As regular readers will know, I frequently browse the internet looking for TV Licensing related articles and trivia. Every day someone has a new take on what the TV licence fee is, what it's for and how it's enforced.
Today we present our second installment in the "Rapid Fire" series of posts, where we endeavour to remove the mystique surrounding TV licence rules and regulations.
Before we begin you might find it useful to consult our earlier Rapid Fire post.
1. What happens if you don't have a TV licence?
Ans: TV Licensing, with their ever-expanding database of intrusive information, will know if your address is unlicensed. They will seek to establish the reason why by sending you a series of letters, dubbed threatograms, each one more menacing than the previous. As a genuine non-TV user you are not obliged to reply to these letters and we recommend you do not. Some people reply in the mistaken belief it will get TV Licensing off their back. It doesn't, so there's no point in wasting your time.
2. Do I need to let TV Licensing into my property?
Ans: Not unless they have a search warrant. You should only be concerned about this if you are actually using a TV without a licence.
Obtaining a search warrant, if done correctly (not always), requires TV Licensing to jump through certain legal hoops. It should be an action of last resort, when all reasonable attempts to visit the property voluntarily have been expended. For this reason they will never turn up with a warrant on a first visit.
3. What type of equipment do retailers need to notify TV Licensing about?
Ans: Retailers are legally obliged to inform the Licensing Authority, the BBC, of the sale or rental of all TV receiving or recording equipment. This includes things like TV sets, DVD recorders, Freeview or Sky boxes and computer TV tuner cards. It does not include DVD players, because they are unable to record live TV signals.
In practice a lot of retail staff are unsure of the law, so it's not uncommon for them to collect customer details when they sell DVD players, TV remote controls or even SCART leads. We have heard staff at Argos and Tesco are particularly ill-informed.
Retailers face a £1,000 fine for each piece of equipment they fail to notify to the Licensing Authority.
4. Could I refuse to give my details to shop staff when I buy TV equipment?
Ans: Yes, you could. However, they could equally refuse to sell you the equipment if you don't.
The legal onus is on the retailer to collect and report information to the Licensing Authority. There is no legal onus on the customer to provide the correct information. TV Licensing has admitted to using fake names and signatures on their correspondence for security reasons, so you are equally justified in doing the same at the point of sale. Remember that TV Licensing employs crooks who abuse people's personal information.
5. What are TV Licensing's detection methods?
Ans: The BBC point blank refuses to divulge information about TV Licensing's detection methods, because the information could help licence fee evaders.
Licence fee evaders are detected in three ways:
- They are caught in the act of watching or recording live broadcast TV programmes in an unlicensed property.
- They admit to watching or recording live broadcast TV programmes in an unlicensed property.
- A search of their unlicensed property reveals equipment installed and used for receiving or recording live broadcast TV programmes.
6. What about detector vans?
Ans: TV detector vans are an interesting topic. The BBC, very begrudgingly, has told us that they have never presented detector van evidence in court during the prosecution of an alleged licence fee evader. Furthermore, the BBC designs and manufactures all its own detection equipment, which it refuses to patent because in doing so they would reveal their secrets.
A lot of people have speculated that the BBC is scared of presenting detector van evidence in court because their technology would be open to public scrutiny and proven unreliable. Make no mistake that their detection technology wouldn't stand up to peer review, as confirmed by TV Licensing half wit Chris Christophorou in this statement.
7. What exactly does 97% confidence of a possible TV broadcast mean?
Ans: It is a meaningless value, concocted by TV Licensing to add credence to their spurious TV detector claims. I am 97% sure that I'll possibly be hit by lightning today.
8. Is a TV licence required for an iPod?
Ans: No. It is properties that are licensed and not equipment.
Just because you own equipment capable of receiving television programmes doesn't mean you need a TV licence. By the same token, just because you own a car doesn't mean you need a driving licence; just because you own a fishing rod doesn't mean you need a rod licence.
If you use any personal electronic equipment to watch or record live broadcast TV programmes then the property you're in should be correctly licensed. Remember that the TV licence of your usual residence will cover the use of battery powered equipment elsewhere.
9. Do licence fee evaders get sent to prison?
Ans: No. The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000, although we don't think anyone has ever been fined that much. The normal penalty is a fine of £100-150.
People can end up being sent to prison if they default on paying their TV licence fines.
10. Why is this blog encouraging people to break TV licence law?
Ans: We are not. We have been clear from the outset that any property where equipment is used to receive or record live broadcast TV programmes should be correctly licensed.
If you do not use TV receiving or recording equipment then TV Licensing has no business with you. In these cases you have the right to enjoy the comfort of your home without fear of intimidation and harassment by TV Licensing correspondence and employees.