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Tuesday 7 October 2014

BBC Radio 4 Programme Discusses Dishonest TV Licensing Letter

BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme featured an item about one of TV Licensing's most dishonest threatograms.

The 7 minute segment was first broadcast on 28th February 2013, but for some inexplicable reason the iPlayer link has recently been catapulted up the Google search rankings.

Presenter Winifrid Robinson interviewed legitimate non-TV user Gordon McIntosh, who explained how he avoided the need for a TV licence. Some of Robinson's questioning is quite telling, particularly when she tells Gordon that TV Licensing "are onto you", suggests he is exploiting a legal loophole and seemingly disbelieves his claim never to watch live TV programmes (never, ever, ever, ever).

A full transcript of the interview is shown below:

Winifrid Robinson (WR): Now, "whatever you're watching, however you are watching it, you need a TV licence". 

That's what it says on the top of the TV licence reminder letter and you tend to get them if you don't have a licence or when you move house; but it isn't strictly true. 

You only need a licence if you watch programmes as they are being broadcast. And according to the people who measure television audiences in the UK, around half a million people never watch live television; they watch everything on catch-up services.

Gordon McIntosh is one of them and he thinks that the reminder letters are misleading.

Gordon McIntosh (GM): You've mentioned the bold-headed shouting statement that's made at the beginning - that's 80% larger than the rest of the type font in the letter that follows - and it says you need a TV licence whatever you're watching. That's factually incorrect. 

There's no asterisk that disclaims that, so the statement per se is factually wrong, and they say in the second paragraph as long as you're not watching television live as it's broadcast or recording it.

It's a bit like a slap in the face. You get a slap in the face and you're in shock and you don't really hear what's coming after that. And so, I think there's something a bit deceptive when, as I say, something is shouting at you in bold, so I think it can inspire a lot of fear in people.

WR: Now you are watching television, but you are watching it never live and without ever recording anything, so tell me how you're able to do that.

GM: Well it can be done in a range of methods with BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Channel 4 On Demand, but the only limiting factor in watching programmes is that you can't watch them as broadcast, so it's a scheduling issue. 

But whilst I was a child I used to enjoy watching Doctor Who at 6 o'clock and there was a nice camaraderie in the sense that all of my friends were watching it at 6 o'clock, now that I'm an adult I like to have more autonomy and choice over when I watch things, and I don't have a need to have to share when I am watching it.

WR: So you have a television...

GM: I do.

WR: ...And it's capable of receiving live transmissions - so you could just sit in front of your telly - but you're claiming that you never do that?

GM: Well, this is one of the things which again I think is quite deceptive. When I did my research on this, you get people from Capita who are the agents that the BBC subcontract to collect the licence fee and to knock on people's doors - and they make all sorts of claims to be able to access the property, to be able to look at what equipment you've got - and there's a suggestion there that somehow having a television plugged in with an aerial is against the law, and that's not the case.

I have got exactly that, but I don't watch television live. I don't have a need to. If I want to watch my favourite programmes I watch them when I want to watch them, because I'm doing other things. I don't have to sit down at a particular time to watch Spiral on BBC Three. I can watch them on a Sunday, or a Wednesday or 3 o'clock in the morning if I choose to.

WR: Gordon, they're obviously onto you. Why won't you pay your licence fee? Is it because you don't want to spend the money and you just see a loophole? Or is it because you genuinely never, ever, ever, ever want to watch anything live?

GM: It's not a loophole. The revenue of the BBC is over £6 billion a year. That's a lot of money. £4 billion of that comes from licence fees. I've had to balance my books in recent years and I've looked at my books and thought "why am I paying 150 quid a year?" when in fact it's possible to pretty much watch what I want to watch on the telly and save money. So it's not about finding a loophole, it's about using knowledge wisely.

WR: Gordon McIntosh. We did ask TV Licensing to come on; they didn't want to. We also asked the BBC Press Office to comment, and they haven't responded to us.

[Transcript Ends]

Unlike the BBC Press Office we have previously commented on the offending letter. We said that TV Licensing had printed downright lies in that letter.

Remember that all the lies in TV Licensing routine letters are checked and approved by the BBC. 

The BBC knows all about TV Licensing deception and intimidation, but as long as the cash keeps rolling in they're happy to ignore it.


Maryon Jeane said...

Why is it so impossible for people to comprehend the idea of not watching television, for heaven's sake? When did we all turn into a nation of square-eyed (or I suppose oblong-eyed these days...) sofa surfers? When I was young I watched (unwillingly with my brother) Dr Who on Saturdays, and at school the Sunday serial plus the odd (very odd...) in-lesson programme. Television wasn't necessary and wasn't particularly enjoyable - and I don't find it so even now. It's so rare for a drama or documentary to be made which is halfway decent that you can be sure it will be made into a DVD or something, so there's no need to worry about missing it first time round. Surely the majority of people have better things to do than watch the gelatinous drivel which slops out of the television twenty-four hours a day?

Unknown said...

"WR: So you have a television...

GM: I do.

WR: ...And it's capable of receiving live transmissions - so you could just sit in front of your telly - but you're claiming that you never do that?"

I have sharp knives in my kitchen which are capable of killing people, but that would require someone to go out and physically use them in that manner. Doesn't mean I'm going to do that though, does it? The thing these people (those at the BBC and TVL) need to learn, is that capability is one thing and desire is another. Human beings are more than capable of killing one another, but they can choose not to. Winifrid Robinson should be arrested because he's a human being and he's capable of killing another person. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Thing is, it's pretty much exactly what the BBC and TVL have been saying for the last 60+ years.