Why we're here:
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, 7 March 2015

TV Licensing Website: Reliably Unreliable


Over the last few months we are aware that the TV Licensing website has experienced a lot of down time.

Provision of the website, along with the associated online payment methods, is actually the responsibility of Capita Business Services Ltd, under the terms of the BBC TV Licensing operations contract.

TV Licensing relies quite heavily on the website, as it provides members of the public with the ability to self-help, which theoretically improves efficiency and reduces the costs of collecting the TV licence fee.

Speaking on BBC Tees last month, TV Licensing PR harlot Matt Thompson said: "One thing that has been a great way of reducing the cost of collection has been our TV Licensing website, which essentially enables you to identify if you need a licence, you can purchase your licence, you can tell us if you don't need a licence as well. So, as you can imagine, that's led to huge efficiencies."

Despite the "huge efficiencies" mentioned by Thompson, our observations suggest that the TV Licensing website is far from reliable. If it's as useful as TV Licensing claim, then you would expect them to put the time, effort and investment into providing a stable web platform.

Using the Freedom of Information Act 2000, we asked the BBC to provide the following information:

1. The dates and approximate times that the TV Licensing website has experienced unplanned outages. I require this information since 1st January 2013.

2. A brief description of the circumstances of each unplanned outage disclosed in response to point 1 above (e.g. what was the cause and duration of each outage?)

3. The number of failed licence fee transactions, attributable to website errors, that have taken place via the TV Licensing website. I require this information as a monthly breakdown since 1st January 2013. If it is not possible to provide monthly figures, then I will begrudgingly settle for yearly figures instead.

BBC wordsmith Rupinder Panesar, who we have previously tussled with on several occasions, provided the following response:

1 & 2: This information is shown in this disclosure document.

3. The BBC does not hold this information. It added that it did hold records for the number of transactions that were completed automatically and those that required manual intervention, although it did not volunteer that information other than to say "the vast majority were automatically processed".

As is often case, we remain slightly confused and sceptical about the accuracy and completeness of the BBC's response. Having made many previous requests, you would expect the BBC to appreciate the fact that we nearly always know the information it holds anyway. That being the case, we can normally spot a duff response at 100 paces.

It was an unplanned outage of the TV Licensing website towards the end of January 2015 that propagated our request for information in the first place, yet it appears the BBC has omitted to mention that event. See this Twitter conversation, dated 27th January 2015, for more information.

Experience shows that the BBC will only disclose the bare minimum of information requested and will often try to avoid doing that if it thinks no-one will notice. We'd suggest this is another example of the BBC telling only half the story.

The BBC does that a lot.

We have requested an internal review, which should allow the BBC an opportunity to get its "facts" in order.

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