I received an email from Broadband Genie warning me of the much unpublicised changes coming to the BBC licencing system.
How they will enforce I don’t know, but if you haven’t purchased a licence by September 1st 2016, you’ll be breaking the law.
Original article as follows
Are you a boostrapping sole trader? Are you looking for ways to cut bills? Here’s an idea: cancel your BBC TV licence and invest the money in something useful like website hosting, emails or URLs.
If you don’t believe it’s possible to cancel your BBC licence and still access BBC programming, I’m the proof you can do just that.
I haven’t paid since 2009 and intend to keep it that way.
Several demand notices from TV licensing company were received around 2011 but were confidently ignored.
This is because of how I consume BBC content – and I’ll share that with you in a minute.
The Dreaded Knock
One day I heard what I’d been expecting – the knock.
I opened the door believing I’d be faced with a fearsome rep from the TV Licensing company.
Surely they’d be asking to enter the property, perhaps brandishing a handheld bullshit detector and suspiciously checking the rooms for a TV?
Part of me was looking forward to telling them a thing or two about the loopholes I’d discovered surrounding the iPlayer.
I wanted to stick it to them. (I was unemployed at the time so every penny was precious to me.)
With all the facts memorized and my knowledge of the difference between live BBC broadcasts versus on demand catch up content, I opened the door, chest puffed out, ready for a fight.
How I Dealt With The TV Licensing Company
What preceded was the total opposite of what I’d been led to believe about TVL.
After all the stuff I’d heard about them (surveillance vehicles, spying) I had anticipated an individual resembling Agent Smith from The Matrix. Or maybe a Tommy Lee Jones character.
Instead I found myself chatting with Mr Barraclough from the comedy sitcom Porridge.
He was agreeable and not at all threatening. Professional, courteous, reasonable.
I answered a few questions about my situation with the television. I mentioned my broadband internet connection and how the PC tower is used to access the iPlayer.
“Obviously”, I remarked, “if you’re only watching catch up content, a licence isn’t required.”
He agreed. I invited him in as a show of goodwill but he declined.
Seeing as I had the horse’s mouth in front of me, I thought I’d disclose more information about my technology.
I told him my display monitor for the PC tower was technically a television (with a PC VGA and HDMI input included) but since the aerial cable was unplugged it was not a functioning TV set.
“Yes, okay, no problem at all there,” he said, as he ticked boxes and made notes on his form.
He told me I’d be removed from the TVL database, thanked me for my time, smiled and bade good day.
A couple of weeks later I stopped receiving all BBC services through my TV aerial.
TV Licensing have not contacted me since and I continue using the iPlayer online to this day.
Live Vs Catch Up
In case you didn’t follow the anecdote I’ll clarify our obligations as a BBC content consumer.
If the TVL agents do threaten court action for not holding a BBC services subscription, the demand will only stand up to legal scrutiny if you’re watching or recording live BBC TV.
That’s right: there’s a distinction between live and internet catch up programming.
And they’d need to prove beyond reasonable doubt you’re receiving and consuming live broadcast content in order to prosecute.
By instead using the iPlayer’s on demand service you are not breaching any regulations and can safely watch iPlayer catch up TV without a licence.
We can all exploit this loophole until something major changes in the BBC’s broadcast policy.
But Will the Loophole Be Closed?
The BBC licence still exists under the assumption that enough people will continue to use their live TV set rather than by using their internet connection and PC to watch BBC programming.
A “broadband tax” was proposed and could be government sanctioned, but for now is on the horizon and seems unlikely.
Back in 2008 a BBC blog entry discussed the iPlayer and the circumstances in which a TV licence might be necessary, going on to remark that any future versions of the software that include a live streaming service (which it now does) would require the viewer to purchase a licence.
This is misleading. It is based on the assumption you intend to watch the iPlayer’s live feature.
For clarity’s sake here it is once more: you only need a BBC licence IF you consume live BBC broadcasts.
Know Your Rights
The fact everyone calls it a “TV” licence annoys me because it makes it sound as if owning a TV in and of itself is a hot potato.
Think about this: you can avoid paying road tax on your car as long you’re not driving it or parking it on the street.
Pick And Choose
After a program has aired live, it usually takes a couple of hours for the content to appear in the iPlayer catch up repository. Typically content “expires” after 30 days.
That said, episodes of the weekly technology program Click are available for 11 months.
The £145.50 annual fee is too much for the few hours of content most people are interested in.
My television watching has plummeted over the last 5 years and I easily watch less than 1% of the BBC’s entire output.
Here’s a warning: if you DO watch lots of programming, don’t exceed your ISP’s download limit. It could cost more than the licence fee.
Most Modern TVs Are PC Monitors
Most modern TVs have VGA or HDMI ports. Look at the back of your TV and you’ll probably have at least one way to connect a monitor cable.
If you use a VGA monitor cable, you’ll need to route sound from your PC soundcard to either a pair of HI-FI speakers or back to the TV itself with a phono cable.
My Set Up
In the picture below you can see I’ve got the VGA monitor cable as well as the aerial cable plugged in. That’s because I no longer receive BBC transmissions via analogue signal.
The commercial channels still work fine so I leave the aerial in and occasionally watch these.
Also in the photo, just above the VGA cable, is the HDMI port.
HDMI supports sound as well as the picture.
I still need to purchase a HDMI cable (affiliate link). If you get one, make sure it’s a long enough to reach between the PC and TV/monitor.
You’ll also notice the left and right audio channels of the phono cable denoted by red and white.
I’ve used this cable because that’s what the TV supports. The other end of that cable plugs directly into the PC soundcard.
Phono cables (affiliate link) use a 3.5mm connection and are pretty cheap. You can order them online, at music shops or in the electronics department of most stores.
Update Your Details Online
If you don’t want a personal visit from one of the agents, you can go to the TVL website and update your details to tell them you do not watch live TV.
- The TVL agents representing the BBC are on commission
- If you have problems, deal with them in writing only
- The TVL agents cannot enter your home unless you invite them in
- The 1980’s Gestapo myths surrounding The Detector Vans are dubious at best
- If you live in a block of flats using a communal aerial they cannot individually assess residents
- If they persistently bother you, consult the Malicious Communications Act 1988 CHAPTER 27, at the link below.
- Do not be intimidated!
BBC iPlayer – Watch catchup BBC TV without breaking any laws or paying the fee