BBC Telly Tax petition given new Parliament debate date

125k refuseniks to have their say after all

Tony Hall, BBC Director General. Pic: BBC
Tony Hall, current BBC director-general

Parliament has rescheduled its debate on the BBC TV Tax, after it was quietly canned thanks to the UK's snap general election earlier this year.

A public petition against the BBC TV Licence fee was launched after The Register revealed that notorious outsourcing firm Capita, whose door-to-door salesmen collect the tax, took 71 per cent more women than men to court for alleged Telly Tax avoidance.

The new date for the Westminster Hall debate is Monday 16 October. Although MPs can turn up to Westminster Hall debates, they do not place any obligation of any sort on the government or on the minister who is obliged to respond to them. More information about how they work is available on the Parliament website.

Our own investigation into Telly Tax prosecutions also found that three-quarters of those prosecuted by Capita TV Licensing in three London magistrates’ courts were women.

Capita has previously denied it disproportionately targets women, pointing to a government study which also found that it drags far more women than men into court – but which additionally found that this was neither unfair nor intentional. However, Caroline Levesque-Bartlett, an anti-Telly Tax campaigner, told The Register at the time of our investigation: “The David Perry Review brought this gender imbalance to light to Parliament in July 2015, and nothing has changed since.”

Capita operates TV Licensing as a high-pressure door-to-door sales operation that is unconstrained by the ethics of a normal business. A Daily Mail undercover investigation found that salesbods are ordered to “catch” 28 people per week and either sell them a £147 licence there and then or report them for prosecution. Bonuses of thousands of pounds are paid if Capita salespeople meet these TV Licensing targets.

The TV Licence is compulsory for anyone watching a live TV broadcast or streaming the BBC iPlayer online catchup service, though merely owning a TV does not make you liable for paying the tax. Although most of the money from the TV Licence goes to the BBC, a small portion is diverted to Welsh-language broadcaster S4C, and another relatively small portion goes towards the UK’s superfast broadband project. ®

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