TV Licensing detector vans – menace or myth?January 5th, 2009 • 51 Comments
If you were born in the 1970′s, then the prospect of a TV detector van was more terrifying than Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk chasing you (the stuff of my nightmares, at least). These people could see into your house? Christ, better get that TV licence paid Mum, or we’re all going to jail.
Curious then, that a request last year made under the Freedom of Information Act about how TV Licensing identifies households without a licence, was denied.
The BBC refused to answer questions concerning how many detection devices the corporation possessed, how often they were deployed and the technical specification of TV detection devices, if they existed at all. A complaint was then raised with the Information Commissioner’s Office, who promptly investigated why the beeb wouldn’t comment.
Rather frustratingly, the ICO sided with the BBC, but in explaining their position the BBC made some rather curious statements:
The BBC explained that the number of detector vans in operation, the location of their deployment and the frequency is not common knowledge. It relies on the public perception that the vans could be used at any time to catch evaders. This perception has built up since the first van was launched in 1952 and has been a key cost effective method in deterring people from evading their licence fee.
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.
If the thought had already crossed your mind that TV detector vans were an imaginary deterrent, what do you think now?
My story: I live in a communal building where I’m the only resident who doesn’t pay their TV tax, and when the Capita jobsworths came round, I wouldn’t have let them in except that they could hear my TV going. They had only just walked into the lounge when from my Son¥ Bravia LCD TV could be heard “Blah blah blah blah, Radio 4 Extra.” With the multi-coloured bubbles floating up the screen in addition, they had no option but to say they would make another check on my compliance in another couple of years (their version of an apology) before f###ing off back to below their rock. To lighten their mood (because I’m an evil bugger), I said they were welcome to come back sooner in the event my radio licence (obsolete for 43 years at the time) required renewal.