Government plans to decriminalise licence fee evasion could cost the BBC’s programming budget as much as £300 million, the broadcaster has claimed.
The loss of income could lead to “significant cuts” to frontline services at the broadcaster, according to a submission made by the BBC to the government’s consultation on scrapping criminal sanctions.
The submission claimed that research had estimated the law change would see a 10% increase in evasion, which, coupled with the higher running costs of a new system, would severely stretch the BBC’s budget.
The £300 million figure represents a £100 million jump from an estimate made in 2015, when the government had been carrying out a similar consultation regarding the decriminalisation of the licence fee.
The BBC said: “The costs to the BBC would therefore amount to more than £1 billion over the remainder of the Charter period from 2022 to 2027.
“This would inevitably require significant cuts to BBC programs and services. It would also reduce substantially the BBC’s investment in the UK’s creative economy across the whole UK, including the nations and English regions.”
The submission also made reference to the effect the ongoing coronavirus pandemic was having on the consultation, saying, “Recent events mean that the focus of the Government, the BBC, stakeholders, and the public has rightly been elsewhere.
“The BBC is a national asset and has a critical role to play for the UK. It is at the heart of the public service broadcasting system – something that is now more vital than ever.”
The BBC had recently scrapped plans to begin charging over 70s for a licence, and has taken new measures to “support and entertain the nation” amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.