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Sunday, 20 March 2011

Discussion topic suggestion


You have often asked me about a topic that I would like discussed on your programme. You rejected my quote from Stuart Maconie's book last year, so how about this one?

"We discuss today what happens when you don't buy a TV licence"

I am deliberately going to avoid the "is it a fee or a tax?" question, and whether the licence fee is justifiable, etc.

My research may be missing some elements, and so there are a lot of questions here. You will need to so some research in to this topic.

The official and much-publicised line on not having a licence is that the TV Licensing Authority (aka TV Licensing, TVL, Capita) will take you to court and prosecute, but they have to do a lot of work to achieve this, and I wonder just at what point the case is filed under "too difficult" and conveniently forgotten..

Retailers of equipment that are capable of receiving television broadcasts are required BY LAW to provide TVL with personal information in the form of your name and address. However, there is no law that says that anybody paying with cash is required to give a correct address, and they cannot be traced through credit card details. Addresses with no TV licence are targetted and investigated by TVL, but how often do they actually do this?

TVL enforces the BBC's statutory obligation to ensure that every address where a television licence is required is correctly licensed, but its agents have no special rights and, like any other member of the public, rely on an implied right of access to reach the front door. The occupants of a visited property may deny an agent entry to the premises without cause and are under no obligation to answer any questions or enter into any conversation. If an agent has evidence that television is being watched or recorded illegally but is denied entry by the occupants so that (s)he cannot verify the suspicion without trespassing, then TV Licensing may apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, but the use of such warrants is rare. The BBC states that a search warrant would never be applied for solely on the basis of non-cooperation with TV Licensing and that in the event of being denied access to unlicensed property will use detection equipment rather than a search warrant.
The assumption by TVL is always "guilty until proved innocent" and in 2008 the BBC Trust launched an enquiry in to intimidating behaviour by TVL.

According to Wikipedia (yes, I know) the law allows a fine of up to £1,000 be imposed on those successfully prosecuted and this figure is frequently publicised by TV Licensing to maximise deterrence. In reality, magistrates rarely impose the maximum fines allowed to them by law. During the year 2005-6, the average fine including costs was approximately £153, so only slightly more than the cost of a licence.

Moving further down the process... let's assume that TVL reckon that you have a working television in your home and one day there is a knock on the door. You open the door and the man from TVL introduces himself. Now, if you were to engage in conversation with him and/or invite him in to your home then they have succeeded in their task and they would attempt to sell you a licence and they may try a prosecution if you refused. However, what happens if you tell him to get off your property and close the door in his face? At that point he becomes no more important and have no more authority than a double-glazing salesman or peddlar of religious virtues. If he leaves quietly then fair enough, but another visit will probably occur. If does not leave and bangs on the door, shouts through the letterbox, etc., then he is then guilty of aggravated trespass. From what I can find ( a person is guilty of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on another's land and carries out any act with the intention of disrupting a lawful activity being carried out on or adjacent to that land. That, to me, describes the banging on the door situation exactly.

So, what happens next? The research I have done suggests: Not Much.

The visits may continue, but by not responding to such visits there is not a lot TVL can do. Warning (almost threatening) letters will also be sent, but they can be ignored.

There is a suggestion that only watching TV broadcasts that are not live (by using iPlayer on a computer, for example) does not require the viewer to hold a TV licence. The same is also said for broadcasts that originate wholly from a non-UK broadcaster and received by means of non-Sky satellite equipment. Has anybody tested this on court? If so, what was the outcome?

I would LOVE to know what the conclusion to all this is, especially as I have read of people who have not bought a licence for 10 years or more.

If you go with this I promise I will listen. However, it will need you to:
 - put your "BBC is sacrosanct" attitude to one side.
 - do some research.
 - report the truth.
 - back it up with real facts.
Reference web sites:
PS Sadly, I don't honestly expect you to take up this suggestion. Go on, prove me wrong.
PPS Sadly, I have a TV licence.


TV Licensing Blog said...

Good post, which summarises succinctly the problems TVL face with licence enforcement.
Would you mind if I reposted this on my blog?

Radio2LunchtimeLoather said...

Not at all, but please give my blog a mention!