Sunday, 18 October 2009

I Don't Have a Television.

Visitors to this site from outside the U.K. may find it amusing and bizarre that in Britain, we are required to have a licence to watch television. (Not to own one, it's the USE of a television that is licenced, but retailers are REQUIRED BY LAW to inform TV Licensing of all purchases. )
Currently, a colour tv licence costs £142:50, ($233.o45), a black and white TV licence (when did you last see a b&w tv?) costs £48:00 per annum.
Historically, this was born when the British Broadcasting Corporation began broadcasting, as a means of funding it by its users, let's call it a radio tax.
It was called, then, a "Wireless Licence", it permitted the holder to operate "A Wireless Receiving Station", and it cost ten shillings, for a year.
(In 1920, for a skilled craftsman in the building trade, that was about half a day's wage.)
After 1971, the wireless licence was discontinued, and the Television licence took over as the main source of the BBC's income. All the activities of the BBC were so funded, except the BBC World Service, which received separate funding.
The BBC carried no commercial advertising whatsoever, which is often incomprehensible to foreigners, used to a commercial break every few minutes. BBC productions run uninterrupted, a fact of which I greatly approve. However, the beeb does advertise itself, upcoming programming, dvds, radio programs etc.
If I used only a satellite-dish connected TV to watch programs from Outer Mongolia, I would still require a licence.
If I view broadcast television on a computer monitor, laptop, or cellphone, I would require a licence.
It ignores the fact that the BBC is no longer the only game in town, and the requirement to have a TV licence is in no way reduced if you watch only commercial channels.

However, I have no TV, I don't watch any device amounting to a TV at home, I do see it at other people's houses, and at no point do I get any yearning to have one myself. I can go to my mother's house, flick through a huge number of channels and find nothing whatsoever that I want to watch.
I like some of the discovery channel, history channel, I like Top Gear, a quirky motoring show, I like Scrapheap Challenge, I like engineering, and history, and especially both combined.
But I have no interest in soap opera, reality TV contests, people who think they have talent, awards shows, tv sport, Yaaaaaaawn!
So I have no TV.
The TV Licensing Authority, which sounds quite governmental, but in reality is a trademarked name owned and operated by the BBC, cannot comprehend that there are people who choose not to have televisions. I admit, I had one, for years, I unplugged it whilst decorating, and it sat there gathering dust for several years, so I gave it away.

To the TVLA, any address without a TV licence is suspect, and it harasses the occupants with threatening letters, says it's sending enforcement officers, will apply for a warrant to enter and search... It assumes guilt, contrary to the principles of the law of the land. I just received one of their threatening missives, having already told them I do not have a TV, so I went to the BBC's website, found the complaints procedure and sent this:-

*I received, recently, a notice from TV licensing which implied that by not having a TV licence, I was probably guilty of an offence.
I found this notice to be threatening in tone, containing implied threats.

Why am I writing to the BBC? because TV Licensing IS the BBC.

I quote:- "TV Licensing" is a trade mark of the BBC and is used under licence by companies contracted by the BBC to administer the collection of television licence fees and enforcement of the television licensing system. The majority of administration is contracted to Capita Business Services Ltd, with cash related payment schemes contracted to Revenues Management Services Ltd. Over-the-counter services are contracted to PayPoint Plc. Marketing and public relations activities are contracted to the AMV Consortium. This consortium is made up of the following four companies: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Ltd, Fishburn Hedges Boys Williams Ltd, PHD Media Ltd and Proximity London Ltd. The BBC is a public authority in respect of its television licensing functions and retains overall responsibility."

I do not have a television, I do not watch or record broadcast TV.
I have told TV licensing this, in the past. However, their assumption appears to be that all homes (and workplaces) must have a licence, as they cannot comprehend that there are sectors of the populace who have no interest in watching TV.
In continuation of this delusion, even after I have told them I do not have a television, nor do I watch or record broadcast TV, they have told me that they may send an enforcement officer to search my home.
This threatening behaviour runs contrary to the principles of United Kingdom law.

I do not have a pilot's licence. At no point has the civil aviation authority contacted me to demand proof that I do not need one, and at no point have they threatened to search my home for a hidden clandestine jumbo-jet.

At this point, I hereby inform the BBC that any implied consent to access by its employees or assignees to visit my home is withdrawn as of the moment of sending this email.
Any further threatening letters will be taken to be harassment.

If you think you have evidence that disproves my statement that I do not watch TV at this address, you are free to lay that evidence before a court.

I suggest you reply to me that you are apologetic for the actions of your (the BBC's) assignees, and will cease, immediately, implying that I am guilty of the offence of watching or receiving broadcast television without a licence.

If at some point in the future, I decide to embrace the cornucopia of riches that is TV, I will purchase a licence, thus informing you of my change of heart.

Until that point, my declaration stands. I do not have a TV licence, because I do not need a TV licence."

Update (not an unexpected sort of response):-

"Dear Mr ******
Thanks for your e-mail regarding the TV Licence.

This department, unfortunately, only can deal with queries and complaints about the Licence Fee when they're related to how we choose to spend it on programmes and services.
To proceed with your complaints you will need to contact TV licensing direct. They can be contacted by writing to:
Customer Relations
TV Licensing
BS98 1TL

You may also find their website of interest.
(The BBC isn't responsible for the content of external websites)
I'd like to take this opportunity however, to assure you that I've recorded your comments onto our audience log. This is an internal daily report of audience feedback which is circulated to many BBC staff including senior management, producers and channel controllers.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us with your concerns.

**** *******
BBC Complaints".

"Our TV detector vans are equipped with state-of-the-art detection equipment which can tell in just 20 seconds whether you are using TV.

How do the detector vans work?
Our vans feature a range of detection tools. Some aspects of the equipment have been developed in such secrecy that engineers working on specific detection methods work in isolation, so not even they know how the other detection methods work. This gives us the best chance of catching licence evaders.

What if you can't get close enough to detect my TV from your van? -
Our Enforcement Officers may use a hand-held detection device instead. This measures both the direction and the strength of a TV signal, making it easy for us to locate TV receiving equipment in even the hardest to reach places."

This technology is so secret that the BBC refuse to disclose it, and just how many detector vans they actually have. Some people believe it's all a bluff, and the vans are really empty. Nobody seems to be able to find ANY case of anyone being prosecuted using detector van evidence.
The vans seem to get parked in town car parks and supermarkets as a high visibility reminder that big brother is watching us.
It's probable that the real humans just look for the tell-tale blueish flickering light from unlicensed adresses, then march up to the door and say "Gotcha!". In my case, I might be watching a dvd or a youtube. .

Here's a good quote from their own website:-
"An Enforcement Officer knocked on the door of a suspected evader and asked if he had a TV, to which the owner said he did not.
The officer then asked, "Well then, why have you got a satellite dish on the outside of your house?"
The man looked down and said with a grin, "I have two pints of milk on my doorstep, son, but I don't have a cow in the garden!"


  1. hi soubriquet, amazing that they can still charge and receive the license fee at all. i believe tv to be second only to religion as the root of all of humankind's problems. i do own one but only have 6 channels. in america, not having cable tv or satellite tv is inconceivable to practically everyone. i was on the phone with an at&t customer service rep once who tried to upsell me on a package including internet, phone and tv and when i mentioned that i didn't have cable or satellite, she laughed and i'm certain i never convinced her that i was telling the truth. aside from public tv, the rest is drivel and the public tv's coverage of politics and environmental issues only makes my blood boil. as good as it might be at it's best, it cannot compare with a rip roarin' game of scrabble.

  2. I get my internet provider and others trying to sell me a TV, Internet, Telephone package. I point out that I already have a little telephone in my pocket, why would I want a dead-technology home-phone tied to a place?
    As for the TV. Bleh!

    My brother and his girlfriend were up this weekend, other brother came over too, to my mother's house, and we had some great scrabble bouts!
    Full of argumentifying, challenges and bluffing.
    I tried a couple of fake words, they caught me on the first, but swallowed my fictitious definition for the second one... In return, I had to let April get away with a latin term that I'm pretty sure should be disallowed....
    We had a good time, a lot of laughs, and a fair bit of brain-exercise.
    Qorma. On a triple word score.

  3. This sounds like a Monty Python skit.
    Had no idea!


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