I’ll axe TV shows if licence cheats escape court, says BBC boss: Director of television accused of ‘holding viewers to ransom’ following comments
Danny Cohen said entire services may have to be cut if fees are not paid
He also threatened government over plans to stop reimbursing the cost of a free licence for over-75s
Comments come amid mounting concern BBC is too heavy on fee evaders
Around 3,000 people a week end up in court for failing to pay licence fee
By KATHERINE RUSHTON, MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY EDITOR
2 June 2015
BBC boss Danny Cohen was accused of ‘holding viewers to ransom’ yesterday after he threatened to axe programmes if licence fee evaders are no longer sent to court.
The director of television warned that the Corporation would probably have to cut entire services – such as TV channels or radio stations – if non-payment of the £145.50-a-year licence was decriminalised.
In a surprisingly combative move, Mr Cohen also threatened the government over proposals to force the BBC to give the licence fee free to the over-75s, without reimbursement from the DWP.
‘If the BBC takes on more financial obligations, it’s got less money to spend on content. It’s as simple as that,’ he told a conference of television executives in London.
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Non-payment of the TV licence fee should not be decriminalized. And the Dept for Work and Pensions should continue to reimburse the BBC in respect of the free licence for the over-75s.
The licence fee should be retained in its current form and the BBC should cut its suit according to its cloth. It might begin by cutting the bloated salaries and expenses of its most senior executives. I feel sure they will want to set a good example to more junior staff in implementing the cuts that will be necessary for the corporation, if it is to operate effectively within its still generous budget of more than £5 billion per year.
At a time when most areas of public expenditure, other than such sacred cows as foreign aid, are being cut, any increase in the licence fee should be linked to the rate of inflation and not exceed it.