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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Short-Dating TV Licences: A BBC Money Maker


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!

3 comments:

Chris said...

The BBC are being disingenuous. No-one is claiming that the policy of using end of month expiry dates is NOT more cost-effective. People are simply pointing out that new license holders are being short-changed out of anything up to a month to support this policy.

Let's put it another way. Why can't the BBC give new license holders the remainder of the current month for free and start the clock from the 1st of the following month? That way new license holders will get anything from the 12 months they have paid for, to 13 months in some cases.

The BBC cannot argue that they would lose too much money because

a) they have said it's about simplified administration, which would remain unchanged here, and

b) if they argued that they would lose too much money then they would have to admit that they value the money they make under the current setup.

They cannot have it both ways. So which is it BBC? Simplified admin (in which case let new license holders up to a month free) or you want the money (in which case stop claiming it's about simplified admin).

It's also worth highlighting the large number of other large organisations which apparently cope with varied billing dates just fine. The BBC seems to be unique in not having this ability.

Ray Turner said...

In this day and age of computers, I think the cost argument is a red-herring.

A little re-programming might be needed, but once that's done there need be no difference at all in the ongoing running costs.

As you rightly say, its a rip-off...

Anonymous said...

I wrote to the Shadown Digital Economy minister Louise Haigh about this, and managed to get my extra month back from the BBC. Louise is also going to raise this with the Digital Economy Minister Matt Hancock.

It's worthwhile maintaining the pressure on this by writing to one's MP.