UK says could decriminalize non-payment of BBC license fee

Britain is looking at whether or not to decriminalize the penalty for non-payment of the 154.50-pound ($198) annual BBC "license fee" tax on all television-watching households, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said on Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday questioned why the BBC should continue to be supported by the annual fee, one of the biggest hints to date that the funding of Britain's main news provider could be upended.

"What we are talking about as a first step is the decriminalization of failing to pay the TV license," Buckland told BBC radio.

He said people during election campaigning had said they worried about the cost of the license fee.

"Is it right to criminalize and target a vulnerable section of society for what really is an issue of civil liability? We would consult on that to work out whether criminalisation is the right way to approach this issue," he said.

It is a criminal offense to watch TV or use BBC iplayer in the United Kingdom without a valid TV license.