You might remember that the BBC, in a characteristic display of incompetence, mistakenly failed to redact sensitive TV Licensing secrets contained within a Freedom of Information response it issued.
The BBC has sought desperately hard to conceal information about the number of TV Licensing abandoned prosecutions, search warrant applications and detection authorisations, but in one careless mouse-click the illusion of an effective and far-reaching enforcement regime has been shattered.
Knowing the way the BBC operates, the arsehole (as far as they're concerned) responsible for the oversight has probably been promoted.
As a result of the BBC's incompetence we now know, as a matter of fact, that in the 12 months leading up to 31st March 2015, TV Licensing's enforcement activities included the following:
- Just as we suspected, there were no search warrants applied for in Scotland. We attribute this to the fact that the Scottish legal system would be far more robust than its England/Wales and Northern Ireland counterparts in analysing every TV Licensing search warrant application.
- In the whole of the UK there were only 351 search warrants requests made by TV Licensing's Field Enforcement Division to the TV Licensing Legal Team. Of those TV Licensing made 256 search warrant applications to the courts, of which only 167 were actually granted.
- Of the 167 warrants granted, only 115 of those were executed (97 successfully, 17 unsuccessfully, 1 unknown).
- In London, there were only 2 search warrants granted by the court.
- There were only 116 detection requests (not authorisations) across the whole UK, of which 115 were in England and one in Northern Ireland. We know that not every request is authorised, so the number of detection authorisations is probably much lower than that value. Forget any ideas about detector vans trundling up and down streets, pinpointing unlicensed Columbo viewers and making TV aerials twitch in fear - in reality the use of detection is virtually unheard of. That is a fact.
In the finest traditions of the national broadcaster, as soon is it realised it had dropped the ball it immediately started to cover its tracks and undo the damage. Sound familiar to anyone?
The BBC made contact with the WhatDoTheyKnow website, which had published the offending unredacted material. It asked WhatDoTheyKnow to remove the sensitive information, but we are pleased to confirm it has not. The BBC also contacted the TV Licensing Blog in relation to this article, which named the employee responsible for emailing the material to WhatDoTheyKnow.
WhatDoTheyKnow volunteer Doug Paulley made a follow up information request to the BBC. In it he sought any information produced by the BBC as a result of its earlier Freedom of Information blunder. With characteristic defiance, the BBC manufactured some half-arsed excuse for delaying its response to Doug's request, so he has now taken the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office.
The Commissioner contacted the BBC and gave it ten days to provide a response to Doug, but it has failed to do so. In what was heralded in a new era of transparency for the BBC, it appears the Corporation is still prepared to demonstrate contempt towards information rights and show two fingers to the associated legislation and regulator.
Doug has vowed to take the matter as far as necessary.
We will all be following very closely.
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