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This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast TV programmes, or to watch or download on-demand programmes via the BBC iPlayer, then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one.

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Thursday, 29 September 2011

TV Licensing Simple Questions and Answers

A while ago I asked the BBC to provide some simple answers to some simple TV Licensing questions. 

True to form they managed to dodge the issue, as they do with almost half of all the FOIA questions asked of them. They also suggested, probably half-heartedly, that I contact TV Licensing directly and asked them instead. So I did, telling TV Licensing that the BBC had referred me.

It has to be said that it wasn't particularly easy to extract the information from TV Licensing, who required "gentle prompting" to stir them into action. 

Perhaps their hesistancy was compounded by the fact that I told them from the outset that I intended to publish their words here on this blog. Later on, with no response forthcoming, I told them that I would interpret their continued silence as a deliberate failure to clarify the points of law requested to the obvious detriment of legitimate non-TV licence holders. If a response didn't arrive within the next five days I would highlight this deliberate failure anyway.

Below find the questions I posed and TV Licensing's response, which arrived shortly after I nudged them. The only thing I have added is the prefix "TVL response" prior to each of their answers:

Dear Mr Jones

Thank you for your email, which has been recorded under your reference 523312. Please use this number if you wish to contact us again.

I'm sorry to have taken so long to reply to you.

Please see below for answers to your numbered questions. For ease of reference I've quoted your questions and used the same numbers as in your email.

1. My understanding of the Communications Act 2003 is that a TV licence is required for any device that is "installed or used" for "receiving or recording a television programme at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is received by members of the public". Is that consistent with the (TV Licensing's) interpretation of the legislation? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes

2. A TV licence is not needed simply to own a TV set (or other TV receiving/recording equipment), because there are a myriad of perfectly legitimate non-licensable uses for a TV set. Is that correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes

3. Even though live television content is available online, there is no legal requirement to have a TV licence simply to own or operate an internet-enabled PC, laptop, mobile phone, iPod or whatever. Is that correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes, unless the equipment is used to receive or record live television broadcasts.

4. Where no TV licence is held, people are under no legal obligation to modify (and potentially damage) their equipment to render it incapable of receiving/recording a live TV signal. Is that correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes

5. When a person cancels their TV licence they are under no legal obligation to give TV Licensing a reason for their cancellation, despite TV Licensing asking for one. Is that correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes, although it is helpful for us to know why a licence is being cancelled. If a person has stopped watching television we can amend our records to show this and minimise any contact with the address in the future. In some circumstances a refund will be due and if we know the reason for a cancellation we can give advice on this point.

6. The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (as amended) requires that retailers notify the Licensing Authority (the BBC) of the sale/lease of all television recording/receiving equipment. The legal onus to provide this information to the Licensing Authority lies completely on the retailer. The person buying or leasing the equipment is not legally obliged to provide their correct details at the point of sale. Is this correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes, the Act does not enforce the dealers to verify the name and address of the purchaser, or the person the item is intended for.

7. Retailers are only obliged to notify the Licensing Authority of the sale/lease of television recording/receiving equipment. They are not required to inform the Licensing Authority of the sale of related items that cannot receive/record live TV signals. Such non-notifiable equipment includes, but is not limited to, DVD players, SCART leads, TV remote controls, TV aerials etc. Is this correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes

8. TV Licensing enforcement officers receive commission payments for every TV licence they sell. It is therefore in their financial interests to sell as many licences as possible, in as short a time as possible, employing whatever tactics necessary to secure the sale. Is that correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Visiting officers receive a salary with incentives. If they call at an address and find a licence is legally required, they can arrange for payment to be made. However, they are not permitted to employ whatever tactics necessary to secure a sale as you have suggested. They must follow a strict code of conduct and their managers monitor their performance.

9. The BBC has previously admitted (RFI20080234) that: "You do not need a TV licence if you only use a TV to listen to digital radio broadcasts and not to watch or record television programmes as they are being shown." Bearing in mind a TV is installed in exactly the same way whether to watch TV programmes (licensable) or listen to radio (non-licensable), does (TV Licensing) still stand by that response? Yes or no?

A licence is not needed to receive radio broadcasts only.

10. A genuine non-licence holder, as someone legitimately without any business with TV Licensing, is under no legal obligation to communicate or co-operate with TV Licensing in any way. Is that correct? Yes or no?

TVL response: Yes

I hope this information is useful.

Yours sincerely

Sue Barnett
Customer Relations

I have replied asking for clarification of their response to question 9. It's probably the most important question of all of them.

Stay tuned for further updates.

Edit: See this follow up post, where TV Licensing refuse to give a simple "yes" or "no" when pushed on the question of using a TV for radio reception.

Edit (25/6/13): The law requiring TV dealers to notify the sale of TV receiving equipment has now been repealed. See this post for more information.


Marilla said...

Brilliant - the answers we've all been waiting for/trying to get out of TV Licensing and/or the BBC for years!

I agree that the answer to question 9 is crucial; there is no proper definition of 'installed' and yet this is used as the justification for the infamous 'visits', to see whether a television is installed - we are really in the land of Kafka here.

More power to your elbow!

33_hertz said...

Excellent work!! Thank you.

eg34tvw4v3qwg433 said...

Point 9 is interesting. Three days after I moved into my previous home a licensing officer knocked on my door and showed a very cheap looking ID badge then literally demanded I give him credit card details else I would be taken to court. I told him that as I could not be sure he was a genuine official I would not give him my card details but would call TV Licensing directly and buy a license. He said that I could ot do this and that the only way to avoid court was to pay him there and then on the doorstep. I refused to give him my details so he replied "well, you'll go to court then" and started tapping things into his PDA. I said that was fine and asked to see his badge again so I could record his name, he refused to show it.

I immediately called TV Licensing who did not sound overly concerned but apologised for the officers conduct and said that it was standard for officers to withold their names but that he should have instead given me an ID number so he could be identified.

Anonymous said...

This is wonderfully revealing and I agree they need to clarify point 9.

I would also be interested to ask if there is any requirement for a license should the television be tuned to non-BBC channels, in the same was as it could be tuned ti digital radio....

Admin said...

Thanks for your comment Anon.
The law is quite clear that a licence is required to cover any equipment that is installed or used to receive television programme services. That's irrespective of the channel watched, be it BBC or something else.

In answer to your query: Yes a TV licence is needed should the TV be tuned (and used) for non-BBC services.

John said...

Excellent questions, thank you for asking them. If you do receive a clear answer to question 9 I think we can all agree that finally a level playing field between the tv licensing authority and members of the public will have been achieved. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

Someone told me that the bbc sells your contact details, apparently its on the tvl i havent found it yet any ideas?

Anonymous said...

My namesake above raises a scary point, but really I just wanted to thank this blogger (PJ, is it?) for going to the effort and sharing it so freely. Although the now-infamous question 9 and a definition of 'installed' remains a grey area, I feel confident enough to take my chances and ignore the TVL. They can send whoever they like, but they won't catch me watching a live broadcast. Not conuming the mindless pap and endless adverts and other propaganda they stream as LIVE TV is no loss these days. Match of the Day just isn't worth it, and it's hardly 'live' anyway!
My one question is this: Can they get records of my DigiBox/internet usage from Virgin Media?
The onus of proof must be on them to PROVE I was watching/recording LIVE broadcasts (presumably unlicensed TiVo would be illegal, but BBC iPlayer would be OK).