the beginning of my experience with TVL/BBC letters. My licence expired in
January 2006 and, in anticipation of me buying a new one, TVL/BBC sent me the
following renewal notice.
Since I had already decided I would no longer be a customer of
theirs, I did not take them up on the offer.February
A month later, I received an "overdue" notice. I might expect an
overdue notice for a product I use, such as gas or electricity. But I do not
see why I should be considered "overdue" for a product I no longer use, by an
organisation of which I am not a customer.
The letter says that if my payment is not received shortly, my
details will be passed to a TVL officer. Note that the right hand side is
coloured red, as if to emphasise this is a final reminder. I decide to ignore
this impertinent letter.
The below envelope was waiting for me when I got home
from work. For a moment, I was worried. The words "You are hereby given
official notice" are part of the letter inside, visible through a window.
I opened the envelope:
I must be in
trouble. The letter says that my "case" has been referred to the "investigation
But this letter is not all it seems. The giveaway is
in the first word of the second paragraph, "if". This means they don't really
know whether I watch broadcast television. So, the letter is a bluff, relying
on the use of red capitials and words such as 'hereby' and 'official' to
A different type of envelope. The message on the front of the
envelope is a warning, but why address it to me? The implication is that I am
engaged in criminal activity. I assume that the purpose of such a statement is
to alarm me, or perhaps embarrass me in front of the
Inside, the letter tells me a visit has been authorised:
tells me that "Enforcement Officers" could visit my street at any time,
including evenings and weekends. There seem to be more reference numbers than
is really necessary.
sentence: "Such a visit will constitute the last step before legal proceedings
may commence". The use of the word 'may' negates 'will', thereby rendering the
sentence meaningless. The word 'may' appears three other times in the letter.
No visits yet, but
A new style of letter; to open it, I have to tear off
a perforated strip. It is similar to the format used by banks to send out debit
"Dear Mr" has
been reduced to "Mr". I am no longer afforded a civil courtesy. I also notice
that my former licence number has been redefined as a reference number.
The third paragraph (again commencing "if") warns me
that TVL/BBC will "consider" applying to my local Magistrates Court for a
search warrant. They have inserted the name of my town Magistrates Court into
the letter. This gives the impression that TVL/BBC is close to legal
proceedings; in fact, the effect is achieved by TVL/BBC cross-referencing a
list of courts against postcodes on their mailing database.
|Note how the
letters are stepping up in threat: in February, a final reminder; in March, I
was under investigation; in May, a visit was authorised; in July, I am warned
of a possible "search warrant" and "imminent legal action". I am intrigued by
what TVL/BBC will do next.
A new letter has
thing I notice when I pick up the envelope is how flimsy it is; it can only
have one sheet inside, not the sheaf of legal papers I was expecting. Secondly,
it is no longer addressed to me by name, but to "The Legal Occupier".
This letter is not a continuation of the previous
correspondence. It makes no reference to the "imminent" legal action referred
to in July, nor to the application for a search warrant.
That my name has been replaced with "The Legal Occupier"
suggests that BBC/TVL have deleted my details. The reference number which was
previously the same as my old TV Licence number has been changed entirely, a
point that gives me immense satisfaction (erased forever! Why did I not do this
|So much for the build up of threats in the earlier
letters. I wait with interest to see whether TVL/BBC do any better in their
Previous envelopes bore Royal Mail postal marks, but
this one states "UK-Mail Businesspost". This is a bona fide company and their
website is here.
The first paragraph sums up the
mindset of TVL/BBC in a nutshell, whereby the absence of a TV licence is seen
as an indicator of watching broadcast television, rather than the other way
number at the bottom left edge is the same as the number in the bottom right,
but only half visible; presumably someone else has the other half. This
suggests that the letters are produced from a roll and guillotined vertically.
As with previous letters, it says at the bottom, "Please do not write below
this line". This seems a strange request; what would happen if I did, and how
would TVL/BBC know?
envelope with yellow stripes. "Legal Occupier" has been changed to "Present
The first and second paragraphs say that, since I have
not responded to letters over several months, my details have been passed to
Enforcement Officers. Yet, the previous two letters stated that Enforcement
Officers had already been authorised to visit me, so the December letter makes
no sense. As before, it is bluster.
half of the letter gives me a number of options, for example, informing them if
I do not have a TV, paying for a licence, or facing prosecution. The option of
my right to disassociate is not
my first year of being unlicensed. I thought it would be relevant to compare
BBC/TVL's attitude to that of another company. Here is a letter I received from
British Gas when I ceased using their
A greater contrast with BBC/TVL could scarcely be
expresses regret that I am no longer their
||They offer to
put right anything that has caused me to
says that, if they do not hear from me, they will ensure my transition is
||They thank me
for being their customer
No such courtesy from the British Broadcasting
Corporation. Not once has the BBC sought to win back my custom by offering
something positive; not once has it tried to understand why I no longer wish to
pay for the BBC product. It is capable only of sending out letters that
threaten and harrass.
here for letters received from TVL/BBC in 2007