550 people every day in the UK are choosing to stop paying their TV licenses as they switch over to streaming services
by Eve Cooper
Over the last five months, as many as 82,000 people have decided to cancel their payments for the BBC licensing fee.
According to the latest figures released by OFCOM, the UK’s communications regulator, up to 47% of UK households have signed up to the most popular streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the new Disney+. That means 13.3 million households in the UK now have access to at least one streaming service.
However, the BBC has also stated that up to 91% of the UK’s adult population use the BBC at least once a week, and they recently announced record figures for its iPlayer service. A spokesman for the BBC said that March figures would be affected by the lockdown, with many TV viewers unable to pay their license fee.
This news comes after it was reportedly earlier in the year that the TV license cost was to increase from £154.50 to £157.50.
The news that so many people are cancelling their TV fee payments comes hot on the heels of the news that plans are being considered that will see people paying more for their license fee if they have bigger homes and larger televisions. Council tax bands may also play a part in how much the licensing fee will cost, although plans to make sweeping changes have yet to be clarified.
The BBC said, “The old flat charge doesn’t work when so many people are living longer and in many cases, are considerably more affluent than the young.” The spokesman for the Beeb said that compulsory payments are “non-negotiable.”
The BBC has come under fire for plans to cut the free TV license option for the over-75s, although this will not come into effect until August. Those over-75s that still claim pension credit will still be eligible for the free license, but the charity Age Scotland has said that the plan should be postponed or scrapped altogether.
Brian Sloan, the chief exec of Age Scotland, said,
“WITH CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS LIKELY TO CONTINUE FOR SOME TIME, IT SHOULD BE PUT OFF AT LEAST UNTIL THE END OF THE YEAR.”
“Older people are disproportionately affected by this deadly virus, with hundreds of thousands isolated in their homes.”
He went on to say that television is a lifeline for the elderly and that in many cases it might even be their only “connection with the outside world.”
With more people cancelling their license fee payments than ever, there has also been a rise in the number of scams related to the license. This weekend, a resident of Widnes in Cheshire received two completely different TV license scam emails in a single day.
Trading Standards Councillor for Halton Borough Council suggested: “The likely reason for this is that scammers realise residents are relying on their TV’s for entertainment/news more than they were before the lockdown.” They believe these scammers are “trying to take advantage of the situation.”
UK residents are being reminded that TV license-related emails should not be opened and that links should not be clicked on. With more people relying on their TV and radio entertainment during the UK lockdown, the rise in the number of license fee-related scams has led Trading Standards to highlight the potential rise at scamming efforts.
It’s not just online scammers that are taking advantage of the current lockdown measures for criminal gain, as drug dealers are changing tactics to profit off if this global crisis.