Television

BBC Trust to review licence fee structure

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MUMBAI: The BBC Trust has launched a public consultation as part of a wide-ranging review into how the licence fee is collected for the UK pubcaster.

The Trust is responsible for overseeing the licence fee collection arrangements, put in place by BBC management, and ensuring they are "efficient, appropriate and proportionate". This is a new responsibility for the BBC's governing body which is stated in the Royal Charter for the first time.

BBC Truist chairman Sir Michael Lyons said, "It is use of a television, or other television receiving equipment, which dictates the need for a television licence, but the purpose of the licence fee is to pay for all BBC domestic services – on television, radio and online. For the BBC to meet its remit, and deliver the quality programmes and services the public rightly expects, it is essential it collects the funding needed.

" The BBC has a duty to be efficient in collecting the licence fee and to keep evasion rates as low as possible so that those people who pay are not disadvantaged by those who do not. This is an issue which arouses strong emotions, because the right balance needs to be struck between ensuring compliance with the law and avoiding any disproportionate heavy-handedness. On behalf of licence fee payers, the Trust will consider whether that balance is being struck through the processes used to collect the licence and, if there is room for improvements, we will ensure they are made."

The Trusts review will consider areas such as:

- The range of payment methods available to licence fee payers and whether it is clear to people when a TV licence is needed 

- The tone of the marketing and advertising about the TV licence 

- The enforcement methods used by TV Licensing, including letters, visits and detection 

- Through consultation and formal research, the Trust is seeking the public's opinion on these issues, as well as their view on how far the BBC should pursue those who should but don't pay the licence fee.

The public consultation closes on 28 November 2008. The Trust will also be talking to audience groups and other interested parties and distributing information via libraries and other public places. It will be visiting TV Licensing sites to gain first-hand experience of collection and enforcement of the licence fee.

The Trust will analyse all the evidence it collects and expects to publish its report next spring, once it reaches its final conclusions. The review will not consider settled public policy issues, such as the cost of the licence fee or whether there should be a licence fee at all.

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