We are very grateful to Hughie, a respected member of the TV Licence Resistance forums, for writing this guest post about his experiences of going legally-licence-free:
If my memory serves me correctly I purchased my first TV licence way back in the early 80s when I moved into my first home. I renewed it every year up until 2013 when I decided I would stop. What happened? Why did I do this? I had a SKY subscription too. So many channels of entertainment available to me, however I noted that I only regularly watched three to four of them at most. I decided to cancel SKY (a feat in itself if you have ever tried) and settled down to ‘enjoy’ terrestrial TV.
Something was still wrong. I watched less and less TV. The reason was the internet! With this marvel of technology I could watch almost anything I desired and YouTube quickly became my source for nearly all my entertainment. Plus it was free! Well sort of, you had to pay your ISP of course but then I started to wonder. Initially I was one of those people who thought that a TV licence was mandatory but during one of my many YouTube sessions I came across something rather interesting. I can’t remember what I was searching for but soon I was watching videos where people were resisting the TV licence.
So, it wasn’t mandatory after all, despite the years of propaganda I had suffered at the hands of the BBC’s TV licence campaigns. Further viewing on how to become licence-free followed and in July 2013 I took the decision to go LLF (legally-licence-free). I duly rang TV Licensing and after explaining to them I would no longer watch or record live broadcasts, cancelled my TV licence. I even got a refund. So far so good. No SKY to pay for and I had just saved myself £145.50 per year on top.
Then it started. I will call it the ‘Campaign of Harassment’. Firstly I got a call asking why I had no TV licence. I decided to reply with ‘no comment’ to everything asked of me and the call ended with a threat of ‘further action’. Further calls were answered as ‘wrong number’ and the phone calls stopped.
Two weeks later came the first letter. I was a little apprehensive if I’m honest but I opened and read it. A ‘Late Renewal’ with ways I could pay and set up a new TV licence. Because I had researched the subject the fear was gone and I knew I could safely ignore it. A second letter, delivered late August informed me that ‘my property was under investigation’. Let me say that these letters look very threatening, written in the style that they are complete with bold headlines and red lettering. They are designed to get a response from you and it’s easy to see how people fall for it. Further letters threatened ‘court action’ and are perhaps the most worrying of all. Let me say right now that you are under no obligation to respond to these letters, you don’t even have to open them. Mine were addressed to me by name at first but by following advice given further into this article they will soon revert to ‘the occupier’ or similar.
Now a word about equipment and what I did to comply with my newfound licence-free status. I removed the aerial cable, coiled it up with tie-wraps where it came through the wall and then taped over the connector and then detuned the television. Some people I know have taken this further and disabled the socket on the TV. I have done this but it is reversible in case I ever wanted to sell it. I should point out that there is a scenario where it is quite legal to keep the aerial connected and that is because you can listen to the radio through the TV without requiring a licence. The reasons why this is not a good idea I will go into shortly.
For those of you who may be reading this and are considering going LLF you may be thinking this is a lot of trouble to go to, there must be an easier way? Well yes there is but it does have its disadvantages. You can go to the TV Licensing website and make a ‘no licence needed’ declaration. The idea is that you state that you will not be watching or recording live broadcasts however you will receive a visit from an ‘Enforcement Officer’ to make sure this is the case. If you are okay with letting an unvetted stranger into your house to inspect your equipment then fine. Did you remember to remove the cable because if they find a live signal you will be prosecuted under the Communications Act 2003. If they find no live signal then a 2 year halt on letters is put on your property, but this isn’t always adhered to. A recent development I have seen is that following a declaration a letter is sent to you that ‘requires’ your name and signature to complete the process. This is just a name-fishing exercise and it should be consigned to the bin with the rest of the letters.
So now I’ve had the letters, what’s next? A visit is eventually made and by luck I spot a likely looking character approaching my property. I grab my video camera, but I’m so nervous I forget to point it at him. I eventually managed to get a shot of him halfway through the ‘interview’. So why hadn’t I got a TV licence? I told him that I didn’t watch or record live TV. “Fine” he said, made some entries on his PDA and left it at that. Easy right? Well yes, however, if you watch other encounters with these people on YouTube you will see that my first visit was rather tame compared with most.
And here we come to the crux of the matter. How do you interact with these people who call unannounced at your door? I would firmly suggest that if possible just don’t answer the door to them. If you have CCTV or an intercom this is easy but if you have to open the door the first and only words out of your mouth should be “who are you?” and keep repeating it until they ID themselves. If they are TV Licensing then CLOSE the door. Don’t give them any information, don’t even confirm your name. Nothing else is required. They have no information on who you are and that’s just fine. If they get no name for approximately six months then good news! You are now the ‘legal occupier’, assuming they had your name in the first place, maybe from your previous licence details.
My second and third visits were not recorded and were just as described in the previous paragraph. Identify and close the door. A further 2 visits were missed but they did leave a ‘we called’ card just to let me know that they hadn’t forgotten about me. If you do decide to record the visit they can make no attempt to stop you so ignore any threats they may make.
My reasons for going LLF were mainly the cost, coupled with the fact that other sources of entertainment (some free) are available. YouTube, Netflix (and similar services) plus catch-up can all be watched without needing a TV licence. Could you give it up? Think about what you watch and how you watch it. If you go LLF how you deal with it is up to you. This is just about my experience and how I dealt with it.
The LLF community have a ‘zero contact’ rule that works. I know of quite a few who have used it for many years without incident. I didn’t get it at first and was determined to make a name for myself with a great YouTube video but it slowly sank in, keep your head down, make your address a ‘black hole’ for TV Licensing and get on with your life.