Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Evils of the TV Licence

The TV licence is a necessary evil here in the UK. The law states you MUST have one if you watch live TV and also if you record live TV. But if you only watch "Catch-up" or "On Demand" TV, then you do not need a licence. (UPDATE: From September 1st, 2016, a TV licence is now required to watch BBC iPlayer "On-demand" programmes.) 

Earlier this year, we moved home and found ourselves watching an increasingly large amount of the Catch-up TV services. It was very rare for us to watch live TV at our previous address, where we held a TV licence. But we hadn't been at the current address for long either when we received a visit by another Capita official, DEMANDING that we bought a TV licence. Capita are the company responsible for enforcing this scourge up on us all.

We didn't think about it much at the time, but soon discovered that the TV licence was not necessary if you only ever watched the Catch-up services, and this is what we were doing virtually all the time. We phoned TV Licencing themselves and queried this and they confirmed this was indeed true and, without questioning, put us straight through to the Cancellations Department. They took our details and, a few days later, we received a letter of confirmation that we no longer required a TV licence.

Also, one of the conditions of having my Korner 9.2 installed on the roof here was that I took down the existing TV aerial, so we don't have any means to receive television signals anyway!

Now we move forward to November of this year, when my wife received a court summons due to us not having a TV licence. Unfortunately, our original covering letter which stated that we did not need a TV licence had been lost, so we attempted to get a new one. This resulted in several phone calls to TV Licencing and the various monkeys who work there. We were given all kinds of conflicting information, including one lady who told us that we DO need a licence for watching Catch-up TV. This is not true and we later verified this (again) with another representative from TV Licencing.

Now there are differing opinions across the land regarding the ups and downs of having a TV licence,. Is it worth it? Is it fair? It's interesting how I have only ever heard people singing its praises on BBC phone-in shows. Funny, that! Personally, I think it is about as close to being an extortion racket as it possibly can be. In the UK, the licence fee is classified as a tax and evasion is a criminal offence.

I am disgusted by the methods used by these Capita thugs when they visit your address. The methods they use to enforce the fee can be quite brutal at times, and not just on paper, though lately their tone of voice has been moderated somewhat. But I well remember the visit by a Capita official when we had just moved into our previous address. The representative, who would have passed as a 'bouncer' in any rough night club, simply said to me in a raised and threatening voice "YOU NEED A TV LICENCE AND YOU NEED TO MAKE A PAYMENT NOW!". I just closed the door in his face. No, we hadn't got a TV licence at that point, but reluctantly started paying for one in instalments shortly afterwards.

So, back to the present day and we have been waiting for TV Licencing to send us another confirmation letter so we can forward it to the courts. This took TWO WEEKS, far too late now to pass on to the courts, but it wouldn't have been accepted anyway. You'll realise why when you read what it says:

    Dear Mr Faulkner

    I can confirm that you don't need a TV licence at (address). Your TV licence is due to expire in
    2000 and we will send you a reminder next year.

    Yours sincerely

    (No signature)


So, we await the outcome of the court hearing. My wife, whose name is on the summons, is waiting to hear from the courts after pleading "Not Guilty". Let's hope common sense prevails.

February 24th 2017 Update:
Just looking back at this article and I can give a useful update.

I happen to know somebody who is a barrister and who deals with TV licence dodgers on a regular basis and I have learned some interesting and very useful information as a result. Please take note.

If you don't have a TV licence and ever have to go to court for non-payment, buy a TV licence prior to your court visit. Even is you have just paid for the first week of your licence, you will not be fined or punished in the courts. Your case will be thrown out. I must stress that this is how things are at the time of writing this update.

The outcome of my wife's summons was, as you might no imagine, quite predictable. We paid for a new licence the week before our court hearing. The judge at Grantham Magistrate's Court told us that no further action would be taken. He actually took us to one side and advised, very politely and sympathetically, that we should get a licence under any circumstances as it would save a lot of hassle in the future. Quite simply, the TV licence enforcers will not stop.

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