back to article BBC Trust candidate defends licence fee, says evaders are CRIMINALS

The Government's choice for BBC chairman defended the licence fee, criminal penalties for non-payers, and digital "education" initiatives before MPs today. BBC executives will have been delighted by what former Pearson director Rona Fairhead told the DCMS Select Committee (if you have Silverlight installed, you can have a look …


    1. AlbertH

      Re: Fairhead also defended criminal penalties for non-payers - and over 70 sent to jail.

      My 89-year-old Father had two thugs from "TV Licensing" force their way into his home. They went from room to room looking for the non-existent TV, then accused him of "hiding it". They made the mistake of presenting their name badge "credentials" which my Father had the presence of mind to photograph on his mobile phone. He only got them out of his place by dialling 999 and asking for the Police....

      When they left, he found that his wallet (left on his bedside table) was lighter by £40.

      The two clowns were arrested later the same day, and each blamed the other for the theft. They both admitted "forced entry" to the premises without Warrant. Both are serving "18 months" (they'll be out in 6, of course), but the Police made sure that others in the prison were made aware of their former "jobs"!

  1. Number6


    It's a great shame that prosecuting the BBC for the behaviour of their licence department isn't really possible. Those who don't have a TV get harassed regularly and are sent bits of paper that accuse them of being criminals (with a get-out in the really small print at the bottom). Somewhere I still have the red "final demand" letter they sent me a few years ago with the "pay up in seven days or else" threat in big, unfriendly letters. I'm still waiting for the "or else". Even telling them you don't have a TV doesn't work, they still keep coming back.

    1. Oldgroaner

      Re: Harassment

      I have had an amusing few minutes each month for several years when I receive the latest scum-mail from Crapita -- it goes in a cycle, reaching a climax of 'what to expect when you're in court' and then bathetically subsides to the initial communication. Provides me with one useful fire-lighter per month.

    2. proto-robbie
      Big Brother

      Re: Harassment

      Irrespective of the need for a state funded TV channel, I can't see why this could not be dealt with by the usual tax system, rather than a separate TV Licensing organisation, which last year guzzled £100M collecting the Beeb's £3.7 billion. Much simpler, cheaper and nicer for the Chancellor to pay the Beeb directly (less the £100M of course).

    3. Christoph

      Re: Harassment

      The BBC are so totally incompetent that they cannot seem to grasp the idea that there are many people in this country who do not have a television set and do not want a television set. I know several other people who do not have one.

      They have been harassing me for years, even to threatening to "come back with a warrant" - which would involve them perjuring themselves to the magistrates to get that warrant.

      I do not want their product. Why should I have to put up with their arrogant, ignorant, incompetent salesmen continually harassing me to try to get me to buy their product? They make spammers look good!

    4. Craigness

      Re: Harassment

      I've had no license for 7 years. They used to send a letter every year, asking me to help them keep their records up to date. I told them I don't care about their records and they left me alone. What does one have to do to get a visit?

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Dr Paul Taylor

        Re: Harassment

        I get a letter about once a month, alternately a "reminder" in black print and a "demand" in red. I ignore them all. It is unsolicited mail. I don't reply to the pizza leaflets to tell them that I don't eat pizza, so why should I reply to the TV licensing authority? I am not their customer, I don't want to be on their database. At least while it is a criminal issue there has to be "proof beyond reasonable doubt" but if it is decriminalised then administrators will be able to impose penalties without due process.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Harassment

      Not owned a TV since 2005, when I went bankrupt and decided I couldn't afford the telly-tax. Got used to life without a TV, and now, don't actually want one any more.

      Queue mothly letters from Capita. When they got no terrified response off me, queue monthly visits from their 'inspectors' who tried to tell me that I had a PC, and since the PC could access the BBC programs online, I needed a licence. Asked him to show me where it said that, in the law. Even pulled up the law for him on that very same PC. He went away empty handed.

      It got so much, with monthly visits, I sought, and obtained a restraining order. They can't write to me or visit for a period of 3 years, unless they have actual evidence that I am operating a TV receiver. Sadly that 3 year period is now almost over, so I'm expecting them back with a vengeance.

      Capita act like this, because they are a private company, that gets paid a substantial bonus for every 'evader' they get to pay up, and a slightly smaller bonus for every 'evader' they get convicted.

      Anonymous so as not to anger Capita's goons even more.

    7. Chris Parsons Bronze badge

      Re: Harassment

      Some woman from the TVLA wrote to me when I explained that the principle of common law in this country was innocent until proven guilty. She said that she understood that was the case, but experience had shown that most people who said they didn't have a licence were liars, so they had to check. I replied saying that I thought her tax declarations were most likely dishonest and I wanted to come to her house to check her books, and I never heard from them again. Bastards.

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    I wonder what it is she's been smoking.

  3. jason 7

    The in a reputation for quality it lost a long time ago.

    Most of their output isn't even written or designed for the UK License payers. It's mostly created for worldwide export.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Rikkeh

        Re: The in a reputation for quality it lost a long time ago.

        They are in a huge bind though- on the one hand they won't be legitimate if they're unpopular, given how wide the licence base is (hence programmes like Strictly, Mrs Brown's Boys etc). On the other hand, to be legitimate as a public service broadcaster, they've also got to go with highbrow stuff for the artsy liberals and take risks for the "it must correct market failure" people.

        The problem is, finding something that ticks all these boxes at the same time is pretty much impossible and so people who firmly occupy one corner of the triangle will always criticise the programmes that pander to either of the other two corners and not their own.

        Any Government of recent years however should note that the Beeb and the Licence Fee are far more popular than they are- fewer than 25% of the population voted Tory and support for the licence-funded BBC has never dropped below this. I'd argue that, until these different levels of support change round, any governmental dismantling what's become a cornerstone of modern Britain won't be legitimate.

        That being said, the Licence Fee people are nuts- unable to accept that you don't own a TV. The only way to deal with them is to respond to their Kafkaesque nonsense with Dadaist replies.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't watch live TV.

    Have never received a demand.

    Programmes are largely crap and the pay is off the scale. They can shove it.

    1. Bleu

      ... but do you watch

      dead TV?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Criminals? Where

    In the UK if you do not watch or record live TV then you have no legal requirement to purchase a TV license.

    The BBC calling these people "criminals" is an insult to many voters.

    The BBC have WASTED hundreds of millions of pounds of licence payers money.

    The BBC have been involved in covering up criminal activity.

    There is suggestion that the BBC invented the chemical weapon news story, as reported by RT news, this leads me not to trust the BBC news.

    Overall the BBC to me is not an organisation that is fit in my opinion to be funded by such a tax, in fact i would recommend people detune their televisions and use free online content on demand and services such as netflix to watch better content legally without the requirement of a license.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Criminals? Where

      Yes, but the BBC doesn't call 'these people "criminals"'. The people it calls criminals are those who do watch TV without a license.

      So your argument basically falls at the first fence.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Semtex451

    Really good science programmes? My shiney metal ass, name them, name one?

    Now, if only there was an El Reg channel, called Vulture Central

    1. Lionel Baden

      Tomorrows world was ok.

      All its replacements are complete shite, e.g. gadget man ?!?!?

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I regulate you: Instant superiour content!

    an unregulated TV market involves a race to the bottom

    I can't even fathom what the "unregulated" adjective has to do with a "race to the bottom". Yes people want to watch low-brow stuff and this includes BBC "science". But so what?

  9. rhydian


    "It ensures independence, universal service for a universal fee and ensures creative freedom"

    Independence? The telly tax simply ensures loyalty to the government of the day, not independence.

    Universal service? I'll give them that, but its only as a hangover of being given the best spectrum and the best transmitter sites back in the day (Radio/TV) or OFCOM licence requirements (TV EPG listings). DAB coverage is still far from universal despite their latest transmitter roll outs.

    Creative Freedom? Then why are so many of their programmes (especially daytime) so formulaic and identical to those produced by commercial rivals?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Independence?

        Rotherham has probably rendered that defence irrelevant.

        PC public sector institutions find it difficult to hold other PC public sector institutions accountable. It was Andrew Norfolk (at a hated 'Murdoch paper') that pursued the story.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Re: Independence?

            Are you for real?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not bad value really

    That £145 sounds like a large amount of money - until you compare it to the alternatives. It would buy you stuff all on Sky, for example (and you'd still have to sit through adverts). There are some very valid questions about the licence fee, not least the criminal aspect of not paying it rather than a civil liability, but it still delivers far better quality for the cost than any other arrangement I've seen.

    1. rhydian

      Re: Not bad value really

      So many people make the sky argument/comparison but miss the basic fact.

      I don't *have* to pay Sky/VM/BT to watch live TV

      I *have* to pay the BBC.

      1. Lionel Baden

        Re: Not bad value really

        I don't *have* to pay Sky/VM/BT to watch live TV

        I *have* to pay the BBC.

        Wrong ! take down your Arial, put up a sky dish. done. No BBC payment needed.

        Since moving into a new build we were told that it would cost about £200 about to get a arial put in. Said no thanks, told the license fee people that I cant get the signal anyway. they asked if they could inspect the property at some point to which i agreed, never heard from them since.

        1. rhydian

          Re: Not bad value really

          "Wrong ! take down your Arial, put up a sky dish. done. No BBC payment needed"

          The equipment (dish, receiver/decoder) is equipment being used for receiving live television broadcasts, therefore by law it needs a licence.

          I could have the decoder plugged in to my TV and use it as a media server with no problems. The second I plug a dish in to it (or technically an internet connection) and watch a live broadcast from anywhere its licence time.

        2. Brenda McViking

          Re: Not bad value really

          Sorry Lionel, it's you who are wrong.

          If you watch ANY television programmes as they're being broadcast even without an aerial, if you don't pay the BBC telly tax, you're breaking the law.

          That includes internet streaming, sky programmes via satellite dish, periscope into the neighbours living room - any equipment which can recieve a broadcast (an aerial is just one type of such equipment, your dish is another), and it doesn't have to be a BBC broadcast either - which is why it is so ridiculous.

          Personally, if you watch sky through a dish, I'd buy a TV licence if you don't want a fine. And next time, don't pander to their inane requests - there is only one reason for them, and that is to use against you in court - they serve no other purpose whatsoever.

          1. Lionel Baden

            Re: Not bad value really

            Fair enough :)

          2. AlbertH

            Re: Not bad value really

            If you watch ANY television programmes as they're being broadcast even without an aerial, if you don't pay the BBC telly tax, you're breaking the law.

            If I watch either by satellite or by interweb, it is NOT "live" - there is a huge delay, so I'm (effectively) watching a recording. It's exactly the same reason that digital CCTV cannot be used for traffic enforcement actions - the "infringement" cannot be "recorded contemporaneously".

    2. king of foo

      Re: Not bad value really

      I disagree.

      £145/12= £12 per month

      That's extortionate when compared with "non live TV" alternatives Amazon prime and Netflix costing HALF THAT.

      Sky is not a fair comparator as a premium is charged for sport and movies, and exclusive content from the likes of hbo that would never be broadcast by the BBC.

      I used to watch BBC breakfast before work and of course the news, and the f1 before they sold most of it to sky, but now I don't watch any BBC content. I should cancel. The BBC should be VERY AFRAID - I hadn't realised it was possible to stop paying, and I won't be alone... crap I don't watch vs BOTH Netflix and Amazon prime for the same money? No brainer.

      1. Just Enough
        Thumb Down

        Re: Not bad value really

        So you have a problem comparing the BBC to Sky, but are fine comparing it to Amazon and Netflix?

        Amazon and Netflix ;

        - do not produce current affairs, news 24/7

        - do not produce national and local radio

        - have a tiny fraction of UK produced output

        - have a tiny fraction of original content

        And the premium for Sky sport; whose fault is that? Sky created a market where the likes of the Premier league can charge millions for games. If it wasn't for Sky collecting millions from mugs, and then bidding up the rights for the games to silly money, then no-one would have to pay a "premium" for Sky Sport.

        1. king of foo

          @irrelevant response

          You do not need a TV licence to listen to the radio just like you don't need one to go for a dump.

          And I wasn't comparing content, but...

          UK produced original content like "strictly come wanking"? Actually, that I'd watch. On channel 5.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC attitude

    is that anyone who uses iPlayer only (for non live TV) is dodging the license also, which obviously is incorrect, and says much about them

  12. John Robson Silver badge


    "There are five per cent of people who don't pay - so the funding available to make those quality programmes is less by £200m (sic). The criminalisation does ensure the payments are made."

    5% of people don't pay - fair enough. How many of those watch live TV broadcasts.

    I don't pay, but then I don't watch live broadcasts either, so that's £145 you can take out of the £200m. Neither do a couple of colleagues at work - so that's another couple of fee's you're overestimating the shortfall by.

    Remind me of the Hollywood Mafia.

  13. HMB

    Crap > Distinctive Programming

    "BBC produces quality TV that the market can't [comrade]."

    Having watched some PBS stuff on Netflix it seems clear to me that it's unfortunately true that the BBC does excel in certain areas. The PBS stuff was good, don't get me wrong, but no one on the PBS documentary about Nikola Tesla tried to explain that shooting power wirelessly through the sky would be an RF nightmare, let alone the possible damage caused by the energy leaking from the system. I'm sure the 'beeb' would have.

    But then, it also produces shows that seem to just be re-jigged variations of commercial formats. Why are we all being forced to pay for those?

    Seems to me like the BBC is trying to give us just what the market does and then some extra good bits on top. Though when it comes to rationalising this crazy payment system that goes against the core belief of our nation of operating a free market economy, only the extra good bits on top get used to defend the BBC.

    I'm sick of being treated like an idiot by these people.

    As if to prove my point, I find myself reaching for a BBC clip to prove my point! (Have I Got News For You clip)

  14. Infury8r

    Arrogant BBC

    The arrogance of the BBC is clearly demonstrated when you want to buy a 'new' licence non-consecutive with an old licence via its preferred route - its website. For example, if you've been away on holiday or business.

    It refuses to allow a start date in the future; it insists the start date be consecutive.

  15. Mephistro

    (if you have Silverlight installed, you can have a look here)

    Or better yet, remove Silverlight!

  16. Christian Berger

    I'd gladly pay for the BBC...

    .... but they won't let me. The only thing I can get is hugely overpriced BluRays from BBC video.

    1. Mystic Megabyte

      Re: I'd gladly pay for the BBC...

      When they recently repeated the "I Claudius" series I missed quite a few of them, When I tried to buy a box set of DVDs from the BBC they were not available.

      Do I have to search for a torrent?

  17. Pete 2 Silver badge

    The BBC's commercial success

    > the BBC produces quality TV that the market can't...

    Yes, it can. But 60% of it's TV budget goes on BBC1 - one single channel. And that channel screens the same sort of ratings-chasing content that any commercial broadcaster with a guaranteed £1.4Bn a year to spend on a single channel and no need to make a profit from advertising, would make.

    Sure, the other £1Bn of the TV budget goes to making some nice (and low-cost) documentaries. Most of which consist of electronic mood music, a slightly well-known "personality" on a metaphorical and often physical journey ("I want to find out about ... so I'm going to ... to meet someone who can tell me - presumably because I can't just phone them") that might just tell the GCSE crowd something they didn't know before.

    There are also a few (remaining) arts programmes that might just, on a good day, give the Sky Arts 1&2 channels a run for their money. But once you get past these middle-brow contributions to the intellectual wellbeing of the entire nation, there's not really that much left. (Unless you like Celebrity Antiques Road Trip)

    Except that is, for the BBC's two secrets to its success. The things that makes it stand out, virtually alone, from every other TV enterprise on the planet: it's guaranteed income, come good times or bad and it's lack of commercial breaks interrupting the shows. Without those features, it would be indistinguishable from any other broadcaster, no matter how many episodes of Dr. Who it made.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The BBC's commercial success

      There are other countries with a government funded TV channel, where public service programs, culture, documentaries etc, funded from general taxation instead of a separate FLAT licence fee. Funding public service broadcasting from general taxation is a much FAIRER system than in UK. One example is BRAZIL. There the poor are a much larger proportion of population than in the UK and the Brazilian Government know they will be onto a loser trying to extract TV tax off the poorer segments of society, expecially in the huge favellas.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: The BBC's commercial success

        Direct funding by the government might be considdred fair. However, here in Oz we have the dear old ABC, either a hotbed of right wing neanderthals, or a den of thinly disguised communist sympathisers, depending on what colour of government is currently cutting its funding and demanding job cuts, better programmes and a better press for our current gov.

        ABC homegrown programmes are generally dire (with a few surprising exceptions), and the only way they can fill the schedules every night is BBC programmes supplied at reduced rates by Auntie.

        Having seen how government funding can stifle a tv channel, I have to give my vote to the Beeb.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. license "evaders"

    As everyone knows, the TV license is the modern version of the Poll Tax.

    Should be abolished to punish "Sneaky Uncle Beeb" for the Savile and other atrocities and for covering up rampant pederasty in it

  19. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Big Brother


    wait until you get rid of the TV and dont pay the licence......

    You thought mad John "break ya legs" Turner the loan shark was into harrassment when you did'nt pay him his 25 quid a week, hes got nothing on the licence enforcers..

  20. Richard 126

    Haven't had a tv in 20 years, still regularly get harassed approx every 2 months to get a license with threats of court action. Inspectors always get the door closed in their face. Never yet proceeded to court action. Wonder what it costs the BBC to harass me and people like me and if it is actually worth doing?


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