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John Redwood has no TV in his London flat but must still pay the TV tax!

From time to time you hear a familiar tale about how X has not bought a TV license because X does not have a television, but about how the TV license people are nevertheless harassing X mercilessly. X tells them repeatedly that he has no TV, but it makes no difference, and a sum of money way in excess of the license fee being unjustly demanded is consumed in fatuous bureaucratic intimidation. Why don’t they say it honestly? The TV license is not a license to watch TV. It is a tax on all householders and all households, regardless of TV ownership or watching habits.

Well, here is a new tweak on the old story. Now they are inflicting this idiocy upon John Redwood, who does watch TV in his main home, but who has no TV in his London pad. Not only is John Redwood an MP and a former (and perhaps soon to be again) cabinet minister. He is also a blogger, and quite a good one:

Governments should assume honest conduct by citizens unless there is evidence to suppose otherwise, and should have a framework of sensible laws and requirements that most people most of the time respect and wish to follow. As soon as government becomes heavy handed and imposes too many laws – and too many laws that do not seem reasonable to the governed – there is more chance that more people will deliberately or inadvertently break them, and more likelihood that government will then intensify its snooping and heavy handed enforcement. Such a progress makes public life coarser, and creates a growing gap between government and governed. The UK now is suffering from rapacious government, seeking ever larger sums of revenue to feed the bureaucratic monster. It will in turn create an angrier electorate, resentful of how the money is spent and cross about the bullying techniques used to extract it.

That “now” makes this sound like a recent development. The posting as a whole is entitled: “Now they want us to pay for services we do not receive!”, as if a government charging for something it doesn’t do is a new idea invented by Gordon Brown which Redwood has only just noticed. But since Redwood is a party politician, he is obliged to spread the idea that there are simple party political causes of and cures for such woes. Apart from that, good posting.

29 comments to John Redwood has no TV in his London flat but must still pay the TV tax!

  • Don’t look now but the BBC wants to charge everyone with a computer because they know we are all watching TV on our broadband. They are all banding together to try to force people to pay a “levy” for their non-entertainment television programs.

  • Is it ever pointed out how much money the BBC makes in the United States from its ventures with the Discovery Networks and A&E Television Networks? Seems everything I watch on those networks is always a co-production of the BBC.

    Surely the loss of the License Fee would be a pittance compared to the squillions they must make all over the world?

  • Nick Timms

    But the government has always extorted money from me for services I do not use so this is not a new idea except in John Redwood’s mind.

  • RAB

    Well I asked this the last time the Licence Fee was mentioned, but didn’t get a reply.
    Does anyone know the name of the Sunday Times columnist of a few years ago ( I think it was something like Miller or Porter?) Who was going to take the Beeb all the way to the House of Lords for not having a licence. He used to go on about his starter chateau, and his French shire horses, and what happened to the case?

    As to the i Player service. Those of you outside the UK will know, that the service is unavailable to them.
    I you ask them, the Beeb will mumble something about copyright problems.
    But this means that I, a licence fee payer, will also not be able to access the service when abroad, and that is bloody well not good enough!

  • But the government has always extorted money from me for services I do not use so this is not a new idea except in John Redwood’s mind.

    Hit the nail on the head there, Nick.

  • John K

    The BBC does show adverts of course, it’s just that the adverts on the BBC only advertise the BBC and its products. The most annoying ones inform us that that we are all on the databse, and will be punished if we do not pay the TV tax. I think that sums up the difference between the public and private sectors. Commercial TV airs adverts from companies who hope you will buy their products, the BBC airs adverts telling you that you are on a databse and will go to prison if you do not pay them. Nice work if you can get it.

  • @ Andrew Ian Dodge:

    If the programmes are watched in time-shift mode i.e. not the same time as the broadcast, no licence is required according to current licensing laws. Unless BBC can somehow orchestrate a change in licensing conditions, and unless they start broadcasting online in real time, their charging for our watching TV on our broadband connections will not come to pass.

    However if it does come to pass, possessing a PC (which is technically a reception device) would no longer will remain exempt from licence fee. :-) Which means even more people in the net.

  • Kevin B

    Actually, I reckon the Beeb could make a decent living by exclusively showing the nanny-state nagging adverts that clutter up the airwaves.

    Since I don’t watch the beeb very much it would save me from the combination of depression and anger that these ads engender.

  • pete

    What a shame the last Tory government didn’t scrap the TV tax. They had 18 years to do it. People should be free to buy trashy TV from where they want without having to pay for the government funded variety first. Just what is the government doing ensuring the funding of rubbish like Eastenders? The nanny state wants to protect us from junk food, but not junk TV it seems.

  • liminal

    RTS every letter you receive from the TV licensing agency.
    would soon solve the problem.

  • DocBud

    While I sympathise with your sentiments, Nick. I do think there is a difference when the extortion is nominally for something specific like owning a tv.

    I also think that John Redwood’s political instincts are broadly correct (I could be wrong, politics usually throws up disappointments) so he should probably be encouraged to build on these. I fear the same cannot be said of his boss.

  • nick g.

    Here in Aus, we pay taxes so our ABC can show British and American programs! Some of the British programs are very good (I loved ‘Coupling’), but couldn’t it subsidise itself by licencing the videos, or something? Maybe the publicly-owned stations could just show documentaries, or news-shows.

  • Tim Sturm

    I prefer the licence fee to other forms of taxation. Better that taxes be as patently violent, obtrusive and annoying as the licence fee than have the government pilfering silently from our pockets through the likes of PAYE, National Insurance, VAT and so on.

    All taxes should be collected from the individual directly in my view.

  • I know of a case of someone who died.

    Posthumously they have been repeatedly hassled for a subsequent licence fee renewal that they were too dead to get any use out of. This despite the premises being unlived in and having the TV removed along with much of the furniture – and more to the point that the hasslers have been informed of this repeatedly.

    It seems these people just refuse to accept what they are told and automatically assume they are being lied to, to avoid paying the fee. Guilty until proven innocent by having your door kicked down?

  • NB

    I was without a TV for over a year when I moved into a new build apartment block a few years ago and received the usual deluge of letters from them. The most annoying thing was that despite them saying that all you had to do was contact them if you did not own a set they did not provide a free phone number or freepost address. I felt no inclination to spend money telling them I did not owe them anything so I did not reply.

    Finally after a few months a letter arrived that included a prepaid envelope for replies. I immediately filled it out and returned it in the hope that this would put an end to their waste of paper. The following week another letter arrived thanking me for my reply but saying that quite a few people who say they do not own televisions are not telling the truth and they would like to confirm my denial of TV ownership by sending an inspector around to search my flat. That ended my correspondence with them. Their letters went straight to the bin afterwards because I was curious to see how much effort they would go to in pursuit of this futile search and I also relished the prospect of wasting an inspector’s time after they had wasted more time wasting a judge’s time and maybe even a policeman’s time. I sometimes imagined the satisfaction of seeing the look of disappointment on their face when their search would turn nothing up. This game drew to a premature halt when I eventually did acquire a TV and licence.

    Ironically enough I was working on a BBC series towards the end of that saga. One of the execs there spent their weekends in a rural pile well outside the M25 and we’d often have to waste the equivalent of more than one annual licence fee hiring a taxi to go there with nothing but a DVD inside an envelope for a passenger. A shockingly inefficient organisation. The only thing at which it excels is erecting obstacles in front of programme makers when it should just provide them with the minimum amount of input required and otherwise stay out of the way and let them get on with it.

  • Paul Marks

    “Tax does not have to be taxing” is the slogan of the statists, ignoring that to tax is to burden – so tax must be “taxing” by definition.

    The B.B.C. tax is indeed taxing.

    It is sad indeed that the Conservative party will not commit to aboloishing the B.B.C. tax, rather than thinking about giving some of the taxpayers money to other television companies.

    As for the way the B.B.C. use the money that is taken by force and given to them.

    This morning I heard a report from a B.B.C. journalist from Bali – there was no news story, the B.B.C. person was just reporting on a government training exercise in Bali.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  • Brian

    Spookily enough, a demand of this kind hit my doormat this morning. The third this year.

    I reckon that constitutes harassment.

    Any offers as to the response if I contact the police?

  • toolkien

    I am reminded of the United States Post Office’s desire (put forth a few years back) to have a “tax” on emails, to be given to the USPS to make up for all their lost revenue made by snail mail. The mentality is clear – this class of people deserve a paycheck whether they do anything or not. In fact, you should be glad you get whatever service you do get.

  • the friendly grizzly

    Phil A’s story of the Beeb pursuing a dead person for license fees brought to my mind a whole new variation on the Dead Parrot Routine:

    “This set owner is dead, bereft of life, has ceased to be! He is no more! He’s rung down the curtain…”

    You get the idea.

  • John Redwood maybe does not see that ACROSS THE BOARD the more the State provides via taxation or State enforced monopoly the more we pay for things we did not use, want or receive.

    The mindset we increasingly see now is Roman, not Common Law, and it is infesting our Civil Service. I suspect the mechanism of schooling has something to do with it.

  • As myself and others tried to argue fruitlessly at the time of the last BBC Charter Review, if there’s a popular support for paid BBC services, then it can survive by subscription. If there isn’t popular support for it, then there is no justification for the fee except that of a dictatorship.

    This is a fallacy at the heart of the licence fee concept, and it’s unfortunate that nobody seems to have noticed. It would never fly in America, as many have noted before, where the very idea begs incredulity.

  • (In other words, the licence fee is inherently incompatible with democracy.)

  • It would never fly in America, as many have noted before, where the very idea begs incredulity.

    PBS and NPR are partly supported by taxpayers.

  • Sunfish

    PBS and NPR are partly supported by taxpayers.

    PBS and NPR, however, don’t demand a fee payment from folks who have a car stereo but only use it for Los Lobos CD’s. They also don’t have the market share or the influence over public opinion that the BBC does.

    The stereotypes that describe the average PBS viewer in the US would never take hold in the UK, simply because Perry de Havilland is about the only one there who doesn’t watch the BBC. It would be like trying to stereotype the average viewer of the Big Three networks here, most of whom haven’t watched PBS TV since they were six, and if they listen to NPR at all it’s only for Car Talk and not that likely even then.

    As near as I can tell, the average adult PBS/NPR fan in the US is like my mom: almost-retired, educated professional, lives in either the suburbs or a recently-gentrified inner city, drives a Subaru or Volvo wagon with an “Obama ’08” sticker, into TV documentaries about the mating habits of igneous rocks, and rolls her eyes at adults who watch animated stuff (or anything else) on Fox.

  • Hey, I miss Car Talk:-)

    Yes, of course the situation in the US is not half as bad, but the statement I was replying to is a bit overly optimistic. Another big difference between the BBC and the PBS-NPR is that the former is straightforward and honest about where and how it gets the money, unlike the latter, that hides behind the National Endowment for the Arts. How many Americans know what NEA is? But I bet you every Brit knows damn well what a Television License Fee is.

  • Sunfish

    How many Americans know what NEA is? But I bet you every Brit knows damn well what a Television License Fee is.

    True about NEA. I think most folks think that NEA is just a way to give taxpayer money to pornographers, or whatever Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano are. I don’t know about pornographers as a title, actually. Porn is supposed to be fun and involve gay hobbits or some such.

    And no Car Talk in Israel? Don’t they have car geeks there?

  • We have men, so we have car geeks, obviously. We get the BBC Top Gear, and also there are occasional attempts at local versions. But our relationship with our cars is very different from that of Americans…long story.

  • Alisa- If you’re suggesting that ‘public service broadcasting’ in the UK is equivalent or less invasive than ‘public service broadcasting’ in the US, I disagree strongly.

    PBS/NPR is at least an attempt to stick somewhat closely to the idea of ‘public service broadcasting': while I still find it unjustified use of public money, it at least attempts to do what they claim its purpose is to do (to fill the gaps that free market broadcasters leave, in the interest of the public service).

    The content and size of the BBC, on the other hand, is entirely, blatantly impossible to justify by appeal to the idea of ‘public service’. As I argued here and elsewhere, Eastenders is not a public service. The Weakest Link was not a public service. Noel’s House Party was not a public service. Morcambe & Wise was not a public service.

    It’s bullshit — barefaced bullshit. And I still don’t think it would fly in the US (the very idea of a TV Licence Fee shocks my listeners when the subject comes up). As a provisional means on the route toward abolishing the Licence Fee entirely, maybe the British public could start by electing people who – at the time of the next Charter Review – will reduce the size and quota of the BBC to at least that of PBS/NPR in America.