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TV licence sex discrimination claim woman gets settlement from BBC

The BBC has agreed to pay £6,500 in compensation to a single mother who claims she was discriminated against when she was prosecuted by TV Licensing, who take action against many more women than men every year.

Josiane, a lone parent struggling with household bills, was prosecuted for not paying her TV licence fee during the pandemic. She said the prosecution was “deeply stressful” and caused her “sleepless nights”.

The charges were dropped after the legal charity APPEAL took up Josiane’s case. However, a legal claim of sex discrimination resulted in a settlement.

Statistics show that 75 per cent of prosecutions brought by TV Licensing are against women. However, the BBC have stated that they settled the claim due to their mistakes made in their customer service standards.

A TV Licensing spokesperson said: “The BBC settled Ms Bazatoha’s claim for compensation and apologised to her on the basis that our response to her enquiries could have been clearer and that on this occasion we did not achieve the high standards in customer service to which we are committed. We did not accept that the prosecution (which was later dropped) was due to TVL’s processes disproportionately targeting women.

“Separately, however, we have been looking in detail at the factors behind the gender disparity in TV Licence prosecutions, many of which are complex, societal issues. We have been working with a number of organisations to include a wide range of input into the Review. It is nearing completion and will be published then.”

A BBC Spokesperson said: “We accept our response to Ms Bazatoha’s enquiries could have been clearer and as a result Ms Bazatoha believed a direct debit had been set up when this was not the case which led to a prosecution being initially pursued. We apologise to Ms Bazatoha for this and have provided a payment to recognise mistakes made. We are committed to highest possible standards in customer service and regret we didn’t achieve that on this occasion”.

Represented by Leigh Day, Josiane claimed that the way that TV Licensing (a trademark of the BBC) identifies, investigates and prosecutes cases for the non-payment of the licence fee is discriminatory.

A proposed judicial review claim by the Public Law Project against the BBC resulted in the BBC agreeing to conduct a Gender Disparity Review, overseen by Baroness Young of Hornsey OBE, however publication of the report has been delayed, said Josiane.

Josiane said: “I brought a discrimination claim against the BBC because I believe that the BBC’s processes for identifying suspects of TV licence evasion disproportionately disadvantage women. I accept that the BBC does not agree that this was what led to my prosecution, but I am pleased that they are undertaking another Review of the gender disparity in TV licence prosecutions and have accepted that mistakes were made in my case.”

Naima Sakande, Deputy Director of APPEAL said: “I am pleased that the impact of this unfair prosecution against Josiane has been acknowledged by the BBC. However, the BBC has failed to take responsibility or rectify its discrimination problem.

“Last year the BBC bought criminal prosecutions against nearly 50,000 people for not paying their TV Licence. Before the pandemic, this number regularly exceeded 100,000. Not only are the majority of these people women, many are also struggling financially and have other vulnerabilities.

“The impact of these prosecutions will land heavily on normal people during the cost-of-living crisis. That’s why APPEAL is calling on TV Licensing to suspend all prosecutions during the economic crisis.

Leigh Day human rights solicitor Kate Egerton said: “The stark gender disparity in TV Licensing prosecutions has been clear for over a decade yet the disproportionate prosecution of women increases year on year. It is our view that the BBC’s current policies indirectly discriminate against women under our equality legislation, and that this is unjustifiable and avoidable.

“We believe that there are a number of alternative measures for investigating potential TV licensing offences that would reduce the disproportionate impact on women; we hope that the BBC seriously considers these as part of its review and implements a lawful system.”

However, in the government’s 2015 independent review of TV license fee enforcement, they found “no basis to conclude that TV Licensing intentionally targets women, or that its practices are directly or indirectly discriminatory”.

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