BBC licence fee explained: The exact amount of money you pay toward the BBC

Andrew Neil describes BBC licence fee as a 'Straitjacket'

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Earlier this year Downing Street announced that the licence fee, which funds the BBC, is to be frozen for two years. On Thursday, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries branded the payment as “unfair” and confirmed the Government would take a thorough look at how the broadcaster funds itself ahead of the licence fee’s current endpoint in 2027.

What is the licence fee?

The licence fee is a flat yearly payment of £159 or £53.50 for black and white TV sets that most Britons have to shell out on.

According to the law, each household must pay the licence fee, barring some exceptions.

You must pay if you:

  • Watch or record programmes as they’re being shown on any TV channel
  • Watch or stream programmes live on any online TV service – for instance, All 4, YouTube, or Amazon Prime Video
  • Download or watch any BBC programmes on BBC iPlayer

Any device on which a programme is viewed, including a TV, desktop or laptop computer, mobile phone, tablet or set-top box is subject to the rules.

For example, someone watching a live football match on a non-BBC channel via a laptop, would still need to pay.

Those who don’t pay the licence fee risk being taken to court and prosecuted.

In 2019, there were 122,603 prosecutions and 114,531 convictions for TV licence evasion.

BBC shows and services are paid for by money raised by the licence fee.

These include TV, radio, the BBC website, podcasts, iPlayer and apps.

Three years ago, money taken by the licence fee accounted for nearly 76 percent of the BBC’s total income (£4.9bn).

The House of Commons Library showed commercial and other activities – including grants, royalties and rental income – helped to raise the remaining 25 percent.

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The BBC is committed to providing public service broadcasting in exchange for the licence fee.

Its mission is to “act in the public interest” by providing “impartial, high-quality and distinctive” content, according to the Royal Charter.

The broadcaster also looks to “inform, educate and entertain” everyone who pays the licence fee.

At present the licence fee is only guaranteed to stay in existence until December 31, 2027.

On Thursday, Ms Dorries appeared before the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

The 64-year-old claimed it would be “antediluvian” to suggest the licence fee was still the best method of funding the BBC.

She said: “We’ve come to a point actually where discussion about the future funding of the BBC, I think, is imperative now.

“I find it very difficult to understand why people feel 74% of all convictions of non-paying the licence fee being women is acceptable or even defendable.

“So, rather than wait until 2027, I’m going to announce very shortly that we’re going to start the review of the BBC licence fee and how it’s going to be funded in the future.”

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