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TV licence plan 'mustn't be rushed'

The BBC has warned the Government not to rush a planned review of licence fee enforcement.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid will question whether the current system is " really working" in a speech to the Royal Television Society (RTS).

The minister will tell the industry gathering that the review "needs to begin now".

He will say: " In 2012/13, almost 200,000 people ended up in court accused of not buying a TV licence.

"More than 50 were sent to prison. When over 10% of magistrates' court cases concern this one offence, you have to ask whether the current system is really working. So that's exactly what I'm going to do.

"The Government is committed to launching a review of decriminalisation once the Deregulation Bill receives Royal Assent. But we can't afford to wait that long. This needs to begin now.

"Very shortly I will be publishing the terms of reference for a review of TV licence enforcement. I expect it to begin taking evidence in the autumn, and to conclude early in the next Parliament.

"I don't want to pre-empt the Charter Review. I want to ensure that, when it begins, it has a solid evidence base on which to draw. This will allow it to shape the future of the BBC in a way that works for both the Corporation and those who pay for it."

MPs from all three main parties have recently voted to make non-payment a civil offence punishable with a fine.

A BBC spokesman said: "This is an important issue and the review must be thorough and not rushed.

"Licence fee evasion is low, which maximises investment in the programmes and services that audiences love. Changing the system could lead to higher evasion, so it's important that any decisions are made as part of the Charter Review process. We look forward to working with the review."

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