We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Turning the tables on TV Licensing

Think TV Licensing is too bullying? If so, I’ve written an article you might enjoy:

No one likes bullies, so I decided it was time to turn the tables on TV Licensing – which is contracted to private companies by the BBC – and go and investigate them. First stop was to ring their brand reputation consultants, Fishburn Hedges, and ask to spend a morning riding on a detector van. I wanted to discover why some readers without televisions had received unpleasant “official warning” letters year after year, when TV Licensing could have just used its vans which it says are “capable of detecting the use of TV receiving equipment within 20 seconds”.

Read the full article here.

16 comments to Turning the tables on TV Licensing

  • Ian B

    Excellent article.

    But, I think we have to look ahead. If some kind of steam can be built up against the license fee, we might hope for the eventual ending of the BBC. But. It’s a massive enemy class bastion. It’s not going to go quietly, and it will be very very hard to make it go at all. So, if there is a genuine mood for an ending of the fee, the enemy class will immediately characterise the (carefully managed) “debate” as “what is the best way to fund the BBC?” not “Should the BBC be funded (exist) at all?”

    We also should be cautious of what conservatives (your average run of the mill conservative) will think. We might imagine them to be opposed to a gigantic socialist state broadcaster; but in fact many of them like state TV, they just want conservative Songs Of Praise/Opera From Covent Garden state TV, back to Reith and family values state TV and will not actually be in favour of abolition. “I like my TV without adverts, I just don’t want lefties and tits and bums on it”.

    The other factor here is that TV broadcasting as we know it is headed the way of the steam locomotive. It’ll hang on for a while yet, but gradually be superceded by digital internets delivery; indeed the whole paradigm of a “programme” of content, delivered on a schedule of the “broadcaster’s” choosing, is going to look absurdly restrictive to people of the future, who will eat their dinner as a pill and wear a silver suit, and take their personal jetpack to work while talking to their wife via a radio telephone in their hat. It clearly makes more sense for viewers to choose what to watch at a time of their choosing. But then there will be no meaningful definition of what a television even is, and the license will have to be abolished anyway.

    My semi-educated guess is that they will be seeking a levy on internet connections, collected by ISPs. This will massively simplify collection and make non-payment impossible. Here again we might expect to find allies in the ISPs, but we must remember that these companies are also enemy class; they are used to playing ball with government. BT or Virgin are unlikely to cause a stink about the BBC levy, since it will affect everyone equally and if it harms anyone it’ll be their smaller competitors. Corporate states, wunnerful things.

    So we should be cautious of an anti-licence-fee campagin that ends up saddlng us all with an even worse internet tax which, once in place, would be with us for the foreseeable future and the BBC’s future would be assured. We must also remember that OFCOM (enemy class, natch) are as one with the Beeb and have already tried to extend state media onto the internet via the infamous Welfare For Wankers proposal.

    Killing the licence fee has to mean killing the BBC; the first may be achievable but without the second we’ve gained nothing. Anyone got any suggestions?

  • Nathan A

    It surprises me that I haven’t ever heard of someone breaking into one of these vans, or stealing one, or anything of that sort. I haven’t been paying very close attention, but evidence does seem to point toward these ‘detector vans’ being nothing but a scare tactic.

  • WalterBoswell

    Does anyone know what the deal is with TV license spooks and apartment blocks. By that I mean under what law, if any, are they be allowed to enter a private building?

    You see I want to drag one of them out by the scruff of the neck.

  • Privatise it. Sell it off. Don’t forget the back catalogue. It’s time has gone. Get rid of the Humphries, the Ross’es, the Paxmans. Let them compete in an open market.

  • Do the vans detect emissions from the vertical oscillator? It would seem easy to detect a given frequency from a fixed point. I do not own a telly, but I am worried about the cat detector vans. I never seen so many bleeding aerials. The man said that their equipment could pinpoint a purr at four hundred yards! And Eric, being such a happy cat, was a piece of cake.

  • Tanuki

    I’ve been receiving nastygrams from “TV Licensing” [a.k.a. Capita] for the last two and a half years, despite pointing out to them that my premises are actually covered by an OFCOM licence that allows both reception *and transmission* of TV programs.

    My standard response has been a letter formally revoking any implied consent for employees of ‘TV Licensing’ [and by extension, employees of Capita PLC] access to my premises unless they have a warrant.

    The nastygrams continue to arrive.

    My next step will most likely be to seek a injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

  • The myth was that TV detector vans either picked up the 15.625 kHz flyback oscillator or one of the IFs used to downconvert the broadcast signal to baseband. While this is theoretically possible, for TVs to be radiating enough energy to be detectable would put them in breach of RF interference requirements.

    It’s completely moot now, of course, since so many people are no longer receiving TV through broadcast or displaying it on a 625 line PAL CRT. The licensing authorities have always used the address database method to find non-payers (and harass the TV-less). It is a statutory requirement for retailers of TVs to record the address of the buyer so that it can be passed on.

    If you don’t own a TV and some jackanapes turns up on your doorstep demanding to have a look-round, be aware that you are under no obligation whatever to allow him entry unless he has a warrant signed by a magistrate.

    Further, simply watching TV does not require a license. It is only if the apparatus is capable of receiving an external signal that you need a license. Nothing stops you from watching DVDs on a 52″ flat screen monitor.

  • RAB

    Are you saying that TV detector vans dont exist?
    Well dont actually work then!!!
    Sob… You have shattered one of my last illusions!!!

    I got over the Sky Fairy and Father Christmas around the age of 18 months
    But Detector Vans were science wern’t they?
    You know like all the Sunday afternoon films my generation saw in black and white in the 60s, where the germans could track down our daring hero morsing
    clever crypted messages like

    Claude has lost his underpants.
    No point bringing the iron…

    To the Secret service back in Blighty.

    A van would come round a corner, would triangulate with some others, and there he was, done up like a kipper in the cross hairs of modern German technology!

    Now you say it is all nonsense.
    A detector Van is a modern Unicorn!

    Never more to do jokes like-

    It’s behind the clock on the mantlepiece….

    Sob, my world is in tatters I tell you!

  • Great article Alex.

    Saw you across at tvlicensing.biz/forums (CountryBoy). I also noticed you visited my blog during your research.

    TVL are borderline criminal for the way they persecute non-TV viewers. The presumption of guilt and intimidation of the innocent is more befitting a communist state, than a public service broadcaster.

    Time for a major overhaul of the whole licence system.

  • Very good.

    It’s no criticism of this article, however, to point out that it is about the bullying manner in which the money is collected, rather than about the rightness or wrongness of the demand for it in the first place, from those who do have TVs and who do watch them.

  • Sunfish

    Does anyone know what the deal is with TV license spooks and apartment blocks. By that I mean under what law, if any, are they be allowed to enter a private building?

    At the risk of overstepping (by commenting on a point of UK law from here)…it’s a broad general rule that government people don’t need special permission to go into areas accessable by the general public. If someone can go door-to-door in your building to sell girl scout cookies and Watchtower magazines, there’s no real law to keep the TVL folks out.

    That is, unless the UK is radically different from at least two other countries whose legal systems derive from the common law.

    As for the buildings with a doorman or other measures whose job it is to exclude unwanted visitors…that’s an interesting question and I don’t know.

    If you don’t own a TV and some jackanapes turns up on your doorstep demanding to have a look-round, be aware that you are under no obligation whatever to allow him entry unless he has a warrant signed by a magistrate.

    Does the UK even allow search warrants to be served by anyone other than police? My own corner of the US generally does not. And, will a judge actually issue a warrant to search for a TV? Has that EVER happened? Or, are the TVL people bluffing in hopes that the bluffed don’t have enough familiarity with the legal system to know better?

  • llamas

    Sunfish wrote:

    ‘Does the UK even allow search warrants to be served by anyone other than police?

    Oh, me, me, meee!

    Yes, it does.

    llamas will now demonstrate in which classes at the IOCSOL he was actually wide awake.

    The UK and some other UK-based jurisdictions have what is known as an Anton Piller order, named for the originating case Anton Piller KG vs Manufacturing Processes Ltd (1976).

    This is an ex-parte order of the court which permits the plaintiff, his assignees and/or anyone else that the judge directs to enter and search the premises of the defendant. It has often been called a ‘civil search warrant’ , and is now generally referred to in the UK as a ‘search order’.

    No police officers need be present, although the judge may order their presence to keep the peace but NOT to enforce the order or take any part in the search. This is entirely a civil matter, with sanctions for failure to comply lying with the judge. No force against persons or property may be used to enforce the order.

    Its typical use has been to secure evidence in civil matters when there is considered to be a high probability that the defendant will destroy it. In the named case, IIRC, it was matter of pirated music cassettes. It will be understood that it addresses class of cases where the evidence has a high sale value but a low intrinsic value and is easily destroyed (pirated music would be a good example).

    Why, oh why do I waste neurons in remembering this stuff? I haven’t had to know this for 30 years . . . .

    llater,

    llamas

  • One request: can people not refer to “TV Licensing”, but the BBC? TV Licensing is a name used by the BBC, presumably to make it look like it’s not them fining poor single mothers, but some quango.

  • Ian B

    At the risk of overstepping (by commenting on a point of UK law from here)…it’s a broad general rule that government people don’t need special permission to go into areas accessable by the general public. If someone can go door-to-door in your building to sell girl scout cookies and Watchtower magazines, there’s no real law to keep the TVL folks out.

    IANAL, but I would think that the owners of the property would still have the right in general to bar entry to specific people or groups, (these days, they’d have to avoid falling over positive rights legislation, so a sign saying “no muslims” or “no pooves” would be illegal, of course). But the owners could order TVL off their property. I would think.

    For instance, a friend of mine was harrassed by the police doing knife searches recently- he is an engineer and had a knife in his toolbox, which they searched(!). As it was, he was in his employer’s parking area which adjoins the street but is actually private property; the property owners have instructed the security guards to not allow police into it unless they’re pursuing a miscreant, etc, as a response, which so far as I know the owners are entirely entitled to do.

  • Sunfish

    Llamas:

    llamas will now demonstrate in which classes at the IOCSOL he was actually wide awake.

    International Olympic Committe School Of Linguistics?

    Ian B:
    Did the police ever come back? Did the owner’s mall ninjas run them off? If there was ever additional activity, I’d be interested.

  • Paul Marks

    Sunfish.

    Sadly loads of people have right of entry and search here.

    Of course the “Human Rights Act” does not stop such stuff.

    Real rights (Bill of Rights) are carefully not in it.