Long time In & Around contributor Atlantean takes a moment to reflect on the TV license…

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I don’t suppose many of us think much about TV licensing, especially since 77% of us pay by direct debit.

I own a small house which will be sold shortly, but which has been used for storage for several years. Although it’s furnished and has two old computers (both incapable of receiving television programmes), it hasn’t had a TV licence since 1995, when I bought it. Nevertheless, when clearing out the post the other week, I came across several letters from TV licensing. There were 22 in all, which in postage alone cost them over £13. 

I usually chuck them away, occasionally sending a reply in to state there is no TV on the premises. Still, I was interested in why they would send 22 letters when I had made clear on many occasions that there was no TV on the premises.

Instead of stating that ‘court papers were being prepared’, why not just send a chap round to check and settle the matter once and for all? Apparently 3.9m visits were made by enforcement officers, so why didn’t one put a note through the door? Obviously you can’t get them to come by appointment in case you just shipped the telly next door for a few hours, but this deluge of paper backed up by no action didn’t seem very effective.

Meanwhile, 95% of some 31m properties are correctly licensed, and 4,119,530 free licences for the over 75s are in force. An interesting statistic is that in County Durham there are 13 households still watching black and white television – even though BBC2 Colour transmissions started in 1968 – and 9,356 across the rest of the nation. Further, the analogue signal was progressively turned off three years ago, and we all now receive a digital signal.

So what on earth are these people watching?

Even if their old black and white televisions still worked, there isn’t a signal for them to receive! If they are only listening to radio, no licence is required, as the radio licence (which started in 1922) had been phased out in the same month as decimalisation in February 1971.

The normal colour licence is £145.50, but the B/W one is only £49. 26p a day extra would give them the right to full colour viewing… and a signal.

If you have a black and white licence, I would love to know what you use it for. I would invite you to send me an email at atlantean247@yahoo.co.uk, but you probably don’t have a computer either, so please contact me via the editor.

Meanwhile, if you want to have a B/W licence, you won’t be able to buy it on the website, as it’s only available over the phone on 0300 790 6165. I think I’ll ring them and ask…

The monthly fee works out at £12.13 per month, of which £7.27 goes on television, £1.94 on radio, plus a further 73p on World Service and 73p more on other services, plus 61p on online services. The actual fee collection by Capita, PayPoint and others costs 85p. These figures are for 2014/5, so the BBC’s comprehensive internet service currently costs less than the charge to collect the licence fee. Interestingly, the postal address for TV Licensing is in our area, at Greenbank Road in Darlington DL98 1TL. I wonder what goes on there – perhaps I ought to find out!

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