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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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Monday, 26 April 2021

How Does TV Licensing Catch People Watching TV Without a TV Licence?

It's an age old question and one we hear a lot here at the TV Licensing Blog: how does TV Licensing catch people watching TV without a valid TV licence?

The BBC - which is the statutory Television Licensing Authority, legally responsible for all aspects of TV licence enforcement and administration - gets good mileage out of peddling the notion that TV Licensing's enforcement regime is technologically advanced, efficient and far reaching.

TV Licensing regularly trots out soundbites on local radio stations and tabloid newspapers about its enforcement officers knowing exactly which properties are unlicensed and being able to visit those properties at any time, including at the weekends and late evening.

It has a fleet of state of the art detector vans, so the story goes, that are so sophisticated they can tell, with pinpoint accuracy and precision the envy of arms dealers across the globe, exactly where in an unlicensed property TV programmes are being received.

These media outlets are happy for TV Licensing to spout its drivel, which they accept as gospel and broadcast without question. After all, the BBC's revenue generation arm would never tell lies, would they?

But TV licence enforcement is not nearly as glamorous or effective as its massed army of PR harlots would have people believe. The BBC relies very heavily on the public perception that TV Licensing catches evaders at the drop of a hat, but the reality is very different.

It relies almost entirely on a database called the Licence Administration and Support System (LASSy), which contains a list of every address within the UK and its TV licence status.

There is nothing magical about LASSy. Anyone with the nous and a fundamental grasp of Microsoft Access could knock up an equivalent system in a couple of days and at a fraction of the cost. The addresses are sourced from the Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF), which is commercially available and can be bought by literally anyone.

The PAF is updated on a rolling basis and information about new builds, address mergers and demolitions is always trickling through to LASSy, but that doesn't tell TV Licensing anything about which of those properties actually require a TV licence.

The majority of people, as consumers of licensable TV programmes, will have properties correctly covered by a valid TV licence. These addresses will have a virtual big green tick next beside their entries on LASSy and should, in theory (although not always reality), be left in peace by TV Licensing.

Those properties without a valid TV licence, some 6 percent of all residential addresses, are where TV Licensing trains its enforcement sights.

It begins by sending threatograms to the unlicensed property in the hope that the occupier will feel compelled into either buying a TV licence or making what it calls a No Licence Needed declaration.

Of course, the occupier of a correctly unlicensed property is under no legal obligation to assist TV Licensing with its enquiries and we strongly discourage them from doing so.

So what happens if the occupier of a correctly unlicensed property takes our advice and ignores TV Licensing's demands for information?

Not a lot is the answer.

Encountered with wall of silence, TV Licensing will puff out its chest and continue to send monthly threatograms. The occupier will get to recognise TV Licensing's handiwork and should immediately place these letters in the bin. If the threatograms were opened, the occupier would notice a month-by-month escalation in TV Licensing's urgency and aggressive tone. Eventually the cycle of letters would repeat itself.

In some cases TV Licensing might send a goon to visit the property, but that's by no means certain. Even if a goon did visit, the occupier is under no legal obligation to answer their questions or allow them access. The occupiers of some properties might be happy to allow TV Licensing voluntary access, but we strongly discourage them from doing so. Even apparently "friendly" TV Licensing goons have the ability to knife the occupier in the back, when it comes to earning commission and achieving nigh on impossible performance targets.

We really can't stress enough that by far the best method scuppering TV Licensing's "investigation" is to do nothing at all. Without information TV Licensing is powerless to act, despite its pretence otherwise.

EVERY TV Licensing prosecution boils down to one piece of paper - the completed TVL178 Record of Interview form, which serves as a contemporaneous record of a goon's visit to an unlicensed property and their dialogue with the occupier.

A prosecution can only happen if one of the following circumstances is recorded on the TVL178 form:

  • The occupier of an unlicensed property admits receiving TV programmes (or BBC on-demand programmes);
  • The TV Licensing goon observes, first hand, the reception of TV programmes (or BBC on-demand programmes) at the unlicensed property.

Neither of these situations can arise if the occupier keeps quiet and closes the door on any TV Licensing goon that visits.

Even if the occupier remains silent and closes the door, a visiting TV Licensing goon might observe or hear something that makes them suspect that evasion is taking place. In that case, in the absence of any concrete evidence of wrongdoing, they might flag the address for a detection visit.

The use of detection is exceptionally rare and very tightly regulated. You can read a lot more in our previous article on the subject.

Suppose the goon was refused entry to the property, but was of the firm belief that evasion was taking place. If they had been unable to extract an admission from the occupier, they might flag the property for a search warrant.

Search warrants are even rarer than detection visits. Getting a search warrant is not a simple process, because TV Licensing needs to present good quality evidence of evasion in support of its application. You can read a lot more in our previous article on them.

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far away ideas said...

for years i bought a TV licence even though i never had a telly, because i didnt like the visits by the goons. now i dont have a telly licence and still dont have a telly and i am alot braver. and now i can afford a little dog. i am so much happier.

Admin said...

Dogs are good for the soul. I certainly couldn't be without mine. Thanks for dropping by.

Maryon Jeane said...

far away ideas - That's so sad, that you paid these awful people for so long money which you could ill afford. I'm really glad that you've now been able to take the courage from this blog to use your money now so brilliantly. Pets/companion animals are truly life-enhancing and you've made a very wise choice indeed.

You're not alone: over the years I've met many people who've done the same as you and paid for a licence they didn't need. Most of these people were either misled by the name 'TV Licensing', thinking that if they had a television in the house (even if it were never used) they had to buy a licence, or like you they were intimidated by aggressive strangers knocking at the door with threats of fines and imprisonment. Happily, I've been able to persuade the majority of these people that it's OK - and entirely legal - to stop paying.

Thanks to this blog a shortcut has been simply to provide the link and voilĂ  - all the information they need is right here!

Admin said...

Thanks for dropping by and your continued support Maryon Jeane.