A TV LICENCE CHEAT SHEET

What is it?

  • The licence fee is officially classified as a tax since January 2006. The British Broadcasting Corporation is an independent body allowed to use the state as its debt collector. “That special status only serves to fuel an arrogance and sense of entitlement at the BBC and distance the corporation from the very people it is to serve” (quote by Andrew Bridgen, MP)
  • Watching live TV or the BBC iplayer without a TV licence is a crime and TV licence evaders will get a criminal record. It will not show up on basic criminal record checks, 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.
  • The TV licence fee is not a payment for a service. It’s “a payment for permission to receive television broadcasts and not for the service provided. It is payable in full irrespective of the use made of that service and the quality of reception”.[1]

 

The law:

  • Section 363 of the Communications Act 2003[2] creates 3 categories of TV licence evaders:

– those who install or use a TV receiver without a licence

– those who intend to install or use a TV receiver without a licence and

– those who know someone living under the same roof who installs, uses or intends to install or use a TV receiver without a licence

  • TV licensing specifies that “TV receiver” means any devices (TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder) but that only live TV broadcasts and the iplayer are subject to a licence.[3]
  • According to the BBC, a licence fee payer is “also (so far as is sensible in the context) any other person in the UK who watches, listens to or uses any BBC service, or may do so or wish to do so in the future”.[4] The mind boggles. Is this verging on thoughtcrime?
  • There is no legal requirement to inform the BBC that no TV licence is required.[5] Their letters, though worded strongly and borderline on harassment, remain unsolicited junk to prospective customers and therefore can just be binned. TV licence “officers” are just salesmen, they don’t have to be entertained.

 

When did it started?

  • A£2 TV licence fee was introduced in 1946 – equivalent to £85 in today’s money. Until then, the BBC had been solely relying on a radio licence fee introduced in 1922.
  • There is a slim chance (10/1 according to Paddy Power[6]) that the TV licence will be abolished before its 75th anniversary, in April 2021.

 

Who manages it:

  • Originally, TV licences were issued by the General Post Office. The statutory authority was the Home Office until the BBC took over the administration in 1991. The BBC claims to have halved the number of TV licence evaders since then. (TV Licence evasion is now estimated to be in the range of 6% to 7%[7])
  • ‘TV Licensing’ is a trade mark of the BBC[8],  used under licence by companies contracted by the BBC. In 2002, the BBC awarded Capita the contract to deal with TV licence queries, process TV licence applications and payments, maintain the licence database, visit addresses, take statements, and achieve prosecutions of TV licence evaders. TV Licensing debt collection is carried out by Akinika, which is a debt collection agency owned by Capita. Marketing and printing services, including reminder letters and licence distribution, are carried out by Proximity London Ltd. Media services are contracted to Havas Media.

 

How is it enforced:

  • Proximity London Ltd sent 8,283,425 reminder letters (AKA threatograms), last year on behalf of TV Licensing[9].
  • These letters were followed with roughly 3 million visits by Capita’s TV officers[10].
  • Visits are usually conducted with the permission from the householder. A court can only grant a warrant if there are “reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been committed”[11], if evidence is likely to be on the premises and access is denied.
  • TV licence officers generated 139,718 prosecutions in the UK (including out of court disposal in Scotland.) last year.[12] (For comparison, in 2017, there were 147,744 prosecuted/dealt out of court. In 2016, there were 184,595 prosecuted/dealt out of court. In 2015, it was 200,117.)
  • 7% of cases brought to court last year were unsuccessful (9,319 cases). The number of cases thrown out in Northern Ireland is very high (27%) compared to the rest of the UK, hinting that cases are initiated on a speculative basis where it is hoped by the BBC that people won’t contest the prosecution.
  • A typical case is sorted in less than 60 seconds[13]. (This is corroborated by my own experience. I witnessed 92 cases being despatched in 80 minutes[14]) People who were not there were found guilty of a crime that was not proven. It’s a pure rubber-stamping exercise by the magistrates. TV licence reps are treated like solicitors despite their lack of a Law degree and the fact that TV licensing is a high-pressure commission-based sales operation is ignored. The absence of defendant can be partly explained by Magistrate’s Courts being centralised. For example, someone from Cornwall would have to travel to Dorset to defend themselves.

 

Dirty Side of Pressure Sales:

  • TV licence officers have targets to achieve.[15]
  • They also have financial incentives (commissions on top of their £20k+ salary) to catch as many evaders as possible. The annual average is £5,856 but earning potential is uncapped.[16]
  • TV licence officers try to take a statement using an untitled form (a copy of the form is supplied at the end of this document) from any responsible person living at the address to incriminate them later in court. This led to the prosecution of children (4 aged 10 & 11, 20 aged 12 to 14, and more than 400 in the 15-to-17 bracket) between 2009 and 2016. [17] Some of them have even been found guilty. This aberration is possible because greedy/desperate-to-achieve-targets “officers” only need a name, an address and a signature to start the legal process. Who’s to say how old a person is from just their signature?
  • Buying a TV licence on the spot (i.e. during a TV licence visit) can still lead to a prosecution (see the back of the Interview form at the end of this document. Highlights are mine). These cases are typically dropped on the day they are due to be heard in court, leading to weeks of unnecessary stress for the people involved.

 

The Money:

  • It costs £50 for a colour TV Licence and £52 for a black and white one. The blind are entitled to a 50% reduction. (There is no concession for the deaf). Residents of care homes may qualify for a discounted TV Licence fee of £7.50.
  • There were 25,752,560 licences in force during the financial year 2018/19.[18] (This does not include concessionary licences held by the Accommodation for Residential Care). This means there are about 5 million UK addresses without a TV licence (There is a discrepancy on total number of addresses in the UK. Royal Mail states some 30 million delivery points but the TV Licensing database shows more than 32 million addresses.[19])
  • There were 4.6 million so-called Free TV licences for over-75s, an increase of around 18% compared to 2004/2005. Until 2018, the cost of those TV licences, reimbursed by the Department for Work and Pensions, accounted for around 17% of the total licence fee income.[20] This is why the BBC is now trying to renege on the deal they made with Whittingdale (AKA the backroom deal that allowed them to increase the TV licence to cover said cost).
  • Income generated by the TV licence was £3.69bn in 2018/19, a decrease of £140m on the previous year.
  • BBC’s total income was £4.889bn. (To put it into perspective, Channel 4’s revenue was £975m[21]) However, the cost of producing all content and of running the BBC was £4.977bn. Results for this year show an accounting deficit of £69 million (2017/18: surplus of £180 million)[22]

 

How is the TV licence spent?

Untitled

  • £102.6m is spent on collection costs (£59.9m in call centres, £15.1m in reminder letters and information campaigns, £12.5m in postage, £8.5m in updates to systems, £4.7m in administration and £1.9m in depreciation of new systems)[23]. If you lump it with “Other”, it accounts for nearly 15% of the budget.
  • One can also wonder why the TV licence fee, paid by the British people, is used to fund BBC World Service’s broadcasts in Africa, North Korea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Thailand and Russophone countries.[24] One way to reduce the TV licence fee would be to stop broadcasts abroad.

 

TV Licence Fine:

  • Fines for TV licence evasion are based on the criminal’s income and the length of the offence.

Up to 6 months without a TV licence: a “Band A fine” will apply. Over 6 months: the starting point will be “Band B”.

Untitled

  • Factors increasing or reducing seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation may apply[25].
  • If a Guilty Pleais made, the level of the reduction should reflect the stage at which it is made[26].Untitled
  • The average fine was £127 last year[27], which indicates that the majority of cases involve people of limited means. It’s also worth noting that the average fine is lower than the price of a TV licence and way below the maximum fine of £1,000 stressed in TV licensing’s letters. Court costs and a victim surcharge will be added on top, but they may not be recovered, depending on the financial situation of the criminal.
  • By multiplying the average fine by the number of successful convictions & out of court disposals (121,080), it can be deduced that a maximum of £15.3m could have been gained by prosecutions. However, court records show that less than 35% of TV licence fines are actually recovered.[28] Therefore only £5.3m was probably obtained by criminal courts last year.

 

Prison:

  • Failing to pay the TV licence fine (aka TV licence fine default) can lead to prison.
  • In England and Wales, the duration of the stay is decided by the amount owed.Untitled
  • Last year, 65 people were jailed for TV licence fine default (40 women and 25 men, which means women accounted for nearly 60%).
  • The average duration of stay last year was 19 days for the 5 offenders living in England and 8 days for the 60 in Northern Ireland.
  • 1,235 people have been jailed for this crime during the last 10 yearsprison 2009-2018
  • Repeat sentences indicate that the system doesn’t work as a deterrent anymore.
  • It costs the English and Welsh tax payer an average of £89 per day[29] to keep one person behind bars. The same costs £158 per day to the Northern Irish tax payer.[30]
  • The last prison stint for TV licence fine default in Scotland was in 2008.

 

Gender discrepancy:

72% of evaders were women last year.[31] This is unfortunately typical and the BBC has been made aware of this aberration during the last TV licence review. Nothing has changed though, if anything, the percentage is going up. This can be explained by the fact that:

  1. a) women are far more likely to be at home than men, taking care of children, when TV licence officers come around[32].
  2. b) women are generally more trusting and /or impressionable when being interrogated by an “officer”. They are therefore more likely to sign the interview record (AKA confession) that will lead to their prosecution.

Not only women are more likely to be prosecuted, found guilty and jailed for TV licence fine default, they are also more likely to be repeat offenders (26% for women compared to 15% for men according to Interview records from 2015)*

 

The Decline of the BBC:

  • More and more people are opting out by using online streaming services or by simply switching off.
  • The percentage of households owning a TV (95%) has fallen by 3% points compared to 2005.
  • For the first time ever, the number of TV licences is shrinking.[33]
  • The BBC’s audience share fell from 34% in 2008 to 31% in 2018 while ITV’s remained the same at 23%.[34]
  • 894,340 licences were cancelled last year (74k per month on average)[35]
  • BBC’s audience is aging. 92% of the 55 year olds and over watch 13 minutes of BBC TV a week, whereas 16-34 year olds only watch 2 1/2 minutes.[36] Put it anyway you like, but 13 min/a week is a ridiculously low number. (The BBC used to use 15 minutes of TV or 5 minutes of radio to claim public reach).[37]
  • The BBC also saw a decline in the sale of consumer products, i.e. DVDs, to the tune of £33 million.[38] Them Dr Who DVDS are probably not shifting as well as they used to.
  • Whenever there is an independent poll (i.e. not organised by the BBC), people usually vote to scrap the TV licence fee. Just google it. There are too many examples to list them all.
  • The number of people opposing the TV licence fee can be gauged by my petition “End the BBC licence Fee”. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/end-the-bbc-licence-fee These days, there are 2,000 new signatures every 24 hours.

 

TV licence fees around the world:

  • The TV Licence fee in the UK is the 7th highest in the world.[39]
  • Recently, both Finland and Iceland have abolished their TV licence fee.[40]
  • Canada, United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Monaco and Spain don’t have TV licence fees.[41] (For alternative ideas to fund the BBC, see logic flow chart at the end of this document)

 

Value for Money / Burden on the poor:

  • “Value for money”, an argument frequently used to support the TV licence Fee, has to take into account the amount of resources available to achieve sustainability for both the provider and the customer.
  • Money worries affect 40% of UK employees[42]. 45% of the people surveyed claimed to often have months with no disposable income whatsoever and 22% claim to usually fail to stay within their limits.[43] Research done in 2013 found that a quarter of people said they had less than £50 a month to spend after bills and 5m British adults had less than £10 a month.[44]
  • Even though TV licensing offers “many ways to pay”, the total is always the same because this is a flat tax.
  • If it was great value there wouldn’t be any need to force people to pay for it. Look at Netflix & Sky.

 

Anachronism:

  • The TV licence fee is an anachronism. It made sense in 1946: TV Broadcasts, which had started in 1934, had just resumed after the war and BBC was the only broadcaster (itv arrived in 1955.) Methods were more coercive back then too. But it should have been abolished at the turn of the century at the latest.

 

Subscription makes sense:

  • If the BBC is so universally loved and widely used as they like to claim, why does it content itself with a fixed income set at under £5bn by the government?
  • With about 9.6m traditional satellite TV households, Sky had £6bn in revenue last year[45].
  • Netflix had a global content budget of more than £10bn[46] of which £1.1bn came from an estimated 10m UK subscribers. [47] [48]
  • Prosecuting people and ultimately jailing some to fund the BBC doesn’t look good internationally.
  • The current licensing system is anti-competitive because the BBC is using public funds to copy, outspend and undermine commercial rivals such as itv & channel 4 & 5.
  • The BBC wants all the privileges of the private company with the benefits of state funding (no governmental interference and no accountability to those who pay for it)
  • Enforcing payment for a service people don’t want (the BBC) to have access to any that they do (freeview) is not logical.

 

MPs position on TV licence (and free TV licences)

Interview Form (AKA Confession)

Form Caution

The back of the form:interview form back mod

Alternative ways to fund the BBC

Logic flow chart

* https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/ss/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheadername1=content-type&blobheadervalue1=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1370006458780&ssbinary=true

[1] https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2002-12-02/debates/f8169d38-5317-4ea3-9708-5d7ad08e9ac9/DigitalTelevision

[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/363

[3] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one

[4] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201012/ldselect/ldcomuni/166/16607.htm

[5] https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2016-12-19/58337

[6] https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1238345/TV-licence-fee-scrapped-could-bbc-scrap-tv-licence-fee-permanently

[7] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/foi-administering-the-licence-fee-AB20

[8] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/cs/media-centre/news/view.app?id=1369781862928

[9] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/foi-administering-the-licence-fee-AB20

[10] https://www.capita.com/careers/your-career-at-capita-tv-licensing

[11] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/40/section/64?view=plain

[12] https://endbbclicencefee.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/foi-2018-tv-licence-statistics/

[13] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445844/_45__2015_04_24_-_BBC_RESPONSE_TO_CONSULTATION.pdf

[14] https://endbbclicencefee.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/a-day-in-court-weymouth-tv-licence-session-19th-sept-2016/

[15] http://visitingofficers.co.uk/

[16] https://www.indeed.co.uk/jobs?q=Tv%20Licensing&rbt=Visiting%20Officer&jtid=361e096fa8755e90&vjk=acd6b4692848374c https://www.totaljobs.com/job/enforcement-officer/capita-job81990742

[17] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7815475/amp/How-BBCs-relentless-pursuit-licence-fee-billions-led-one-10-magistrate-hearings.html?__twitter_impression=true

[18] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/foi-licences-facts-and-figures-AB18

[19] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/cs/media-centre/news/view.app?id=1369786506821

[20] TV licence fee statistics by Lukas Audickas and Yago Zayed BRIEFING PAPER Number CBP-8101, 14 January 2019 House of commons Library

[21] https://annualreport.channel4.com/

[22] http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/reports/annualreport/2018-19.pdf

[23] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/ss/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheadername1=content-type&blobheadervalue1=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1370006520458&ssbinary=true

[24] https://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/howwework/reports/pdf/bbc_annual_plan_2018.pdf

[25] https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/offences/magistrates-court/item/tv-licence-payment-evasion-revised-2017/

[26] https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Attitudes_to_Guilty_Plea_Sentence_Reductions_web1.pdf

[27] https://endbbclicencefee.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/foi-2018-tv-licence-statistics/

[28] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/388367/bulletin-july-to-september-2014.pdf

[29] This average is based on a disclosure from the Ministry of Justice that it costs £32,510 per annum to house a UK prisoner. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/563326/costs-per-place-cost-per-prisoner-2015-16.pdf

[30] http://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2016/12/05/news/keeping-a-prisoner-in-northern-ireland-costs-same-as-night-at-savoy–817007/

[31] https://endbbclicencefee.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/foi-2018-tv-licence-statistics/

[32] figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that of the 2.24 million people who choose to stay at home to look after their family, 2.04 million are women

[33] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/foi-licences-facts-and-figures-AB18

[34] TV licence fee statistics by Lukas Audickas and Yago Zayed BRIEFING PAPER Number CBP-8101, 14 January 2019 House of commons Library

[35] https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/about/foi-licences-facts-and-figures-AB18

[36] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-48840138

[37] http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/reports/pdf/bbc_charter_review_audiences_appendix.pdf

[38] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-48840138

[39] TV licence fee statistics by Lukas Audickas and Yago Zayed BRIEFING PAPER Number CBP-8101, 14 January 2019 House of commons Library

[40] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licence

[41] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licence

[42] https://www.salaryfinance.com/uk/financial-wellbeing-guide/

[43] https://www.salaryfinance.com/uk/blog/disposable-income-survey/

[44] http://www.financialreporter.co.uk/finance-news/disposable-income-45m-british-adults-have-less-than-10-a-month.html

[45] https://www.statista.com/statistics/273696/sky-annual-profit/

[46] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/may/29/netflix-and-amazon-score-billion-pound-revenue-in-battle-with-uk-broadcasters

[47] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/netflix-earns-1-1bn-in-uk-but-gets-50-000-tax-rebate-xq8cmprx3

[48] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/may/29/netflix-and-amazon-score-billion-pound-revenue-in-battle-with-uk-broadcasters

 

The TV licence fee is like making Tesco the National Supermarket and charge people a fee if they only shop at Aldi and then, demanding access to their kitchen to check their fridge…

1946

 

*KIDS* have been prosecuted for TV Licence offences

Data from the MoJ revealed that:

  • 4 children aged 10 and 11
  • 20 aged 12 to 14-years-old and
  • 440 teenagers in the 15-to-17 bracket

were prosecuted for TV licence offences between 2008 and 2016.

Here are 3 screen grabs from the report.

kids prosec 10-14kid prosec 15-17

Grand total:  464

Prosecution of children have been possible because all they need is a name, an address and a “confession” signed (it’s a untitled form used by TV licence officers to record the conversation with unlicensed people). It’s therefore quite easy for unscrupulous officers to take advantage of a child willing to talk and sign a paper.

What’s even more shocking is that some of those kids have been found GUILTY!

  • one girl aged 10-11 in Kent in 2013
  • one boy aged 10-11 in Surrey in 2014
  • 3 girl aged 12-14 (one from Kent in 2011, one from Durham in 2012 and one in Merseyside in 2013)
  • 2 boys aged 12-14: one from London in 2011, the other in Westmidland, also in 2011.
  • and a truckload (162 girls and 92 boys) of 15-17

 

This information made it to the Daily Mail ttps://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7815475/amp/How-BBCs-relentless-pursuit-licence-fee-billions-led-one-10-magistrate-hearings.html?__twitter_impression=true

When confronted by Daily Mail reporters, a spokesman for the BBC simply denied the whole thing. adding that ‘Our policy is to prosecute people aged 18 or over.

The full quarterly report can be accessed here https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/criminal-justice-system-statistics-quarterly-december-2018