As at this time every year, TV Licensing is currently making a big deal of the fact that around 9,000 UK properties still hold a black & white (monochrome) TV licence.
As customary here at the TV Licensing Blog, a quick reminder of the relevant legislation: A TV licence is required for any property where equipment is installed or used to receive TV programmes.
Anyone who requires a TV licence should get one; anyone who doesn't need a TV licence should not submit to TV Licensing's oppressive methods of enquiry. TV Licensing, despite its threats and pretence to the contrary, has no legal business with the TV-free and should be totally ostracised by them.
In recent press releases TV Licensing has suggested that some monochrome TV licence holders are taking a risk by actually receiving colour TV programmes. A monochrome TV licence (£49 per year) is about a third of the cost of a colour TV licence (£145.40 per year), which arguably, in the eyes of TV Licensing, means that some people will falsely declare monochrome TV reception just to save a few quid.
So how does TV Licensing verify that a property is correctly covered by a monochrome TV licence? And how does TV Licensing detect properties covered by a monochrome TV licence, that should really be covered by a colour TV licence?
With great difficulty, is the honest answer to both of those questions.
As technology evolves, the number of monochrome TV licences is decreasing by around a fifth every year. Nowadays it is not possible to purchase a new monochrome TV licence, only to renew an existing monochrome TV licence. Whenever an existing monochrome TV licence is renewed, the licence-holder is reminded that it would be an offence to receive colour TV programmes. TV Licensing has little option but to accept the licence-holder's word that a monochrome TV licence is suitable for their needs.
Five months after the purchase of a monochrome TV licence, the computer system flags up the customer's address and a visit is scheduled. The purpose of these so called "monochrome challenge" visits is to gain entry, inspect equipment and thereby confirm (or otherwise) that a monochrome TV licence is appropriate for that property. Occasionally a monochrome challenge visit will be generated if TV Licensing receives information that a monochrome TV licence holder is actually receiving colour TV programmes.
The outcome of a monochrome challenge visit may be as follows:
- TV Licensing is allowed entry and finds evidence of the reception of colour TV programmes: In this case the goon would complete the TVL178 Record of Interview form. They would record the visit as Code 8, which indicates a prosecution statement has been taken under caution.
- TV Licensing is allowed entry and finds no evidence of the reception of colour TV programmes: The goon will record the visit as Code A, which confirms that a monochrome TV licence is appropriate.
- TV Licensing is refused entry and the occupier denies reception of colour TV programmes: If the goon has reasonable grounds to suspect the reception of colour TV programmes, they should warn the occupier that it may be necessary to obtain a search warrant to confirm the situation (search warrants are exceptionally rare). The goon will record the visit as Code 9X, which indicates suspected evasion.
- TV Licensing is refused entry and the occupier admits reception of colour TV programmes: In this case the goon would complete the TVL178 form. They would record the visit as Code 8, which indicates a prosecution statement has been taken under caution.
You can read more information about monochrome challenge visits in chapter 11 of the TV Licensing Visiting Procedures, which is available on our Resources page.
It is important to stress that without physically inspecting equipment within a property, TV Licensing has no way of confirming whether or not a monochrome TV licence is appropriate.
Despite what TV Licensing's gappy-toothed PR harlots would have people believe, its magical "detection" equipment - which isn't routinely used anyway - cannot distinguish between the reception of colour or monochome TV programmes.
In our opinion, anyone who correctly holds a monochrome TV licence should not feel coerced into granting TV Licensing access to their property. It is an unequivocal fact that some TV Licensing goons employ unscrupulous and dishonest tactics, so why run the risk of being stitched up by one of them?
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