I had carried out quite intensive research on the legalities of not paying for a TV Licence. The wording on the main TV Licensing site and the Communications Act were confusing, contradictory especially when it came down to differentiating between a television and a digital device, but the bottom line was that if your television or VCR or any TV viewing device was not setup for watching a live broadcast, you didn’t need a licence.
The other sinister aspect of TV Licensing, which I discovered later was the brand mark of the BBC created in order to disassociate themselves from the rather more unpalatable side of the licensing business, was the whole mythos of the TV Detector Van, the monthly Threatogram, the Licence Enforcement Officers and of course, the fabled and much dreaded Search Warrant.
The TV Detector Van
Simply put, there are around 25 empty vans in the UK with the TV Licensing logo on them but they do not contain any detection equipment, apart from an overweight bored bloke with a pair of binoculars and the latest crossword. They are purely visual deterrents. Start of the college year? Aggressive leaflet drop, send out the TV Licensing van and watch the students clamber over themselves to purchase TV licences, sometimes unnecessarily as watching live broadcast on a laptop on batteries while your parents have a licence means you don’t need one. A cheap and very effective way of increasing revenue.
To date, there have been zero prosecutions in court pertained from so called TV Detector equipment evidence.
Every day, Capita Business Services Ltd send out thousands of automated printed letters to unregistered addresses to “The Legal Occupier” with various degrees of threats and various shades of red ink. On first opening one of these Threatograms, you think tomorrow the door is going to be kicked down, your Auntie Flo banged up in the nick, followed very soon by you, your wife and your kids getting a serious going over by the beak. Soundbites such as “what to expect in court”, “£1,000 fine”, “you could be breaking the law” are sprinkled liberally over these insidious letters because in the BBC’s world, you are indeed guilty before you can prove your innocence.
On closer inspection, these threats are often interspersed with words such as “might, could, possibly, perhaps, maybe” and once you realise they are simply faux threats, you can do what everyone else in receipt of these Threatograms does – bin them without opening them. They cycle in threat level from a stern warning to setting up an inspection to what to expect in court and then back again.
The TV Licensing Enforcement Officer
As I briefly mentioned earlier, the TV Licensing brand is outsourced to Capita Business Services Ltd, a private limited company. They have an army of TV Licence Enforcement Officers patrolling the streets of the UK, sniffing out the lawbreakers, banging on doors, and shoving their clipboard and forms in front of people’s noses, barging their way in to our homes, as they like to tell us in their threatening little TV and radio adverts.
In reality, despite their grossly inflated job title, they are simply salesmen on a £20 commission for every TV Licence they can get the householder to sign up for. They have no right to enter your house, you are under no obligation to talk to them and certainly no legally binding reason to sign their 178 form. Their perceived power is given unto them by our inherent subservient nature to authority. As these people are commission based and the returns are so slim they have often resorted to, in some cases, criminal behaviour in the pursuit for their commission so these Goons, as they are colloquially known amongst the Legally Licensed Free (LLF) community, cannot be trusted.
All you do is if on the rare chance a Goon appears outside your door and you ask who he or she is, simply close the door when they say “I’m from TV Licensing”. Treat them like vampires. They are powerless and can’t do any harm to you unless you invite them in. That’s all.
The Search Warrant
Nothing strikes more fear into someone that is contemplating going LLF than the spectre of the dreaded Search Warrant. It’s the BBC’s ultimate doomsday weapon, their version of threatening the little people into obedience by waving the potential of jail over their heads. Stories of police officers breaking down doors, people getting arrested and jailed for evading and doctoring evidence to prosecute potential offenders. All of it not true, of course, apart from the last point – TV Licensing did try to doctor evidence in court (by photoshopping a so called live picture on a TV screen) – it was thrown out of court in the end. People also do not go to jail for licence fee evading, only for refusing to pay the fine, which is normally a few hundred pounds rather than thousands. Also, you will not receive a criminal record as it’s not a recordable offence.
Search Warrants are only used when Capita Business Services Ltd cannot get access to the house, perhaps the owner has put a WOIRA in place (Withdrawal of Implied Right of Access – this is a legal notice placed outside your door or sent to TV Licensing to prevent them from accessing your property – failure to adhere to the notice enables you to take them to court for civil trespass). It is not recommended you place WOIRAs on your property as this can give the excuse to Capita that it cannot access your property and make the Search Warrant a little more likely.
Capita will also have to have significant evidence that you are watching live broadcast without a licence and submit this to the courts in order for the Search Warrant to be raised. Normally this is easier to carry out if the householder was silly enough to sign anything that was proffered by the Capita salesman, or the householder let the salesman in so he could potentially fabricate the truth about your TV setup. As a note of interest, it is perjury to lie to the Court in order to obtain a warrant.
Having said that, the chances of being on the receiving end of a Search Warrant are so remote as to not be of any concern to anyone that is LLF. The BBC recently let slip the number of Search Warrants issued in the last year (2015): –
So for the 108 Search Warrants that were executed, only 93 were successful. A very insignificant number and only for those householders that made it easier for Capita to exploit.
Which leads us onto the most pertinent point and the best advice for becoming LLF which is to obey one rule and one rule only: no contact.
Don’t be a smartarse on the doorstep, don’t argue with the salesmen, don’t be rude, don’t threaten them, don’t phone up TV Licensing and shout at them about the Threatograms.
Ignore the letters, and just follow the rule: no contact. Save £145.50/year and make it one step closer to cutting down the BBC’s size and political influence.
Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs ©