TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: British TV License (was America the Worst For Cell Rates)

Re: British TV License (was America the Worst For Cell Rates)

Paul Coxwell (
Sun, 30 Jan 2005 00:45:20 -0000

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Tell me this, Paul. In the UK does it
> *really matter or not* if someone insists on a search warrant? Here in
> the USA it is mostly just a formality, to buy yourself a few minutes
> of time, angering police more than ever. Police here do NOT like it
> when you make them work, and as the lady who manages the Independence
> Jail once said to me, "they (meaning police) have unlimited resources
> and won't quit once they discover an asshole; they'll just dig in
> deeper and hang on forever."


As I've never had a cop on the doorstep asking to come in and search
my house, I guess I'm not in a position to say, although certainly the
respect which used to be held for the British police force is now a
thing of the past.

In this particular case though, the police would not be involved at
this first stage. It would be a TV license inspector on the doorstep,
who is not a cop and has no police powers. And surely he has to have
some sort of "probable cause" to get a warrant issued? Just saying
"We have no record of a TV license at the address" can't be enough.
(At least I hope it isn't, but then Blair is determined to make this a
full-fledged police state, so who knows these days?)

> So, if I am in the UK with an NTSC TV set (or just a monitor)
> connected to a satellite receiver that receives a non-UK satellite
> service, I wouldn't have to pay the tax?

I'm no expert on the law, but as I understand it, that would be perfectly
legal. I think the interpretation of the law is that an installation
which is capable of receiving UK broadcasts (e.g. by just flicking the
channel selector) needs a license.

For example, letters from TV Licensing in the past regarding regular UHF
broadcasts have stated that if the set is connected to an antenna and
presets tuned to local transmitters, then it has been installed for
receiving UK broadcasts. If the TV is sitting there untuned to local
transmitters and with no antenna connected, then it is not "installed for
use" and thus no license is needed.

> That isn't what the BBC's web page about the television tax says;
> there's a specific statement to the effect that receiving any
> satellite signal subjects you to the tax.

I believe there was a loophole some years ago which meant that a
license was not required to receive satellite broadcasts of any sort,
only regular terrestrial signals. That loophole was closed by an
amendment, and I believe that is how we got the part about any
broadcast originating or controlled from within the U.K.

Unfortunately, the BBC and the TV licensing gestapo often make
statements to the effect that if you have a TV, you need a license.
When pressed on this though, they will admit that this is an
over-simplification and that mere possession of a set, or its use for
watching non-UK or non-broadcast material is perfectly legal without a

> I can see why, having seen the BBC-origin trash on PBS in the US.
> There is a subset of the American population who think that a British
> accent automatically means "high culture"; never mind that the "humor"
> (humour?) is low-brow and the production values are wretched.

The BBC used to turn out some reasonable shows. I'll admit that they
do still produce some worthwhile programs from time to time.
Unfortunately, the few good items are outnumbered 100 to 1 by the
utter garbage that fills the rest of their schedule these days.

By the way, quite a few documentaries in recent years are
co-productions of the BBC and big PBS producer WGBH Boston.

>> So, if I am in the UK with an NTSC TV set (or just a monitor)
>> connected to a satellite receiver that receives a non-UK satellite
>> service, I wouldn't have to pay the tax?

> Yes you would. You own a TV set capable of receiving BBC. Regardless
> of whether it's NTSC or otherwise it makes no difference these days
> with modern TV sets.

> Rob

Many modern sets sold in the U.K. are capable of receiving 525/60-NTSC
as well as 625/50-PAL, but the converse is not true for the majority
of sets sold in the United States.

And besides, the TV itself not only has to be capable of receiving
625-PAL broadcasts, it has to be _installed_ in such a way that it can
receive them. It is perfectly legal to own a UK 625-PAL receiver with
no license so long as it is not connected in such a way as to make it
capacble of receiving UK broadcasts.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I believe the BBC World Service is
a decent, rather good programming effort, which is one reason why I
offer it here on the 'Feed Sweep' URL . At that URL you get the
BBC World Service audio and the Associated Press headlines as they
come across the wires. If you prefer, swap the 'bbc.html' ending for
'AP.html'. I'll be adding some other audio feeds soon.

And regards the esteem shown British police officers, I seem to recall
at one time they did not routinely carry or use fire arms; in a confron-
tation with a citizen, the citizen's respect for the law was sufficient.
Is that still the case? PAT]

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