Red Letter Day

Got out of bed on the 'wrong side' today so I thought it was high time for a rant. In fact this is a little 'off topic' rant but one that really gets me setting out my soap box and 'sounding off'.

Yesterday, I received yet another 'red' letter from Mr Ross McTaggart of the TV Licensing Authority. Like all the others Mr McTaggart has sent, this one was not addressed to me personally but to the owner/occupier. Proof, if any were needed, that Mr McTaggart has no idea who I am or any knowledge of who lives at my address. Not withstanding this, he continues to threaten (the owner/occupier) with all manner of prosecutions, fines and/or imprisonment. My crime? Well, it's because Mr McTaggart can't find a record of a television licence registered at my address in his 'database'. There's quite a good reason for this. I'm one of the small, but growing, minority of home owners who do NOT own a television. Don't have one, don't want one. Sadly this doesn't seem good enough for Mr McTaggart. He, and his colleagues at the TVLA seem to divide the population into two distinct groups; those who have a licence and those who are deliberately watching TV illegally. A third group of 'don't own a TV' does not exist in their black and white world.

The legal requirement to possess a licence occurs:

If you use a TV or any other device to receive or record TV programmes (for example, a VCR, set-top box, DVD recorder or PC with a broadcast card) you need a TV Licence. You are required by law to have one.(TVLA web site)

I own none of these. In the absence of possession there is no legal requirement on me to notify Mr McTaggart that I don't have a TV. Just as there is no legal requirement on me to notify the DVLA that I don't own a car, or the Passport Office that I don't have or want a passport, or, indeed, the Church of England that I'm a practicing Buddhist.

Once again, the letter advises me that I can expect a visit from one of Mr McTaggart's enforcement colleagues because they'll be in my area. Well, according to all the other letters I've received they're always in my area. Now I live in a relatively small town and one can only assume that either most of the town are licence evaders and Mr McTaggart's colleagues are grossly overworked or else there are only a few 'dodgers' (me included apparently) and therefore the TV police must be extremely inefficient. Of course the truth is more likely that the 'knock on the door' will only occur if the detector van can actually 'prove' that I'm using a TV illegally and this they can't do 'coz I ain't got one.

Perhaps I might feel more kindly towards the TVLA and Mr McTaggart if he actually thought to included a 'tear-off' section in his letter where I can declare that I live in a 'TV-Free' house and return it to him by 'free post'. Or indeed a freephone number that I could call. That way, he might be able to sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that his 'database' is up to date. Don't see why I have to spend money and make an effort just to satisfy Mr McTaggart.

Of course, I'm not alone in being hounded by Mr McTaggart and his secret police colleagues. Boris Johnson MP has been a high profile voice in the fight to get the TVLA to leave him alone. He wrote a highly charged open letter in the Telegraph to this effect. Other people are also subject to monthly missives from the TVLA, there's a blog here another here and a web page here. If their stories are accurate then I'll probably be waiting months, if not years before someone calls. No doubt I'll have moved by then.

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12 Responses to Red Letter Day

  1. You're lucky! says:

    At least you’re getting threatened because you haven’t got a licence. I was promised a visit from the TVLA “enforcement officers” after I bought a new telly even though I had a perfectly valid licence (well, my husband did, at the address we share). Funnily enough, they never showed up.

    They’re quite happy to accuse innocent people of crime until the point where carrying through their threats might actually cost them money, at which point it does seem to occur to them to check their own database. Fortunately I’m not a frail little old lady and I get angry rather than frightened by letters warning me I might be liable for criminal prosecution.

  2. Elliott says:

    Am with you on this one, I personally feel it should be stopped all together, TV land in the UK is no longer the four channel world it is. There is no a myriad of channels available through companies like SKy and NTL. I personally use NTL, they pay the BBC to have their channels, I pay NTL, I’m pay my grossly overpriced licence fee then surely that means I am paying for my programmes TWICE, which I object to especially since 90% of it is total s***.

    You should try paying your licence on one of the plastic cards, if you are a day late paying it (maybe you where ill, in hospital, on holiday, it was raining and you didnt want to walk down to post office) they will text you a warning. Maybe if everyone asked to pay like this it would really f*** the system up.

    The delicious irony is for those who are prosecuted and end up in prison they get to watch TV WITHOUT NEEDING A LICENCE and no warning letters!!

  3. Kate says:

    I’m with you too on that one. I’ve never, ever managed to get any peace from the TVLA; when I was at Birmingham uni I had a black and white licence for my black and white TV (all 12 exciting inches of it); this appeared to be an affront to the TVLA’s sensibilities who proceeded to send *more* letters to us than to the people we knew without TV licences – all of them questioning our ability to tell whether it was a black and white TV (I wasn’t certain, but the sticker on the back saying ‘Waltham 12″ Black and White Television’ helped). They threatened that one of their delightful gentlemen callers would be visiting us (he, was also constantly in our area too…).

    When I moved house I moved in with a friend and we actually had 2 TV licences, both concurrently running, both registered to our address (an accident; we both had direct debits set up). Just to match with the licences they sent us plenty of threatening letters (which I’ve now learned to completely ignore; they can waste their money if they want) – and we finally got to meet our chap from the TVLA who seemed startled that I invited him in to see the nice big TV; oh, and the licence… (Made funnier when they sent someone else round about a week later who got similar treatment).

  4. Dave M says:

    I had a visit from one of these TVLA men. who asked for my licence so i gave it to him, he was confused as it was my Ham radio one. as he only introduced himself as licencing agency. when he pointed at the TV and said for that, i pointed out i thought he was form the RLC (radio licencing centre) or OFCOM (office of telecommunication)due to the way he introduced himself. he looks at me as if i was daft. then told him i did not have one, but he need to see my wife, who does for this address.

    He relpies with he want to see mine, as that was the name. i stick my wifes tv licence under his nose then gave him a lession on the Data Protection Act, section on incorrect informantion, (im a computer tech) adding the it a criminal offence to not remove it. he took the a very very very quick look at the licence and cleared off.

    Only hear from there easy pay dept, with account levels. just how we like it.

    they dont like it went you mension the law. job done.

  5. Johnny says:

    Although “off-topic”, this post was rather educational to this particular non-British reader. You have to PAY the government to own and watch a television! That blows my mind. Next thing I know you’ll be telling me you have to pay a licensing fee to own and listen to a radio, or operate a microwave oven, or ride a bicycle, or sit on the front porch and watch the world go by.

    We pay federal fees on telephone bills and motor vehicle registrations in the USA, and I’m sure the government taxes the cable/satellite TV providers (a cost which they promptly pass to the end consumer), but ignorance can be bliss. The idea of the government dabbling it’s greedy fingers in what I can and cannot do has never gone over well with me (or with most Americans for that matter). Still, something like a TV license that I didn’t grow up accepting comes as rather a shock.

    –Emphasis on “grew up accepting”.

  6. Phil P says:

    I have a TV at work that I use as a monitor connected to a video camera. I too had the threatening letters from the TVLA but when I told them it was for work they asked me to fill out a form stating so & I haven’t heard a peep since. And that must be over 7 years ago!

    You have my sympathies as at home we too were accused of being criminals. It was only recently that we were given a TV & had to purchase a licence. Until then we had that whole series of nasty menacing letters. But never a visit so I believe most of it is hot air. The whole ‘detector’ van thing is also pretty much nonsence as they just automatically mail every household they can find that doesn’t already have a licence.

    Ok, they have a job to do but why do they do it in such a nasty way?

  7. Marcia says:

    I don’t have a television either and the licence bureau failed to grasp that concept until one day I rung them up and told them to stop sending me letters. I had to explain about five times that I didn’t have a television and didn’t intend to get one in future. They sent another letter round to say that someone would be coming to verify the absence of a goggle box.

    I haven’t heard a peep out of them for months.

    The billboard ads they put out really get my goat. You’d think I was hiding weapons grade plutonium in my front room rather than a television.

  8. Jay Bird says:

    I used to work for Crapita who schnaffle the call centre contract for TV Licensing every year.
    One of the funniest things was getting calls from people who were upset about receiving letters in other people’s names – or better – The Occupier (in empty houses).

    “I got a letter here for (let’s take your example, but in NO WAY alluding to a call you would make or have ever made) Mr McTaggart”
    “Ok, what does the letter say?”
    “You should know – you sent it”
    “not personally, madam”
    “Say I haven’t got a licence”
    “Ok”
    “I haven’t got a telly”
    “Right ok, and what about Mr McTaggart?”
    “He doesn’t even live here.”
    “Oh, right. Well if you don’t have a TV you don’t need a licence. I’ll cancel his name off the system for you to say that he has ‘gone Away’ ”
    “Why do you keep sending these letters?”
    “Because Mr McTaggart keeps buying TV signal receiving equipment and registering it at this address”
    “But he doesn’t live here”
    “Yes you said”
    “So why do you keep sending leters if he doesn’t live here”
    “Because the licensing act requires us to – when a piece of equipment is bought the details are sent to us (a bit Big Brother isn’t it?!) and if it doesn’t match the name on the licence – ”
    “I haven’t got a licence, I haven’t got a TV”
    “Ok, well if there is no match, we send a letter to just state the situation and all the disclaimers in conditional tense.”
    “But he DOESN’T live here.”
    “I know”
    “Well why do you keep sending letters then?”
    (going round in circles? Not ‘arf)
    “Ok well I’ve stopped the letters now, but if he continues to register TV equipment at this address the letters will come out.”
    “This is harrassment.”
    “Well -”
    “This is a breach of my privacy, of Data Protection”
    “woah woah woah – breach of data protection? (TAKE NOTE DAVE M)”
    “Yeah you are taking my address without permission to send letters”
    “Well here’s a well known fact for you – not only is opening someone else’s letters a breach of the data protection act 1998 & 2000 it can also be classed under the terrorism act. If you had called us initially we could have sorted the problem for you on the same day – but you have let this go on and on and on and on”
    “But it’s happened twice, you should have known”
    “I’m sorry I think you have us mixed up with the OTHER TVLA – Telepathic Vison Licensing Agency.”
    “What’s your name, I’m going to complain.”
    “About what? That you broke the law, goodbye. Click Brrrrrrr”

    As you can see ladies and gentlemen. If you call the number on the back of the envelope, the call centre can make it all go away as long as you ring up with your good friends “Common Decency” and “Willing to Listen”, not “I know my Rights” and “I’m the Victim”.

    Look, I’m not having a go, I am just sick to the back teeth of people who could sort these type of problems out with a little courtesy for the people on the other end of the line. As long as the requirement for a TV Licence is the law, then there will be letters that go out both purposefully and byt mistake, but is it REALLY the end of the world?

    If the worst comes to the worst, just throw them in the bin! So what if the lads come round? If you have a licence does it matter? If you don’t have one and don’t need one, does it matter?

    This is a very old arguement that I have had countless times with callers. As long as the law is the law, you need to stick to it, if you do and they come round, tell them where to get off. You’re not doing anything wrong and 9 out of 10 “inspectors” will just call the main centre to check the database.

    Oh if only it was all done with paper and pencil eh? that would save a lot of heart ache wouldn’t it?

    Ha ha ha ha ha

    Good night petty moaners

  9. lucianop19 says:

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  10. Kain says:

    Absolutely. So where are you that you’re receiving letters from Ross McTaggart? He’s listed as Northern Ireland Enforcement Division. I’ve just completed a response, more a rebuttal, to the points in the “Final Notification”. Oh, and can we claim back past years of paying TV licence fees during the time when they misled us that “installation” of a television was enough to require payment of a licence fee? This is obtaining funds by deception, more commonly known as fraud.

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