Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Jobsworths at TV Licencing

Readers of Charles Moore's Spectator column will be familiar with the TV Licencing authorities. He will be glad to know that he has just recruited someone else to the cause. Me. Just before Christmas I bought a new TV for my bedroom, which also doubles as my office. A few days ago I received a very rude letter from TV Licensing telling me they had no record of me buying a licence at my address and what was I going to do about it? They said that unless I could prove my address had a licence they would take me to court. Excuse me? Do they not have a computer? It would tell them, if they bothered to look, that my house does indeed have a valid licence.

I have absolutely no intention of cooperating with their petty bureaucracies, which only serve to protect jobs which should never exist in the first place. It's not up to me to prove my house has a licence. It's up to them to prove it doesn't. They might find that a tad difficult.

46 comments:

Cicero said...

After several rude letters of this type, the detector van called. It was with something close to glee that I saw his face fall when i pulled out the valid document....

Not got a licence said...

Iain,

I believe the letter probably comes from Crapita. If you really want to annoy them, when they knock at the door, just tell them to go away, apart from that say nothing.

I'm sure others will explain the details, watch out though because apparently they can get violent.

Good Luck

PS I don't have one!

Johnny Norfolk said...

If we have to have the BBC. I thought that years ago the licence collecting should be scrapped. Why a grant is just not given to the BBC, then all the cost of issuing and collecting would be saved.





We have a ruined castle next door to us a local man purchased the site to make it into a nature reserve. He was asked to purchase a TV licence and they would not beleive him that it was ruined castle that had not beeb inhabited since the 13th centuary, it took him months to sort it out.

So good luck Iain.

Sceptical Steve said...

Ian

If you ever tire of staring into Simon Heffer's eyes, I recommend that you visit www.bbctvlicence.com
to get a feel for your future correspondence. (If you haven't seen it before, it's hugely entertaining.)

I wonder how much of the BBC's £3.2billion budget is devoted to the writing of threatening letters?

Jonathan Rothwell said...

If you refuse to co-operate with them because 'you've got a license and that's that', then it will sound suspicious to them. Rather like a twelve-year-old saying 'I don't need to turn out my pockets cos I didnt nick that phone it was Shelly K who did it so there!"

However, 'losing' a license is impossible. One assumes that TV Licensing must have forgotten to ask the computer.

Andrew Allison said...

I agree, Iain. I hardly ever watch or listen to the BBC and I'm sure I am not alone. What value do I and others get then?

dehautenbas said...

There's no valid reason for the telly tax anyway. It buys us Jonathan Woss and Graham Norton to addle the brains of the plebs ready for the pinko propaganda machine that masquerades as news and documentaries. It's time we had a campaign of mass non-payment of this ludicrous tax and that a party which believed in fairness actually committed to abolishing it altogether. Is there one out there?

molesworth 1 said...

As with all agencies of the state, their watchword is incompetence. But there is another reason why this bunch of jobsworths are running scared.
I heard on the radio the other day (R4, sorry can't remember the programme) someone from the TV Licence Stasi answering a listeners enquiry as to whether someone who watched Internet TV on a PC needed a TV Licence... and, apparently, they would only need one if they were watching something over the internet at the same time as it was being broadcast over the airwaves, otherwise not. And that would be rather hard to prove, would it not?
Given your nascent InternetTV career you might like to keep your eyes peeled for any proposed legislation that would seek to close this 'loophole'. It seems the BBC might just have shot themselves in the foot with the launch of their iPlayer ("Now the unmissable is Free. Oh bugger..!"). Hem-hem

Pete Chown said...

For a long time I didn't have a television, and they kept visiting and asking to come in and look round. Of course they have no right to come in unless they get a search warrant, but just like anyone else, they can come to the door and ask. There is an implied permission from property owners, for visitors to approach the front door and state their business.

I eventually wrote them a letter. I said I was withdrawing the implied permission which allowed them to come to my front door. After that I never saw them again. I doubt I would have bothered suing for trespass, but apparently they didn't want to give me the excuse.

Ted said...

I own a nice plot of land opposite my house - its a garden, greenhouse & garage. I regularly get threatened by the TV Licensing people. Ignore them and they go away (until next time).

dodger said...

Just a thought, but one wonders whether Capita Business Services Ltd (aka "TV Licensing") are quite so zealous in their pursuit of licence fee income in the Labour strongholds in t'north?

I am inclined to doubt that they are. And it's such a popular tax, is it not? Just suppose it could be proven that this is an optional tax for many Labour voters.

Anonymous said...

the reason for that old chap is that the place you bought your tv asked for your address. they then send out these letters as a matter of course......the retailers are compelled by law to give your details to the tv licence people.

the govt are intent on controlling (read taxing) every aspect of your life.

Geoff said...

I'm sure I read an article in the Telegraph a few years ago about them sending a nasty letter to a ruined castle which hadn't been occupied for a few hundred years.

Oh well. The sooner we privatise them and abolish the telly-tax the better.

Alex said...

You think thats bad? Imagine what it is like if you don't have a TV license (because you bon't have a TV). Life would be blissful but for the obnoxious letters that arrive every month until we respond. After about 2 years grace they start again. Never seen a TV detector van though.

bj said...

It's a system which is coming close to being dangerously embarrassing, in my opinion. There have been several letters about it in the BBC in-house rag, Ariel, and on the corporation's internal web forum.

The BBC is responsible for collecting licence fees but contracts the job out to several companies, which are all allowed to brand themselves "Tv Licensing" as part of the deal.

So you could be dealing with soemone very respectable, or you could be dealing with some retired debt-collector-thugs on commission. No-one knows.

A BBC colleague whose partner built an office for her business in their garden was harassed for months by these people. She didn't have a telly in there, and she kept telling them so.

Unsworth said...

Well what they do when you confront them is deny that you have a licence. Then they back down to saying 'Oh, sorry about that, it's just a standard letter we send out. Just ignore it'. Just effing ignore it, eh? Why are they wasting my time and everyone's money on this bollox?

Idiots.

How many people do they want to antagonise? But then again it makes not the slightest difference to them at all.

MrChippy said...

It's not just me then that's having continuous hassle with the TV licencing dumbos. I have been renovating a cottage for the past couple of years, inherited as completely unhabitable and paying FULL council tax on it. Every couple of weeks a letter arrives from TV licencing. Phrases such as WILFULLY EVADING and INTERVIEWED UNDER CAUTION are used.I've written and phoned to explain the situation, even had my MP intervene, but all to no avail.Despite a visit from a TV Licencing Officer the letters still arrive. I just put them straight in the bin now.

Anonymous said...

Amusingly in the Channel Islands they don't have TV Detector vans. They only visit Jersey for a couple of weeks a year, and the Jersey Evening Post helpfully puts in an article to say that they are due in as from the following Monday (or whatever).

My friends across there inform me that everyone who hasn't got a license (most of them) promptly spend two weeks propping up a bar and watching TV there instead of waiting for a knock on the door at home.

Mind you, if you've ever listened to Radio Jersey or watched Channel Report then you'd know exactly why nobody pays.

canvas said...

The BBC TV license is an outdated idea. It's another poor man's tax. The BBC should be by subscription - or they should get ads. Its days are numbered.

Anonymous said...

I have been through all this as well. My flat was being renovated for a year, and I told the licence people that I wouldn't renew my licence until the flat was furnished and I had a TV again. The abusive letters kept coming. I told them that their detector people ("who are operating in your area now") could call in at any time they liked, and the workmen would show them round the flat so they could see it was empty; but they never called. When the work was finished I bought a new TV and licence, but the letters kept coming: "We have no record of a licence at your address etc." I told them it was not my fault if their records were inaccurate. Strangely enough, the licencing people were very sympathetic whenever I rang them up. They told me that there was nothing they could do to stop the letters, and I should just throw them away. Some months later, the system finally realised that I had a licence, and the letters stopped coming.

The irony is that I work unusual hours and am not at home during normal broadcasting hours. So I only watch DVDs.

Ross said...

I have been dodging the TV licence for years. The two important things to remember are:

- TV Detector vans are a hoax, they will not catch you watching television.

- Licence inspectors have absolutely zero authority to enter your house so if they come round tell them to get lost.

Edward said...

Iain - do you not mean 'Charles Moore's Spectator column'?

Anonymous said...

They send them to every student at my college in Oxford. It's totally ineffective because, as a result of doing this, everyone knows they're not serious.

Anonymous said...

You should say nothing and let the bbc produce a search warrant. Bet a licence fee they don`t.

Liz said...

Is there actually such a thing as a detector van (as opposed to a van with a Licensing Authority man inside who's looking at your roof to see whether you have an aerial)? I've certainly never seen one outside the 'we're going to send you to prison' ads, and I'd always assumed that they were made up to scare people into compliance.

jailhouselawyer said...

After I beat the TV Licensing Authority in court, they sent two more threatening letters before the enforcers arrived. I immediately ordered them off the property, told them to wait for two minutes whilst I printed off the court judgment and gave it to them. They said that they was not aware of this. I informed them that that was their problem, and to go away and stop bothering me or face legal action. When they left they said I would not get bothered again for at least 2 years. In effect, they gave me 2 years free viewing.

There is a way around it.

As you say, Iain, the onus is upon them to prove it and not you to prove your innocence.

Womble On Tour said...

Good on you, Iain, take the bastards on !

Good luck.

Curbishlyauto said...

the retailers are compelled by law to give your details to the tv licence people.

So what happens if you buy a TV with cash and refuse to give your Name and Address? Does the shop refuse to sell to you?

How about if you pay by cash and give a false name and address? Does the shop demand you give some form of ID?

I'm thinking of getting a new HD so I might just see what happens.

dadge said...

What's current Tory policy? I might vote Tory if you promise to scrap the TV Licence. Replace it with a 50-50 mix of grant and advertising.

young pretender said...

As someone who never owned a TV until four months ago, and still has no aerial or licence, I have always found that - on receipt of the rude form - writing 'suck my cock' beneath the red line that says "Do not write beneath this line" wards off the jobs-worth, know-it-all inspectors in the same way that an orange pippin does with the GP. It's not perfect, but it's better than an orange (no Milligan jokes, please, Mr Paddick).

Failing that, you're under no obligation to let them in. And as every house in London has been converted into flats, their handheld detectors are useless.

Best of all, you can buy 24 on DVD.

charlie root said...

So do those protected 'jobs which should never exist in the first place' include your smug (and presumably paid) appearances on News 24, Dale?

If not, I'd say one is being a little bit hypocritical (again), wouldn't you?

Iain Dale said...

Er no, I wouldn't actually.

I was referring to the TV licencing people, not the BBC.

The licence system is out of date. Most people agree that it will be abolished in the next charter renewal.

Mike Rouse said...

I predict that at the next Charter Review the licence will be abolished anyway.

Mike Rouse said...

Urm. You read my mind again.

Twig said...

dehautenbas 15/1/08 6:46pm
It's time we had a campaign of mass non-payment of this ludicrous tax...


The BBC has not honoured the terms of it's charter and therefore has no right to the license fee, I will therefore join the boycott. The BBC will not get another penny piece from me to subsidise their leftie friends such as The Guardian and Piers Moron . It's time the BBC luvvies felt the chill wind of reality.

William Gruff said...

I get a letter a fortnight from TVLA and have done so for most of the past seventeen years. The only breaks are the periods between my moving into a new property and the transfer of the previous occupant's licence. After about six months they usually manage to discover my name and I am no longer just 'The Occupier'.

The letters range from 'we have no record of a licence at your address' through 'Enforcement Officers will call to take a statement under caution' to 'Final Notice', printed in red across the envelope, 'you must take action now to avoid prosecution', and rubbish of that sort. I have been threatened with search warrants on my doorstep, yet I have never owned a television set and do not watch it, even when staying in hotels.

Dealing with the sad Stasi 'wannabes' who occasionally call to ask impertinent questions is easy but one day, in The Tartan McReich's F├╝hrer’s nasty, intolerant and imploding little banana republic, they just might have the power of entry without a warrant. I think I shall probably acquire a criminal record when that day comes.

In McBraun's 'Br*tain of the nations and regions' those who are not bureaucrats are criminals.

dadge said...

1. On what do you base your confidence that the licence will be scrapped at the next review? At the last review anti-licence opinion was ignored and I have no faith that next time will be any different.

2. You rich guys with your chests out so proud of yourselves for dodging the licence, get off your smug backsides and campaign for the release of the women in jail for said "crime".

jus' passin' thru said...

So Jailhouse thinks he's clever by getting away with paying a legitimate licence fee that is paid by most.

Rehabilitation of criminals? Don't make me laugh.

It's a wonder that the unrepentant and remorseless killer didn't take his axe to them.

Anonymous said...

A true story.

A relation of mine works at Clarence House. He bought a TV and had it delivered to CH so he could put it in his car and drive it home.

A couple of weeks later he received a letter from the TV nazis addressed to 'Flat 1, Clarence House. I saw it with my own eyes. A completely made-up address.

When you buy a TV, your address and the delivery address is sent directly to TV licencing.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Somebody should prosecute these boys for demanding with menaces, unlawful harrassment, malicious prosecution, breach of human rights, etc. etc. But I suppose that would be very cumbersome expensive and uncertain. On balance young pretender's (10.12] solution (writing something offensive below the red line) seems the best.

I suspect the European Commission has adopted that approach with Gordon Brown's red lines.

Steve_Roberts said...

When I was looking after an empty house for the estate of a deceased relative, TV licensing was the only body - out of dozens - which never stopped sending mail (actually threatening mail) despite everything being returned to sender marked "addressee deceased".

This tax is even more certain than death

Anonymous said...

Iain Dale said...

"The licence system is out of date. Most people agree that it will be abolished in the next charter renewal."

Oh yeah? Since when?

dadge said...

"What's current Tory policy?"

Make a few noises intended to suggest the licence would be abolished, and then carry on as usual once elected.

V said...

The TV tax is mainly a tax on the poor single mum - and that is who ends up in court.
Figures only show that 20 a year end up in jail, but a good 250k end up in court - just for that the tv tax should be abolished.

So, if you abolish the BBC and the TV Tax you would remove the strain on the court system which would help everyone else - now that is a Tory policy worth pushing!

Anonymous said...

Sadly a common experience.

It reminds me of last year in rented property when I received a letter addressed to "The Occupier". It told me that an unknown person (who turned out to be the previous renter) had a car registered to my address that had incurred late speeding fines. I would be responsible for the fines unless I proved that I had nothing to do with the car. I actually telephoned and was told I would have to write. Of course I did no such thing and ignored all furture letters.

JuliaM said...

"You rich guys with your chests out so proud of yourselves for dodging the licence, get off your smug backsides and campaign for the release of the women in jail for said "crime"."

Only the women? Any men in jail can just rot there, can they...?

"So what happens if you buy a TV with cash and refuse to give your Name and Address? Does the shop refuse to sell to you?"

Yes, it will undoubtedly be 'against their store policy' not to take an address. I doubt they have the means or inclination to check it's a valid address though, if you pay cash...

Adrian Yalland said...

Iain, you forget that in this New Labour Britain, we are guilty of everything until we can prove our innocence.

Just look how the law is (mis)used to seize funds from people who simply cannot prove that the money was earned legally.

In other words, plod turns up, says 'ello ello - whats all this cash then', and seizes it.

Rather than plod proving the money is dodgy, the person has to prove (to a magistrate - who is mostly untrained and usually swayed by plod) that the money is legit. Most cases fail - and the money goes to the treasury!

This law was designed to seize drug money. Instead, it is being utterly misused. It was recently used to seize £20,000 of cash from a friend's house after he was raided on suspicion of handling stolen goods (a lap top he purchased which he didn't know was nicked). Despite being cleared of the charges at crown court, he never got the money back - even though his daughter produced evidence that she had recently paid her father back £10,000 for a loan she borrowed previously, that he had recently sold a car for £7,000 (again proven through DVLA) - and till receipts from his shop for the other £3,000!

The police argued that anyone having £20,000 in cash simply has to be suspicious.

The man had no previous convictions.

Essentially, the police were saying that dealing in cash or having large sums of cash will instantly arouse suspision, and that if someone cannot prove that the cash is legit, they can size it without having to prove it isn't.

Be warned people!

Where is the public uproar over this latest assualt on our right to property. How badly do our liberties have to be eroded before we say 'enough'.