We have written before about the threatening TV ads (too often featuring the cuddly voice of David Mitchell, if we're not mistaken) beamed into our living rooms telling us, in a joky manner full of barely-concealed malice and contempt, what'll happen to us if we don't renew our television licences. Now it seems we are not alone in our dislike of this draconian institution that compels us to pay for the BBC whether we watch it or not - or, indeed, whether it's worth watching or not.
This letter was sent by the TV Licensing Enforcement Division to the proprietor of the Bent Society blog …
The Present Occupier
RE: AUTHORISATION TO VISIT THIS PROPERTY
As the Regional Manager of [********] TV Licensing Enforcement Division, I have received authorisation from our National Division to visit your property. See copy above.
Our records show you have previously been given opportunities to purchase a TV Licence, but have neglected to do so,
It is now my duty to make you aware of the following:
My Enforcement Officers may visit Flat *, *******, ******, ******* Road without warning, at any time during the day, in the evenings or at weekends.
They will assess whether there is evidence of your watching or recording television services without a valid TV Licence.
They could caution you, take your statement and file a report on their findings.
Further, they may use detection equipment to obtain proof that a TV signal is being received on this property.
Such a visit will constitute the last step before legal proceedings will commence. Should you be found guilty in your local court of using a TV without a valid licence, you may face the maximum fine of £1,000.
As of the 1st April the TV licence fee will increase from £131.50 to £135.50 for a colour licence and from £44.50 to £45.50 for a black and white licence.
If you have already purchased a TV Licence by post, phone or online, you need take no further action. If you do not own a TV, please call 0870 241 5941 and inform us.
Otherwise, however, I urge you to comply with the law and renew your TV Licence immediately: call 0870 241 5941 or visit http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/.
[name deleted], Regional Manager, [area deleted] Enforcement Division
PS. Please note, you can no longer pay for your TV Licence at the Post Office. You can also renew your licence using the enclosed postal application form. Alternatively, pay by cash or debit card at PayPoint outlet.
Bent Society replied …
[Name and address removed]
October 5 2007
Dear [names removed]
I am writing in reply to the 27 letters that have been sent to my address since April Fools Day 2005.
As you know, between the four of you, you have sent me a total of 9 letters this year. Thank you. I have kept them all and will shortly be archiving them on a website for others to use for open source criminological research purposes.
Before continuing, I feel compelled at this point to offer my sincere sympathies to you for the fact that your employer is linked to the disgraced BBC Corporation. I am sure that when you began your careers in the entertainment enforcement industry that you never expected in a million years that the BBC would be publicly shamed and a global laughing stock because of serious financial frauds, other scams and dishonest journalistic practices. I am sure, however, that there are openings elsewhere for Licence Enforcers with senior management experience. Perhaps not in the entertainment licence enforcement industry, but there must surely be more respectable openings in doorstep debt collecting or bailiffing?
Anyway, about all those letters you have been sending me.
Obviously, I am not legally obliged to respond to any of those queerly harassing letters you have penned. I must say they do rather strangely assume, with what can only be described as a strange TV-cult-like religious belief that you think you know that I am in some way receiving television broadcasts or watching, recording or listening to some other kind of programming that requires me to purchase a licence from your organisation. Anyway, sorry for not replying to you earlier but I have been far too busy with my work over the past two and a half years to find the time to engage in correspondence with you, or to chat over the phone about what I do or do not do in the privacy of my own home. However, if you would like to find out whether or not I have a television or other paraphernalia requiring licensing you could do worse than visit the Bent Society blog site - where you will find that several thousand citizens from more than 38 different countries are monitoring this saga as it unfolds.
To view the site (if you have not done so already) all you need do is enter the words Bent Society into the Google search engine. There you will find that it is top of the list. Once on the blog site, you will see that one of your letters has been reproduced (fame at last Mr ******) along with several articles on the theme of scofflaw effects caused by TV Licensing.
I am writing to you today because I am contemplating now the purchase of a television in order to watch television broadcasts - if only to monitor the latest scams and frauds perpetrated by the BBC that are gleefully being reported almost daily it seems on ITV and Channel 4 (my girlfriend has a television and licence and so that's how I know; just in case you were wondering). Therefore, I require some information from you - which I am sure you will be obliged to supply in your salaried and professional managerial capacity as TV Licence "Enforcers".
Please note that I ENCLOSE A FIRST CLASS STAMPED ADDRESSED ENVELOPE. And, as you will have noted, this letter has been sent to you by recorded delivery so that we know you have received it.
I MUST AT THIS POINT INFORM YOU BEFORE YOU REPLY THAT YOUR REPLY, AND ANY REPLIES MADE TO SUBSEQUENT CORRESPONDENCE WITH ME, WILL BE MADE AVAILABLE FOR OPEN SOURCE PUBLIC SCRUTINY, ALONG WITH IN-DEPTH COMMENT AND ANALYSIS, ON THE BENT SOCIETY BLOG SITE.
What I wish to know, and what Bent Society readers wish to know, is why I should purchase a Television Licence if I do buy a television?
The reason for asking this is because, from the dreadfully authoritarian, harassing and presumptuous content of the letters that you have been sending to my home on a monthly basis, you apparently think that you know that I am already using in my own home broadcast recording or receiving equipment to watch television programmes. Surely, otherwise you would not keep sending them. And yet for the past two and a half years you have not been able to do anything about your beliefs or strong suspicions simply because I have ignored you.
The telling hypothetical question here is: what could possibly happen if I do now buy a television (an associate has a nice second hand one for sale, which means that you would have no proof that I purchased one) and then I do not buy a Television Licence, and continue to refuse to talk or correspond with you or your so called Enforcement Officers?
I hope you understand my dilemma. By harassing me for two and a half years in my own home, as a completely law abiding citizen, you have revealed to me and the many readers of Bent Society that there must, therefore, be many tens of thousands of law breakers in the UK (or more) who actually are watching television programmes without a licence, but that you do not know who they are and that you cannot do anything about it because - if they simply refuse to communicate with you (as I have done until today) - you are completely unable to tell which of them is innocent and which is guilty.
In a nutshell, if I were to buy and use a second hand television in my home - under the circumstances outlined above and without a Television Licence - what are your plans?
I await your reply in the stamped addressed envelope provided.
Please feel free to steam off the stamp and re-use it for your personal correspondence (perhaps in one of your future job applications) and post your reply in the form of a comment to the relevant Scofflaw section on Bent Society.
Yours in anticipation
PS. I notice that TV Licensing has a registered trade mark. As Christmas is approaching and I am receptive to ideas for novel presents from traders such as yourselves I wonder if you would be kind enough to send me your product catalogue. My auntie is filthy rich and says to let you know that she would like a diamond studded patent leather Television Licence Holder. Do you stock one of those?
Please note that I never buy goods from doorstep traders. So no cold callers please since in my experience as a citizen, writer and criminologist they are often 'unsavoury types'.
On the blog Bent Society says "With TV licence evaders it tends to be those who are at home during the daytime when the Enforcement Officers come to call who are prosecuted. And these are most frequently single mothers on benefits and those living in the type of Victorian terraced houses where the living room opens onto the street through the front door and you can both hear and see the glow of the TV from the pavement - about 18 inches away. I know that as a fact because many years ago a Home Office team researching fines in magistrate courts found that was these people who were most often fined for TV licence evasion. And they were also the group most likely to be imprisoned for fine default.
But what about those among us who live in houses that have gardens and hallways, or who live in upper floor flats in large converted houses - where several separate residences (flats/apartments) share one aerial? By the way, I live in the latter type of home.
Well, Television Licensing will tell you that they have detector equipment that can detect whether you are watching TV. What they don't tell you is that the equipment is not reliable enough to be used as evidence in court, which means even if they believe they have detected that you are watching TV without a license, it cannot be used as evidence in court to either prosecute you or even obtain a search warrant in order to confirm their signal readings. I suppose magistrates believe that the 'detection' equipment used is as ludicrously bogus as the two tin cans connected to an ohm meter that the Scientology cult uses to scam gullible and vulnerable people into parting with their money in order to learn that aliens are the source of all their problems.
Not surprisingly then, the letters that I received in the early months of 2005 focused on trying to scare me with threats of detection technology that soon gave way to threats of being interviewed under caution. Many of these letters were so deliberately forceful and intimidating that at times I felt like going out and buying a licence even though I did not then and still don't own a TV. Similarly, several times I felt like contacting them to let them know my sans-TV situation. But I resolved not to.
This stubbornness, to the great amusement of my friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbours and the odd bloke down the pub was deliberate because I wanted to know what would happen if I ignored TV Licensing while they very clearly thought that they knew I was breaking the law. TV Licensing, you see, and the acolytes who work for this deviant cult hold at their core the fundamental and extremist religious belief that any home without a TV licence contains a splinter-cell of dangerous extremist TV addicts who are deliberately breaking the law.
I have researched the issue over the past couple of years and have found from the experiences of others I have talked with - and those I have read about on various websites - that writing to TV Licensing to let them know you do not own a TV is not enough to convert them to reason. They simply keep harassing you with regular letters, phone calls and visits from their 'enforcers'. Apparently, if you don't own a TV and so don't own a licence, TV Licensing behave like a corporate version of Terminator - they just keep on coming no matter what.
To repeat the point already made, I took a deliberately different stance to most people who do not own a TV in that I ignored their letters, ignored threats of secret rays that they were sending to penetrate my home to 'detect me' and I ignored their constant threats that any day now I was going to be interviewed under 'official caution'. After all, I was not breaking any law. I decided at an early stage that I would avoid contact with any enforcement officers that they promised to send to call at my door. I should point out that this is easy for me to do since I have CCTV in my flat, which I use to screen callers. And anyway, as a general rule I don't bother answering the door unless I recognise the person on the doorstep. I also decided that if I did inadvertently get doorstepped by an 'enforcer' that I would simply tell them (under 'official caution' I presume) that I was far too busy to talk with them about TV nonsense 'thank you and goodbye.' And I resolved that nobody from this TV cult without a search warrant was ever going to be allowed into my home.
So what I want to know is what would happen if I were to buy a TV now, use it to watch those terrestrial BBC and other TV programmes that you need a licence to watch and refuse to pay the £135 licence fee? After all, during the past two and a half years TV Licensing clearly believed, and still believe by their threatening letters that I am breaking the law. But they have failed to even interview me, let alone bring me to court.
I have decided, therefore, to send them a letter asking some telling questions. And I am going to publish that letter, along with any replies they send me, on this site. Further, to be fair and ethical, I am going to inform TV Licensing that I am doing just that and invite them to post a reply on this site. No cheap tricks will be employed."
No doubt Bent Society will keep us informed of developments.
In the meantime even more reasons why the rest of wouldn't want to pay for the BBC continue to float to the surface. Hoaxes involving the Queen, stupid little deceptions on Blue Peter, shameless and rather pointless cheating by Alan Yentob in which he inserted himself as interviewer in a film that actually had nothing to do with him at all, and so on and so on (incidentally, we've never believe in Alan Yentob. What sort of name is that? We have a theory that actually his name is Alan Botney. In fact, we find this so likely that if we ever have need to refer to him again, that's the name we're going to use).
What's worse, in our view, is the deliberate manipulation of news in order to deceive. Our favourite website brings us the text of a leaked BBC memo …
From: Roger Harrabin - Internet
Sent: 12 October 2007 08:12
Subject: Guidance on Gore and Nobel Prize - please publish.
In any future reporting of Gore we should be careful not to suggest that the High Court says Gore was wrong on climate
The judge didn't say that. He said Gore's principle message on climate change was mainstream and uncontroversial. But he asked the government to make it plain in guidance notes to kids that nine points in the film were controversial.
He used the word "errors" but put it in inverted commas because the issues were not factual errors but issues of scientific debate.
We might say something like: "Al Gore whose film was judged by the High Court to have used some debatable science" or "Al Gore whose film was judged in the High Court to be controversial in parts".
The key is to avoid suggesting that the judge disagreed with the main climate change thesis.
Please pass to presenters because this issue about Gore will arise again.
The GOS says: While we're speaking of Al Gore, Nobel Prize Winner and total prat, it was nice to hear that Viscount Monckton is funding a move to send copies of the video "The Great Global Warming Swindle" to schools.
We were also interested to read that Viscount Monckton is behind The New Party. We think that's a recommendation (er … probably).
Finally, in yesterday's Sunday Times the celebrated eco-Nazi George Moonbat is quoted as sneering at Monckton's opposition to current Global Warming theory "on the back of a classics degree". A bit predictable, that, George. And your own degree? Zoology, wasn't it? Not proper science at all, then …
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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