at the Mail in a three-part Channel 4 programme called The World According to Paul Dacre.