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TVL/BBC's fake detection figures and bogus signatures

TVL/BBC's letter to me of September 2007, signed by Enforcement Manager John Hales, declares that "30,840 evaders" had been caught the previous month. Here is the letter, dated in the top-right corner, with the relevant paragraph highlighted:

The figure of 30,840 sounded familiar to me, so I examined Mr Hales' previous letters. I found that his April 2007 letter also said that 30,840 evaders had been caught the previous month, i.e. March 2007:

30,840 evaders

What TVL/BBC has done is to reproduce the same letter, complete with same content, in two different months. This means that the 30,840 figure in the September letter is untrue. The figure may also be untrue in the April letter.

It may be the case that TVL/BBC does not think that the figures matter; any old figure will do. But it does matter, because Mr Hales is purporting to be making a statement of fact.

Example 2

The next two letters have come to my attention from this website which also has a selection of BBC/TVL letters. Again signed by Mr Hales, one is dated July 2006 and the other September 2006; each claims that the previous month's capture rate was 33,781 people:

33,781 evaders

Example 3 (provided by Swissguard)

The following two letters show different figures for the same area and period. The first letter, dated August 2007, says the average annual evasion rate for Scotland South is 70,888; yet, the December letter gives it as 44,313:

The letters are not from John Hales, but from one Sarah Armstrong, signifying that lying to the public is not confined to one individual but is practiced across the BBC.

Some people regard the BBC's use of bogus detection figures as humourous; I do not agree. If a chief constable claimed detection rates which he knew to be false, it would be a resigning matter. If a private company used fake sales figures to encourage sales, it would be a breach of trading standards law.

I quote the BBC Trust from 18 July 2007: "The Trust has … made clear that we regard any deception or breach of faith with our audiences as being utterly unacceptable" (link). Yet, the BBC lies to non-viewers every month.

Update May 2008: since uploading the above two letters by Sarah Armstrong, I have been forwarded a letter, dated April 2008, in which she has an entirely different signature:

While on the subject of falsified signatures, here are two from Michelle Tunstall, dated September 2004 (left) and March 2008.

Val Smith of Customer Services changes her signature yearly; here it is for 2002, 2003 and 2004:

And not forgetting John Hales, pre-March 2008 and post-March 2008:

Update August 2008: I have today been sent the following two signatures, both purportedly of a Paul Stanfield, dated January and August 2008:

0844 and 0870 telephone lines

The following is a letter from TVL/BBC to the Herald newspaper, June 28 2008. I underline certain words to assist interpretation:

"I'd like to reassure your readers that we have no wish to trouble people who genuinely do not require a TV licence. It is, however, our duty to enforce the law on behalf of the honest majority who pay the TV licence. Unfortunately, if a licence is required, some people will only buy one when warned of the consequences of being unlicensed. It is for this reason that some of our mailings contain messages that are designed to deter a possible evader. However, we don't presume that everyone is guilty of committing an offence, and we do try to ensure that non-viewers are not overly troubled by our inquiries. We would, therefore, urge Robert Bell or his mother to contact us on 0844 800 5870 if she is still receiving incorrect mailing so our records can be kept as up to date as possible, minimising future contact with her.

Fergus Reid, TV Licensing, 226 West George Street, Glasgow"

Aside from the disingenuous use of language, the letter has two points worthy of comment. First, the address 226 West George Street, Glasgow does not come down to "TV Licensing" or the BBC. A search on Google shows that many companies use this address, so it appears to be a relay address.

Second, the letter "urges" contact via an 0844 number, designed to create revenue for the BBC. In response to criticism in May 2008, a TVL/BBC spokesman said: "If we provided free phone calls, less money would go to BBC programmes and services". In other words, people who do not need a licence are instead expected to provide the BBC with money via premium phone lines.