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Saturday, 19 December 2015

TV Licensing: Bullying the Bereaved


Not for the first time - and undoubtedly not for the last - the BBC's militant revenue generation arm, TV Licensing, stands accused of bullying the bereaved.

Having been tipped off about TV Licensing's continued hostility towards the families of recently deceased over-75 TV licence holders, the TV Licensing Blog placed a Freedom of Information request to get to the heart of the issue.

We asked the BBC to provide all information that mentioned or related to:
- How TV Licensing establishes that an over-75 TV licence holder has died.
- The procedures TV Licensing follows in relation to the death of an over-75 TV licence holder.

In its response the BBC confirmed that TV Licensing is notified of the deaths of over-75 licence holders via two main channels: either by the person dealing with the deceased's estate (usually a family member) or by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The DWP provides TV Licensing with a monthly list of recently deceased over-75 licence holders.

Once notified of the death of an over-75 licence holder, TV Licensing will write to the deceased's property to establish whether an over-75 licence is still appropriate for any person living there. If no response is received the property will become subject to TV Licensing's regular monthly threatograms and possible visits.

It is important to stress that no-one is under any legal obligation to confirm the no-licence-needed status of their property. Indeed, experience shows that contacting an organisation as dysfunctional and disorganised as TV Licensing is often a pointless exercise.

If a house is left unoccupied following the death of an over-75 licence holder, then the person dealing with the estate - who probably has far more important matters to deal with - does not need to confirm the circumstances to TV Licensing.

Earlier this week the Mirror took up the story. It reported how TV Licensing's caustic methods of enquiry had unnecessarily distressed Kirsty Beaumont, who was dealing with the aftermath of her grandmother's death.

Kirsty said: "I was at my nan's house clearing up after her funeral when I saw this letter from the TV Licensing people among the post.

"It said that if there was anybody under the age of 75 living at the house then they were liable to pay the TV licence.

"The whole thing is disgusting - they are hounding people for money as soon as they’ve put a loved in the grave for the sake of a poxy licence fee."

It is quite clear that TV Licensing is only concerned about hoovering up as many licence fees as possible on behalf of the BBC. It has no human face and no concept of compassion.

We would encourage anyone harassed by TV Licensing to complain in the strongest possible terms to their MP and local media outlets. Please also let us know so we can write about it.


Ignore TV Licensing completely.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hang on a minute! Surely data protection still applies to the deceased? Are the DWP not breaking any Laws by informing and providng the BBC with said lists?

1st Edit: Before submitting this, I googled and found this ICO pdf file - https://ico.org.uk/.../1202/information-about-the-deceased-foi-eir.pdf

Looks like DPA doesn't cover deceased unless it relates to medical records.

Couldn't find ANYTHING that gives the DWP any legal right to act as informer though to the BBC.

"The DWP provides TV Licensing with a monthly list of recently deceased over-75 licence holders." This needs expanding on, as that sounds to me as though the DWP actively instigates the transfer of information. We need to find out what the DWP's position is on retaining and keeping secure data concerning deceased people. If it turns out that their own protocols state they shouldn't be handing it out to anyone, then we have a problem.

.................................

2nd Edit:
Oooooh look what I found!
A DWP internal pdf file telling their staff what to do concerning deceased peoples data - www.rightsnet.org.uk/pdfs/DWP_Pers_Info_Policy_03.pdf

Page 12 Section 5 (5.1)
Deceased persons
5.1 The Data Protection Act does not apply to deceased persons, but the rules of confidentiality continue to apply. Generally, if someone enquires about a deceased person you may disclose the date of death only (providing this has already been verified) – do not provide any other information. For further information see Appendix 4 (paragraphs 10.1-10.9).

Now, again, that reads to me as the DWP is NOT allowed to actively instigate contact with external organisations but can only REACT to individual requests providing the requester has included that persons NAME.

I hope you find this information useful. Other than that, this highlights just how interwoven the BBC/Capita and government departments really are.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add to my previous:

It would seem prudent to ask, maybe via FOI to both the DWP and BBC, EXACTLY what information is contained in that information exchange concerning the deceased, the DWP's pdf file only states confirming date of birth as it clearly states:
"Generally, if someone enquires about a deceased person you may disclose the date of death only (providing this has already been verified) – do not provide any other information."

That last sentence - "YOU MAY DISCLOSE THE DATE OF BIRTH. DO NOT PROVIDE ANY OTHER INFORMATION".

The game is afoot!

Admin said...

Let's put it this way: The DWP wouldn't want to be billed for renewal of a "free" over-75 licence of a deceased person, so it's probably in its interests to notify TVL of the death.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but now it would appear that there is clear evidence the DWP is doing something it shouldn't, and it is now public by way of this fine blog!

Admin said...

I will formulate a request to the DWP.

Anonymous said...

There's an existing thread on the TVL Resistance forum whereby it states the over 75's licence is paid for (if you can call it that) via the DWP. So not sure how that affects the situation.

Admin said...

Yes, that is correct. At the moment the DWP picks up the tab for all the "free" over-75 licences. In the future, when the BBC is allowed to increase the licence fee again, the BBC itself will have to cover the cost of these licences.

M Lockyer said...

DWP come on you know who is now running that, and the DVLA, DVLC, the Police the courts, in fact almost every single Government department is run by......... Capita. forget freedom of information, impartiality, Human Rights fair trials, if even Cliff Richard with his wealth cannot sue the BBC defended by Capita, no one stands a chance