99% conviction: Don’t believe the BBC spin

I can’t fathom why people still believe the BBC’s every word. It is a fact that they changed the way they counted their average reach in 2009 to artificially feed the myth that the BBC’s popularity is forever growing and that their “reach” is near absolute. It’s also well documented that the BBC ignored the public’s views during the recent consultation and instead used a paid-for-study to represent the views of the population. The bottom line is: the BBC is a self-serving institution that does not mind spinning facts until everyone is giddy.

The facts remain: 195,269 people were brought to court in the UK in 2015. Of them 25,162 were found not guilty. That’s a national average of 12.8% of all cases (1 in 8). In the eyes of the law, all those 25,162 people are equally “not guilty” because the Ministry of Justice doesn’t take into account if said cases were withdrawn, rejected because of insufficient proof or plainly, because someone was innocent. Cases are initiated by the BBC on a speculative basis, in the hope that people will either plead guilty or won’t challenge the prosecution.

Conviction rates are so far from the 99% bragged by TV licensing reps, one can only wonder if they suffer from rarefied air, up there in their ivory tower. They also said that, unless there are aggravating circumstances, TV Licensing will apply to withdraw the case if a defendant is a first time offender and buys a licence before the case is heard. However, the official paper work used by TV licensing (and therefore approved by the BBC because the two are two sides of the same coin) states that “Even if you purchase the appropriate licence, you may still be prosecuted for the offence”.  The system is driven by the quotas for TV licensing enforcement employees so there is no “get out of jail free card”

interview form back mod

as both Samantha (Tyne and Wear, England) and Sarah (Wrexham, Wales) discovered. They both contacted me and showed me their paper work. Samantha had simply forgotten to buy a licence and Sarah had not renewed hers on time. They were prosecuted even though they agreed to buy a licence on the spot, having not understood that the paperwork they signed was in effect a confession. Sarah told me she even made a cup of tea for that TV licence officer. Now, tell me what sort of aggravating circumstances is that? TV licensing only dropped her case after her local newspaper investigated the story. As for Samantha, her case was dropped after a lengthy battle of emails between her caring brother and TV licensing.

The moral of this story is: don’t open your door unless someone has a warrant.


TV Licence Statistics 2015


This years is special, we are celebrating 70 years of government endorsed extortion. Since June 1946, no one was able to think of a way of funding the BBC that would not involve a choice, for those who want to opt out, between withholding all TV channels and criminal sanctions. On the contrary, the BBC’s power to charge and barge in to homes has been recently extended to cover the internet. The mind boggles. Playing devil’s advocate: shouldn’t the TV licence fee retire at 68, like the UK work force? Don’t we need something progressive, flexible and tailored, more in tune with the changing world?


Even though there were 200,117 people charged for TV licence offences in 2015, there still doesn’t seem to be a political will to challenge the BBC’s status quo. The previous Secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sports squandered the most recent opportunity to reform the TV licence fee and bring it to the 21st century in a bid to suppress his personal scandals from public scrutiny. With a newly appointed Secretary of state, maybe we can hope for some change to the Royal charter before it’s officially agreed in December 2016. The reality of facing statistics like these for a further ten years should be in the least a little concerning for a progressive society like the UK.

The tables below show the general picture for the countries of the United Kingdom in 2015. This will be followed by statistics covering each country by area and by gender in detail.


TV Licence Prosecutions & out of court disposal Per Capita, 2015
Countries England  Scotland Wales Northern Ireland TOTAL
Prosecutions 173,966 4,863 15,383 5,905 200,117
Population (in million) 53.01  5.295 3.065 1.811 63.181
Per 1,000 people 3.3 0.9 5.0 3.2 3.1
  • The overall number of evaders has not changed substantially compared to 2014 where 204,018 prosecutions were made. However, where England and Northern Ireland have seen no significant change the level in Scotland has plummeted and the level in Wales rocketed for 2015.
  • Police force area/ local authority /court division with the most suspected evaders in the UK:
  1. Metropolitan Police
  2. Warwickshire
  3. Greater Manchester
  4. West Yorkshire
  5. South Wales


TV Licence convictions Per Gender, 2015
Countries England  Scotland Wales Northern Ireland TOTAL
Women 107,835 3,335* 9,807 2,963 120,605
Men 44,269 1,525* 4,007 1,209 49,485
Percentage of women 70.8% 68.6%* 70.9% 71% 70.5%

*including out of court disposals

  • Women are still more likely to be convicted than men in the UK. The ratios are very similar to those observed in 2014.

The BBC has been alerted a few years ago to the fact that the current TV licence penalises women disproportionately. They haven’t changed a thing since because they are a dinosaur incapable of compassion, introspection or change.


TV Licence unnecessary prosecutions, 2015
Countries England  Scotland Wales Northern Ireland TOTAL
Prosecutions 173,966 15* 15,383 5,905 195,269*
unsuccessful 21,862 3* 1,569 1,728 25,162*
Percentage 12.5% 20%* 10.1% 29.2% 12.8%*

*excluding out of court disposal

  • There has been a slight increase in the overall number of unsuccessful cases brought to court (from 12.6% to 12.8%). 2014 boasted 24,025 unsuccessful cases and a total of 190,532 prosecutions.
  • It is a burden on the State to bring 1 in 8 to court unnecessarily in England.
  • Northern Ireland’s rate is simply unacceptable (1 in 3)
  • The “99% conviction rate” by TV Licensing is completely inaccurate.


Countries England  Scotland Wales Northern Ireland Isle of Man
Average fine £89  £200


Considering that 38 people were given an average of 25 days for fine default in relation to TV licence offences in England and Wales in 2015, each stay is likely to have cost tax payers close to £2,275. If we add the 57 prison stints in Northern Ireland, it means over £100k was wasted in the process of recovering fines worth around £16k. And that’s on top of all the other expenses. Collection fees alone are over £100M. Jailing people for TV licence fines is literally throwing good money after bad.

Prison for TV licence fine default, 2015  
Countries England  & Wales Scotland N.Ireland TOTAL
number of prisoners  38

20 females, 18 males

0 57*

26 females, 31 males

duration of stay 25 days (average) 0 3.1 days (average) time sentenced was 8.5 days

* one person had two separate periods of custody for non-payment of TV licence

  • The number of women committed to prison in England and Wales has nearly doubled last year. They account for 52.6% of people jailed for TV licence fine default in England and Wales
  • Northern Ireland has taken a backward step by restoring a policy of custodial sentence for TV licence fine default (a Judicial Review led to a temporary suspension of fine defaulters being sent to prison)
  • Average sentences in England and Wales are 3 times longer than those in Northern Ireland.
  Age distribution of prisoners in England and Wales
Age brackets Male Female
   21 – 24 ≤2 ≤2
   25 – 29 3 ≤2
   30 – 39 3 7
   40 – 49 9 7
   50 – 59 ≤2 5
total 18 20
  • 50% of the men jailed for TV licence fine default are aged 40 to 49.
  • The bulk of the female are aged 30 to 60.

Dr Jerkill and Mr Hide

Before going into the details for each country, it’s important to stress, that the BBC owns the ‘TV Licensing’ trademark and therefore endorses every action taken by TV licensing. Like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide, BBC & TV Licensing are 2 sides of the same coin. “If he be Mr Hide, I shall be Mr Seek”.

As far as I’m concerned, television should be free. If certain channels disagree, they go subscription. Not withhold access to all other free channels.

This report has been put together to support and promote my petition End the BBC Licence Fee, signed by over 200,000 people. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/end-the-bbc-licence-fee


england prosec

  • There were 901 more prosecutions this year of which 217 were unsuccessful. (0.5% increase compared to 2014)
  • 1,680 more prosecutions in London this year (remains in 2nd position)
  • 823 less prosecutions in Greater Manchester (remains in 3rd position)
  • 1,050 more prosecutions in Northumbria (remains in 5th position)
  • Cambridgeshire, which was in 16th, climbed to 9th. (2,287 more prosecutions of which 1,744 are females)
  • Hampshire, which was in 14th position, climbed to 11th. (408 more prosecutions)
  • Avon and Somerset, who were in 12th position, fell to 17th. (678 less prosecutions)
  • Suffolk, which was holding the 32nd position, went up 28th. (268 more prosecutions)
  • Essex, which was 29th, is now in 36th. (1,783 less prosecutions)
  • The percentage of people found not guilty remains constant (12.5% compared to 12.7% in 2014) so we can say that the BBC keeps the same speculative approach when deciding who to prosecute in England.


wales prosec

  • That’s 2,847 more prosecutions than last year (22.7% increase) of which 2,578 were in South Wales (1,783 of them were females.)


scot out of court

  • There were 8,638 less out of court disposal for 2014-2015 in Scotland than the previous year. (64% decrease)
  • There was an almost complete reshuffle in the order (Only Glasgow remains in its original position).
  • Most local authorities saw their number of out-of-court disposal at least halved.
  • The main exception are South Lanarkshire who saw a 7% increase (making it jump from 8th position to 2nd) and Clackmannanshire, where 1 more out-of-court disposal meant a jump from 20th to 11th position.
  • Glasgow city had 1,973 less out of court disposal last year (58% decrease).
  • North Lanarkshire saw 1,569 less out of court disposal (82% decrease), making it drop from 2nd to 4th position
  • Fife went from 1,346 out of court disposal to 493 (63% decrease – yet remains in 3rd position)
  • Edinburg had 867 less out of court disposal last year (77% decrease).

scot court

  • In 2013-2014, 32 people were brought to court in Scotland, compared to 15 last year (53% decrease)
  • The proportion of people found not guilty has increased. It went from 12.5% to 20%
  • Combined data for out of court disposal and court prosecution suggest that TV Licensing is not actively pursuing Scottish evaders due to the lower chance of prosecution and lower revenue from fines. Considering that the prosecution levels in the rest of the UK have remained static or increased this maybe a sign that TV licensing is focussing their resources here. This appears to be especially true for Wales


Northern Ireland

  • There were exactly 1,000 more prosecution in 2015, compared to 2014 (20% increase)
  • The percentage of people found not to be guilty increased slightly (from 26% in 2014 to 29% last year)



  • Considering that a total of 125 were prosecuted between 2010 and 2014, the level of prosecution in 2015 (with 129 cases) is unprecedented.
  • Unfortunately, this new trend is continuing. For 2016, 33 cases have already been dealt with (25 have been convicted), and 105 are pending (55 women and 50 men)
  • In 2015 34% of cases brought to prosecution in 2015 were unsuccessful (defendant found not guilty or case not proceeded) this is alarmingly high compared with the rest of the UK.
  • The typical fine was £200 (though £300 fines were not uncommon), usually with standard £120 costs. Only two people were not asked to pay costs in 2015


  • There were no prosecution in 2015.


  • There were no prosecution in 2015.
  • The BBC inspectors seem to visit the island only every three years or so.

Reply from the government

There relevant bits are as follow:

  • This petition has become part of the large evidence base gathered during the public consultation held in July 2015.
  • The Government acknowledges other countries’ views on Public Service Broadcasting funding models.
  • The Government is still considering whether the licence fee remains the best way to fund the BBC and continue to consider recommendations regarding the enforcement process.
  • The Government’s position will be set out in the White Paper.


The reply can be read in full here.

Now, this is a very wishy-washy answer at best. All references to the David Perry Review just make me hit the roof.

  • First of all, David Perry relied heavily on the BBC’s response and findings.
  • Secondly, he did not interview a single person who had been recently visited by a TV licence officer or prosecuted by the BBC to ask them what they think of TV licence enforcement methods. So basically, he covered only one side of the story.

Even before starting, David Perry’s premise was that the BBC offers “value for money” and the bottom line was “if decriminalisation is likely to jeopardise revenues, then the status quo should remain”.

 He did not explore the following questions:

  • Is keeping the licence fee down and maintaining all the current BBC services more important than the social impact of this coercive funding method?
  • Can we make good television using only money freely given?
  • If people overwhelmingly like the BBC as the BBC claims it does, why not switch to voluntary donations/subscription?

Finally, he recommended that more flexible payment plans be investigated, ignoring the basic problem that money is finite and that some people don’t have enough of it to cover the basics. Another recommendation is that cable and satellite companies should share their customer data with TV licensing. This is a bit rich, coming from a barrister, as he should be well aware that it implies a major breach of the data protection act.

So this is it for now but remember that the petition can be handed over again and that I will try to expose the BBC’s funding model in new rounds of FOI in due course.

In the meantime, don’t forget my other petition, on the official parliament website and while you are there, have a look at the other petitions against the BBC too.

Stop the BBC Internet tax (proposed extension of the TV licence to the iPlayer)

internet tax mod mod

STOP THE INTERNET TAX (proposed extension of the TV licence to iPlayer)

  • If signed by 10,000 people, the government will be forced to acknowledge this new petition (and will have to respond to it).
  • At 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Sign here!!! https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124042

puppy love

Please share! So far over 3,300 people all over the UK have signed the petition. They are well distributed as pictured below.petition map

(To see an updated image click here).

Now, if everyone was talking about this petition to at least 5 other people in his/her town/city, the map would light up like a Xmas tree in no time. Come on, I’m sure you have a brother, a mother or a friend who might share your view! The word of mouth is EVERYTHING in campaigns like this.

And if all the people who signed my previous petition (182,600 people!) could also sign this petition quickly (i.e. before the new legislation is put in place!), we would have enough signatures to secure a debate and potentially block the proposed extension of BBC’s funding privileges.

When the BBC launched the iPlayer, in 2007, and when it extended the programme availability from 7 days to 30 days in 2014, the BBC knew that those services would be provided free of charge. Therefore there is no loophole.

The government shouldn’t help the BBC enforcing outdated  and unfair coercive measures when all the BBC has to do is to cease to offer content on demand or password protect it.

internet tax mod mod small


Originally, I had written a 366 words text explaining this, but I soon realised that the official petition website only allows 300 characters! The attention span of the government is limited to the content of 2 tweets!! I therefore had to reduce my text to bare bones.

If you are curious about my original text, here it is:

Stop the BBC Internet tax (proposed extension of the TV licence to the iPlayer)

It has been reported in the press that Culture secretary John Whittingdale is to close imminently a loophole that allows viewers to legally watch the BBC iPlayer without paying the licence fee. This proposal has been agreed between the government and the BBC in secret negations without any scrutiny. Too many undemocratic decisions like this have been taken in dubious circumstances and without proper consultation during the course of this Royal Charter Renewal.

The current TV licence should never have covered all live TV, as it serves to fund the BBC only. By extending this incredible and outdated privilege, the proposed change is the first step towards what is in effect a global internet tax. The proposed changes are too wide-ranging, imprecise and impractical.

When the BBC launched the iPlayer in 2007 and when it extended the programme availability from 7 days to 30 days in 2014, the BBC knew that those services would be provided free of charge. Therefore there is no loophole. Equating catch-up services to a ‘free ride’ and law abiding internet users to ‘freeloaders’ is inaccurate and malicious.

It is mind numbing that the government should further help a multi-billion pound establishment to extend coercive measures, put in place nearly a century ago, when the BBC can simply cease to offer content on demand if it doesn’t want to put it out for free or password protect it if it chose to.

Charging the full TV licence to cover iPlayer content only is out of proportion.

Allowing the BBC to enforce this proposed change means giving BBC ‘officers’ authority to invade the privacy of people’s homes, looking for electronics such as smart-phones, computers and tablets, and permitting computers to be scrutinized by civilians. This is a fundamental breach of Civil Rights and must be stopped. This erosion of rights and liberties over funding the state broadcaster is not acceptable.  Finally, it’s important to mention that iPlayer can be used for legitimately licence-free pastimes such as listening to BBC radio programming.

The petitioners therefore urge the House of Commons to debate and reconsider any extension of the already unfair TV Licence poll tax regime.

new petition mod modclick here  or copy and paste https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124042

Time frame for a reply

I’ve emailed the Petition Committee at the House of Commons, asking for a time frame.

Sean Harris replied:

“The paper petition presented to Parliament on 20 January 2016 should receive a written response from the Government by the end of March.”

 Petitions Committee | House of Commons | London | SW1A 0AA
T: 020 7219 7613  Text relay: 18001 20 7219 7613