Has the mighty BBC stooped to protection racket tactics to make sure license fees are collected whether legally required or not?

TV Licensing is a peculiar thing and it’s rather archaic in this day and age of online content, pay-on-demand streaming and DVD movies.  Yet, it exists.

The UK law states, as taken from the TV licensing website, that you need a TV license if you:

  • watch or record live TV programmes on any channel
  • download or watch any BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand.

This applies to any provider you use and any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.

Let’s get this perfectly clear: it is not a legal requirement to have a TV license to own a TV.  You just can’t use it to watch live programmes, record them to watch later or watch any BBC content on-demand.

When my son moved out in August 2016, he took with him his iPad with BBC iPlayer installed and his TV set connected to XBox.  I’d kept my TV license up until that point because he would happily watch BBC programmes and even if I had asked him not to, you never know for sure if that request would be honoured (teenagers, right?).

He left and I cancelled my TV license when it came time for renewal.  Not only because there were no devices with iPlayer in the house but because:

  • I don’t watch live TV.  The last time I sat down to watch a programme when it aired was when James Arthur was on the X Factor.  This was 2012.
  • The last time I watched a BBC programme on demand was a Dr. Who Christmas special with Matt Smith as the doctor.
  • I have no means, or desire, to record live TV to watch at a later time.
  • I only kept cable TV to watch catch-up and even then the cable box has been turned off at the plug for months.  Prior to that, the box kept coming up with an error and no sound so I don’t think it’s even been used as a means to watch on-demand or catch up for about a year, maybe longer. I no longer have cable.
  • I have no Freeview TV gadgets or gizmos.
  • I don’t have a TV aerial (that I’m aware of – if there’s one, I’ve never used it in the 10 years I’ve lived here).

To sum it all up, I have no requirement for a TV license.

So I cancelled.

I called TV licensing and told them that I didn’t need a license anymore.  They, in turn, sent me a certificate which states that no more correspondence would be sent until near the time the certificate expires (2 years).

Then the letters began to arrive from TV licensing telling me that my property didn’t have a TV license and I could be fined and/or imprisoned.

Each month a different letter, saying the same thing which boiled down to: pay the TV license.

The last letter told me that as I’d failed to contact (i.e pay them) an officer would be out to investigate after 27th October.

Well, yesterday was that day.

I’m not breaking the law. I assume not everyone keeps the legal requirements when cancelling the TV license so I didn’t mind the TV Licensing Officer coming to check.

Only he didn’t come for that reason.

He told me he was there to sign me up for a TV license.

He wasn’t there to make sure I wasn’t breaking the law but to take £147 from me, on my doorstep.

This is what I object: bully tactics.  No polite questioning but going straight for the money.

He said he hadn’t come to check but to collect.

This is wrong.

I’m not a vulnerable member of society.  I know my rights.  I do not like the consistent letters from TV licensing assuming that I’m breaking the law and I definitely do not appreciate money collectors at my door.

But if this is the tactic that the TV licensing contractors (the job has been outsourced to Capita) take then I can understand how other people, vulnerable people, would feel intimidated and harassed.  For some, I’m sure that forking out £147 is better than the threat of court, prosecution and criminal records just to make the letters stop and the ‘officers’ go away even if they haven’t broken the law.

I phoned TV Licensing to complain after being left with a letter (unsigned) informing me that this is the beginning of their investigation into me.  The person I spoke to on the phone gave a half-apology but was more concerned whether the agent had been rude to me (which he had not) rather than the approach of ‘give me the money’.

A little research has highlighted that I’m not the only one who has experienced this kind of poor treatment from TV Licensing:

I do not want the BBC iPlayer.  I have no plans to watch or record live TV, probably ever again as my life does not revolve around TV.

I do not need a TV License so the BBC should stop treating me like a criminal and stop wasting TV licensing money with its endless stream of letters (which, of course, are also an environmental burden) and bully-boy tactics to take money from innocent people.  If the BBC can’t stop treating people this way then maybe it’s time to scrap the license and the instituition behind it.

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