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Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Many Faces of TV Licensing's In Brief Newsletter

A while ago I asked the BBC to provide copies of TV Licensing's "In Brief" newsletter.

In Brief, which is prepared by TV Licensing PR harlots Fishburn Hedges, is sent to what they amusingly describe as "TV Licensing stakeholders". In other words, people they wish to indoctrinate to their own way of thinking about how the fee is administered and enforced.

A fellow TV Licensing commentator, Watchkeeper, has brought In Brief back into focus. He has been diligently studying the documents provided by the BBC and has spotted a discrepancy in the Summer 2010 edition.

The Summer 2010 edition of In Brief, as provided to me by the BBC, can be viewed here. The Summer 2010 edition of In Brief, as provided to the author of The Magistrate's Blog, can be viewed in his post here. The lower part of page 4 of those documents is clearly different. The BBC version includes general contact information, whereas the Magistrates' version contains more specific contact details relevant to their role.

The significance of these discrepancies might not be obvious, so I'll elaborate slightly. It would appear that there are actually at least two versions of each In Brief newsletter, which the BBC failed to mention when we first asked them about it. Furthermore, it would appear that one version is specially adapted to the needs of Magistrates.

So why, I hear you ask, would TV Licensing want a "special" version of In Brief just for Magistrates? And why would they fail to mention its existence when we originally asked them about it?

The answer should be glaringly obvious. The second version of In Brief is intended to condition Magistrates into TV Licensing's way of thinking. It advertises contact details for "court training sessions" and "court presenter queries". As the author of The Magistrates' Blog puts it: "I cannot comment for others but I would suggest that it would certainly disturb JPs' position as impartial judges of fact and as such Magistrates would use the proverbial barge pole to that organisation if direct contact were even hinted at."

This must all be getting very embarrassing for the BBC. Apologies to James Leaton Grey, but I yet again question the efficiency and integrity of your Information & Policy Compliance Team.

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