The British Broadcasting Corporation
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Popular resistance to the licence has been growing. According to a poll commissioned by the BBC about 53 per cent of people would prefer the BBC to be funded by a licence fee rather than by advertising or subscription. But a ComRes poll indicated that 51 per cent wanted the licence system to go. And a YouGov survey found that the level of support for TV licensing varied greatly depending in how the question was put.
In 2017 a House of Commons Library briefing paper revealed that in 2015/16 there was a 10 per cent licence "evasion" rate in Scotland. In Northern Ireland it was 9 per cent. The rate of refusals in England and Wales was 6 per cent. (This is in contrast to the less deferential republican Ireland where 15% watch TV without state permission). The BBC prosecutes as many as 180,000 citizens a year. These prosecutions for watching TV without permission amount to 17% of the business of magistrates courts. Many of those prosecuted by the BBC just cannot afford the licence fee.
The maximum fine for not paying the tax on free speech is £1000. However, the average is only £173. More than 50 per cent of those fined still do not pay for a licence to view.
In 2015 more than £28m in fines was collected for watching TV without permission.
Seventy percent of those prosecuted were women. And women are more than seven times likely than men to pay the maximum fine of £1000. Some go to jail.
Every week 3000 prosecutions take place. One in ten of the cases heard in magistrate courts are for unlicensed watching of TV.
A number of centres of resistance have appeared. Some low-income residents of Liverpool were given legal aid to fight prosecutions for having no licence.
Many citizens in Northern Ireland refused to pay in protest against British rule. The level of resistance there has reached 9 per cent.
In the three years ending in April 2015 the BBC was responsible for 26,058 out of 142,466 cases heard in the magistrates courts of Northern Ireland, that is one in every five. In the 2014-15 year an even larger proportion of criminal prosecutions were brought by the BBC, one in four. The prosecutions were for watching TV without a licence.
Fewer than half of those prosecuted by the BBC in Northern Ireland in 2014-15 were found guilty.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph that the high number of prosecutions "highlights the degree of opposition that there is to making these payments".
Journalist Jonathan Miller and Soviet prison camp survivor Vladimir Bukovsky have publicly refused to pay. Bukovsky has been a refusnik for six years, citing the low quality of its output and a pro-European Union bias that puts it in breach of its charter. Neither Miller nor Bukovsky have been prosecuted for being unlicensed to watch TV. Mr. Miller estimates that there are 1 million citizens who do not pay. A Facebook campaign opposing the licence has won 200,000 supporters. Some citizens who are harassed by the BBC because they are not licenced to watch TV have taken to filming the enforcers and posting the results on YouTube.
But how to finance this paragon? Easy. A tax on newspaper readers. Just require that anybody who wants to buy a newspaper have an official licence to read. It would cost just a few pounds a year. Credit card size to flash when you buy it.
What's the objection? Its done already for TV and everybody admires BBC News.