The Freedom of Information Act is becoming an increasingly important tool for probing the integrity of the BBC and TV Licensing.
Unfortunately the BBC, with it's vast army of otherwise unemployable lawyers, is pretty adept at dodging most potentially embarrassing questions fielded by members of the public. Unperturbed, I thought I'd try my hand at a new FOIA request on the subject of TV detection equipment.
It reads as follows:
"In previous FOI disclosures the BBC acknowledges the existence of TV detector vans and portable detection equipment.
"As this equipment is purchased with public funds, I believe the public has a valid interest in its effectiveness as an aid to the prosecution of TV licence evaders.
"Under the terms of the 2000 Act, please tell me whether or not evidence obtained by detector van/portable detection equipment has ever been presented in court during the prosecution of an alleged licence fee evader.
"In this case a simple yes or no answer will suffice."
I reasoned that the BBC could provide one of three possible responses:
1. Yes: Disclose that evidence from detection equipment has been presented in court: This option would contradict the idea that detector van evidence is a myth. It would reinforce the BBC's assertions that detection equipment was an effective weapon in the arsenal against licence fee evaders.
2. No: Disclose that evidence from detection equipment has never been presented in court: This option would reinforce the idea that detector van evidence is a myth. Such an admission would be severely damaging to the credibility of the BBC's TV detection equipment.
3. Refuse to provide the information under the "law enforcement" exemptions in the Act: This option would strongly reinforce the idea that detector van evidence is a myth. It is inconceivable that an organisation as boastful and arrogant as the BBC, who "rely on the public perception that detector vans could be used at any time to catch evaders" (their words), would pass up the opportunity to brag about the usefulness of detector evidence in court. Unless it hadn't been presented in court, because it was of no evidential value.
The request can be read in full here.
The response, or lack thereof, just arrived today.
The BBC took the third option of saying they had the information but refused to disclose it. Despite being afforded the perfect platform to reinforce the public perception of detector van effectiveness, they chose not to. That silence speaks volumes.
It would seem the effectiveness of detector van evidence really is a myth!