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 third instalment 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. Is watching someone else's TV without a licence an offence?
Ans: Cracking question! We hadn't even considered that to be honest. The law requires that a licence is obtained for properties where equipment is installed or used to receive or record live broadcast TV programmes. Suppose you were left alone watching TV in someone else's property without a licence, then technically you would be committing an offence. In reality TV Licensing, anally retentive as they are, have a policy whereby they don't pursue visitors to an unlicensed property. Of course they don't always follow their own policies, but that's the chance you take.
2. Can TV Licensing trace the internet?
Ans: No, they can't. TV Licensing get good mileage out of people thinking their bells and whistles "detection equipment" can perform scientific miracles. The law is such that TV Licensing "special agents" can't tap into phone lines and monitor internet usage, although that's probably given them an idea for their next advertising campaign. The Internet Service Providers do not provide incriminating information about their customers to TV Licensing. The only way they could possibly detect online viewers is by catching them in the act, which will never happen if you take our sound advice to ignore TV Licensing completely.
3. What right do TV Licensing have to enter my home?
Ans: None at all, unless they have a search warrant. TV Licensing has no more right to contaminate your doorstep line of sight than any other peddlar of immoral wares. If you don't appreciate their visit simply say nothing, close the door and send them on their merry way. TV Licensing salespeople are notoriously economical with the truth. They are often that desperate to secure a sale they pretend to have the legal powers of a High Court Judge. They don't. It's all bull. They have no more legal authority than the gypsies that came around offering to sharpen your scissors last week. Indeed the gypsies are considerably more desirable! As for that oft-quoted search warrant threat, they need real solid evidence to get one of those.
4. Can I watch live BBC iPlayer programmes without a licence?
Ans: Legally speaking no. Practically speaking just click the "I have a TV licence" box and you're sorted. Not that we would encourage anyone to view illegally, but we're so not bothered if you do. Remember the TV Licensing Spetsnaz aren't tapping your internet connection, as they have no legal authority to do that. They have no legal authority to do much come to mention it.
5. How can I get a job with TV Licensing?
Ans: Mmm, right. Why would you want to? There are plenty of honest jobs out there if you look hard enough.
6. How long do you have to pay for a TV licence after they (TV Licensing) visit you?
Ans: An indefinite period. If you foolishly admit you've been viewing/recording live TV without a licence then it's probably a shrewd idea to buy one as soon as possible, although that's no guarantee they'll not prosecute. If TV Licensing have visited you on an unsuccessful "fishing trip" and have no more information then they arrived with, then don't feel compelled to get a licence. If you're legally licence free snubbing TV Licensing is positively encouraged.
7. When is your TV licence valid from?
Ans: It is valid from the first day of the month you purchased it. It expires on the last day of the previous calendar month the following year. Sounds gibberish, but makes sense if you read it slowly.
8. What happens if I stop paying my TV licence?
Ans: TV Licensing will realise within a few weeks and you'll be entered into their monthly prize draw. Each month you'll receive a letter saying what a wicked person you are for failing to subsidise the pensions of bloated BBC executives. They'll also threaten to send someone around to sell you some raffle tickets in person. Just ignore them, as you probably have a completely legitimate reason for not paying anyway. You are under no legal obligation to tell TV Licensing why you cancelled. You are under no legal obligation to communicate or co-operate with TV Licensing at all.
9. Whatever happened to Kevin Hamilton?
Ans: Who cares? In the bottom of Salford Quays? That would be quite apt actually!
10. How many complaints have been made about TV Licensing letters?
Ans: A lot. Too many for the BBC to keep abreast of, so it would seem. When we do find out, which is only a matter of time, you can be sure we'll write about it in great depth and with cutting sarcasm.