TV licence evasion – The Scottish File

There are many reasons to be upset about the current TV licence system. Many people stated Scotland’s referendum in their reasons to sign. Agnes F. wrote “As Scots we should not be paying for a licence for a corporation ruled by Westminster and a hugely biased and corrupt organisation.” Louise C. wrote: “Propaganda during the Scottish referendum was blatant and outrageous. Complete waste of money as I no longer watch BBC.” John B. said he signed “Because the BBC are Bias to the Scottish People” Robert M. claimed to have “stopped watching BBC due to bias during indi ref.” Ronald R. wrote “I’m fed up watching a biased program and getting charged to do so.” Ann M. shouted “Bias BBC TUFT THEM OOT”. David E. concluded “they don’t treat Scotland fair.”

TV LICENCE EVADERS IN SCOTLAND, GENERAL GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION

map of scotland TV licence evaders

Some local authority areas, including East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Midlothian and North Ayrshire, do not contain a sheriff court. As there is no court recorded for police fixed penalties these cannot be broken down to local authorities.

TV LICENCE EVADERS IN SCOTLAND, BROKEN DOWN BY AGE, GENDER AND LOCAL AUTHORITY

Non court disposals where the main offence was under the Communications Act 2003, section 363(2)&(4), by local authority area, Scotland, 2013-14
Local Authority Male Person Female Person Total
Age group Age group
16 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 54 55 to 89 16 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 54 55 to 89 other
Aberdeen City 4 15 12 2 10 33 40 9 1 126
Aberdeenshire 2 10 12 9 19 15 2 69
Angus 5 20 17 2 19 39 49 5 156
Argyll & Bute 4 15 3 7 8 16 2 55
Clackmannanshire 3 5 8 6 12 39 32 2 107
Dumfries & Galloway 3 21 13 2 15 32 23 3 112
Dundee City 24 73 107 21 78 188 157 31 679
East Ayrshire 23 69 99 21 75 189 180 37 693
East Lothian 2 24 28 10 21 49 39 5 178
Edinburgh, City of 29 96 196 38 103 290 331 42 1,125
Eilean Siar 2 2 1 3 8
Falkirk 12 41 57 14 44 116 85 9 378
Fife 64 142 183 27 152 375 353 50 1,346
Glasgow City 57 265 565 107 301 803 1,114 192 3,404
Highland 5 14 16 1 9 24 21 2 92
Inverclyde 4 20 39 6 23 84 93 15 284
Moray 4 5 1 1 9 10 8 1 39
North Ayrshire 1 3 4
North Lanarkshire 55 165 302 58 206 452 572 83 1,893
Orkney Islands 1 1 2 1 5
Perth & Kinross 4 20 24 7 21 41 41 9 167
Renfrewshire 21 71 90 24 62 188 195 26 677
Scottish Borders 8 23 8 2 14 28 28 2 113
Shetland Islands 1 4 3 6 14
South Ayrshire 12 35 51 10 27 80 101 4 1 321
South Lanarkshire 17 65 102 19 57 148 172 23 603
Stirling 1 8 10 5 3 16 26 3 72
West Dunbartonshire 3 9 12 12 16 34 42 9 137
West Lothian 20 58 81 14 56 170 146 23 568
Unknown 6 8 10 2 7 12 16 61
Total 389 1,291 2,064 416 1,363 3,473 3,899 589 2 13,486
PEOPLE PROSECUTED IN SCOTTISH COURTS under the Communications Act 2003, section 363(2)&(4), where main offence, by local authority area, 2013-14
Local Authority Main Result of Proceedings
Guilty Not Guilty
Males Females
Age group Age group
16 to 24 35 to 54 55 to 89 16 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 54 55 to 89
Clackmannanshire 1
Dumfries & Galloway 1
Dundee City 1
East Lothian 1 1
Edinburgh, City of 1 1 1 1
Fife 1 1 2
Glasgow City 1 1 2
Inverclyde 2 1 1
Moray 1
North Ayrshire 2
North Lanarkshire 1 3 1
Renfrewshire 1
South Lanarkshire 1 2
West Dunbartonshire 1
Total 1 9 2 1 1 12 2 4

TV LICENCE EVADERS IN SCOTLAND, QUICK OVERVIEW

pie charts scotland

All in all, the results do not show the kind of hardened criminal one could have expected. Usually, small crimes are committed by men in higher proportions. This 30%-70% male/female ratio, observed in Scotland, is pretty much the same across the whole of UK. But, why should it be so? Women may or may not be more targeted by TV licence officers, but, statistically, they are more likely to be at home during day time, taking care of children for example. Women might also be more trusting and willing to sort out their TV licence when prompted, ending up being the victims of this system.

THE 96% CLAIM

How often do you tune in to the BBC?

According to various bodies:

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. The fact that this is a wild extrapolation based on a microscopic sample of people (a weekly survey of 500 people) using insignificant length of time qualifying as “reach” remains a well-kept secret.

The BBC has been funded by the licence fee since 1923, but the current TV licence fee started in 1946. It’s classified as a tax since January 2006. It costs 40p a day (which is 40p too much if you object being associated with the BBC) or £145.50 a year. It goes without saying that this fee represents a much higher proportion of income for many households. And what amounts to 40p a day is, in context of austerity, actually quite a lot.

At any given time, there are 5.6 million UK addresses (out of 31 million) without a TV licence, even though watching live TV without a TV licence is a crime. 185,580 people were prosecuted in England and Wales in 2014 and 4,905 in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, where licence fee evasion cases can be disposed of via an out of court fine, there were 13,486 such cases and 32 prosecuted via the courts in 2013-2014.

The BBC claims to catch 900 evaders every day. Fines, for TV licence evasion, can be as high as £1,000, but as they are based on the criminal’s income, the average fine is, according to the BBC itself, £170. If this fine is not paid, the TV licence evader may end up in jail. In 2012, there were 50 people imprisoned for this crime at an average cost to the tax payer of £95 per day[1]. Sentences last usually less than 28 days.

LOOPHOLES

The definition of TV licence payer includes every person in the UK who watches, listens to or uses TV receiving equipment to watch or record live television programmes. The current government have made it clear that they intend to extend this definition to cover people who choose to restrict their viewing habits to Catch-Up TV, using the German Household levy as an inspiration. This new system would force everyone to pay, regardless if a TV is owned or not. Free licenses for people over 75 might also be a thing of the past soon. Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, media and sports, said “it is very difficult to justify why my mother doesn’t have to pay a licence fee.” At the very least, he would like if the BBC was picking up the £500 million bill.

If the fact that the British Broadcasting Corporation, an independent body (not a governmental entity, the clue is in the name) is allowed to collect a tax and if the BBC’s bullying tactics upsets you, there is a petition, called “End the BBC Licence Fee“, hosted on 38 Degrees. The petition, already signed by over 160,000 people, calls for a debate on the future of the licence fee, with the hope the TV licence fee will be abolished in the near future. It can be signed here https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/end-the-bbc-licence-fee

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UPDATE
impris scotland FOI

Kapil Summan, Assistant Editor of the Scottish Legal News says:

“It seems strange that in 2015 evasion of the TV license is still a matter for the criminal law. If the evasion rate were likely to remain at 5% in the event the offence became a civil infraction I think it would be reasonable to make this change given as there have been no custodial sentences imposed in Scotland in the past five years.

As for the proposal of a household levy, it seems anomalous in an age in which people have unprecedented control over what media they consume and pay for. Perhaps the TV license should indeed be abolished and replaced with a voluntary subscription, allowing the BBC to survive or die on the merits of its programming.”


[1] extrapolation from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/251272/prison-costs-summary-12-13.pdf

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