After reading some of the completely inaccurate posts on ATS making wild claims about the UK television laws I felt the need to present the reality of
the situation here in this topic.
In all the time I've lurked and been a member, this tired old subject keeps coming up and the ignorance is unbelievable, so here is a rational
Here is a photo of a demand letter I got a couple of weeks ago...
...you will note my highlighted section where 'TV Licencing' are describing the law exactly as it is.
It is a criminal offence to watch or record programmes as they're being shown on TV unless you have a licence. It doesn't matter what equipment you
use: colour or black and white television; computer, mobile phone, games console; digital box; or DVD/VHS recorder.
If you watch TV, on these devices or anything else, you need a licence
IT IS NOT A CRIME TO OWN
ANY DEVICE CAPABLE OF RECEIVING TV WITHOUT A LICENCE.
IT IS A CRIME TO USE
ANY DEVICE TO RECEIVE BROADCAST TV WITHOUT A LICENCE.
I haven't had a TV licence for over a decade. I get letters 20 or 30 times a year, and a knock on the door every year or so.
I ignore the letters, and when the door knocks I tell the 'enforcement officers' they have zero authority over me, they are not welcome on my
property, and if they do not leave immediately I will use reasonable force to eject them as they know I legally can.
One time as they left my property I was told they needed my name 'to update our records' to which I replied I couldn't give a toss what you need,
until or unless you guys ever have any authority over me I'm telling you nothing.
A threat of returning with a warrant and police was laughed out of my yard as I reminded them that in order to obtain a warrant they must supply a
Magistrate with 'reasonable suspicion' and it has already been established that not having a licence in itself does NOT meet the standard of
reasonable suspicion that I am USING any device to watch TV as it is broadcast.
One of the guys mentioned detector vans and I laughed again reminding him that there has never been a conviction in the UK based on detector van
evidence so piss off, they did.
Now the whole debate of is a licence fee fair is another matter all together, and to be honest I don't really care because all my media comes from
the internet, and not 'live as broadcast'.
You can make the case that poor people can't afford the £2.80 per week licence but if they can't, they still do not need a licence if they do not
USE a device to watch live broadcast TV. Even if someone has been silly enough to incriminate themselves by admitting they use a device to watch TV,
all this talk of draconian fines making children starve or whatever is just sensationalist drama.
In the UK a fine for anything
is not a hard punishment. Even if the amount is huge, courts will work out a repayment plan based on income after
approved outgoings for housing/food/clothing/child expenses/etc, so if you are not stupid you can end up paying £5 a week or less interest free.
I've paid a few fines over the years and done exactly that with creative accounting. The fine was no punishment then, just the price of a couple of
pints each week.
So folks, please get it straight, people are not prosecuted for 'not having a licence' they are prosecuted for 'using a device to receive broadcast
TV without a licence. If they are prosecuted and refuse to arrange a payment plan/refuse to pay, then that is a seperate offence - Non payment of
Many years ago I failed to display an 'L plate' (learner) on the front of my motorbike before I passed my test and got a £25 fine. I didn't pay
it, moved to another part of the UK, and unknown to myself, an arrest warrant had been issued for my non-payment of a fine. When I next had contact
with the cops some years later I was arrested for the warrant and ended up 28 days in prison for non payment of a fine.
I was not sent to prison for failing to display a learner plate, I was sent to prison because with contempt I #ed the courts off and ignored their
fine - That is the difference.
In closing, I look at 'TV Licensing' as a private commercial enterprise similar to say Microsoft employees turning up at your door demanding to
check your operating system for authenticity. Neither have any authority over you in any way so both can be ignored and forcibly removed from your
property, and both need reasonable suspicion that you are breaking the law before any magistrate will even think about issuing any warrant.
It is why I haven't had a licence since around 1999.
Deny ignorance folks. The few UK nationals who go to prison are mostly campaigning protesters refusing to pay the court after conviction as a matter
of principle. With the generous UK fine payment plans they are 'won't' pay, not 'can't' pay.
Just remember, you do NOT need a licence to OWN a device capable of receiving TV, but if you USE a device to watch live broadcast TV then you do need
...oh and as an aside, all TV device vendors are required to get the customer to complete a form detailing the owner so it can be sent to TV
licencing. The law does not require the vendor to verify that the information provided by the customer is correct.
Last flat screen I bought with cash and wrote Mickey Mouse of no fixed abode on the form. The saleperson hesitated then chuckled and sold me the