An increase to the TV licence fee in line with the rate of inflation has been ruled out. Had it risen, it would have resulted in households seeing their television bill being increased to £167 annually. Amid Conservative backbench pressure to scrap the TV licence, many people were expecting drastic changes to the fee going forward. However, with the freeze now being confirmed, the licence fee is set to remain unchanged at £159 a year.
As a result of this decision, Britons will be saving money as fee payments are not going to be increased as they have done in previous years.
According to the Government, this fee freeze will last for two years, at which time the issue will be revisited again to see how the BBC will be funded.
If the freeze continues to last for two years, and taking into account how much the fee would have been raised to align with inflation, Britons are set to save £16 on their household expenses over the next few years.
Households need to have a TV licence in the UK to watch or stream live programming as it is being broadcast.
Furthermore, Britons need to pay the fee in order to watch or stream live content from a streaming service or other online TV equivalent.
While the BBC is in charge of managing the licence fee, the Government is in charge of creating and maintaining certain discount schemes which are available to certain groups of people.
For people who are over 75 years of age who are in receipt of Pension Credit, a free TV licence will be awarded.
This discount covers everyone who lives at the claimant’s address, including partners and dependants.
Applicants are able to apply for this discount when they are 74 if they already claim Pension Credit. However, they will still need to pay their TV licence until the end of the month before their 75th birthday.
Furthermore, people who are registered as blind are able to apply for a 50 percent discount on their BBC bill.
If this discount was implemented, a television licence for a blind person would cost £79.50 for colour and £26.75 for a black and white TV licence.
As part of the Government’s announcement, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, outlined the reasoning behind the licence fee freeze and how it would likely affect the BBC going forward.
Ms Dorries explained: “The BBC is a great national institution with a unique place in our cultural heritage.
“It broadcasts British values and identities all over the world and reaches hundreds of millions of people every day.
“But at a time when families are facing a sharp increase in their living costs we simply could not justify asking hard-working households to pay even more for their TV licence.
“This is a fair settlement for the BBC and for licence fee payers. The BBC must support people at a time when their finances are strained, make savings and efficiencies, and use the billions in public funding it receives to deliver for viewers, listeners and users.”
On Twitter, Ms Dorries referred to this licence fee announcement as being the “last”, indicating the TV licence may be scrapped in lieu of another method of payment.
Many experts believe a subscription-style model is needed to compete in the current entertainment marketplace and could be a likely option for the Government.
At the beginning of this year, the BBC’s Director-General Tim Davie gave a passionate defence of the public broadcaster during a time of financial turmoil and political pressure.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Davie said: “Sustained investment in British content is backed by a mix of funding models: advertising, subscription and public money.
“All this has led to a sector in which talent can thrive. Strong public service broadcasting and a competitive commercial sector deliver huge mutual benefits and complete a virtuous circle of brilliant British creativity.
“The result is one of the jewels in the UK’s economic crown. It is something that we must invest in and fight for.”