An offer to the BBC panjandrums

I have a serious suggestion for the BBC. Let the senior people who control its spending each sit for a day at the back of a magistrates\’ court that is dealing with TV licensing cases. Let them see the procession of poor, usually female, usually bedraggled people who trudge through court, having, under the new fine guidelines, three-figure fines imposed, plus costs and (!) Victim Surcharge. Of course there is a proportion of people who just don\’t like paying any bill, but let\’s put this into perspective. The licence fee is more than two weeks of Jobseeker\’s Allowance, and about a day-and-a-half\’s worth of the average wage. The £2000 spent on flying the boss\’s family back because Sir had to sort out the Ross/Brand fiasco represents more than 33 weeks\’ worth of JSA for the poorest licence payers. So come and have a look at JPs fining the unlicensed in – note – a criminal court. Then, next time you want to charge up a £200 lunch at the Ivy for two people who are already well-off you will have a better idea of where the money comes from. I\’ll be happy to arrange it, and I might even come along myself.

And a good one too.

34 thoughts on “An offer to the BBC panjandrums”

  1. I’m sure you’d be equally keen to suggest that Terry Leahy should renounce his salary and not be paid expenses, because most of the people who shoplift from Tesco’s are poor and desperate?

    (it’s absolutely comparable: to the same extent that people are able to choose not to shoplift, they’re able t0 choose not to watch telly)

  2. John B – and they can choose not to watch the BBC but still have to pay for the BBC. Who are they thieves in that equation?

    So absolutely incomparable, then.

  3. John b…think before you comment you thick as pig shit numpty. The licence fee is charged for owning a TV. On that TV you can watch free to air channels, such as ITV. Hence watching TV for free is not ab initio a crime as the providers are giving away their content. However, another provider uses the force of the state to impose a tax upon your owning a TV in order to fund itself regardless of whether or not you watch that its channels.

    Arguments about the quality of the BBC output and whether it is staffed by a bunch of left wing wankers are hardly to the point: it’s simply using the force of the state to fund an organisation that is. And no the BBC it is not like any other tax payer funded body as for one the tax is hypothecated (look it up John b) and two there are countless commercial alternatives out there.

    Lots of other countries manage to get by fine without resorting to a licence fee. Yet again we supine British are cowed into submitting to pay for something that is supposedly good for us and which in reality is just another place for sinecurists to ply their trade.

  4. *sigh*

    The license fee is something that you have to pay to watch broadcast TV in the UK. If you don’t pay it and watch TV anyway, you’re breaking the law. If you don’t want to pay it, all you need to do is not watch TV (note it’s specifically *not* levied on owning a TV, it’s levied on watching broadcast TV. If you want to watch DVDs, that’s fine).

    When companies that aren’t the BBC choose to broadcast in the UK, they do so based on the understanding that the only people who’ll be able to watch their channels are those who’ve paid the license fee. While they probably don’t care too much [*] about people who watch and haven’t paid, that doesn’t get the dodgers off the hook: the fact that the independent concessionaire operating the drinks trolley is happy to give me a sponsored cup of tea doesn’t get me off paying my train fare.

    [*] either way, most likely: the group of ‘non-license-fee-payers’ aren’t exactly the prime market for their advertisers.

  5. Can I also add, I admire the chutzpah of someone who combines pretentious, meaningless, cod-legalese gibberish like:

    Hence watching TV for free is not ab initio a crime as the providers are giving away their content.

    …with calling *someone else* a ‘thick as pig shit numpty’ in the same post. Self-awareness FAIL.

  6. @John_B – “(it’s absolutely comparable: to the same extent that people are able to choose not to shoplift, they’re able t0 choose not to watch telly)”

    Not very comparable though. If I don’t approve of Terry Leahy’s vast salary I can shop at Asda rather than Tesco. If I don’t approve of the BBC’s inflated salaries etc, I can watch ITV, but still have to contribute to the BBC slush fund.

    And yes, I know that “it’s a licence to operate a TV receiver”, but as it appears to be the UK’s one-and-only hypothecated tax, it doesn’t feel that way.

  7. The license fee is something that you have to pay to watch broadcast TV in the UK. If you don’t pay it and watch TV anyway, you’re breaking the law. If you don’t want to pay it, all you need to do is not watch TV (note it’s specifically *not* levied on owning a TV, it’s levied on watching broadcast TV.

    Well in fact, that is what I do. I am thus deprived of commercial products I would like to purchase solely to avoid an entirely unfair (on any grounds, be they libertarian or socialist “fairness”) tax. For not watching TV, I have the privelege of receiving insulting letters and inspections by nasty little inspectors who are deeply disappointed at my TVless status.

    By the time I decided not to have a TV at all, I was watching very little anyway, but there are one or two programmes I would, in a free country, choose to watch- and even pay a fee to watch. I would like a TV in case of emergencies and calamities. If a nuclear power station blows up nearby, I might be quite interested in the news. I cannot even keep a TV in reserve for such eventualities.

    You could apply your principal to anything. Let’s have a computer licence to pay for the BBC website- anyone who does not wish to pay can avoid by simply not owning a computer. Simple.

    Perhaps we could have a baking licence, to pay for BBC cookery shows. It could be simply avoided by not owning an oven.

    And so on. In other words, your argument is bullshit.

  8. “et the senior people who control its spending each sit for a day at the back of a magistrates’ court that is dealing with TV licensing cases. Let them see the procession of poor, usually female, usually bedraggled people who trudge through court, having, under the new fine guidelines, three-figure fines imposed, plus costs and (!) Victim Surcharge.”

    I think that there needs to be a lot more done on Youtube, perhaps in a “Watchdog” style. Present the evidence of how many people are being locked up, the tactics of the inspectors and perhaps doorstepping a few BBC executives about whether they think this sort of thing is OK.

    Because we know that the BBC isn’t going to do it.

  9. “…note it’s specifically *not* levied on owning a TV, it’s levied on watching broadcast TV. If you want to watch DVDs, that’s fine…”

    You can get TVs that aren’t broadcast, but only DVD playback then?

  10. In reality, isn’t the most comparable analogy one in which you would need a Tesco license in order to shop at Asda, but, since you do shop at Tesco…

  11. As far as I understand you are required by law to have a license to possess TV reception equipment- so just not watching broadcasts doesn’t stop you getting fined.
    Of course a similar case could be made for health insurance- you have to pay for the NHS whether or not you have private cover. And likewise Education- if you think the local comprehensive is rubbish, you either put up with it or pay for the school you want as well as the one you don’t- you even have to pay if you’re childless. Of course these are paid out of general taxation whereas the TV tax is ring fenced, otherwise there’d be more fuss.
    Having the TV tax ring fenced brings a problem though- if we are seeking to reduce relative poverty (which is claimed) then taxing the poor as much as the rich rather defeats the object. If it is absolute poverty we’re worried about, then one could argue that television is a luxury- though I’ve not heard that argument from the BBC. If it is a luxury, why is the State involved in its provision at all?

  12. Actually Pat, you make an interesting point there… It’s considered that any taxation not tied to “ability to pay” is regressive. The TV Licence is, to all intents, a tax – which costs some 5% of the annual basic benefit. Subsuming it into general taxation would “help” those at the bottom of the scale considerably more than those rather further up…

    F*ck! I’m turning into a socialist, must go and have a shower. 🙂

  13. “As far as I understand you are required by law to have a license to possess TV reception equipment- so just not watching broadcasts doesn’t stop you getting fined.”

    Your understanding is incorrect.

    You need a licence to receive TV broadcasts in near real-time. That typically means owning a TV and using it to watch TV, or owning a VCR (where it watches live TV for you), or owning a PC where the browser is directed to the iPlayer live TV web pages.

    There’s a good summary of the law here:

    http://tv-licensing.blogspot.com/2008/08/tv-licensing-law.html

  14. “You can get TVs that aren’t broadcast, but only DVD playback then?”

    You can buy whatever TV you like and use it with a DVD player without needing a licence. You need a licence if you watch (or record) TV signals at they are broadcast (i.e. “near real time” in the Act).

  15. “You can buy whatever TV you like and use it with a DVD player without needing a licence.”

    Really? I thought someone had tried that excuse and lost?

  16. It’s once in a blue moon I agree with john b, but he’s dead on here. If you wish to avoid paying the license fee then the remedy is simple: do not possess an apparatus capable of receiving broadcast TV signals, subject to whatever mutilations of the various statutes the Internet, video rental etc. impose on you. Ignorance of the law has never been a defence. Having said that, it would be intriguing to watch the outcome of a case where a person was prosecuted for watching a rented DVD on his MacBook hooked up to a 30″ Apple Studio Display. Or on his iPhone, for that matter.

    Of course in my world, the license would be abolished, the BBC shut down overnight, its copyrights broken and sold at auction and its premises bulldozed, but that’s a trifle idiosyncratic, even I will admit.

  17. Funny how we’re all still talking about the Licence Fee when the whole future of broadcast video is so fragile.
    Radio frequency transmission from terrestrial stations is crap. It always has been. If TV was invented today the signal would be delivered by wire which, as every watchable TV receiver requires a mains connection due to power requirements, would be no problem. We could put the signal down the existing wires now, superimposed on the A/C.
    The future is delivery via the internet with almost unlimited bandwidth & the possibility of interactivity. The government is already positioning itself with a £6 monthly surcharge on broadband providers. The endgame will be paying for the BBC via the same route. PLUS it’d love to actually control what we have access to & be watching over our shoulders as we surf. The BBC is the ideal ‘trusted’ vehicle to use as a gatekeeper. Call it BBC ‘oversight’ to protect us all from paedoporn or Islamonutters but it’ll all be for our own good won’t it?

    The current furore over abuse of the Licence Fee is actually playing into their hands. The thing’s doomed anyway. What’s at stake is the future.

  18. ” If you wish to avoid paying the license fee then the remedy is simple: ”

    Isn’t that kind of missing the point. It goes without saying that the way to avoid falling foul of any law is not to breach it. It also goes without saying that generally when people complain about a law, the complaint is not that there is no way of complying with the law, but that the law is odious. Some places and eras have had laws against “miscogenation”. If you wanted to avoid being punished the the rememdy was simple; don’t fall in love and have children with people of a different race. See, its kind of a non-point. In fact it can shut down all debate about any law.

  19. jus’askin is absolutely right, especially-

    “The current furore over abuse of the Licence Fee is actually playing into their hands. The thing’s doomed anyway. What’s at stake is the future.”

  20. “Really? I thought someone had tried that excuse and lost?”

    No, no-one’s been convicted of just having a TV. Having it wired up to an aerial is another matter.

    Google Ron Sinclair and have a read of his story. TVL hates him. He hates TVL. They wind each other up. Watch the video of assault by an inspector.

  21. “We could put the signal down the existing wires now, superimposed on the A/C.”

    Bollocks. I’d like to see you try sending a UHF signal through a power distribution system (50Hz is DC as far as RF is concerned). There’s a reason the cable from the antenna on your roof is coaxial. When you understand what VSWR means, get back to us.

  22. Well, I suppose it would be bollocks if anyone was suggesting putting UHF down an A/C supply.
    Putting the data contained in a TV signal, in a digital form, down the same cable works though.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_line_communication

    Thanx for reminding me about SWR though. I found the meter I used to tune the car CB when I moved & was damned if I could remeber what it was called.

  23. Oh & to settle some arguments the offence is “possession of a device or devices with the intention to or capable of receiving a broadcast TV service” or words to that effect. That would include a phone or a computer. It doesn’t however include a video player connected to a TV (think of shop CCTV recorders for a start) or a game console. The important component’s the aerial.

    If you are unlucky enough to have TV Licencing knock on the door whilst you’re catching up on Eastenders he will tell you that he has ‘right of entry’. He does, as do god knows how many other creeps these days. Tell him that he might have right of entry but he, personally, has no way of compelling it so f**k off & come back with a copper. Certainly worked the three times I’ve done it & haven’t seen a copper yet.* Best to lodge the set with a neighbour for a few days just in case though.

    *Actually I wish one had. Would have been fun to have watched for several hours whilst they determined that in the ratsnest of video screens & projector , VHS recorders, DVD players, computers, hifi equipment, VHF aerial feed etc that was my living room, there was nothing that would actually receive TV. The cigarette lighter sized TV decoder would of course be in my pocket.

  24. It doesn’t matter if it’s analogue or digital. Shannon-Hartley imposes a hard physical limit on bandwidth. Maybe with a huge investment in repurposing the power distribution system, the underlying physical problems (like transformers and substations being really bad modems) could be solved, but if you’re willing to spend that kind of money why not just install a real cable network? I don’t have a TV antenna; my signal comes in through the side of the house on a 75Ω cable. Carries my Internet, too. Data-over-power has been a solution in search of a problem for years.

  25. “Google Ron Sinclair and have a read of his story.”

    Wow! He’s a bit of a nutter, but he certainly seems to have the TVL people bang to rights… 😉

  26. he will tell you that he has ‘right of entry’. He does, as do god knows how many other creeps these days. >

    No, he doesn’t. He can get a warrant off a magistrate; until then, it’s not the case that he’s got a right but no power to enforce it – rather, he has no right in the first place.

  27. Oh for f**k sake JB read what you’ve quoted. He will tell you that he’s got riight of entry. That’s what they do & why so many people get knicked. It’s like when a copper knocks at your door & asks if he can come in & discuss a matter in private. Mugs do & then because they’ve granted access to the property find themselves having to explain why all the roaches are in the ashtray. The answer is that no-one gets over the doorstep without a warrant. These people are not your friends you know. They’re after shitting on you from a great height because the bloke down the road is knowledgeable enough about the law that it’s not happening to him.
    That’s the real world.

  28. A TVL inspector has no automatic right of entry to your home, and you are under no obligation to purchase a licence simply because you own a TV.

    The UK TV licence works exactly like the fishing licence – you can own as many rods or nets as you like, and you do not require a licence unless you actually go fishing with them.

    TVL inspectors are actually employed by Capita, and have no legal authority to enter your premises unless granted to them by a warrant (so in this respect they are no different than anyone else). Interestingly they are paid a commission based on the number of licenses they sell, which may explain their motivation…

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