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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 TV programmes, or to watch or download on-demand programmes via the BBC iPlayer, then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one.

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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Proposed Decriminalisation of BBC TV Licence Evasion

A very pleasant surprise as we awaken this morning to find that decriminalisation of TV licence evasion is back on the agenda.

Sky News is currently giving this subject particular prominence, highlighting the fact that TV licence evasion accounts for almost 1-in-9 cases before the Magistrates' Courts. It also mentions, quite correctly, that The Magistrates' Association has been campaigning for decades to decriminalise an offence they view as both unjust and an unnecessary burden on valuable court resources.

The law requires that any property where equipment is used to receive TV programmes services must be covered by a valid TV licence. Revenue from the fee is used almost exclusively to fund the frivolous spending habits of the BBC, which includes the recent £100 million abandonment of the much-maligned Digital Media Initiative.

The licence-fee is a regressive form of taxation. It penalises the most those that can afford to pay the least. Women are twice as likely to be convicted of TV licence evasion as men; those on benefits are twice as likely to be convicted as those in employment.

Last year a Bill seeking to decriminalise TV licence evasion was laid before Parliament. The BBC Licence Fee (Civil Debt) Bill 2013-14 was the brainchild of Conservative Philip Hollobone MP, who represents the good people of Kettering.

As a Private Member's Bill it was never likely to make it to the statute books, and sure enough the Bill was killed before its second Commons reading earlier this year. Despite its now defunct status, the Bill did serve the very useful purpose of keeping BBC incompetence and corruption firmly in the Parliamentary eye.

According to today's Telegraph article more than 100 backbench MPs now support the idea of decriminalising licence-fee evasion. Crucially, the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, and Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, are also said to favour such a change in the law.

Mr Grayling told the Telegraph: "The Culture Secretary and I both agree that this is a really interesting idea - particularly given the pressure on our courts system. Our departments will be doing some serious work on the proposal."

Unsurprisingly the BBC, which currently receives £3.6 billion of licence-fee revenue on a silver platter, has given the plans a lukewarm reception. A BBC spokesman is quoted as saying: "Legislation is a matter for the Government, however changing the law could lead to higher evasion. Just a 1 per cent increase in evasion would lead to the loss of around £35 million, the equivalent of around 10 BBC Local Radio stations."

Whether anyone would actually notice the disappearance of 10 BBC local radio stations remains a point for debate, but £35 million is roughly the same amount the BBC spends on "Red Button" interactive TV services.

As TV Licensing contractor Capita Business Services Ltd currently makes £50-100 in court fees for each successful prosecution, we don't suppose they'll be too happy with a change in the law either.

6 comments:

Ray Turner said...

Such changes are long overdue

Anonymous said...

This seems intended solely to free up court time and could do nothing for the rights of those who do not use television. What would be the standard of proof - the balance of probabilities? Who would hear any appeal - the county court or a tribunal like parking appeals? Well 97% of homes have a television and you refused the capita thug entry to search on demand so you must have something to hide. Add to that a statement by the thug saying he thinks he heard a television and I think that could be judgement in capita's favour - especially at a 'tv licence appeal tribunal' rather than a proper court.

admin said...

Thanks for your comment Anon.

I understand why people are concerned about the burden of proof being lowered, but in my opinion it's already quite low - Capita say something and the Magistrates believe it almost by default.

I envisage that cases will be dealt with by way of a penalty charge notice, just like parking. If the notice goes unpaid then it would be for TV Licensing to go the small claims route.

Paul Chapman said...

I've read through the Sky News articles on this, and the wording of it makes it sound like people are sent to prison or given a criminal record for non-payment. Am I wrong in my belief that those things are false?
I can imagine non-payment of fines could lead to that but not non-payment of the licence fee.

admin said...

You can't be imprisoned for TV licence evasion.

The unfortunate souls that have been imprisoned have defaulted on their fines, which is a separate offence.

Anonymous said...

If? when the licence is decriminalised then the standard of proof will fall from beyond all reasonable doubt to the balance of probabilities. You will no longer get a criminal record, but a county court judgment. It will no longer go on your DBS record but will spoil your credit history.

What will they have to prove? Well I suspect that in the new negotiations over the licence fee , then they will amend the current legislation to make it easier to prove their case. many of the freeman arguments will vanish as will the ability to rely on just catch up TV. They could change it back to rather than watching a live signal to merely owning equipment again.

All this is up for negotiation with the government. In once sense it's a good move for your freeman because the matter is no longer criminal, but it will probably mean it is easier for them to win their cases. At the moment I hink it will be county court but it wouldnt surprise me if they set up a different tribunal.