Why we're here:
This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast television programmes then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Broken BBC Trust Facing Ofcom Replacement

The BBC Trust could be scrapped and replaced by Ofcom within two years, according to plans being considered by the Government.

The Trust, which is tasked with overseeing editorial standards and value for money, has haplessly lurched from one crisis to another over recent years.

Setting aside sexual abuse scandals for a moment, the BBC has faced particularly swingeing criticism over bumper executive pay-offs, gold-plated pensions and general frivolity in the way it spends public money.

In recent months the Trust has faced increasingly probing questions over the manner in which it has apparently suppressed the release of the much-anticipated Dame Janet Smith Review into historic cases of sexual abuse within the BBC.

In its recent report on the Future of the BBC, the influencial House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee raised concerns about a lack of transparency, nepotism and cronyism at the top of the BBC.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP, an outspoken critic of the BBC, is currently considering the future shape of the Corporation when its Royal Charter comes up for renewal on 31st December 2016. 

Also on the table is the realistic prospect of decriminalisation of TV licence fee evasion.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

BBC Boss: Ditching TV Licence Fee Will Cost Viewers More

Like rats desperately clambering to safety from a sinking ship, BBC bosses are trying their utmost to protect the guaranteed income afforded by the TV licence fee.

Earlier today it was the BBC Director General, Tony Hall, using the nepotistic hospitality of the Andrew Marr show to recite horror stories about how ordinary members of the public would end up paying more if the £145.50 annual telly tax was abolished.

Speaking on the show, Lord Hall said: "Our audiences, when you ask them, actually think that the case for the licence fee as a method of funding the BBC has gone up and has not gone down. That's really important.

"And they believe in a high quality BBC that's producing excellent programmes right across a broad range of genres."

Lord Hall dismissed the suggestion that the TV licence fee was anachronistic, saying that even Culture Secretary John Whittingdale - who has previously described the fee as "worse than the poll tax" - acknowledged it had ten years of life left in it.

Referring to the Culture Select Committee's recent report on the Future of the BBC, he continued: "Beyond that Andrew, you and I sitting here 10 years ago had no idea what an iPad was, had no idea about Netflix, had no idea about Spotify - I'll go along with the argument that's it got 10 years life in it.

"And then it (the report) went on to say what the licence fee has got to do is what the licence fee has continually done since it was first invented, which is to adapt to modernise, to change because - and this is the principle - by everybody paying something we all get great services for a lot less than if you went down a subscription model or some other route."

The BBC's Royal Charter expires on 31st December 2016 and the topic of funding will feature prominently during the process of Charter renewal.

Photographers Manhandled by Intu Derby Security

Intu Derby security guards Darran and Stuart.
Recent video footage shows a pair of amateur photographers being manhandled and detained by security staff at Intu Derby.

Here at the TV Licensing Blog we are enthusiastic proponents of the public's right to film, which is why we are deviating from normal service to highlight this story. We also have a particular interest in this case, because one of the photographers was none other than our good friend and noble colleague Matt Williams.

Matt has not yet publicly shared his full video, but has kindly given us a preview and allowed us to republish some stills from it. Stay tuned to his channel for when the full version finally goes live, as we're sure it will attract widespread media interest.

Having carefully studied the 36-minute video, we are quite satisfied that both photographers acted in a calm and law-abiding manner throughout. We are also quite satisfied that at the time of the incident there was no visible indication that photography was prohibited at Intu Derby although, for understandable reasons, that might not be the same situation now.

The Wilderslowe Tower at Derbyshire Royal Infirmary.
On the morning of Monday, 8th June 2015 Matt and his friend Steffan were taking photographs and video footage from Intu Derby's public roof-top car park. The car park provided the ideal vantage point to view the soon-to-be demolished Wilderslowe Tower, which stands in the grounds of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary only a few hundred yards to the south. Audio footage recorded at the time confirms Matt's interest in the Wilderslowe Tower and the changing shape of Derby's skyline.

Matt has a general interest in the old Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, as he has previously undertaken several "urban exploration" visits to the abandoned site. During one such visit he found confidential patient medical records strewn across the floor, which was subsequently reported by the local media.

A security guard noticed the pair filming over the barrier at the edge of the car park and approached to ask what they were doing. The guard, displaying the name Darran on his badge, asked Matt and Steffan to stop filming and present their ID. Matt and Steffan carried about their business, seemingly unperturbed by the security man's presence.

Security guard Darren challenges Matt and Steffan about taking photographs from Intu Derby's roof-top car park.
Matt, being a bit of a joker, unsuccessfully tried his Jedi mind tricks on guard Darran, as shown in a preview video currently available on his YouTube channel. The security man, who had just been speaking on his radio, asked if he could view the photos they had taken. He astutely deduced "you obviously like taking photos, with all that equipment you've got". The pair then edged towards the level 7 stairwell, with guard Darran following them downstairs to the level 2 shopping centre. Having descended several flights of stairs Matt and Steffan sat down for a few moments, which allowed their pear-shaped pursuers to catch their breath. Fortuitously, given the events about to unfold, they had decided to keep their cameras rolling.

Intu Derby security guard Mark.
 A minute or so later shaven-headed security guard Mark strolled across and informed the pair that "the police are coming to check you out". Steffan could be heard asking why, to which the guard Mark replied something about the car park and "we don't know who you are". A few more seconds later Matt got to his feet and started to walk towards the exit, at which point guard Mark grabbed him by the arm.

Matt was understandably aggrieved at being manhandled, but somehow managed to maintain his composure. "Woah, woah, woah - you have no powers to detain me and you have no right to touch me", he protested to guard Mark. In the background guard Darran wrongly replied that his follicly-challenged colleague did have the right to detain Matt and Steffan. He could also be heard telling Matt "you're not leaving the centre".

Security guard Stuart forcefully grabs Matt by the arm and leads him to a staff-only area.
It was at the point that grey-bearded guard Stuart strolled onto the scene. He reiterated that Matt and Stefan would not be leaving and were being detained until the police arrived. Matt made a second attempt to walk away, at which point Stuart forcibly grabbed his arm and frogmarched him behind a staff-only door.

Matt told guard Stuart to "get off me" and warned "you are going to see some serious bother for this", but at all times he remained calm and civil. In the enclosed staff-only area guard Stuart was seen to push Matt against the wall and reiterated that was being detained until the police arrived. A few moments later Matt again tried to leave, but was grabbed and pushed back inside the room by guard Stuart.

Security guard Stuart pushes Matt back against a wall.
Moments later Matt was escorted back through the public shopping centre towards a second staff-only area where Steffan was being held by three guards (guard Mark, guard Darran, plus another). Matt asked guard Stuart "have I committed any crimes?", to which he replied "we'll see when the police get here". Guard Stuart then falsely claimed that "there's big signs on the door when you come in here (saying) no photography, no cameras". Both photographers again stressed their desire to leave the shopping centre, which was refused by the four guards now present.

After what must have been an uncomfortable 5 or 6 minutes the police eventually arrived and quickly established that Matt and Steffan had been photographing the old Derbyshire Royal Infirmary site from the shopping centre's roof-top car park. 

Police officers arrive at Intu Derby to speak to Matt and Steffan.
The male officer took Matt's details and his female colleague dealt with Steffan. After a few checks the police were satisfied that no criminal offences had been committed and explained that Intu had decided to ban Matt and Steffan from its premises for a period of 2 years. It was at this point that Matt attempted to report guard Stuart for assault, but the male police officer didn't seem interested in taking his complaint.

The pair were then escorted out of the shopping centre by guard Mark and went straight to St Mary's Wharf police station to report guard Stuart's behaviour and provide copies of their video evidence. The police have also requested Intu Derby's own CCTV footage and are currently investigating Matt's complaint.

Signs on the external doors of Intu Derby made no mention of photography being prohibited.
We have serious concerns about the manner in which Intu Derby's security staff handled this incident. Whilst it may, in certain limited circumstances, be acceptable for private security to detain a person they reasonably suspect of committing a criminal offence, it is not legally acceptable to manhandle members of the public simply for taking photographs or video footage. Such actions, in our opinion, were a gross overreaction, clear abuse of authority and unlawful assault.

Given the amount of photography equipment Matt and Steffan were carrying, there can be little doubt about the innocuous purpose of their visit to Intu Derby that morning. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the pair were acting suspiciously or committed any criminal offences during their visit. They were simply pointing their cameras at the Wilderslowe Tower and clicking away.

Matt and Steffan are to be commended for the passive manner in which they interacted with the aggressive Intu Derby security staff. At no point did either of them raise their voices, use any sort of abusive language or threatening behaviour. If anything both remained very calm and polite considering the circumstances.

We actively encourage anyone with a camera to make a point of taking photos and video footage in Intu shopping centres around the UK.