THE BBC kept £100,000 it had raised for deprived children after discovering none of them had paid their licence fee, the Corporation said last night.
BBC bosses are demanding an on-screen apology from the children, and warning that if they do not buy a licence immediately they will pass their details to the police.
Mark Thompson, BBC director general, said: "Over the years we’ve raised millions for these kids, minus the usual handling fees, bank charges, agent’s commission, and VAT – and this is how they repay us.
"Do they ever write and say thank-you? Yes, actually a lot of them do, and it’s very useful as we can check all the addresses against our records.
"We knock on the door, the parents deny having a telly, and then we show them little Johnny’s letter about how much he loves watching Shenzo Super Bang-Bang Squad on Cbeebies. It's cuffs on and down the nick."
Gemma Harding, a poor child with leukaemia, said: "I don’t blame the BBC for going after these children. The new series of Strictly Come Dancing on Ice must take priority."
A BBC spokesman said the money would now be used to buy Jonathan Ross a new leopard.