John Sergeant wants changes to TV licence system

  • Bang Showbiz
  • 8 September 2020
John Sergeant

John Sergeant

Former BBC chief political correspondent John Sergeant insists it shouldn't be a criminal offence to watch television without a licence

John Sergeant says it shouldn't be a criminal offence to watch TV without a licence.

The BBC's former chief political correspondent insisted the corporation can't reverse its decision to end free licences for the over-75s, but he suggested the system needs to change.

Writing in the Radio Times magazine: "Some decisions have already been taken, which might wisely be left to stand.

"For good or ill, the BBC has decided to cease fully funding the licence fee for over-75s. A U-turn would be far too damaging.

"Despite the likely loss in revenue, the BBC should accept that failing to pay the licence fee is no longer a criminal offence."

Starting last month, more than three million households across the UK were told to start paying the annual £157.50 fee, while those receiving Pension Credit are the only ones exempt.

Returning to the free scheme would cost the BBC hundreds of millions of pounds, but the decision to axe it was met with backlash.

John added: "The system itself has to change: the licence fee, as presently constituted, now commands insufficient public support.

"All reasonable alternatives should be considered... I would be in favour of freezing the present arrangements and forcing the BBC to earn more by other means."

The Beeb's new Director-General Tim Davie doesn't support the idea of swapping a licence fee for a subscription model and he has the support of John, who still sees a bright future for the broadcaster.

He said: "The pandemic has been a great opportunity for the BBC to demonstrate its virtues. It is the most trusted news source in the country.

"It has no political axe to grind. It does not gain any advantage by exaggerating the news, nor indeed has it any interest in spreading false stories and misleading the public.

"In comparison with the news organisations of any other country, the BBC can easily hold its own."

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