Women account for three-quarters of TV license fee convictions, figures show BBC says it will see if it can redress the imbalance
- BBC data shows women accounted for 76% of 52,376 license fee convictions
- An Essex mother has threatened legal review after being threatened with legal action
- Plans to lobby for the review were dropped when the BBC agreed to conduct the review
- Last month Nadine Dorries froze the cost of the TV license fee at £159 for two years
The BBC said it would investigate whether more could be done to change the imbalance that results in women being the victims of three-quarters of convictions for non-payment of television license fees.
The company’s latest data revealed that women made up 76% of the 52,376 people convicted of TV license evasion in 2020.
The BBC has agreed to conduct a ‘gender disparity review’ after a 32-year-old single mother from Essex threatened to carry out a judicial review of the system on the basis of gender discrimination when she was sued for failing to pay the fees.
The woman, who moved to the UK from Rwanda in 2015, said she made ‘small mistakes’ trying to switch her TV license payments to direct debits before being charged with non- payment in March of last year.
She contacted Appeal, a charity fighting miscarriages of justice, which argued that charging her for the offense was not in the public interest.
TV Licensing agreed and dropped the charges, but believing the system was unfair, the woman sought help from the Public Law Project who told the BBC they were pursuing a judicial review.
Plans to push for the review were later dropped when the BBC, which considered the woman’s complaint to be unfounded, agreed to conduct an ‘internal gender review’.
The latest data from the company revealed that women made up 76% of the 52,376 people convicted of TV license evasion in 2020
The woman said The temperature: ‘I felt they were targeting helpless people, like single mothers, and that needed to be challenged.
“I did this to prevent other women from being unfairly targeted and so they can see if there is discrimination.”
Figures from the Department of Justice show that license fee evasion was the common offense for which women were convicted in 2019. It accounted for 30% of convictions for women and just 4% of convictions for men.
The Department of Justice said it was because women were more likely to be home when an inspector knocked on the door.
The BBC has agreed to carry out a ‘gender disparity review’ after a 32-year-old single mother from Essex threatened a judicial review of the system on grounds of sex discrimination when she been sued for failing to pay the fee (stock image)
Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary who last month said television license fees would be frozen at £159 for two years, told The Times she was “deeply concerned” that women were ” disproportionately” facing criminal charges for non-payment.
The Essex woman said inspectors visited her home during the November 2020 lockdown.
Having just moved into her new home, she said she was not on top of her bills, but then signed up for Paypoint so she could pay the license fee in cash or by credit card in some stores.
She tried to switch to a direct debit payment method early last year and believed an email from TV Licensing had confirmed the switch.
Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary who last month said television license fees would be frozen at £159 for two years, told The Times she was “deeply concerned” that women were ” disproportionately” criminally charged for non-payment.
She contacted TV Licensing when she realized that no payment had been sent. Her first payment was received a day after her lawsuit was cleared and she was told over the phone that she would have to appear in court.
The charges were dropped when the case was taken up on appeal.
Tara Casey, a women’s justice caseworker at the charity, said: “All the women we’ve helped with their criminal TV license cases have been vulnerable: some are single mothers, others have medical problems.”
The BBC said it had taken steps to tackle the disparity through better monitoring and increased engagement with women’s organizations after releasing a gender disparity report in 2017.
A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “The government’s independent review of the application of TV licensing rights in 2015 found ‘no basis to conclude that TV licensing intentionally targets women, or that its practices are directly or indirectly discriminatory,” and an internal review in 2017 found that the disparity in prosecutions was largely due to societal factors.
“It’s only right that we re-examine this to see if more can be done to alleviate the causes of the disparity, which is why we are now taking a closer look.”