BBC v Johns – 1965

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Last modified: 07/03/18 Author: In-house law team

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BBC v Johns [1965] Ch 32, 79

Confirmed that the Government could not automatically create new prerogative powers.


Here, the claimants, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) sought to submit that they ought be exempt from income tax generally as they should be considered a monopoly resultant from prior Government decisions grounded in royal prerogative. Subsequently, they should be viewed as an emanation of the Crown.


Whether the BBC could be viewed as a statutory body and thus exempt from taxation. Furthermore, whether the British Government were authorised to create new monopolies in certain areas.


The Court viewed that a body’s own decision to enhance its prerogative powers would not be compelling to a Court and further that legal exemptions of the type sought by the BBC were only permissible by the discretion of the oversight bodies and royal prerogative. Furthermore, as the BBC was not a statutory creation and did not exercise any statutory functions, and was not subject to any statutory guidance, it followed that they had no claim to enjoy the taxation exemption benefits of being a statutory body.

In response to the BBC’s assertion that they ought hold monopoly status in British broadcasting, Diplock LJ notably commented ‘It is 350 years and a civil war too late for the Queen’s courts to broaden the prerogative. The limits within which the executive government may impose obligations or restraints upon citizens of the United Kingdom without any statutory authority are now well settled and incapable of extension… Today, save in so far as the power is preserved by the Statute of Monopolies, or created by other statutes, the executive government has no constitutional right either itself to exercise through its agents or to confer upon other persons a monopoly of any form of activity’’

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