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Saturday 15 November 2014

TV Licensing Search Warrants: Prevention Better than Cure

The recent case of a legitimate non-TV viewer being convicted of obstructing a TV Licensing search warrant has attracted widespread consternation with our readers.

Mick Oldfield, whose case we discussed yesterday, never receives TV programmes and consequently doesn't legally need a TV licence. As someone who genuinely doesn't need a TV licence, it came as somewhat of a surprise to Mick that TV Licensing had somehow managed to obtain a warrant to search his home. With its search drawing a blank, and therefore unable to pin TV licence evasion charges on Mick, the BBC's revenue generation bullies decided to pursue search warrant obstruction charges instead. In that, at least for the moment, TV Licensing has succeeded.

TV Licensing Search Warrant

On the back of Mick's story, several readers have asked us to summarise the key points of the TV Licensing search warrant process. Before doing that, as is customary on the TV Licensing Blog, we remind readers that TV Licensing search warrants are exceptionally rare. Anyone who legitimately doesn't need a TV licence, Mick's case withstanding, should not be overly concerned about the threat of a TV Licensing search warrant.

1. TV Licensing collects the evidence required to apply for a warrant.
In theory a warrant should only be granted when a Justice of the Peace or District Judge is satisfied that it is both necessary and proportionate. It is only necessary if TV Licensing has been unable to obtain voluntary access to the property and there is little prospect of being able to do so in the future; it is only proportionate if TV Licensing has credible evidence that an offence is being (or has been) committed at the property and immediate, unhindered access is required to secure that evidence.
  • Necessity: TV Licensing is more likely to convince the court of the necessity of its application if an occupier of the property has previously been uncooperative, confrontational or issued a Withdrawal of Implied Rights of Access (WOIRA) instruction. Amusing as it is to see TV Licensing goons humiliated and belittled on YouTube, we believe such encounters increase the likelihood that TV Licensing will exact revenge by seeking a warrant. We actively encourage the filming of routine TV Licensing goon visits, but recommend the occupier adopts a totally passive approach: film everything and say nothing.
  • Proportionality: TV Licensing policy is that warrant applications should always be supported by two pieces of evidence reinforcing the idea of an offence being committed. It is noted that the evidential standards needed for a warrant are less stringent than those needed for a conviction. TV Licensing only needs to convince the Justice or District Judge that is has reasonable suspicion that an offence is being (or has been) committed at the property. In Scotland the evidential standards required for the grant of a warrant are higher, which might explain why TV Licensing never applies for warrants there. According to Chapter 16 of the unredacted TV Licensing Visiting Procedures, the following types of evidence can be put forward:
    • Set seen but not in use. No admission, entry refused.
    • Occupier admits set but no admission of use. Entry refused.
    • Set denied, programme heard.
    • Admission of broken set on premises. Inspection refused.
    • Inspection is allowed after delay. No set is seen, but circumstantial evidence.
    • Detection evidence.
2. TV Licensing warns the occupier that a warrant is being considered.
In theory, unless doing so would seriously prejudice the purpose of the search, TV Licensing should warn the occupier that a warrant is being considered. Sometimes they do this by letter (e.g. "we know you're watching TV without a licence, so unless you buy a TV licence immediately we will apply for a search warrant"), or a visiting goon might slip it into doorstep conversation. In practice, they sometimes omit this step.

3. TV Licensing prepares the warrant paperwork.
If TV Licensing is satisfied that it has ticked the boxes necessary to obtain a search warrant, then it sets about preparing three pieces of paperwork: the H550 Search Warrant Application form, the Deposition and the actual warrant.
  • The H550 Search Warrant Application: A copy of this form can be viewed here. The first page is completed by the goon requesting the warrant. The application is then reviewed and approved/denied by a senior manager. If approved the form is then returned to the relevant Area Manager, so it can be completed with the final outcome after the execution of the warrant.
  • The Deposition: The Deposition is a copy of the information that TV Licensing lays before the Justice or District Judge when it applies for the warrant. It gives a chronological history of TV Licensing's dealings with the property and occupier in question. It also explains TV Licensing's rationale for applying for the warrant, including reasons why the grant of a warrant is necessary and proportionate.
  • The Warrant: TV Licensing, being a considerate bunch, type out the actual warrant for the Justice or District Judge to sign. An example warrant is shown elsewhere in this post. This appears to be the format that TV Licensing uses, although there is no standard prescribed format.
4. TV Licensing lays the warrant information.
Laying information (sometimes referred to as swearing the warrant) is the process whereby a Capita Court Presenter conveys the Deposition to a Justice or District Judge. This is done verbally and on oath, normally at the start of a scheduled TV Licensing court session. The warrant should only be sworn if less than 2 days have elapsed since the licence status of the property was last checked. Only those Capita employees named on the BBC authority list are able to apply for warrants and lay information.

The Justice or District Judge should carefully scrutinise everything they are told, asking questions as appropriate. The warrant should never be rubber-stamped without careful consideration. If the Justice or District Judge is dissatisfied with the information laid, they should refuse to grant the warrant - although there would be nothing to stop TV Licensing having another attempt at a more amenable court a few miles down the road.

5. Warrant granted.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the warrant will be granted. The Capita Court Presenter then delivers the warrant to the Area Manager concerned, who will promptly contact the local police station and make them aware that a warrant has been granted and police assistance will be required shortly. 

Warrants granted in England and Wales are valid for one calendar month from the date of signature. The warrant permits TV Licensing to enter the property, search for and test any television receivers found there. The warrant is only valid for a single entry to the property. TV Licensing policy is to make a first attempt to execute the warrant as soon as possible and at the latest within 10 days of it being granted.

6. Executing the warrant.
TV Licensing policy is that warrants must be executed by at least two members of staff, one of whom will normally be the Area Manager. The police are normally present to prevent a breach of the peace, but it is not their job to assist with any search for, or testing of, television receivers. The warrant is granted to TV Licensing and gives them the authority to enter, search for and test any television receiver found there. Legally speaking the police do not need to be there. In exceptional circumstances TV Licensing will executed a warrant without a police presence, as long as there are no risks associated with the property or occupier.

The warrant technically allows forced entry to the property, but it is TV Licensing policy never to do that. Mistakenly forcing entry to a TV-free property would be a disaster for TV Licensing, which even its massed army of PR harlots would struggle to cast in a positive light. If TV Licensing failed in its first attempt to execute the warrant, it would simply keep returning until it successfully gained entry or the warrant expired.

A date and time to execute the warrant will have already been agreed between the police and TV Licensing. To avoid wasting police time by attending an empty property, TV Licensing recommends that a goon passes by the property and checks for signs of life shortly before the warrant is due to be executed. A final check should be made on the licence status of the property.

At the start of the warrant visit one of the goons, probably the Area Manager, should state the purpose of their visit (e.g. "we have a search warrant, which grants us legal authority to enter the property, search for and test any television receiver found here") and hand the occupier a copy of the warrant and Notice of Powers and Rights. If the occupier refuses to accept the paperwork, it can simply be left somewhere prominent in the property. The occupier should allow the goons immediate and unhindered access. In common with any other TV Licensing visit, the occupier should be given the chance to inspect the goons' ID cards.

The Notice of Powers and Rights states that a friend or neighbour can be present during the search, but we suggest a camera will do just as good a job of corroborating the events of the visit. We recommend that the occupier films any search warrant visit in full and provides a running commentary of events as they unfold. If the occupier can get the police or goons to acknowledge the accuracy of their commentary, then all the better.

The occupier should comply with any reasonable requests for assistance, otherwise they face the realistic prospect of obstruction charges. By reasonable assistance, we mean neutral acts that do not self-incriminate the occupier (e.g. it is reasonable to pass the goon a remote control if asked to, but it is not reasonable to set up equipment or push buttons on their behalf). Obstruction is a more serious offence than TV licence evasion, so our advice is to co-operate (or at least don't appear unco-operative) with TV Licensing during the execution of the warrant.

The occupier should remain civil and stand aside from where the goons are working. If at all possible both goons should be kept in camera shot, as they can not be trusted alone in any part of the property. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that some TV Licensing goons tell lies.

If they suspect there is evidence of an offence, the goons should caution the occupier and complete a TVL178 Record of Interview form as they conduct the search.

The outcome of the warrant visit may be apparent to the occupier at the time. Assuming TV Licensing obtains no evidence of unlicensed TV reception, we encourage the occupier to complain in the strongest possible terms to the BBC and their local Member of Parliament. We would also encourage them to obtain a copy of the Deposition, which clearly turned out to be inaccurate, and scrutinise it closely for signs of TV Licensing malpractice.

If TV Licensing do find evidence of unlicensed TV reception, then the first the occupier might know about it is when a summons arrives in the post several months later. Advice about how to deal with a summons can be found in an earlier post.

Shortly after their visit the goons will put the finishing touches onto the H550 Search Warrant Application form, which was partly completed prior to the execution of the warrant.

7. Obtaining a copy of the Deposition.
We are aware of several occasions where TV Licensing has obtained a search warrant for a property where it turned out there was no evidence at all of unlicensed TV reception. Any occupier in that situation will probably be curious about the evidence TV Licensing presented in order to obtain the warrant in the first place. It is normally possible to obtain a copy of the Deposition by writing to the court. A letter must also be sent to TV Licensing, stating that a request is being made and offering it the chance to lodge objections. Suitable template letters can be downloaded from our Resources page.

8. Conclusion.
TV Licensing search warrants are exceptionally rare. Anyone who doesn't legally need a TV licence, shouldn't be overly concerned about the prospect of a search warrant visit.

The occupier of a property can reduce the chances of becoming a search warrant target by engaging with TV Licensing goons in a passive manner, thus depriving them of the information needed to proceed any further. The occupier should avoid being confrontational or aggressive with TV Licensing goons that call.

In the exceptionally rare event that TV Licensing do appear with a search warrant, the occupier is advised to allow them immediate and unhindered access. The occupier should also film everything, give a running commentary, attempt to keep both goons in camera shot and in no way appear obstructive. You can see a good demonstration of this technique in an earlier article.

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Edit (6/7/16): We have now written a more recent post, where we give the official number of TV Licensing search warrant applications in 2014-15. You can read it here.


Unknown said...

This is an excellent entry, full of all the goodness any LLF person could ever dream of.

A question, for you. In section 6, you say what the occupier should and shouldn't do, like hanging them the remote, but not to push any buttons. What I'd like to know, is what about giving out personal details? My way of thinking, is that until such time that they caution you, you have no legal obligation to give out any personal details. One would think that an "investigation", such as the one the warrant gives TVL the right to carry out, doesn't include taking any personal details, unless they have proof/evidence that a licence is required at that address. Am I right in that assumption?

Thanks again for posting this entry, I just hope it helps those of us that truly need it.

Admin said...

My personal opinion, which others may disagree with, is that if things have got as far as a search warrant, then there's probably no harm in giving your details if directly asked for them.

Capita seems to think failure to give details amounts to obstructive behaviour, although we're not aware of any instance where that alone has been sufficient grounds for an obstruction charge.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic article as always, thank you for opening my eyes as to the realities of the BBC/TVL.

With regards to giving details/any answers to their questions I think I would be wary of saying more than the basics - "you have a right to remain silent" can be the most important right to exercise. Probably better than being angry/confrontational.

What exactly do they have the right to test under a search warrant?

I don't have a TV, but I do have a laptop. I expect many people are in a similar position. Does such a warrant give them the authority to insist I give them my password to access my computer? Would I be guilty of obstruction if I refused to allow access to my computer?

I'm not sure how accessing a computer would help them unless they unlocked it and discovered live TV streaming in the background.

Personally I don't watch any TV, live streamed or catch up, but if I gave them access to my computer what's to stop them typing in the URL of a live stream service during their "test" (if allowed)?

As I am legally licence free I know the BBC/TVL cannot get evidence to get a search warrant, but I don't trust my complete innocence to protect me from their over-zealous enforcement.

Admin said...

Again, this is quite a complicated area of the legislation.

The warrant gives authority to test any television receiver found on the premises.

A television receiver, as defined by Section 9 of The Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004, is: "any apparatus installed or used for the purpose of receiving (whether by means of wireless telegraphy
or otherwise) any television programme service, whether
or not it is installed or used for any other purpose".

The way I read it, that could include a PC or laptop in certain circumstances, so I think it would take a brave person to say "no, you're not touching my computer".

That said, it should be noted that even if the goons find evidence that TV programmes have been received in the past, that in no way proves that an offence has been committed - a laptop could easily have been used in another property that was covered by a valid TV licence.

Others have an alternative interpretation of the legislation. I have heard people say that the warrant in no way allows them to access a password protected PC. I guess we'll not know for definite until those arguments are tested in court.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your answer. It is likely the situation would be that I, safe in the knowledge that my computer is not a TV receiver under the definition given, would have to prove that it is not. And as it is not a TV receiver they would be exceeding the limits of the authority granted by the warrant if they tested it.

This raises a couple of points of interest namely if they were to exceed the authority of the warrant what legal recourse would you have. And what if, like me, you have work material on your computer including information subject to The Data Protection Act. If TVL viewed such data whilst "testing" a computer would I have breached the DPA. Some interesting points I need to look into. Thank you again.

Fred Bear said...

As this article says, search warrants are very rare. To get some idea of how rare, someone used a FOI request to get the number of search warrants applied for by TVL at Sheffield Magistrates Court and Northampton Magistrates Court for the years 2011, 2012 and 2013.

See the details at:


It was found that at Sheffield only 6 warrants were granted during the entire 3 year period of which two were not executed.

At Northampton only 2 were granted during this period.

To put this in perspective, The metropolitan borough of Sheffield has a a population of 1,569,000.

Although they are used, search warrants and TV detectors are largely there for propaganda purposes. In the main, TVL 'officers' rely on their database and their ability to get people to self-incriminate. Nearly 70% of their victims are women and most of them are on benefits (although there is no evidence that they are more likely to evade than any other members of society).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, it will really help me with future articles.

Jan said...

1) If a search warrant is issued, how much effort is the occupier obliged to show in order to demonstrate the abilities of any equipment? Does one just say 'There it is. See if it will receive any live programmes' and let a goon get on with it?

2) A broadband connection is (usually) capable of receiving live programmes. If one does not use it to watch live programmes, is a statement to this effect sufficient? Or is a goon empowered to inspect the cache? Are TV Licensing empowered to inspect records from your ISP? (These last two are extremely worrying if such actions have ever been permitted.)

Thanks for a very informative and important website.


Admin said...

Hello Jan and thanks for your comment.

1. The Notice of Powers and Rights, which you can view on our Resources page, explains the rights of the occupier in the exceptionally rare event that TVL executes a search warrant at their property. The law requires they provide reasonable assistance, but in our opinion that does not mean physically operating TV equipment for the goon. It does mean handing them the remote, pointing them in the right direction and standing aside (silently) as they conduct their inspection and testing of any TV receiving equipment they find.
2. The warrant does not allow them to inspect data stored on password protected PCs. It does allow them to physically check for a PC tuner card, but in the era of broadband internet that's barely relevant.

Anonymous said...

Very good post!

I think the whole premise of the warrant is somewhat a confusing and misunderstood area of the BBC's licence racket.

From what I understand (correct me if I'm wrong here) the only way a warrant can be obtained is with some evidence of obstruction to inspect (clearly the "Communications Act 2003 and Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004" acts do provide provision to "check and inspect" compliance, and refusal or non-cooperation (even being silent) is seen as "obstruction" and often the basis for a warrant.

This is only serves to underline the importance of zero-engagement with the goons and BBC/TVL. Do not write to them, phone them, don't open door, if you do, just close it. NEVER speak to them AT ALL. Keep them totally in the dark about who you are, whether you live there, and lots of wasted visits with no answer (beef up your CCTV security and keep your head down).

If they don't know who you are, your name, whether you're the legal occupier etc, then that makes it less likely they will get a warrant (which by their own admission in their Enforcement Review report states warrants are a last resort and not the norm where all possible ways have been tried to contact or communicate with an occupier and there's been obstruction.

How can they prove obstruction if they have never spoken to anyone at the address? Unless they lie to get a warrant (which would be foolish if you have CCTV, easy to discredit on appeal). It's unlikely they would pursue that.

It's unfortunate that we have to go to these lengths of installing loads of CCTV (some may even want to take the step of installing in-door spy-cameras now cheap and available) and being cautious about who you open door to, but this is the police-state we live in and the type of criminals we're dealing with who do not play by the normal legal rules. So I think it's necessary if you want to protect your civil liberties to live free of harassment and extortion.

Thoughts? Maybe we should have a section on security and prevention with some downloadable PDF guides. As like the topic said, "prevention of a warrant" is better than trying to deal with a warrant situation, where the chips are stacked against you, if you have a TV set. And some people just resent the whole idea of 3 or 4 people and coppers walking all over your private property when you've done nothing wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Thank you for your answer. It is likely the situation would be that I, safe in the knowledge that my computer is not a TV receiver under the definition given, would have to prove that it is not. And as it is not a TV receiver they would be exceeding the limits of the authority granted by the warrant if they tested it."

The computer/tablet thing seems to be a confusing and grey area. Perhaps admin can clarify this point:

1) Whilst these devices (without TV tv tuners) cannot be considered "TV receiving broadcast equipment" which is how I interpret the law, nevertheless, it's possible to watch live steaming broadcasting streams on them easily enough. Would a goon look for evidence of that (on-demand apps/browser history) and could that be used as evidence against you?

2) The law seems contradict itself somewhat and be vague. It says you need a license to watch live TV on ANY device (and it specifically mentions tablets, PC's, mobile phones) but there seems to be more emphasis on digital TV receiver equipment.

3) The grey area is how far a search can go in establishing whether a PC/tablet/phone may be being used to evade TV license and watch live streamed content. They would by its definition require extensive checking of those devices, to see what apps are installed/viewing and/or browser history to see any evidence of live streaming?

Some have said doing the above would contravene other privacy laws on PC's (requiring a separate warrant*) and may also put individuals (and businesses) at risk of a DPA breach of the PC also contains third party private data.

My understanding of DPA law (as a business) is that such data has to be stored securely and not accessible to anyone but the data controller and those authorised by them to access it in the capacity needed to carry out business. So if you're using a PC with third party data on as a personal PC too, you should take steps to secure that data with encryption (or store it on an external media), and then this is a mute topic if the goons do access that PC.

* I don't think a separate warrant is needed just to "visibly check" a PC (which includes seeing what apps/software are being used). However where it becomes a privacy issue and a "data search" is carried out, they could well require a separate warrant and may exceed the provisions of the search warrant (and the search powers granted under Communications Act 2003 and Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004).

Anonymous said...

Fred Bear: Great information Fred, thanks for sharing your research.

I think we should ALL being these FOI's and together we can start to gain much more insight into how BBC/TVL operates from the ground up, and so build better defensive strategies.

Another interesting area worth studying (as I think you may have referenced with your female stat) is the BBC's own responses to the BBC funding review commissioned by the government. It gives us for the first time a real deep insight into how the BBC operates, how their strategy works, the numbers and demographics, and their future strategy plans.

It reveals some alarming requests/propaganda by BBC and makes for very interesting reading!

The government is proposing decriminalizing TV licensing and making it a civil matter, which would free up the police and Magistrates resources. The BBC claims the current model and retaining criminal offense status and the punishments in place, are absolutely vital. Despite the fact the average fine they collect by their own figure is only £167 (a stark contrast to the £1,000 (maximum a judge can impose and rare) fine they like to tout in their scare-mongering. The BBC claims the system is basically "break even" and just about protecting revenues. That means they absolutely RELY on these brutish and often illegal method, and hence why they don't want any change to the status quo.

Anonymous said...

"That said, it should be noted that even if the goons find evidence that TV programmes have been received in the past, that in no way proves that an offence has been committed - a laptop could easily have been used in another property that was covered by a valid TV licence."

This is a grey area and I'd be careful here. Time date stamps may be a giveaway, and if you're accessing BBC or CH4 content live, it wouldn't be difficult to cross-check your IP address against their own server logs, if they wanted to go to such lengths of course.

We also know the government is soon to begin storing "meta data" on which websites are accessed (if they get their way) and this data will be accessible to the government and their agencies, so they can then easily see if a person has accessed a specific URL in a criminal investigation.

This comes back to admin's original argument "prevention better than cure". Because they are treated us as criminals, we need to go further than normal citizens would to protect our privacy and civil liberties. That probably means using encrypted internet software (such as Tor) and VPN's (which are readily available cheaply). You might want to do all your viewing on a device which is also secure. For example, PuppyLinux runs on a USB stick/SD card (no hard drive install needed) you can watch all your stores on that, install apps on it..unplug from your windows laptop, and there's no evidence on your hard drive or laptop.

We need to education people more on prevention strategies and how to protect themselves against a police state intrusion of privacy.

Anonymous said...

I note that a woria does not need to be issued, just the occupier being "uncooperative" with TVL goons. Is it any surprise that people are uncooperative given the way TVL and its goons behave. The continual harassing threat-o-grams. TVL goons that turn up at the doorstep and lie, fake confessions and worse.

People get upset with TVL, then TVL use this against them.

Anonimouse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Great article. Thank you.

I have a couple of questions - first some background.

I recently got rid of my TV at my place of residence as I, by choice, never watch any form of TV there so that I can concentrate on work.

I still have a non-portable PC and broadband, for work and leisure undisturbed by TV.

I have cancelled my TV licence, by phone, and explained why to a supervisor.

Nevertheless, three weeks after cancellation, I have already received the first harassment letter - unless they 'hear from (me)' by 2 August they will pass my address to the 'Enforcement Division for investigation'.

The back of the same letter states the following -

'Remember: even if you don't have a TV, by law you still need to be covered by a licence if you use any other device. This includes computers, tablets, mobile phones, games consoles, digital boxes and DVD/VHS recorders.

This raises a concern; and a question -

By inference from the discussion above, if the "goons" can go through my computer looking for evidence of TV I haven't watched, then they can also insist on going through my iPhone. I wouldn't let my girlfriend or my best friend go through my phone - why Capita? Do I lose the right to privacy if I don't buy a TV licence?

Since when does anyone need a licence to watch a DVD or a VHS tape?

Admin said...

Thanks for your comment Anon.
Please check back here tonight/tomorrow for a detailed answer. Technical probs at mo.

Admin said...

Hello Anon - I was having trouble posting comments earlier, as I've been mobile all day in a very bad signal area.
Apologies if you know any of these points already, but I think they address your query:
1. Under normal circumstances TV Licensing has no right to enter and property or inspect any equipment. I would certainly discourage anyone from assisting TV Licensing by allowing voluntary entry or inspection, not least because TV Licensing has been known to stitch up people being helpful.
2. In the exceptionally rare circumstances that TV Licensing has a warrant, then I would allow them to inspect my mobile phone or laptop on request. There's a strong train of thought that the warrant does not allow them access to password protected devices, but knowing how keen TV Licensing is to scream obstruction it is probably safer to show all. Even if there were TV programmes in the device history, that is no evidence whatsoever that an offence has been committed. The occupier can (and should for the record) simply say that those programmes were viewing in a friend's/relative's correctly licensed property. TV Licensing has no way at all of proving or disproving that explanation, so the device history will have no evidential value to them.
3. A TV licence is required for properties where equipment is installed or used to receive TV programmes. Receiving TV programmes includes using a VHS/DVD recorder to record them. Ordinary use of a DVD/VHS player does not require a TV licence and never has done.
I hope I've addressed your points, but if not please just post again.
If you've found the TV Licensing Blog useful then please tell all your family and friends about what we do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Admin,

Thank you for this. I have now been through your e-guide as well.

There is still a statement causing me some confusion - you state above that 'A TV licence is required for properties where equipment is INSTALLED...'

I thought that a license is only required for equipment when USED to receive TV programmes, iPlayer etc. So the presence of an unused, unplugged, unconnected TV or DVD equipment pending disposal, whilst looking suspicious, does not require a licence.

My TV was already gone, but I have taken the precaution of removing my old DVD player from the house whilst awaiting clarification.

Thanks again for the helpful advice.

Admin said...

Hello Anon.

A TV licence is required for any property where equipment is installed (e.g. connected and tuned in ready for use) or used.
Suppose I was in an unlicensed property and my TV set was set up ready to show BBC One at the push of a button. Even though my TV set is not turned on, I would still be committing an offence because my equipment is installed.
Of course TV Licensing cannot get evidence of equipment being installed unless they do actually turn it on (or, far more likely, ask the occupier to turn it on as they are watching).

Maybe that helps to clarify matters further.

Anonymous said...

Thanks - that does clarify matters. I was right to remove my old DVD player!

It seems there is an basic unfairness at the heart of the TV licence system. If I stop watching TV, but keep my equipment in case I decide to reverse my lifestyle choice in the future, I am committing a crime being unlicensed - because the TV and DVD recorder, although NOT being used to watch TV, are CAPABLE of being used in that way because they are still tuned and still possess working plugs and aerial sockets.

If I chose to use my TV/DVD recorder solely to watch DVDs, so left them in place and plugged in to the electricity but not the aerial, it is unlikely I could convince a visiting, search-warranted goon that my set up was NOT being used for licence-requiring activities. He would assume that the equipment was 'installed' and that I had just hidden the aerial cable.

Whilst the scenario above is, for me, hypothetical (although I am still interested to know the answer on the grounds of moral fairness) - the one below is not.

Using the same logic, a plugged-in computer and working broadband connection must be considered as installed iPlayer/TV-receiving equipment? Therefore, EVERY household containing an installed computer and working broadband will require a TV licence from Sept. 1st? Even if the equipment is never used for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

I have heard of Watch Series free tv from friends. Is it legal to watch BBC programs using the
internet to watch - watch series free without a TV licence using a laptop ?

Admin said...

A TV licence is required if you watch any "live" (e.g. at the time it is broadcast) TV programmes on any TV channel.
There is an exception, which allows people to watch on an unplugged laptop, but only if their normal home address has a valid TV licence.
Hope that helps.

Racher said...

Hi, thank you so much for all this useful information - I've recently moved property and had a number of threatening letters from TVL. I then suspected a visit yesterday although I didn't open the door.

I wish to watch one 8-week bbc programme and have in the past watched it on catch up; obviously now the change in law means I can no longer watch iplayer which I'm fine by (I think I can give up one show rather than pay £145) but you mentioned above that the TVL wouldn't know if you had watched it in another property covered by a licence, If this is the case could I take my laptop to my parents house (they don't live far) and watch iplayer covered by their TV licence? If the TVL searched my internet history would I be able to prove it was watched elsewhere. And another thing that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere, but what of things like chrome's incognito mode or simply deleting one''s browsing history?

To be clear, if I have to I just won't watch that one programme anymore. I'll get over it! Many thanks :)

Admin said...

Hello Racher and thanks for your comment.
If your parents' property is covered by a valid TV licence, then it is perfectly legal for you to take your laptop around there and download/browse BBC iPlayer programmes as you wish.
If you follow our advice and totally stonewall TV Licensing, then you should never be in a position where you would have to prove anything to them. In fact even if they had a warrant, you'd still not have to prove anything to them - the onus lies entirely on them to do the proving.
Hypothetically speaking as long as you stuck to the "I watched at my licensed parents' property" line they wouldn't be able to disprove your story and you would undoubtedly escape conviction (either by the court accepting that there is no case to answer, or by finding you not guilty). Maintaining the same defence would be crucial.

roders said...

communication act 2003 section 366 ,The weren't is only valid for the purpose of investigating interference with television reception , so unless they have a spectrom analyser with apropreate calibration equipment they are acting unlawfully the section 366 weren't is invalid for
checking if live broadcasts are being watched , if a ware the is issued under the wireless telegraphy act they have to give 7 days notice but the communication act 366 is targeted at illegal transmitters not to licenses

Unknown said...

On the assumption that the occupier is able to discern who is at their door without providing any visual or audible sign of his or her own presence, then surely the most effective tactic when faced with a search warrant is this:
Simply remain quiet to give the impression that nobody is at home. If their policy is to never force entry they will leave. Repeat the process if/when they return and soon the warrant will have expired. They cannot charge you with obstructing the warrant if they cannot prove you were at home when they called.
Obviously you shouldn't leave your property too soon after they have left and certainly exercise some caution when you do.

Unknown said...

That tactic of pretending you are not in may be fine if the arrive during daylight.What about if they turn up of a night and you have the light on?Just a thought ,lol

Anonymous said...

In his posting of 12 August 2016 at 11:28 Anonymous makes two observations:

“….I am committing a crime being unlicensed - because the TV and DVD recorder, although NOT being used to watch TV, are CAPABLE of being used in that way because they are still tuned and still possess working plugs and aerial sockets”.


“Using the same logic, a plugged-in computer and working broadband connection must be considered as installed iPlayer/TV-receiving equipment? Therefore, EVERY household containing an installed computer and working broadband will require a TV licence from Sept. 1st? Even if the equipment is never used for that purpose”.

And in his posting of 16 November 2014 in which he discusses the scope of the testing permitted by a search warrant being executed, he asks this, which underlines the importance of the questions he asks on 12 August 2016.

“Personally I don't watch any TV, live streamed or catch up, but if I gave them access to my computer what's to stop them typing in the URL of a live stream service during their "test" (if allowed)?”

I was hoping to see one of your (Admin) insightful comments (or a comment from someone else) either agreeing or not agreeing with Anonymous, that the offence that TVL prosecute includes having installed equipment (e.g. a computer) that is capable of receiving television programmes, even though it was installed for another purpose (i.e computing) and it can be ascertained by looking at the history, cache etc that it is not actually used to receive television programmes.

I ask this because in one of the YT videos on line there is a Capita EO authoritatively saying to a householder that if the installed equipment has that capability then the offence is made out. Can you/someone please say what you think, either way ? Thank you very much.

Admin said...

Hello Anon and thanks for your comment.
Apologies if this sounds a bit woolly, but the legislation only considers a device to be a TV receiver if it is actually used for that purpose. A PC is not a TV receiver unless it is actually used to navigate to live broadcast TV programmes (what the legislation described as a TV programme service). The fact it is plugged in, internet connected is totally irrelevant unless the device is actually used for that purposes of receiving TV programmes. In the same way a TV set is not a TV receiver unless it is actually used for that purpose. You could have a TV set plugged in and connected to an aerial, but no offence has been committed unless it has actually been used as a TV receiver in an unlicensed property. If a TV Licensing goon was allowed access and was able to tune into a TV programme service, then our argument would immediately be "we never use the TV set for that purpose. It is connected to the aerial so we can listen to the radio" and we'd make sure that was recorded on the goon's paperwork (it's a good idea to offer an immediate defence, as you'll see in our article about the Rudd defence).
I appreciate that this argument might sound a bit unconvincing, as it really is drilling down into the minutiae of the legislation - indeed we're drilling further into the legislation than most Capita TV Licensing goons will be aware.
Please see our these posts for further information on this technical issue:
Taking a TV Licence Fee Holiday
TV Licence Evasion: The Rudd Defence

Anonymous said...

If the search warrant empowers the goons to "inspect and test", does that limit them to simply turning the TV on and check if it recieves a TV signal? Does it empower them to "install & configure" any equipment? In other words, if I remove the TV arial cable from the back of the TV (thus rendering the TV incapable of recieving a TV signal), can the goons plug the arial in and tune the TV in to recieve TV channels?