The BBC is surreptitiously raking in millions in extra revenue by short-dating TV licences.
Most people would think, understandably, that their £145.50 cash injection to the BBC will cover their use of colour TV receiving equipment for the next 12 months. In reality they may receive a rude awakening when they see the true expiry date on their new TV licence.
The most recent figures available, published in the BBC Licence Fee Trust Statement 2011, suggest that as many as 2.1 million new licence holders may be disadvantaged to the tune of £12 by the scam, which sees them paying for 12 months of TV licence coverage but receiving as little as 11 months in return. In other words the BBC could be profiting to the tune of £25 million annually through what can only be described as sleight of hand.
The way the BBC chooses to administer the licence fee means that a new licence expires 12 months from the first day of the month in which it is purchased. This means that an ‘annual’ licence bought on 30th April 2013 will actually run out at midnight on 31st March 2014, or, in other words, the licence holder is effectively forced to pay for April 2014 twice. The current arrangements mean that a TV licence can only expire on the last day of the month, so there are 12 possible expiry dates in a year.
The BBC was asked to justify its policy of short-dating TV licences, short changing viewers, in a recent Freedom of Information Act request.
Louise Wright, of the BBC's Licence Fee Unit, explained: "This system of dating is used in preference to a system whereby a licence can expire on any day of the year simply because it is more cost-effective.
"Given the number of TV Licences (sic) that are in issue (more than 25 million), to operate a system whereby there are 365 alternative expiry dates would be far more costly in terms of both administration and enforcement - a cost which, ultimately, would be borne by the licence payer."
Short-dated licence holders must be heartened to learn that the BBC is only ripping them off in the short-term in order to save them money later on. Indeed, the BBC's recent abandonment of the £100 million Digital Media Initiative perfectly illustrates their ongoing commitment to provide the licence fee payer with best possible value for money.
Anyone considering buying a new TV licence should ensure they do so at the very start of the month, so that they get the 12 months coverage that they're actually paying for.
At least Dick Turpin wore a mask when he fleeced members of the public!