On an average working day TV Licensing sends around 100,000 reminder letters to unlicensed properties.
The BBC, as statutory Television Licensing Authority, is responsible for the wording and approval of each of these letters, more than 80% of which are destined for properties that do not legally require a TV licence.
The letters, which are daubed in accusatory red print and riddled with legal half-truths, have been widely criticised for their menacing tone.
The current Secretary of State for Culture, John Whittingdale MP, has previously described them in the following terms: "The tactics used by TV Licensing in their letters are intimidatory and cause genuine distress. Their records are not always correct, but they write letters that assume members of the public are criminals."
With opinions like that it's hardly surprising that some people make the mistake of contacting TV Licensing and declaring that they don't legally need a TV licence. In our experience, which was echoed by Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan only a few days ago, making any contact with TV Licensing is totally futile.
TV Licensing has a total inability to comprehend that anyone doesn't require a TV licence. In the deluded world of TV Licensing people fall into two categories: those that have a TV licence and those that should have one, but don't.
It is for that reason TV Licensing routinely visits properties where the occupier has made a No Licence Needed declaration.
Below, for educational purposes, we reproduce the following segment from chapter 3, section 4 of the TV Licensing Visiting Procedures. It explains how TV Licensing conducts these invasive confirmatory visits and tries to trip up the innocent occupiers of correctly unlicensed properties.
The section is reproduced verbatim; abysmal spelling, punctuation and grammar included; and red font denotes information usually withheld by the BBC.
Conducting No Licence Needed (NLN) / Unconfirmed No Set (UNS) Type Visits
4.0 These types of visit are normally produced following the householder having made a declaration that they do not require a licence; i.e. that they do not use any equipment to watch or record TV programs as they are being broadcast.
4.1 Following a householder making a NLN / No Set type of declaration they are sent a letter to acknowledge that this has been recorded and that a visit may take place to confirm the situation at their address.
4.2 EOs (Enquiry Officers) should be especially vigilant on approach to premises where a NLN / UNS type of visit is to be made for any possible signs that TV equipment may be being used; e.g. an aerial with a wire connect, a satellite dish, etc...
4.3 If contact is made with an appropriate person at the address the EO should explain that the purpose of the visit is to confirm the situation that no licence is still needed, as advised in the letter that will have been sent, and ask for permission to enter and inspect the premises to confirm that no TV equipment is being used.
4.4 If it is confirmed that no licence is needed then the procedure set out in Chapter 4, Section 3 of these instructions (No Licence Needed) is to be followed.
4.5 If evasion is found to be taking place then the procedure set out in Chapter 8 of these instructions (Taking a Prosecution Statement) is to be followed.
4.6 If access to the premises is refused and there is nothing to indicate that there may be TV equipment in use the EO should attempt to obtain the name of the person they are speaking to and submit a visit outcome of 9P (Confirmed Occupied) together with the standard close visit comment of 'N-S CLAIM I-R' (No-Set Claim Inspection-Refused).
4.7 If access to the premises is refused and there is some indication of unlicensed use of TV equipment, but the EO is not able to obtain at least two of the pieces of circumstantial evidence that are required to support a search warrant application (i.e. only one piece of such evidence has been obtained) then a visit outcome of 9X (Detection Visit Required) should be submitted.
When submitting a reply code 9X details of what was seen or heard to indicate there may be evasion at the address must be noted in the close visit comments; e.g. "Aerial", "Sat Dish", "TV heard", etc...
4.8 If access to inspect the premises is refused and the EO is able to obtain at least two pieces of the pieces of circumstantial evidence that are required to support a search warrant then the procedure set out in Chapter 16, Section 1 of these instructions (Requesting a Search Warrant) is to be followed.
4.9 If there is no response to the call then a specific NLN type of calling card should be left, as per Chapter 3, Section 5.5 of these instructions.
The take home message is that even if the occupier goes out of their way to assist TV Licensing - something that they're under no legal obligation to do - their No Licence Needed claim will be viewed with suspicion and they'll probably face further harassment.
For that reason, anyone who doesn't legally need a TV licence shouldn't be wasting time on TV Licensing. Simply ignore TV Licensing completely and keep the door firmly closed.
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