25 Things the BBC doesn’t want you to know

see no evil speak no evil

  1. The British Broadcasting Corporation is an independent body (not a governmental entity, the clue is in the name), allowed to collect a tax. In many ways, it’s a bit like blood sucking vampires that are neither dead nor alive. The BBC has been living in this limbo zone, at the edge of private and public, since the General Strike of 1926.
  2. Watching live TV without a TV licence is, in the eye of the law, a crime (unlike other utility bills) and TV licence evaders will get a criminal record. It will not show up on basic criminal record checks thought, but it will impact the TV licence evader’s credit rating. And because the public has a right to know criminal matters, some local newspapers have decided to add “public shaming” to the list of consequences.
  3. Almost 70% of TV licence evaders are women.
  4. Students, people on benefit, disabled (other than blind), publicans and hotel owners all have to have a TV licence, which costs £145.50.
  5. The legally blind get a 50% discount but the deaf pay full price. Subtitles and in-vision signing are expensive.
  6. People over 75 also need a TV licence. This licence is “free” for them, but the BBC bills the Government for 3.9 million such “free” TV licence.
  7. Collection of the TV licence fee costs over £100 million each year. By multiplying the average fine by the number of convictions, it can be deduced that only 28 million, or a 1/4 of the cost, is recovered. But court records shows that less than 35% of TV licence fines are actually recovered. Therefore only 10 million, or 10% of the cost, is recovered.
  8. The government used to collect the fee, but in 1991, the BBC demanded to be made in charge of it. “TV licensing” is BBC’s alter ego. Since then, the BBC/ TV licensing made a partnership with Capita to do the ground work.
  9. There are 5.6 million UK address (out of 31 million) without a TV licence at any given time.
  10. 100,000 threatening letters are sent every every working day in order to chase hard core evaders. That’s more than 23 million per year.
  11. These letters were followed with around 3.8 million visits by TV licence officers.
  12. Each TV licence officer conduct on average 36 visits a day. Their performances are rewarded with incentives, which can amount to £1,000 per month, on top of their base salary of £14,000.
  13. When a TV Licence officer finds a house without a valid TV licence, he or she will take a statement from any responsible adult living at the address and the BBC will prosecute that person. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the person doesn’t own the TV, doesn’t watch it and or isn’t the one in charge of paying the household bills.
  14. If the BBC / Capita testify that there are reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been committed in a house, a magistrate can grant a search warrant to the TV licence officer.
  15. The BBC / Capita say they catch nearly 1,000 evaders every day.
  16. Approximately 180,000 people were prosecuted in 2012.
  17. Because more than 1 in 10 of all cases prosecuted in magistrate courts are TV licence fee related, even the Magistrate Association wants to decriminalise it.
  18. Fines for TV licence evasion are based on the criminal’s income and the length of the offence. The average evader is fined £170, but the BBC likes to stress that the maximum fine is £1,000. Court costs and a victim surcharge will be added on top but may not be recovered. Almost 2/3 of the fines for this particular crime are not recovered.
  19. Indirectly, the BBC can send people to jail because offenders who do not pay the fine imposed as punishment can be imprisoned. Sentences for non-payment of a TV licence fine are usually less than 28 days. In 2012, there were 50 people imprisoned for this crime. The average cost to incarcerate someone is £95 per day.
  20. The BBC’s “unique way of funding” is not unique. Denmark, Sweden and Norway operate a similar model.
  21. Recently, both Finland and Iceland have abolished their TV licence fee. Canada, United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Monaco and Spain don’t have TV licence fees either.
  22. Even though the TV licence fee has been frozen until 31st March 2017, the BBC’s charter will be up for renewal in December 2016.The negotiations over the corporation’s next royal charter will begin in May 2015, after the general election.
  23. In 2013, an ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph found that 70% said the BBC licence fee should be abolished or cut.
  24. Tony Hall suggests replacing the TV licence fee with a universal household levy like in Germany (in other words, a flat tax to every home, regardless of TV habits). This would clearly penalise people who do not have a TV set, and it would force people who only watch TV on-demand (which currently doesn’t require a TV licence) to pay. It would not address the problem that both the licence and a levy are fundamentally unfair (taking no account of ability to pay) but it would cut the BBC’s costs as it would no longer need to detect and prosecute those who avoid buying a TV licence.
  25. A petition hosted on 38 Degrees, called “End the BBC Licence Fee” is trying to put a stop to these dodgy practices. The petition has been signed by more than 160,000 people across UK already. With coverage in nine local newspapers already achieved and a mention on Marketplace, an American Radio network.

If you believe, as a member of the public, you should have some say in the future of the fee (whether it should be scrapped, reduced, transferred to subscription, taken from general taxation, funded by advertising, or even kept the same) then you can sign the petition here and ensure that a debate in parliament occurs. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/end-the-bbc-licence-fee


3 thoughts on “25 Things the BBC doesn’t want you to know

  1. The threatening letters now state that it is an offence to watch a programme while it is being broadcast. The letters no longer state that it is an offence to own a television set. You don’t have to speak to an “enforcement officer”. They have no authority.


    1. True. I remember when it was offence to just own a TV without a TV licence, it’s not that long ago. As my brother-in-law puts it, “the law has been clarified since” (I prefer to say the BBC was forced to backtrack a bit.) As for officers, you are right as well, they have as much authority as a Tesco Cashier or a Safe Style Salesman…


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