The law in the UK states that a licence fee must be paid yearly
every household with a television. This is collected by the TV
Licensing Authority (TVLA), a private proxy of the BBC, who use
money to fund their services. While the rights and wrongs of this are
debatable, I will concentrate on how this affects the minority who
don't watch TV.
From "About TV licensing" chapter 6. Item five.
5. What if I do not have a television?
We have a statutory responsibility to ensure that every
address in the UK where a TV Licence is required is
The government allows them to collect fees from all TV users.
"Responsibility" and "duty" are words used to fend off every
about TV licensing policy. See, for example, the parlimentary
debate linked below.
We do this by writing to people to
ask about their use or otherwise of television.
If people reply to our letters to the effect that no
television is used at their address, we place a stop
on further enquiry letters...
Some years ago the infamous TV detector vans were used to try to
catch licence fee evaders. They have obviously figured out that
sending letters is cheaper. The letters are an odd mix of PR, information and intimidation. They obviously have
never considered that
sending unsolicited demands for information is, at best, very rude.
Still, most people could live with ticking a box and returning a reply
...and arrange for a Visiting
Officer to call upon them to verify the situation.
Visiting Officers should act professionally and
courteously at all times and their visit should take
only a matter of minutes.
They will seek permission to enter a person’s property
simply to take a brief view of the main living areas.
This is where things turn slightly Orwellian. The right to
and freedom is cherished in democratic countries, and even the
require judicial permission to search someone's home.
Yet this private
company expects that most people will waive their rights under
If the Officer verifies the fact that no television is
we will then cease all forms of enquiry to the named
person at their address for a period of 3 years.
It gets worse. They expect to search your home not once, but on a
The occupier is under no legal obligation to allow
entry but it does enable us to place the long-term
stop on further enquiries.
Of course it's not legal. The company expects to compensate for
lack of legal powers with harassment and intimidation of the meek and
The reason we have adopted this policy is that in 2003
alone one in three people who claimed not to have a
television were found to be using television when TV
Licensing checked the premises, which makes it
necessary to visit in order to verify their statements.
Ha. Imagine making this argument to a magistrate. "Your Honour,
surveys show that one-third of the people on this housing estate take
drugs, we'd like a search warrant for every house."
We appreciate that not everyone who claims ‘No TV’ is
a licence fee evader, but we feel that the fairest and
most consistent approach to the situation is to call on
everyone who makes a ‘No TV’ declaration.
This is the worst yet. They may appreciate that some people don't
want TV, but they have no appreciation or respect for those people's
Another favourite trick not mentioned above is to read the
householder a legal caution to attempt to gather evidence for a
You do not have to say anything.
But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned
something which you later rely on in court.
Anything you do say may be given in evidence.
Do you understand?
Now the householder is being interrogated on his own doorstep by a
corporate agent just because he doesn't have a TV. Only in
I'm not sure what they do when someone ignores their blathering
letters and/or refuses to speak to their officers. They say they "look
for external evidence" such as a TV aerial (because when someone
moves house they always take the TV aerial with them) and then "think
about using detection". Interestingly, the TVLA keeps secret the
number of detector vans they have, probably because the number is
You can find on the internet horror stories about the TVLA being
granted search warrants on the flimsiest of evidence, then breaking
down people's doors. It's probably best to take this with a pinch of
salt, but I wouldn't entirely put it past them.