Over recent weeks TV Licensing has been circulating a new style of threatogram to unlicensed properties.
The letter, which carries the headline statistic that "95% of UK properties are correctly licensed", reminds the occupier that a TV licence is required if they watch or record "live" TV on any device.
The front page suggests a slight mellowing in tone, but delve a little deeper and you'll find the threats, half-truths and innuendo that characterise many TV Licensing letters.
In common with all TV Licensing letters, it tells only half the story. We have added notes in red font to help paint a complete picture.
The front of the letter reads as follows:
95% of UK properties are correctly licensed.
Why isn't yours?
[Using the BBC's own figures, more than 80% of unlicensed properties are correctly unlicensed. TV Licensing adopts a scattergun approach of threatening the occupiers of all unlicensed properties, as it often scares people into buying a TV licence they don't legally need]
Whether you watch or record live TV on a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, games console, digital box, DVD/VHS recorder or any other device, you still need a TV Licence.
[However, it is properties that are licensed and not individuals. You would not need a TV licence if you were using equipment to receive TV programmes in an already correctly licensed property]
'Live TV' means any programme that you watch or record at the same time as it's being shown on TV or live on an online TV service.
According to our records, your home has been unlicensed for some time. You must buy a licence if you need one. Or, if you already have a licence, you can move it to this address at tvlicensing.co.uk/moving.
[The inaccuracy of many TV Licensing records is a constant source of amusement]
If you don't watch or record live TV, please tell us using the details on the back. We might confirm this with a visit.
[This is a request. Anyone who doesn't legally need a TV licence is under no obligation at all to assist TV Licensing. Indeed doing so is often a pointless exercise, as TV Licensing regularly ignores any no-licence-needed claim it receives]
[A mythical sub-unit of TV Licensing, designed to reinforce the public perception of an efficient enforcement regime]
DON'T IGNORE THIS LETTER. IF YOU WATCH OR RECORD TV ILLEGALLY, YOU RISK PROSECUTION AND A FINE.
[As mentioned earlier, anyone who doesn't legally need a TV licence can safely ignore the letter. The best place for it is the bin]
The rear of the letter contains the following additional information:
How do I get a licence?
You can simply buy a licence at tvlicensing.co.uk/pay or by calling 0300 790 6077. You might find it easier to pay by Direct Debit, but you can also use a credit or debit card. Or pay by cash at any PayPoint, using a TV Licensing payment card - call us to apply for yours.
I can't afford to pay all in one go.
If you prefer, you can pay in smaller amounts, such as every three months, monthly or weekly starting from £5.60. To see all the other ways to pay, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/waystopay or call 0300 790 6077.
[If you choose to pay by quarterly Direct Debit, it will cost an extra £5 per year. If you choose to pay by monthly Direct Debit, you will have to make double-payments for the first 6 months]
I don't watch live TV.
94% of UK adults watch live TV every week, so there's a good chance you do too. 'Live TV' means any programme you watch or record at the same time as it's being shown on TV or live on an online TV service like iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 or Sky Go. 'Live TV' could be soaps, comedies, documentaries or news, as well as live events.
[TV Licensing don't believe that anyone doesn't watch live TV. By TV Licensing's logic, anyone claiming not to need a TV licence is probably mistaken, because 94% of people watch live TV every week. As you'd expect, TV Licensing's logic is seriously flawed: Just because a person watches live TV, doesn't necessarily mean they need a TV licence because, as mentioned earlier, it is properties that are licensed and not individuals]
If you don't watch or record live TV, or if this property is unoccupied, please tell us you don't need a licence at tvlicensing.co.uk/noTV or call 0300 790 6077. We may confirm this with a visit.
[In this situation a person doesn't need a tell TV Licensing anything at all. TV Licensing might visit to check the honesty of the occupier anyway - remember, by the BBC's own figures more than 80% of people in this situation are telling the truth]
But I don't even have a TV.
The law says you need a TV Licence to watch or record live TV on any device, including a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, games console, digital box or DVD/VHS recorder.
To check if you need a licence, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/check.
What if I've just moved in?
If you already have a licence, you can move it to this address by visiting tvlicensing.co.uk/moving or by calling us 24 hours a day on 0300 790 6077. Please have you TV Licence number to hand.
What happens if I ignore this letter?
The investigation into your property will continue. Whether or not you watch (or record) live TV, please contact us. Enforcement Officers are authorised to visit your address at any time. If they find you watching or recording TV illegally, you may be interviewed under caution in accordance with national criminal law. You could then be summoned to court and fined up to £1,000 plus legal costs and/or any compensation you may be ordered to pay. If convicted you will be given a criminal record at the magistrates' court where the case is heard. Don't risk it.
[If you ignore the letter not much will happen. TV Licensing will continue to send further letters, which you should place unopened in the bin. A TV Licensing goon might try to visit your property, but you do not need to engage with them at all. The occupier should never allow TV Licensing voluntary access to their property, because many commission-hungry TV Licensing goons cannot be trusted. Many decent, law-abiding folk who have made the mistake of trusting TV Licensing have ended up in court on the basis of spurious evidence. By far the safest option is to ignore TV Licensing completely]
[TV Licensing goons only visit at certain hours of the day, so the "at any time" statement is total bullshit. Having endured hundreds of TV Licensing court cases, we have not once observed anyone - even the most hardened of repeat offenders - receive a fine anywhere near the oft-mooted £1,000 value. We have never seen a court order the payment of compensation. The court can only award compensation for an offence with a specific victim, which clearly there is not in the case of TV licence evasion. TV licence evasion convictions are non-recordable, which means they only exist in some dusty court register and not on any national database]
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