BBC’s Magic 96 %

How often do you tune in to the BBC?

According to various bodies, the National Average Weekly Reach in 2014 [1] was as follows:

65.8% listened to BCC radio, for at least 5 consecutive minutes in a week.

81.5% watched BBC television, for at least 15 minutes minimum in a week.

49.5% used BBC Online weekly.

Since 2011, the BBC has been bragging of a combined 96% weekly reach and has been using this statistic to justify why every house with a TV (receiving or recording live broadcasts) should be subject to the £145.50 licence fee.


Nobody seemed to have questioned this assertion.

Until now.

As the BBC quotes a “Cross Media Insight Survey”, I set my sights on finding one. I’m afraid that, despite my best efforts, I did not succeed yet. But I found the BBC’s definition of such a survey, and that’s striking gold in itself, as you’ll see.

“Cross-Media Insight (CMI) is a BBC survey designed to look at consumption across a wide range of media, including television, radio and online. The survey is designed to be a single-source measurement system […] administered by GfK NOP.

CMI is a weekly survey of 500 respondents, 450 of whom are on-line and 50 who are recruited offline so the total sample is designed to be representative of the UK by age, sex, social grade and region. In addition, the results are weighted to known proportions in the population so that the results are reliable at a total level and are not subject to sampling fluctuations.

Each respondent answers the CMI survey for a week – they fill in a daily questionnaire which identifies the TV programmes they have watched, the radio stations they have listened to and the websites they have visited across a wide range of channels, both BBC and non-BBC.” [2]

In short:

  • The Average Weekly Reached is based on a microscopic sample of people
  • The length of time qualifying as “reach” is insignificant.
  • Wild extrapolations are made from those data.


One thing to challenge is the minimum length of time that quantifies “reach”. Why is the industry happy to accept anything less than watching/listening to a complete programme? To put that in context, listening to 5 minutes of radio is listening to one song and tuning out as soon as the DJ speaks.  And who honestly watches half or a quarter of a TV programme? Can we just assume viewers who only tune in for only 15 minutes didn’t enjoy the show? On what basis are 5 radio minutes and 15 TV minutes statistically significant? I suspect most of us would have a Weekly Average of more time in the loo.


Another thing I find questionable is the assumption that, if “96% of 500 people use the BBC weekly”, it should mean “47 million people use the BBC weekly”. I’m afraid it’s a stretch too far and requires too much wishful thinking for my taste. The lower your sample size is, the higher your margin of error and the lower your confidence level becomes, to the point where hard data becomes pure fantasies. So why anyone would believe the BBC’s lazy calculation is a mystery to me.  I guess people just assume a proper survey is conducted because:

a) being impartial and trustworthy is at the core of BBC’s official values and,

b) with a budget in excess of 5 billion, money is no object.

According to, the size of sample needed for a population the size of the UK is, depending on the level of accuracy wanted, between 6,000 and and 41,000. But let’s not talk in the abstract. Let’s put things in perspective and compare the BBC’s samples with real samples used by other organisations.

  • RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research), the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the United Kingdom, interview, over 50 weeks, approximately 110,000 respondents aged 15+, plus roughly 4,000 children between 10 and 15 years of age. The quarterly population used recently was 53,502 RAJAR operates a sweep, which means that its respondents only participate for one week.
  • BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board) is the organisation responsible for providing the official measurement of UK television audiences. They use a panel. In other words, around 5,100 homes selected for representativeness are fitted with a meter to report the TV viewing of the each person in the household. This means around 11,300 individual respondents are monitored daily.

So why are the BBC’s samples 228 times smaller than RAJAR’s and 22 times smaller than BARB’s? A wild guess is that accuracy is not a very high priority for the BBC.


But what about being representative? What guarantee do we have that the BBC’s otherwise ridiculously small samples are, at least, both randomly picked (as opposed to subjectively selected) and yet representative of the population? None, except their word for it (see definition of Cross Media Insight Survey above) and that’s just not good enough for me.

Considering that nearly 19 % of the population don’t have a TV licence, how many people in this category are included in the Cross Media Insight Survey? These people are non-negligible in quantity and in effect, if their television habits are anything to go by. If they choose to ignore BBC by choice (including its radio network), it’s more than likely that their results would drive the National Average Weekly Reach down dramatically. Mine would.


Since publishing its strategy “Putting Quality First” in December 2010, the BBC pledged to set new standards of openness and transparency. So they started to produce neat little tables, quarterly. (See sample reproduced below.)

weekly reach

Considering that those tables lack:

  • a proper link to the full results
  • a description of the type of sample (sweep versus panel)
  • criteria used for the selection of the sample
  • details of the composition of the sample (gender, age, location, social position)
  • how the surveys are conducted, and
  • how the data is weighted

I have come to the conclusion that our definition of openness and transparency plainly do not align.


Also, I discovered that the BBC changed the way it was compiling data. This explained going from 93% in 2008 t0 97% in 2009. The footnote in the Annual Report is very enlightening.

93 to 97%

Also, the BBC thinks old data can be forged, as demonstrated in the document British Bold Creative (here) where BBC states that the reach in 2007/08 was 96.9% when it was only 93% according to the relevant Annual Report.

93 to 96%



The BBC now claims a 99% weekly reach (see here)


It’s now “around 95%” (click here)


My reply to this has been eloquently written by George Orwell, in ‘1984’ (page 48. I only replaced the word “Ministry of Plenty” with BBC’s logo.)

1984 stats small

As they say, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics“. And on this bombshell…


[1]April to June.



Clever Analogies


Here’s the Cream of the Crop, comments (slightly modified) from the “Reasons for Signing” the petition against the TV licence fee. Drum roll please!

The TV licence Fee is like…

pelting my neighbour’s house with eggs then charging them for the eggs. Ben B.

being told, in a supermarket, “you must buy this mouldy loaf of bread you will never use for £145, or we will prosecute you”. Chris H.

making Tesco the National Supermarket and charge people a fee if they only shop at Aldi. (Ian M.) and  then, demanding access to their kitchen to check their fridge (@tvlicensingblog)

having fishing rods, but no licence for it. If you don’t fish, you don’t need a licence, simple. Where does it say that it’s the Law to tell the TV Licencing Authority that I don’t watch TV? Nikita W. and Teri W.

– Prosecuting people for TV licence evasion is like prosecuting people for collecting rain water instead of using the tap. Caroline L-B

being asked to pay for a service that I never signed a subscription for. Dean S.

….Oh wait, that last one is not an analogy at all. It’s the truth!

Feel fee to add clever analogies of your own as a comment.

Whittingdale: Good News or Bad News for the BBC? 


Prime Minister David Cameron announced the nomination of John Whittingdale as the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. But is it a good or a bad thing for the BBC?

It is anticipated that this move will leave most people feeling upset, possibly in more than one way, depending on their general opinion of the BBC.

For the people who think the BBC is a beacon and that any changes will threaten its very fabric, the new Secretary of the state for Culture, Media and Sport is bad news. Indeed, Whittingdale said the renewal of BBC’s Charter is an opportunity to examine all aspects of the BBC, namely, its scale, scope, governance and funding. He thinks it will start a debate on the very role of the BBC in the UK. In his opinion, the renewal of BBC Charter is so important that an independent panel, conducting a long public consultation, should take place as soon as possible.  He thinks any organisation that gets nearly £4 billion of public money should be subject to close scrutiny. He doesn’t support the idea that the BBC should continue to try to provide something for everyone.  And when the market is clearly providing a lot of existing content, he thinks the BBC shouldn’t be afraid to do less.  He would also like to remove the in-house production guarantee and to open up all BBC commissioning to competition. He also wants more partnership and collaboration with the private sector, and specifically, more support for local media. Finally, Whittingdale is also highly critical of the BBC Trust. He is not happy with the fact that the BBC is judging itself. He thinks the trust should be abolished and that complaints about accuracy and impartiality of the BBC should go to Ofcom, who already carry out that function for Channel 4.

For the people who resent the BBC, either because it’s a burden on the poor or a propaganda tool, the outlook is just as bleak.  And for the people who don’t own a TV, Whittingdale is really bad news. Here’s why.

Of vulnerable people (people with low income, single parent families and people on benefit) Whittingdale makes no mention of, so maybe, in is mind, they don’t exist. He firmly thinks that if the TV licence fee is attached to council tax, it would somehow be less of a burden and that’s enough in itself. But without a single shred of evidence to support this wild claim, I fail to see how.

As for the bias the BBC is increasingly accused to hold, Whittingdale doesn’t see it. He thinks the BBC produces many outstanding, extremely popular, programmes and that it has an unrivalled reputation for accuracy and impartiality, which makes it hugely respected all over the world. On the other hand though, he does acknowledge that there have been significant failures in recent times: the episodes of executive pay-offs, pensions and severance payments; the loss of £100 million on the digital media initiative; the disastrous acquisition and then sale of Lonely Planet; and, of course, the editorial failures regarding programmes about Jimmy Savile and then Lord McAlpine. He deals with the paradox by saying that people judge the BBC on its content, not the mishaps that happen away from the public eye.

As for the people who don’t currently pay a TV licence, he thinks that either they watch TV in sneaky ways or they, at least, listen to BBC radio, so it’s fair to make them pay anyway. Indeed, Whittingdale believes arrangements should immediately be made to cover catch-up services. He does not challenge the broad claim that 96% of UK adults use the BBC each week (even though those results are based on samples of population as small as 500 people a week). He therefore thinks the number of people who never watch the BBC, never listen to BBC radio and never go online to access BBC services is “very, very small” and can simply be ignored. It is unclear if he know that 5.6 million UK address, out of 31 million, don’t have a TV licence at any given time. This means nearly 20% of the population are non-conformists in one shape or another.

But what does Whittingdale think of the current TV licence fee?  He thinks it is simple, it maintains arm’s length independence from the Government, but it’s regressive, compulsory and expensive to collect. He has been heard saying the TV licence fee is “worse than a poll tax” and that it’s “collected through some fairly draconian measures” but, in his mind, there is no realistic alternative to some form of licence fee in the short term, although he supports a number of changes.

On decriminalisation, he’s torn. On one hand, he believes the penalties in place are anachronistic and disproportionate. He agrees that the 150,000 convictions every year for failure to have a licence clogs up the courts. But on the other hand, he clearly fears decriminalisation may create a risk of much greater evasion. It’s probably fair to assume that, without serious guaranties that the BBC funding will not suffer, he’s not likely to push very hard for decriminalisation of this “crime”.

“So what does he suggest?”, you may ask. When working on the 166 page long document “The future of the BBC” for the House of Commons, Whittingdale, as the chairman of the comity, had an opportunity to think long and hard about all the options. Here’s what he has to say on them.

On freedom of choice, Whittingdale thinks it is an important principle that, where possible, people should be able to choose whether to pay or not. He’s confident the vast majority of people would choose to go on paying. “I do not think there would be a massive drop.” he said.

On subscription, he thinks we should at least consider it, but because it would require big changes, such as the installation of conditional access in every household, it’s not yet possible to move to a subscription model. He’s doesn’t think subscription has to mean “paying more and getting less”.

On public funding, Whittingdale thinks there will always be an element of public finance because there are certain things that might not be viable on a subscription basis but are, nevertheless, important for the public good.

On a household levy, Whittingdale has said it’s “essentially the licence fee by a different name”. As every household would have to pay to same flat tax, regardless of viewing habits, he thinks it would be simpler to collect and much harder to avoid. Dreaming of riches, he thinks it may even lead to an increase in revenue if the current level of evasion has been underestimated. And if it was attached to a council tax, providing an incentive to councils to take on that responsibility, it could save even more money.

On free licence for people of over 75, he said “it is very difficult to justify why my mother doesn’t have to pay a licence fee.” He would like it if BBC was, at least, picking up the £500m cost of free TV licences.

If any part of this horrifies you, there is a petition, called “End the BBC Licence Fee” you can sign. The petition, hosted on 38 Degrees, has already signed by thousands.  It asks Whittingdale, as the new Secretary of the state for Culture, Media and Sport, for a real open public debate on the future of the licence fee. The petition can be signed here:


Capita’s Enforcement Officer Job Pack revealed!

UPDATE: Video of an undercover interview done by the Daily Mail

Ever wanted to know what it takes to work for Capita? Here’s their job pack! It was an attachment to a (now expired) job advertised in Birmingham in 2014.

If you fancy giving them a piece of your mind, they conveniently provide lots of ways to reach them:

Recruitment Department, PO Box 88, Darwen, BB3 1WZ.
E-mail address –
Telephone number – 0300 790 6033

Have fun reading… (text reproduced below all the pictures for easy reading)

Capita job pack 1

Capita job pack 2

Capita job pack 3

Enforcement Officer
1. Introducing Capita
Capita is the UK’s leading provider of outsourcing and professional support services across both public and private sectors

50,000+ employees
FTSE 100 Company
300 sites, within the UK and Ireland including 50 specialist business centres of excellence

We support, transform and manage our clients’ business operations in a wide variety of markets including:
 Central & local Government
 Education
 Life & pensions
 Insurance
 Financial services
 Transport
 Project management
 Health
For further information please visit our website at

2. Introducing TVL
TV Licensing informs people of the need to buy a TV Licence.
We maintain a database of licensed and unlicensed addresses in the UK and use this technology to identify and visit people we believe may be using a TV receiver without a valid licence.
There are around 25 million TV Licences in force, which include 3.9 million free over 75 TV Licences and around 40,000 licences for customers receiving a 50% blind concession.

Maintaining the deterrent
 We’ll send a number of letters to an unlicensed address, reminding occupants of the importance of being properly licensed and giving information on the many ways they can pay.
 Contact occupants by phone, asking whether a TV Licence is needed at the property.
 If there is no response, the address will be selected for a visit from an Enforcement Officer. Visits like this can provide TV Licensing with information on whether an address is unoccupied or derelict and whether there is a TV receiver on the premises. Visits can also result in evaders being caught.
 On average around 1,000 evaders are caught daily.
For further information please visit our website at

3. The Job – Enforcement Officer
• Providing outcome results from each of your visits to enable us to update our database using the latest handheld technology
• Enforce prosecution proceedings by taking statements under caution
• Visiting selected unlicensed addresses (no cold calling)

Required Skills
• Self-Motivated
• Flexible attitude to attendance patterns
• Ability to work alone
• Perseverance
• Excellent communication skills
A desire to exceed set goals

A basic salary of £14,000 per annum (17K London)
• Average salary with commission in 2012 was £23,615.
• An outstanding results based incentive scheme
• 23 days holiday per year rising with length of service
• Pension, share save scheme, share ownership plan and numerous staff discounts.
• Candidatesmust hold a full UK driving licence and have access to a suitable vehicle, mileage expenses of 45 pence per mile will be reimbursed.
• Hours are flexible however at least 17 per week must be worked during ‘prime-time’, which is between 4pm-9pm weekdays or anytime worked at the weekend.

To Apply
• Fill in the enclosed application and return in the envelope provided. Postal address is Recruitment Department, PO Box 88, Darwen, BB3 1WZ.
• E-mail address –
• Telephone number – 0300 790 6033

Standard CRB checks
• All successful candidates will be subject to a Standard CRB check. Criminal Records will be taken into account for recruitment purposes only when the convictions are relevant. Having a conviction will not necessarily bar you from employment, this will depend on the circumstances and background to your offence.

4. Employee Profile
Sales Officer
John has been with Capita TV Licensing for over 3 years. He is a Sales Officer working in the Midlands.
‘My line manager was very open and honest from the start about the level of commitment that was required if I was to be successful.’
‘The training materials provided in the induction were clear and easy to understand giving adequate information on procedures to follow in all circumstances in order to make a sale or complete a visit.’
‘Despite my concerns about possible reaction from potential customers at every door, I soon realised that most people were quite happy to sort out their TV licence.’
‘The most rewarding aspect of the job is the flexibility to work hours that suit my lifestyle and commitments. I decide which places to visit from day to day. I can either work a few hours in the morning, take a break and work a few more in the evenings when most people are at home or I can work through the day for four days and have Friday free to make an extra long weekend.’
‘The opportunity to work extra hours means I have more time to earn additional bonus which is uncapped and well worth the effort’
There is a healthy level of competition between teams and individual officers across the country. Every month good performance is recognised and extra rewards given to individuals who have done particularly well.’

5 Reasons to work for Capita

  • Join an innovative, lively and market leading organisation
  • Contribute to a responsible business focused on making a positive impact in the communities which we work
  • Gain ongoing support and skills to help unlock your potential
  • Enjoy career opportunities across a huge range of sectors, disciplines and businesses
  • Experience a creative working environment where individual responsibility and business autonomy are encouraged


Commercial in Confidence Role Profile

Job title
• Enforcement Officer

Reporting relationships
• Reports to the Enforcement Manager
• No direct reports

Job purpose
Maintain an effective deterrent against evasion of the TV licence
• Maximise sales for the BBC
Enforce prosecution proceedings by taking statements under caution
• Update and improve the TV licensing database

Criteria for success
• Full driving licence
• Self motivated and driven to exceed set goals and targets
• Perseverance with the ability to work unaccompanied and in all weathers
• Demonstrates detailed product knowledge
• A flexible approach to attendance patterns that will include working evenings and weekends to maximise results
• Excellent communication skills and the ability to remain calm and professional during all situation
Ability to deal with conflict and aggressive people
• Good standard of secondary education

Levels of accountability
• Meets defined performance targets
• Controls are generally in place to monitor quality and quantity of output

Roles and responsibilities
• Conduct door to door visits to properties where no TV licence is registered
• Accurately record visit details and complete daily timesheets via the handheld device
• Explain and sell the benefits of all licence payment schemes
• Take and accurately record payment details
• Attend court when required to give evidence in prosecution cases
• Carry out work and attend meetings as directed by the Visiting Manager

Statement Under Caution Form

Caution Form / Record of Interview form – personal data removed.

interview formThe words “Accepted without prejudice” only means that if an offer was made during the “interview”, but the deal falls through at a later date, the BBC keeps the right to claim the entire sum due in court (not just what was agreed with the officer).

interview form back

Notice the “Even if you purchase the appropriate licence, you may still be prosecuted for the offence.” How heartless.

£volution of Licence Fee

TV licence fee

The Broad Strokes:

1920: First live public radio broadcast

1922: a 10 shillings radio licence fee was introduced

1926: British Broadcaster Company became British Broadcaster Corporation

1934: Limited regular television broadcasts started

1936: BBC One launched

1946: a £2 TV licence fee was introduced

1964: BBC Two was launched

1968: a £10 colour TV licence fee was introduced (twice as much as the B&W one)

1969-1984: slow climb to £34

1985: CBBC launched and TV licence fee jumps to £58

1988: BBC Sport launched

1986-2010: steady climb to £145.50

1995: BBC Worldwide Ltd launched

1997: BBC News and BBC Three launched, BBC Parliament acquired

1999: BBC Four and BBC Online launched

2002: CBeebies launched

2008: BBC iPlayer and BBC Alba launched

2010: the TV Licence fee has been frozen until 31st March 2017.