back to article Big Media drags 142,000 through UK's courts in a year

Not one Hollywood studio or record label company has ever incarcerated anyone merely for not paying for media consumption. A few years ago the entertainment industry filed civil suits against individuals, but received so much criticism it stopped. Now they target industrial-scale pirates, or push for milder sanctions such as …


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  1. Andy 115

    Only compulsory if... watch or record broadcast television signals whilst they are being broadcast.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "So how unfair is being asked to pay for something you don't use, but somebody better off than you really likes"

    So poor people only like cheap TV, is that the proposition here?

  3. Natalie Gritpants

    No complaints from me

    Because I prefer to have the biggest media producer to be non-commercial. I don't want to have a bigger version of Sky thanks. Yes, I am middle class, so are most people.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Jamie Kitson

      Re: Eh?

      Either that, or Radio 4 is more expensive to make than TV.

    2. Not That Andrew

      Re: Eh?

      Noo, I think he's saying that 90% of the content produced by the Beeb is of no interest to 90% of the population irrespective of income, but the chattering classes can afford to pay for a TV licence they never use, unlike many poorer people.

      1. yeahyeahno

        Re: Eh?

        You can think that, but that's not what he says at all.

    3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Only compulsory if...

      Perhaps you should tell that to Capita.

      They seem to think that the license fee is compulsory if you have an address. If you do have an address and don't pay the fee, you have to prove that you don't watch or listen to TV/radio output. Even after that, they will continue to harass you.

      If you have any equipment that is capable of recieving broadcasts, it gets even harder (even if you don't have an arial to connect to your laptop which happens to have a receiver built in). In the past there have been people in court having to prove that their VCR had never received TV broadcasts because the receiver had been removed from it.

      1. Vic

        Re: Only compulsory if...

        > Perhaps you should tell that to Capita.

        I did.

        They'd even sent a bloke round to get shirty on the doorstep after I ignored all their letters. I just told him he wasn't coming in, and I wasn't paying him anything because I had all the licencing I required[1], thankyouverymuch.

        They're actually quite impotent if you don't fall for the fake "officaldom".


        [1] We did actually have a TV licence. It's in my missus' name - and as we're not married, that's not my name. Blokey must have spent 10 minutes on my doorstep getting ever stroppier before he bothered to ring the office and check to see if we had a licence. The look on his face was *priceless*...

      2. Andy 115

        Re: Crapita

        Oh I know them well.

        Only this evening I returned home to find one of their snot-o-grams in my letterbox...

        "we called to check that you don't need a TVL (like you claim), you weren't in so we will call again (because we don't believe you)" this is after 2+ years of ignoring their "mock" legalese letters.

        Call all you like, you bunch of wankers, you have no right of access to my property and you will not get a court order to gain it unless you provide said court with proof, (which those semi-educated among us know you can't provide without gaining access to the property)....

        Don't forget, the offence is to be using a device to watch or record Live broadcasts, there is no requirement for me to de-tune my (previously incensed) freeview tv OR EVEN unplug it from the aerial. I also believe the radio channels are TVL immune....

      3. streaky Silver badge

        Re: Only compulsory if...

        "you have to prove that you don't watch or listen to TV/radio output"

        Go read some law, you really don't.

        Also for the record it isn't a criminal offence so I have no idea how 74 people have gone to prison. My guess is they didn't pay fines, which would put them in contempt.

        Allow me to quote the BBC - who are most likely to push the hard line on non-payment - "You cannot be imprisoned for TV Licence evasion"

        Also burden on proof is *always* on the plaintiff. Speaking as somebody who hasn't had a TV license his whole adult life (and doesn't watch UK broadcast TV), Capita and friends are easy to deal with if you play smart and tell them to fk off.

        Assuming you don't watch TV in plain sight there's nothing they could do and *TV licensing vans do not exist*. The word embezzlement springs to mind having read the BBC's financials.

      4. David Cantrell

        Re: Only compulsory if...

        You do *not* have to prove anything to Capita. I've been ignoring them for years, and just putting their monthly letters in the bin with all the other junk mail.

    4. JimM

      Re: Only compulsory if...

      ... you can't prove that you don't watch or record broadcast television signals whilst they are being broadcast, including internet streaming.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh?

      It's a shit being poor, but maybe the question is: Should people on benefits or poor get assistance with a TV licence?

      Yes, benefits should pay for some luxuries, the occasional beer, possibly some fags, maybe the ability to go out to a museum once in a while, but should they pay for telly? Should they pay for Sky or cable or Internet or Phone?

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: Eh?

        If benefits is the problem, then the richer people actually get more state "benefits" than the poor.

        Things like tax relief on pension contribs etc...all yield good returns to those on higher incomes.

        Without tax relief on pensions the pension industry would be in dire straits....the relief is worth 38 billion each year.

        And the rich also get the child benefit [benefit]...and the disability living allowance....etc etc....and a lot of private healthcare is provided courtesy of NHS....

        And why (apart from the constant harassment, threats and ever-so-frequent 'phone calls) would someone with internet bother with a tv licence ?

        Iplayer doesn't need a tv licence....just do not watch live programming.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Eh?


          People on benefits get free NICs, so they may not get tax relief on pension contributions, but they do get free pension contributions to the state pension for the time that they're out of work.

          The child gets child benefit (or at least that's the theory), so the rich don't get child benefit, sort of.

    6. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: What a rotten piece of writing...

      Schizophrenic much?

      You demand that the BBC convert to a commercial provider and in the same breath you damn a commercial provider. Bet you also whined about the ITV ad breaks.

      Make up your mind - you cant have every you want whiney baby.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm all for the licence fee

    At least it means programmes get made that otherwise wouldn't. When content creation is left in the hands of private media companies it goes down the toilet as quality drama etc is expensive to make. The likes of Sky and Channel 5 go for the cheapest options and dumb the content down to the lowest denominator and we end up with pure shit like Big Brother, Jersey Shore, The only way is Essex and the staple of Channel 5 Let's all laugh at the freak while pretending it's a documentary

    1. Kerry Hoskin

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      actually Sky do produce quite a lot of their own content and the majority is actually really good

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      Not to mention CH4's piss-poor science and documentary programming, all of which, no matter the subject, seem to be a freakshow in one way or another.

      Imagine what CH4, ITV and BSkyB would be like if they didn't have the beeb to pull their game up, at least a bit.

    3. Citizen Kaned

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      boy with an arse for a face? :)

    4. Jamie Kitson

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is Channel 4, not 5 :)

    5. Seb123

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      I am curious whether you've actually ever watched Sky? Series like The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Spartacus and Boardwalk Empire don't fall into the crap or cheap category, in my opinion.

      Besides some great wildlife programmes, what exactly does the BBC make that is so awesome? Top Gear? I am not sure about the last couple of seasons.

      Eastenders? It seems to me that all channels in the UK are equally rubbish

      Some quality stuff here. I am upset that I didn't set the PVR now.

      6:00 – 9:15 Breakfast The latest news, sport, business and weather from the BBC's Breakfast team.

      09:15–10:00 Crime and Punishment

      10:00–10:30 Homes Under the Hammer

      10:30–11:30 The Queen's Jubilee Loyal Address to Parliament

      11:30–12:15 Cash in the Attic

      12:15–13:00 Bargain Hunt

      13:00–13:30 BBC News at One

      13:30–13:45 BBC London News

      13:45–14:15 Doctors

      14:15–15:00 Escape to the Country

      15:00–15:05 BBC News

      15:05–15:35 I Want My Own Room

      15:35–15:55 Lockie Leonard

      15:55–16:00 Diddy Dick and Dom

      16:00–16:30 Sport Relief Does Glee Club

      16:30–17:00 Pixelface

      17:00–17:15 Newsround

      17:15–18:00 Pointless

      18:00–18:30 BBC News at Six

      18:30–19:00 BBC London News

      19:00–19:30 The One Show

      19:30–19:57 EastEnders

      19:57–20:00 BBC News and Regional News

      20:00–21:00 Holby City

      21:00–22:00 Crimewatch

      22:00–22:25 BBC News at Ten

      22:25–22:32 BBC London News

      22:32–22:35 BBC Weather

      22:35–22:40 Crimewatch Update

      22:40–23:35 Rita Simons: My Daughter, Deafness and Me

      23:35–00:15 Film 2012 with Claudia Winkleman

      1. I think so I am?

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        think you confused sky with big American media companies HBO and such

      2. Piloti
        Thumb Up

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        As a counterbalance, this is Radio 4 tonight . This stuff must be paid for.

        The Life Scientific is, frankly, excellent. Worth the fee alone......



        Six O'Clock News


        National and international news from BBC Radio 4.


        Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show!

        Series 7, Spanish Elvis

        5/6. Arthur's night of entertainment in a Spanish bar goes off with a bang.


        The Archers


        Brian is in urgent need of advice.


        Front Row


        Presented by John Wilson, including the verdict on the film The Hunger Games.


        Pink Mist

        Hads's Story

        2/5. Dramatic poem by Owen Sheers about a soldier struggling to return home.


        File on 4

        A Bridge Too Far?

        Why do so many British public sector contracts go to foreign companies?


        In Touch


        Peter White with news and information for blind and partially sighted people.


        Inside Health


        Dr Mark Porter demystifies the health issues that perplex us.


        The Life Scientific

        Tejinder Virdee

        Jim Al-Khalili talks to physicist Tejinder Virdee about the search for the Higgs boson.




        Weather information.


        The World Tonight


        Ritula Shah presents national and international news and analysis.


        Book at Bedtime

        Stonemouth, Episode 2

        2/10. Stewart catches up with old friends and recalls his first meeting with Ellie Murston.


        The History Plays

        A History of Blair in 9 1/2 Voices

        5/5. Tony Blair has just resigned. Somewhere in the BBC he gets mistaken for his own lookalike.


        Today in Parliament


        Sean Curran with the day's top news stories from Westminster.

        1. Vic

          Re: I'm all for the licence fee

          > this is Radio 4 tonigh

          ...Which you can listen to without a TV licence, despite the implications in the article...


      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        Your point being?

        The Sopranos - Made by HBO (and crap but that's just my opinion)

        Game of Thrones - made by HBO, not Sky

        Spartacus - Made by Starz media (also crap but other people think differently)

        Boardwalk Empire - Also HBO

        So none of your examples have anything to do with Sky TV other than them buying the rights to broadcast it. The only things I can think of that Sky have actually produced is A League of Their Own (Not bad but not exactly thought provoking drama) and An Idiot Abroad (which is good).

        As for your attempt to show just how bad the BBC is in one day, here is the Sky 1 listing for today


        Bondi Vet


        Bondi Vet


        Stargate Atlantis


        Stargate Atlantis


        Stargate Atlantis


        Lie to Me


        Lie to Me


        The Real A&E






        Stargate Atlantis


        Stargate Atlantis


        Stargate Atlantis




        The Simpsons




        The Simpsons




        An Idiot Abroad 2


        Film The Matrix Revolutions (2003)


        Dog the Bounty Hunter


        Dog the Bounty Hunter

        That's so much better isn't it? Lots of quality viewing there. How many hours of Atlantis do you want to watch in one day? At least the BBC try to put some variety in a days programming even if that isn't to your taste

        1. Vic

          Re: I'm all for the licence fee

          > At least the BBC try to put some variety in a days programming

          You've not watched BBC Three, then?


      4. yeahyeahno

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        You what? Since when did Sky produce The Saprano's et al? Get real, that's just content they paid for, and I first watched The Saprano's way back when on C4.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        And what were the alternatives on ITV?

    6. Irongut

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      Yeah coz Dancing with Brucie is soooo much more intellectual.

    7. M Gale

      If you're all for the license fee... pay it. Don't go pretending that the rest of us should finance your particular tastes in goggle-box programming.

    8. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      This is actually a very true statement.

      Come to the US where the networks spent the last 10 years creating really shitty reality TV shows.

      Why? Because they are cheap to make and offer great profit margins. Pay for TV is really in the business of selling advertisement space, not providing quality programs.

      When you have 500 cable channels to fill, you will see the quality of the shows drop.

      And yes, I apologize for the export of Jersey Shore. Be thankful that you don't have toddlers in tierras ?sp?.

  6. dotdavid

    TV Tax Evasion

    I must admit I'm baffled why so many get caught, unless the advice of so many online forums is ignored by the infringers - i.e. "don't let them come inside your house to inspect it, tell them to return with a warrant (which they might get, but by then your unlicenced TV can be removed)".

    Unless perhaps this "conventional wisdom" is wrong?

  7. Greg 16
    Thumb Down

    The BBC can write their own press, and a pretty large proportion of the population lap it up and think that without the license fee their favourite program would no longer been made - the thing is, programmes like Dr Who, Top Gear, Natural World etc, are exactly the programmes that WOULD continue to be made!

    It's totally indefensible that some kind of viewing card was not introduced at the digital switch over. I literally watch zero BBC programmes and yet I am forced to pay.

  8. Kevin Pollock

    I don't care what they do... long as I don't have to sit through commercials.

    I suppose the existence of Tivo and other PVRs makes commercials more tolerable, but the fact that the BBC can craft their programs without having to work on a five minute timescale (as US TV programs have to), I think is one reason the quality of everything on the Beeb is higher.

    I like the idea of the Beeb becoming an international media giant, but I suspect in doing so it would become as rubbish as Sky, ITV and the myriad other mediocre content providers out there.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Much of the output of the BBC is skewed towards the middle classes. It takes on an Upstairs, Downstairs hue.

    Media consumers who can comfortably afford their children's piano lessons and private health care are effectively being subsidised by the underclass"

    What a disgusting and antiquated attitude to the working class, you should be ashamed of your self you elitist snob.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Not even half of the documentaries on BBC four would be made.

      BBC Radio wouldn't exist.

      It's likely that Digital radio and telly wouldn't exist, if not the the license fee, due to the contribution made by BBC R&D.

      You may as well complain that you pay for Sky 1, but only ever watch men and motors, you're still compelled to pay for Sky 1.

      1. Greg 16

        Re: Err...

        The BBC4 documentaries wouldn't be made, because TINY numbers of people watch them - if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

        And do you really think that the BBC radio stations could not be ran commercially? Plenty of other stations seem to manage it, and have large audiences even without their massive free promotion.

        And if you really think that Digital TV and Radio wouldn't have existed without the BBC, then you need your head testing.

        1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

          Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

          If they lack depth/intellectual rigour and are only really of interest to teenagers/young twentysomethings they go on BBC3.

          If they lack depth/intellectual rigour and are of more general interest they go on BBC1.

          If they have more depth/intellectual rigour and are of more specialised interest they go on BBC1.

          If they have most depth/intellectual rigour or are of most specialised interest they are shown on BBC4 and then sometimes shown late at night on BBC2. I imagine the BBC2 showing is for the benefit of those still receiving only analogue transmissions if there are any.

          1. snowlight

            Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

            Captain Hogwash hits the nail on the head. The documentaries on BBC 4 tend to be the most interesting ones that are produced.

            As for Greg 16's comment on commercial radio stations, I don't think I've ever heard any good music, shows or DJs on any of the ones I've been subjected to at work. At least BBC radio has shows about less mainstream genres and the comedy programmes are top notch, I doubt you'd get those on commercial radio.

          2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

            Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

            A slight correction is in order. The third option in the list should have said BBC2.

          3. Greg 16

            Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

            You mean like tonight's BBC4 documentary on....documentaries? Followed by a 1 hour interview with...Terry Wogan.

            You can convince yourself that you are some kind of intellectual for watching that shite, but really you're basically a train-spotter (and boy, does BBC4 cater to train-spotters ffs)

            For what it's worth I quite like documentaries, but BBC4 documentaries do not have depth - they're just extremely 'specialized' meaning no one gives a fuck them, despite them paying for it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

              BBC 4 are currently doing a season about interviewers and interviewing. Missing out Wogan, whatever you think of him, would be a glaring omission. The program is an hour, with no adverts and will, if the others are anything to go by, be surprisingly excellent. I often find myself glued to the most unlikely sounding docos on bbc4.

            2. Roger Kynaston

              Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

              Hrmm. Trainspotting isn't a bad in itself. Just a minority interest. A couple of years ago BBC4 showed a program made by some middle class, middle aged guy about the A303. We watched it as we drive down that road a lot. Some of it was interesting. The number of people interested in it was probably tiny but it was, to my mind at least (and observation about a program on this thread should be prefaced with IMHO!) a lot better than paying 22 idiots squillions to kick a ball around a field while other (IMHO) idiots talk endlessly about it being offside.


              My rambling point is that Auntie by being insulated to some extent from the requirement to keep advertisers sweet is able to fund minority interests (but I do wish they would do more sailing!) while still showing majority interest stuff such as footie and Bottom Gear. The Discovery Channel doesn't seem able to fill that sector.

              With regard to the article. I found it interesting but this is a very difficult paradoxical area. The license fee is a regressive flat tax regardless of the actual legal situation. But, on the other hand, it does make for a richer TV and radio (Goodness Gracious Me, The Now Show, The News Quiz ...)

        2. David Cantrell

          Re: Err...

          Have you ever listened to commercial radio? Sure, Radio 1 and Radio 2, and most of the local radio stations could survive, but their content is indistinguishable from commercial radio anyway. And for that reason they should be closed. The BBC should not compete with commercial broadcasters but should provide services that the market chooses not to - such as Radio 3, Radio 4, and good quality TV. There's not enough good quality BBC TV programming to fill four channels, so some of them should be closed.

          The argument that "waah, I don't watch the BBC so I shouldn't pay for it" is stupid - I don't receive benefits, so do I get to opt out of paying for those? No. There are some things which I don't partake of but which are beneficial to society as a whole. Unemployment and disability benefits. Education for your children. Roads in Wigan. The BBC is another of those things that is beneficial to society as a whole even if, like going to Wigan, it isn't something you take advantage of personally.

          1. TimNevins

            Re: Err...

            "The argument that "waah, I don't watch the BBC so I shouldn't pay for it" is stupid"

            I think the stupidity lies in comparing television output to Education/Transport and Medical cover. Even if you do not make use of a specific road in Wigan chances are you have made use of roads at some point in your life.

            Television is at best informative and at worst entertainment.

            The BBC's model of funding is an unfair immoral unethical tax in this day and age. It should be no different than paying for any other non-essential item or luxury. i.e. A personal choice.

            For the record the rest of the worlds media content generation does not work off this model quite happily.

            If the BBC did not pay Ragdoll Productions for its childrens output(Teletubbies etc) they would simply have got their funding elsewhere.

            In this day and age the £145 can be better spent.

          2. Liz 1

            Re: Err...

            "Sure, Radio 1 and Radio 2, and most of the local radio stations could survive, but their content is indistinguishable from commercial radio anyway. And for that reason they should be closed. "

            Except that Radio 1 and Radio 2 are free from adverts (except for other BBC products). Radio listeners who prefer pop culture to highbrow are just as deserving of a commercial free service as the chattering classes are.

            Across their output, the BBC make or buy something for everybody to hate, but equally, something for (nearly) everybody to like.

    2. dogged


      Furthermore, there's always EastEnders and My Big Fat Racist Exploitation Gypsy Wedding and anything with Paddy McGuinness.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't care what they do...

      You say there's no commercials on the BBC but it's chock full of trailers for shows I don't care about, with "corporate branding" just like the rest.

      And that's before I get started on "trailers for Eastenders is news"....


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