The BBC relies very heavily on the public perception that a TV detector van is rumbling along every other street on the prowl for TV licence evaders.
We know that because that's what the BBC told the Information Commissioner's Office when it was defending - successfully as it goes - its decision to refuse the release of TV detection statistics requested under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
In its Decision Notice (FS50154106) dated 16th October 2008, the Information Commissioner's Office said: "The BBC state that to release information which relates to the number of detection devices and how often they are used will change the public’s perception of their effectiveness.
"If the deterrent effect is lost, the BBC believes that a significant number of people would decide not to pay their licence fee, knowing how the deployment and effectiveness of vans and other equipment will affect their chances of success in avoiding detection."
The BBC's position has not materially changed since then. It still refuses to provide any information about the number of TV detector vans or their deployment, on the grounds that doing so would be prejudicial to law enforcement - namely the BBC's ability to nab TV licence evaders.
Imagine then our delight when the BBC inadvertently let the cat out of the bag with its recent Freedom of Information blunder.
According to the TV Licensing Field Monthly Performance Pack for March 2015, there were only 116 detection requests across the whole UK in the 12 months to 31st March 2015. Of those, 115 were in England and one in Northern Ireland. There were no detection requests at all made in Scotland or Wales.
The Performance Pack does not state how many of those requests were successful but we know, from comments made by previous Office of Surveillance Commissioners' reports on the BBC, that not every request is granted. Indeed the OSC has previously complimented the BBC on the way it meticulously examines every detection request before authorisation is granted.
It therefore follows, we suggest, that a significant proportion of the 116 detection requests were refused, thus reinforcing our firm belief that TV detection is neither routine nor widespread as the BBC would have people believe.
Remember also that TV Licensing only uses plain white high-topped VW Transporter vans for detection purposes. The vans have a windowed sliding door on the nearside, which has a second smaller window above it. The offside of the vans has an identical large window, but no sliding door.
You can read a bit more about the myth of detection in our earlier post on the subject.
The TV Licensing Blog is grateful to the BBC for its help in researching this article.
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