A few days ago we were contacted by a reader who was clearly distressed about receiving TV Licensing's "What To Expect In Court" threatogram.
The reader, who we'll call Anna, recently moved into a new student house with two of her university friends. About a fortnight into the excitement and security of her new home, the wind was taken out of Anna's sails when she received a copy of TV Licensing's most menacing threatogram to date.
A TV licence is only required for those properties where equipment is used to receive TV programme services (that is any programme broadcast on a normal TV channel, which is simultaneously available to other viewing members of the public). Anna does not legally require a TV licence and nor do any of her housemates.
The letter, shown above (it's an old image, but that's still the current format), is designed to intimidate TV Licensing non-respondents by threatening them with court action, for an offence they probably haven't committed. Their only "crime" is to have ignored TV Licensing's previous requests for information - despite the Licensing Authority, the BBC, having confirmed that non-TV users are under no obligation to respond to any of TV Licensing's mailings.
Close examination of the letter shows it has been carefully crafted to look official and sound as menacing as possible. The implication of the letter is clear, but the threats are diluted with the words "may" and "if". The BBC has previously confirmed that it checks, authorises and condones the wording of every TV Licensing routine letter.
For anyone left in any doubt at all, the way the BBC and TV Licensing enforce the licence fee is truly despicable. As we have seen time and time again they hide behind legal jargon, half-truths and veiled threats to coerce licence fee payment, often where none is due. If you ask them any uncomfortable questions about the seemingly indiscriminate way they enforce the fee then they hide behind the law to avoid answering. This is despite the BBC Trust saying it would take action to temper TV Licensing's accusatory tone.
Anyone who genuinely doesn't receive TV programmes can safely discard TV Licensing letters where they belong - the bin or shredder. We strongly recommend they ignore all TV Licensing correspondence and employees, as co-operating with TV Licensing is often a futile exercise and provides them with information they aren't legally entitled to.