I recently sent an email inquiry to TVL regarding the use of a freeview box*. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the sent email but the gist of it was this:
  • The revenue generated by the TV Licence pays for free to air programming (i.e. the BBC).
  • It makes sense that the people who use the service pay for the service.
  • If you don't use the service, you shouldn't have to pay for the service.
To avoid paying the fee I proposed to detune all free to air channels on my freeview box and only use the included freeview channels. They were welcome to send an inspector around any time to watch TV and make sure I wasn't using BBC. In the letter I made it clear that I saw this as a sensible cost cutting exercise and that I wasn't trying to be a smart ass. The reply came two days later and predictably avoided the whole question, once again hiding behind the law instead of giving an actual reason. I have included it below.

Thank you for your e-mail enquiry.

Under the Communications Act 2003, a television licence is required if a person installs or uses a television receiver to receive or record television programme services.

A Freeview box is a television receiver and receives television programme signals in Colour. The installation and use of a Freeview box therefore needs to be covered by a Colour television licence, even when the box is used in conjunction with a black and white television set.

If the Freeview box were only used in conjunction with a radio, a television licence would not be required.

Yours sincerely
(name removed)

...And that's it. Whether you use the service or not, you will pay them for the cost of using consumer electronics in your own home. They have no need of a logical argument because it's the law.

As if they don't get enough money from speed cameras already...

* It's like a sky digital or Cable box except that you only have the upfront cost of purchasing the unit. The downside is that you don't get as many channels and what you do get is laden with advertising. Regular free to air channels are also picked up by default, as are digital radio broadcasts.