Bassetlaw MP wants to explore other options to replace TV licence

Many Bassetlaw constituents have been giving me their views on the television licence fee and this week I spoke on the issue after more than 100,000 people signed a petition, triggering a debate in Parliament.

By Brendan Clarke-Smith
Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 1:44 pm

British television is admired around the world and is something we can quite rightly be proud of.

I’ve always enjoyed some of the excellent comedies, dramas and nature programmes produced by not only the BBC, but also our many private providers.

However, Covid has plunged many into financial difficulties and paying for a TV licence is something that many of the poorest in society struggle to pay.

Brendan Clarke-Smith thinks the BBC could explore commercial revenue streams as an alternative to the TV licence. Photo: London Portrait Photographer-DAV

There have been improvements over the years, such as the ability to spread payments, but the cost is still a challenge for many, however small the increase.

It is also fundamentally wrong that many constituents over the age of 75 have had their free TV licenses taken away from them.

We all know that tough decisions need to be made, but this pre-dates Covid and I believe has lost the BBC a lot of public support.

This brings us on to the problem of those who cannot afford to pay and are subsequently convicted and women are almost ten times more likely to be convicted for not paying TV licence than men.

In my recent poll of Bassetlaw constituents, 78 per cent said they felt the licence fee was not good value for money.

Half wanted to move to a subscription service and a whopping 87 per cent felt that those aged over 75 should receive free licences.

Not only would I like to see the licence fee decriminalised, but I would also like to see a move towards a subscription-based model, such as Netflix.

But there is also another option that perhaps needs to be explored.

There have been numerous commercial opportunities created through this and the BBC has shown that it can use these to its advantage.

The World Service and the BBC’s online content already makes revenue from advertising – allowing them to offset this against the license fee.

Perhaps it’s finally time for this option to be exploited domestically.

Brendan Clarke-Smith is MP for Bassetlaw.