Throw Away Your Television

I’ve not been a huge TV fan for a long time. So when I have to choose between paying around £150 or not watching television for a year, it’s a pretty easy choice to make. I like to have money in my pocket, and I don’t like watching television.

I’m sick and tired of TV Licensing presuming that I am a criminal because of this. In our previous house, we called up soon after moving in to say “this is who we are, this is not a student house, we don’t watch television” as they ask people to. They sent someone round to check, and we were told we were on a three-year block and wouldn’t be bothered again in that time. One year later, more letters and having to explain on the phone (again, not being treated with a lot of respect – the assumption being that you have a licence or you’re lying to them) that it’s still not a student property but being told “it used to be one.” Yes, it used to be one, now it’s not… so they sent someone round to check again and *gasp* – we’re still not watching television. The following year, I just binned the letters unopened. We were moving house soon anyway.

In the new house, I didn’t bother to call and explain. It only annoys me when the reaction to “I don’t watch television, I don’t need a licence” is “yeah, right” and a repeat of the “you will be fined if you’re caught watching television.” If they believe I’m a criminal, I dare them to press charges. I’m innocent until proven guilty. Still, they sent someone round who told us that, again, we’re on a three-year block in our new house (the block, apparently, is on a property rather than an individual).

The block lasted only nine months. I bought a new television (for games and DVDs), and I received monthly reminders. They’re more polite than they used to be – for example, they no longer threaten court action and fines right off the bat, but list all the ways you can pay for the television that you must be watching, because who doesn’t watch television? But they still feel a little patronising to me. Since the phone number is not free to call and the envelope provided isn’t Freepost (it says ‘please attach a stamp’, when they’re already asking you to put £150 in it!) I do nothing. There’s no reason for me to expend any money (however trivial) in telling someone I’m not a criminal, especially when they won’t even believe me (or at least have the decency to hide that fact behind a polite telephone manner).

Now, I get home from work and there’s a note pushed through with the time their ‘Enforcement Officer’ called round, but we weren’t in. It is labelled “We told you we’d call.” It’s a little bit menacing, and raises the irritation all over again. As you can tell, it’s a subject I get pretty annoyed about. If I obey the law, I don’t like people to treat me like I don’t. It’s like if the police stopped every single motorist to test them for drink-driving, no exceptions. Everyone who’s been chugging along obeying the law quite happily is treated like a criminal.

If I’m home when they call again, I’ll ask about the three-year block. I don’t want  I checked up, and unless they bring a search warrant from the police they have no right to come in my home. Since they’ve already checked this home once, and my previous address twice, and found nothing to concern them, I don’t really think they’re being fair. The three year block from the first time they checked me, albeit in a previous address, only ran out a month ago. The second block was only put on last year, and so should be covering me till 2012.

On the other hand, since most of the TV Licence fee goes to Capita (the company enforcing and administering the licence), it’d be a shame to waste the money that my friends have paid for a licence by not making them run around chasing me, bothering me, harassing me and treating me like a criminal. If they didn’t spend it on their patronising letters or bothersome enforcers, they’d just pocket it. And who thinks that’s value for money?

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