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Monday, 11 July 2011

TVL Mouthpiece Mark Whitehouse on Stuart Linnell Show

TV Licensing propaganda merchant Mark Whitehouse featured on BBC Radio Northampton's Stuart Linnell show on 4th July 2011.

Whitehouse works for TV Licensing Midlands PR contractor Clarke Associates, who make a living by putting a positive spin on everything related to the TV licence.

Here's a transcript of everything he had to say:

Stuart Linnell (SL): It’s 1:22 pm. Mark Whitehouse is a regional spokesman for TV Licensing, joins us on the line. Hello Mark.

Mark Whitehouse (MW): Stuart, good afternoon.

SL: TV Licensing is something that can be a bit of a controversial topic sometimes, but it’s something we pay for to make sure that the BBC is paid for at the end of the day, I suppose. But people do need a licence in what circumstances Mark?

MW: Well the law is very simple and very clear Stuart. If you’re going to be watching or recording programmes as they’re being shown on TV then you do need to be correctly licensed.

Now, you’ll know that people’s chosen preference in terms of viewing has changed over the years. I can still remember huddling around the colour set, our first colour set we had as kids in the 1970s, watching the World Cup.

SL: Mark, Mark, Mark – I can remember huddling around a black & white set, never mind colour.

MW: Ahh, there you are. Interesting you say that actually, because you’ll know that there are still quite a few in force. Around 20,500 black & white licences in force right across the UK. Some people just simply still prefer that method of watching even though they can watch now on mobiles, hand-helds, watch in 3D, what have you.

SL: And if I am watching on a mobile, on an iPad, on a laptop or whatever do I still need a licence?

MW: Well, however people watch TV they require a licence if they’re watching programmes as they’re being broadcast. Now, around 97% of homes have TV Stuart. The vast majority of those are correctly licensed, so they will be covered for watching online or watching on mobile by their existing licence.

The vast majority of people continue to watch TV on a TV set. We did some research earlier this year that says that despite the fact that people can now watch in many different ways people still prefer, at the end of a long day’s work or at the end of a long day’s school or university, to kick back and watch TV from the sofa with their family in the traditional way.

SL: So you say that if you’re watching a programme and you’re watching it as it is being broadcast then you need a licence? In what circumstances would you not need a licence then?

MW: Well, for instance if you’re watching purely on catch-up, so say you’re downloading an episode of Eastenders and you’re watching that at a later date or you’re watching a programme that can be downloaded at a later date, then you wouldn’t need to be licensed if you were only watching programmes at a later date.

Now, you’ll know that people watch on laptops, watch on PCs. Now, part of the work that we do is encouraging businesses to make sure that they’re correctly licensed for instance, because if people are going to be watching, as they have been doing, the Wimbledon fortnight over the last couple of weeks or forthcoming British Grand Prix or what have you then we just need to make sure that people enjoy their TV and they don’t run the risk of not having a licence when they need one.

SL: And if you are a business, we’ve recently spoken to hairdressers about their PRS and PPL licences to play music, if you are a business with television on in your hairdresser’s salon or your dentist’s surgery or whatever it happens to be, because let’s face it they are businesses just the same as anybody else, do you need PRS and PPL licences as well as your TV licence?

MW: No. You just need a TV licence in those circumstances. Once again the law’s very clear in terms of businesses. There are some nuances, some differences in how businesses set up and I would encourage people if they do have specific questions Stuart to visit us at www.tvlicensing.co.uk. We’ve got a whole section there in terms of questions and answers, because as you’d imagine people do ask us many weird and wonderful questions around their obligations in terms of the TV licence.

SL: And if you want to ask Mark a question while he’s on with us: 01604 234455. We’ve only got him for a couple more minutes so be quick if you want to ask him a question about TV Licensing. You can send it by text if you want to 81333, put “North” in front of you message. The number is 01604 234455.

We had one in earlier from somebody who asked us Mark if they had a TV licence and they normally watch their television programmes on, let’s say an iPad, so it’s a mobile device, and they go to somebody else’s house, and that somebody else does not have a TV licence, are they covered because they do?

MW: If they’re only watching it powered by battery Stuart then they would be covered from their home address. When they plug it in at that other premises, and people would usually have to plug them in to watch them for any length of time, then that premises would need to be licensed.”

SL: Right. So, so that’s interesting. So, in other words, person X has an iPad or a mobile phone and they watch their television programmes as broadcast on that and they have a licence. They go to somebody else’s house and the minute that they plug into the mains then that house needs a licence?

MW: That’s correct and we do want people to be very clear and to understand what their obligations are, and we want people to genuinely enjoy what they’re watching and not have to worry about what they’re watching or whether or not they are correctly licensed. The law’s very simple and clear, but yes if you’re watching for any period of time on an iPad for instance you would generally need to plug the device in. If you’re plugging it in in a premises that is not licensed then you do need to make sure what all the circumstances are and if the premises isn’t licensed then you could be in for a fine.

SL: Why the difference then Mark in that? What is the difference between watching it off its own battery power or plugging it into the mains?

MW: Well again, it’s watching it for any period of time. People would tend to have to plug in a device such as an iPad, as you say, to watch it for any period of time. We just want people to be clear in terms of their obligations and if they are watching or recording programmes as they are being shown on the telly then they do need to be correctly licensed.

SL: Okay, and if someone says look I don’t need a licence because I only ever watch programmes on a catch-up service, as you say, recorded, I’m not watching them at the moment they’re being broadcast, how can you prove that one way or the other?

MW: We do have a database of 30 million addresses across the UK and we do have the latest technology at our disposal in terms of finding out whether or not people are correctly licensed. We have enquiry officers, we have detector vans out there on the streets of the East Midlands and Northamptonshire and again if people are concerned in any way about their individual circumstances visit us on the website, but in those circumstances we would simply perhaps write to a premises to find out what their circumstances are. We may then follow that up with a visit at some point just to check that the circumstances are as the people say and to ensure they’re not troubled for any period of time.

SL: And your detector van tells you what? That there’s someone in that particular property watching television?

MW: The detector van can tell us which room someone is watching programmes in.

SL: Can it even work out which channel they’re watching?

MW: It doesn’t tell us what they’re watching but it tells us which room they’re watching it in, and we can tell that in as little as 20 seconds. Again, we’re keen people don’t take that risk. We’re keen that people do realise their obligations and don’t run the risk being caught watching telly if they’re unlicensed.

SL: Your detector van obviously itself doesn’t tell you though whether they have a licence or not? Presumably what you then do is check them on your database?

MW: Yes, there is a database of 30 million addresses, which tells us precisely which address is licensed and which isn’t, and again that’s amongst Europe’s largest databases of addresses Stuart, so again we do have that at our disposal if we need to check against individual addresses.

SL: So the simple answer is buy a licence if you’re going to watch television in real time and if you’re not at all sure, if you want to ask the question, what’s your website again?

MW: It’s www.tvlicensing.co.uk. People can contact us by more traditional methods as well Stuart, by the phone and such like. All our contact details are on the website.

SL: What’s the phone number Mark, if they want to contact you that way?

MW: If they want to contact us by phone it’s 0300 790 6112.

SL: 0300 790 6112 or tvlicensing.co.uk.

MW: You’ve got it.

SL: Mark, thank you very much for your time. Thank you indeed.


33_hertz said...

Thanks for posting this transcript.

Unknown said...

I don't buy these vans that can 'track' you watching

Pat Galea said...

Interesting. He says specifically that they cannot tell which channel you're watching, which counts against my hypothesis in your earlier post about the way in which a detector might work.

So if it's doing anything, it sounds like it's just doing a simple statistical profile of the fluctuating light pattern to see whether it matches the 'typical' profile of a TV in the room. In which case they can not tell whether it's a live broadcast or a recording, which surely negates the whole point he's making.

I'm even more sceptical than I was!

Pat Galea said...

For reference, this is the other post I'm talking about. http://tv-licensing.blogspot.com/2011/07/lifting-lid-on-tv-licensings-pandoras.html

Mayjex said...

Track while watching? that is great!! I have to try this sooner or later. Thanks for a great post.

Bob said...

"Yes, there is a database of 30 million addresses, which tells us precisely which address is licensed and which isn’t"

Tell that to Graham Rawson.