back to article Beeb flings millions more £s at Capita for telly tax collection

El Reg can confirm that two things Brits love will be paired together for another couple of years - the Beeb has again extended Capita's telly tax collection contract. The original deal was signed in 2002 for £500m, and renewed in 2012 for eight years at a cost of £560m. Today it emerged the agreement will now stretch until …

  1. The Nazz Silver badge

    Knocking on our doors?

    I doubt it.

    Every three months or so (for he past four years plus) i get a series of letters, each one slightly more threatening, ending in big red bold capitals, WE HAVE OPENED AN INVESTIGATION. We may visit you at any time of day and night.

    But they never do.

    Repeat cycle every three months.

    Apart from once, i'm sat by a bay window 5ft from my door maybe. Bloke walks past, doesn't even knock but posts a note through the door, "we visited you today". By the time i got the the "mail", he'd ferked off.

    Now, to my simple mind, i'd call their operation a scam. A fraud. Either do the job properly or don't bother. That said, when you've guaranteed, now increased revenue, a cushy number why bother.

    Last comment and i appeal to your collective intellect, wisdom, fair play and a good dose of BOFH.

    When they do knock, and i let them in, locking the door behind them, How long should they need to stay for , to check that i really never do watch or downlaod TV?

    A week? A month? And is £20 a day for board reasonable?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Knocking on our doors?

      £20 a night, but that is just board: They'll have to pay for food and if *they* want to watch TV, they pay the license. In full. Up front. Oh, and buy the TV, too, which they'll have to take with them when they leave.

      Or... if you don't watch TV, you might consider sending legal notice to them that you are reviewing their unsolicited demands for money with menace (those big red letters are menacing! and they're threatening you, too: An Investigation! And they're threatening to demand entry! Oh, very threatening: Intimidating at that!)

      Keep copies, keep a log, and when you're ready, go talk to a solicitor with a view to prosecute. After all, if they've not taken actual action and haven't proven you do need a license, then they don't have a case and shouldn't threaten you like that, should they?

    2. stu 4

      Re: Knocking on our doors?

      And that's why I (and I imagine 1000s of others) keep paying it - to avoid the hassle. I've heard the stories too of 'heavies' coming to your door demanding entrance, etc. I just can't be bothered with the hassle.

      I have no 'tv' - haven't had for 10 years. I have a big 'screen' and it's plugged into my mac mini. I pay for Netflix and amazon prime (and the bloody bbc licence that I never use at all since I don't have a FECKING TV and don't use iplayer either - is it still FLASH based ? that would be another good reason why I wouldn't go near it with a sh1tty stick).

      The last time the BBC produced anything I wanted to watch was 10 years ago (planet earth ii excepted -- so my 150 quid a year... 1500 quid for the last 10 years has got me 6 episodes of planet earth...woopee do)

      They absolutely have no legs to stand on now for collecting licences by default (either though 'you have internet' or 'you have a tv'). ultra bullshit.

      Freeview and Freesat have the capability to restrict a channel to fee/subscription payers - BBC should be no different. But no - they know if they do that, tons of people will realise they can get by without BBC tv mince like strictly and baking cakes or whatever other crap is on there, and that 150 quid gets you a lot of far better quality streamed content from the upstarts....

      iplayer is no different from any other streaming content - should be protected by user credentials (in BBCs case you licence ID/password say). Why isn't it ?? Because it undermines their case for collecting licences by DEFAULT - PROVE you don't watch rather than we need to prove you do (and provided access). what the hell sort of sense does that make in 2016 ???

      The only reason they don't do this is because they can - and they count on people like me continuing to throw 150 quid a year at them for FA.

      It annoys the hell out of me, but not enough that I want to waste my time being dragged through the courts... it's just astounding that in 2016 they still get away with the same enforcement requirements they did 50 years ago when restricting a clear UHF transmission was impossible.

      10 years ago the BBC was worth paying for to me - since then:

      - BBC news has become a low brow factoid joke

      - any content that required you to think has been dumbed down to 'numpty' level (Horizon anyone ?)

      - I have no interest in period dramas, programs about baking cakes or celebrities dancing.

      It (I assume) IS still something others would pay 150 quid for - fine - let them 'subscribe' and pay for it.

      1. Spacedinvader

        Re: Knocking on our doors?

        I have a "screen". I do not have a "screen" licence. I've had "the heavies" visit twice in the last 5 (i think, probably more) years who popped in and had a look at the back of my "tv".

        "Oh, just the Playstation and PC plugged in I see?"

        "Yeah, I don't watch tv it's crap"

        "Oh, okay. we might be back in a year / 18 months"

        If you can't be arsed with that "hassle" then keep paying £150 for fuck all!

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Knocking on our doors?

          Why did you give them access? Did they have a warrant?

          1. Law

            Re: Knocking on our doors?

            We cancelled our license after realising we hadn't even plugged the aerial into the tv after upgrading it... it'd been years.

            So I called them. They cancelled the direct debit, and I stated the reason for cancelling as we only use netflix and amazon prime, never iplayer or live tv...

            A few months later we got license warning letters.. so I called them up, said we'd already told them why. They apologised, and set the maximum "don't harass" time they could on the address (was either 18 months or 36 - can't remember which). When they send another letter in however long it will be, we just ring and confirm the same again and they'll do it again.

            Wasn't hard, never threatened, nobody has tried catching us out.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Knocking on our doors?

              True. Instead of throwing Capita/Beebs letters into the recycling bin, I could log in to their site and register every 2 years as a non-user. But I have no obligations and nothing whatsoever to do with these companies so why dance to their tune unless they offer to pay me for the data they want? Imagine if every licensable service hassled you in this way.

      2. Infernoz Bronze badge

        Re: Knocking on our doors?

        Anyone who pays for a TV licence is frankly a moron, because the corrupt BBC has broken it's charter so many time for overt political bias that they should have been out of business many years ago, but the government don't keep them to the charter conditions because it is a useful government/EU propaganda/brainwashing/tranquilliser tool.

        The TV licence 'enforcement' is just a con artist fishing expedition with no legal power; they rely on their 'authority' to trick you into letting them enter and to admit/sign liability (a contract) to hook you so that they can fabricate a court case, aka entrapment, fraud and extortion.

        I really don't get why people watch much TV at all, because it can easily become a significant time waster, a significant amount of the content is banal crap designed to distract people from more useful stuff, the news often subtly deceives people with lying by omission and part-truth, outright propaganda, and some content (especially news) is preceded by still/moving Sigil-Magick/hypnotic (count down) imagery (BBC and most other stations) designed to sabotage conscious filters for the following content.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Knocking on our doors?

          Not a kipper, are we? Or is it a member of the tinfoil hat brigade? Or, perish the thought, an alt-righter?

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Knocking on our doors?

      Every three months or so (for he past four years plus) i get a series of letters, each one slightly more threatening, ending in big red bold capitals, WE HAVE OPENED AN INVESTIGATION. We may visit you at any time of day and night.

      I got those for about 7-8 years. Always one month after they'd sent me my latest, automatically renewed by direct debit, TV license. The next three quarters would bring "we're in your area" shorter threatsletters, then round we'd go again.

      The reason why was because my house is actually a victorian house and adjacent shop knocked into one, so has an address N-(N+2) My Street, but the Postal Address File the Post Office flogs had both addresses separately. Thus the database software they use couldn't match the address the license was sent to, so ergo I'm license dodging scum to be threatened. I never bothered correcting them because a) I couldn't be arsed to debug their software for them and b) I wanted to see if they ever sent anyone. In the end my wife opened one of the letters and phoned them up, spoiling the experiment, but as I said there was no visit in 8 years.

    4. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Knocking on our doors?

      £20 a day for board, include free water and a towel.

      Well, you did mention BOFH!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    invest in robots to automate parts of the operation

    Huh? El Reg needs to investigate this, are we talking drones or daleks collecting the T.V. licence?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Junk Mail..

    Even though I've got a sign in the window saying "No Junk Mail", I still recieve one of these letters at least once a month, its frustrating, I have to manually pick them up and drop them in the bin..

    But keep it up BBC, all your doing is subsiding junk mail and a modern day witch hunt..

    I could reply saying I don't watch TV (which I don't)... but honestly, I don't believe I should have to do this.

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Junk Mail..

      Once upon a time I didn't have a license as wasn't actually living at the property at the time because there were large scale building works going on before I moved in. They were sending the threatening letters that I was ignoring and writing return to sender on the envelope before sticking it in the postbox. So on one site visit the builder hands me the latest missive which says I've been ignoring their letters and as such they're going to send round people and I could end up in court with a criminal record if found to be using tv reception equipment etc.

      I took the trouble to call them (again) and explained that the building was unoccupied except by the builders and that I had explained this to them after the first letter had arrived. Apparently someone had ticked the wrong box on the computer system and I was down as having no TV not vacant property. Bloke on the other end of the phone unapologetic but "will update our records with your provisional moving in date." Builder said someone came to the door a couple of weeks later but couldn't be certain they were TVL people. Apparently they left immediately when they saw the state of the interior of the house!

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Junk Mail..

      I got those after moving in here. About monthly, in a pattern alternating between "we are about to open an investigation" and "we have opened an investigation".

      Now they finally seem to have given up: nothing for ... hmm ... maybe six months or so. Guess they must've closed their investigation. Or something.

      1. Infernoz Bronze badge

        Re: Junk Mail..

        Yep, them toothless, con artist, scum have been futilely still chasing me with varying formats/colours for many years longer than I can remember, even got a visit once, deliberately didn't give my name and told them that I don't do business with them!

        If they want to keep wasting postage and paper, I'll keep shredding it!

  4. AMBxx Silver badge

    3% collection costs

    How does this compare to Council Tax or other similar, large scale billing?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 3% collection costs

      It's high. Probably twice what it could/should be. HMRC have a budget of c. £4Bn and take something on the order of £450-500Bn, so do a far more complex job at about 1% overhead. Local councils tend to spend about 5% of their revenue on all corporate/support services, so a small fraction of that will be on collections.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 3% collection costs

        HMRC have a budget of c. £4Bn and take something on the order of £450-500Bn, so do a far more complex job at about 1% overhead

        HMRC have the vast majority of their work done for them free of charge by companies, under PAYE, VAT, Excise duty and Corporation Tax regimes. If you included the marginal cost of tax collection that companies are stuffed for, I think total costs would probably be nearer 5%.

        I suppose that leaves HMRC free to do the value adding stuff like harass small time IT contractors, or cutting highly favourable deals with large Yank tax dodging corporations?

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: 3% collection costs

          <i?I suppose that leaves HMRC free to do the value adding stuff like harass small time IT contractors, or cutting highly favourable deals with large Yank tax dodging corporations?</i>

          I thought the free dinners (and other treats) covered that

  5. Smooth Newt

    TV licence abolished

    So what happens if the TV licence is abolished? Will that require a massive compensation payout by the BBC to Capita?

    Last year the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee reported that the licence fee is "becoming harder and harder to justify", and that the BBC "must prepare for the possibility of a change in the 2020s". So what does the BBC do? It extends its fee collection contract well into the 2020s.

  6. MarmiteToast

    No means no

    I haven't bought a TV license for over 3 years now and don't watch any TV (live/catch-up or whatever). For the same price I get a Netflix and Amazon Prime subscription with some change left over. Much better value for money.

    I haven't had too much trouble with Crapita, although they really don't understand what "We won't ask you again for 2 years" means. I've constantly re-establishing with them that "No, I don't need a license".

    1. jaywin

      Re: No means no

      Basic Netflix (no HD) £5.99/month = £71.88/year

      Amazon Prime £7.99/month = £95.88/year

      Netflix + Amazon = £167.67/year

      UK Colour TV Licence = £145.50/year

      > For the same price I get a Netflix and Amazon Prime subscription with some change left over.

      I think you need a new calculator.

      1. Valerion

        Re: No means no

        I think you need a new calculator

        To be fair he didn't say it was cheaper he said it was better value for money. I'd tend to agree - there is a lot more content on Netflix/Amazon than be found on the live BBC Broadcast channels and iPlayer.

        And a year's Prime is £79 I believe, so assume a yearly payment and the difference is about a fiver.

        1. jaywin

          Re: No means no

          > To be fair he didn't say it was cheaper he said it was better value for money.

          He said would have "some change left over" after buying both with the money he could have spent on the licence.

          Although, now I've found Amazon's alternative plans (yes, yearly is £79), you could get their TV only package for £5.99/month, which would make the combination of Netflix + Amazon and entire £1.74/year cheaper, so it is actually possible to get that small change.

          *Goes to downvote self*

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No means no

        Of course, some of the programmes on those channels are created for and by the BBC.

        1. Gio Ciampa

          Re: No means no

          "Of course, some of the programmes on those channels are created for and by the BBC."

          Which - as we've already paid for them - we should get for free...

          ...without having to pay Amazon's tax bill for them too...

          1. Patrician

            Re: No means no

            ..."Which - as we've already paid for them - we should get for free...

            ...without having to pay Amazon's tax bill for them too.."...

            You can get them "free", on iPlayer

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: No means no

              "You can get them "free", on iPlayer"

              That now pops up a reminder that you need a TV licence to watch iPlayer.

      3. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: No means no

        Well if you use Amazon Prime to deliver stuff (I do, living in the middle of nowhere) then you could discount the Amazon sub

      4. Law

        Re: No means no

        As somebody already pointed out you get Prime Video for 5.99 on its own, so both Netflix and Prime Video cost £143.76 a year. So, as he originally said, it's cheaper than a license with change left over. :)

        We were already Prime Members for the delivery side of things, wasn't happy they bumped up the original prime cost for video and music, but for the extra £2 a month I realised quickly that we used it a hell of a lot more as a family than we ever did any BBC programming / services, so kept it and cancelled the license.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No means no

      Are Capita paying you for the work you are doing for them? It sad to see how many people grumble but crumble as soon as someone pretends to have authority over them. Capita don't wear jackboots and kick in the door, they don't need to.

  7. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Article 8 test case?

    Having given up watching TV years ago, and with it the need for a TV Licence. I am thinking of talking to a lawyer about the applicability of the Human Rights Act in order to stop this harassment:

    In other areas of life, the UK Government deems it is perfectly in order for the citizen to apply for and obtain appropriate licences and certificates where there is a need. (In the case of Vehicle Excise Duty, there is one off notification when you take the vehicle off the road, which is automatically cancelled as soon as you re-tax the vehicle*). There is no need to keep on notifying a non-requirement, apart from, to my knowledge, the TV Licence. Why can't the TV Licence notification be like the Vehicle Excise Duty notification? i.e. One off.

    *Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN)

    1. Steve Mw

      Re: Article 8 test case?

      SORN has to be renewed every 12 months

      1. Da Weezil

        Re: Article 8 test case?

        "SORN has to be renewed every 12 months"

        No longer the case, it changed a few years back - a SORN is now open ended... until the vehicle is re-licenced or passes to a new keeper/disposed of

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Article 8 test case?

      Works pretty similar to SORN to me.

      I notify TV Licencing every two years. One letter, I've always got a polite reply back.

      Never had a problem, but I've always been upfront, pre-emptive about notification.

      I notified them a few days before September 1st 2016 this year, that I understood the law had changed. That I understood I could no longer watch Catch-up TV/iPlayer technologies.

      I've now blocked in my home router too, just in case, something references iPlayer, that isn't obvious. i.e. clicking a link.

      (BBC Weather uses iPlayer technologies).

      Went the Netflix route instead. Neflix 'The Crown' was the stand out production this year.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Article 8 test case?


        Works pretty similar to SORN to me.

        I notify TV Licencing every two years. One letter, I've always got a polite reply back.

        "Government slashes motoring red tape"

        "improving the regulation surrounding the notification process for vehicles that are not in use on the road (Statutory Off Road Notification or SORN) - once drivers have notified the DVLA that their vehicle is SORN, they will no longer have the burden of annual SORN renewal"

        So, if the Government, in slashing motoring red tape recognised that the annual SORN renewal was a burden to the motorist, shirley they can apply the same reasoning to TV Licensing? Yes, TV Licensing notification is supposed to be every 2 years, but I've just got another reminder, and it's not 2 years since the last notification. Though their excuse this time is the change in law regarding iPlayer in September.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Nice money

    Any work which was done was done 15 years ago. They can outsource it all if they want, except Homer's Typing Bird for tax reasons.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    broadcast versus streaming.

    In the age of Netflix TV is becoming irrelevant very quickly.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: broadcast versus streaming.

      "In the age of Netflix TV is becoming irrelevant very quickly."

      A year or so back we had a gift subscription for Netflix. We ran out things worth watching before the subscription ended. Just sayin;

  10. Red Bren

    Weasel words from an accountant

    "collection costs are now less than 3p in every pound."

    Is that a genuine saving or have the collection costs remained static (or even risen) while the licence fee has gone up?

    How about telling us the collection cost per licence and how that has changed over time?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    all these post ignire one thing

    Adverts, bloody Adverts.

    As a Grumpy old man I hate adverts with a vengance. I do not want adverts ever.

    I'd rather pay my UK TV license and be able to watch TV with NO effing adverts.

    YMMV and probably will but there are as always two sides to every argument.

    Neither one here is the right answer nor the wrong answer.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: all these post ignire one thing

      BBC is full of adverts for stuff from BBC.

      1. Smooth Newt

        Re: all these post ignire one thing

        BBC is full of adverts for stuff from BBC.

        And every televised sporting event is chock-full of advertising, and even quite a lot of modern feature films.

  12. createahandletheysay

    Which other utilities

    Which other utility companies do you not have to inform when you don't have a contract to use their services. It appears that the BBC stand alone in this.

  13. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Yeah, and another thing...

    I don't pay for a license either because IMHO the amount of sheer crap shovelled by the BBC far outweighs the value I get from all of the non-crap, and the amount of intra BBC adverts is f**king annoying. Clare Balding is useless, and worst of all in my view... on a rapidly increasing level, every other programme seemed to feature the presenters of other BBC shows as "prime content" which is actually tantamount to corporate incest in my view.

    And if it is "my" or the "peoples" BBC, why is almost every other programme "celebrity this..." or "celebrity that..."

    I can't stand them.

  14. King Jack
    Thumb Down

    Fuck them

    Any broadcaster that is willing to show a blank page with a countdown timer on it in prime time, do not deserve any money. Rather than show news from another part of the UK the BBC is happy to let their funders, sorry victims watch 'nothing'. Why is this? Why don't ITV or the thousands of other broadcasters show nothing? Because they need the money. They need to 'earn' cash to survive. The BBC does not so a blank page it is. You like Dr Who? Well we won't bother making it as it makes no difference to revenue exhorted. Pay us to watch our competitors is extortion.That is why I'll never pay them a penny. TV watching (live) doesn't happen here. Too busy doing other things. But I get the threats every few weeks and they go straight in the bin. I look forward to my court case. If they ever show up.

    1. Jess

      Re: Fuck them

      I wouldn't go quite so far as that, but I stopped having a TV licence years ago. (I only had a black and white portable anyway, I had always had a separate monitor for watching video disks.)

      I was working away from home a lot and hadn't been able to renew it due to it no longer being via the post office, and none of the little shops I tried could issue one. I realised that I'd only watched live TV for about 5 hours in the previous year, and the TV wasn't even plugged in. I would have been happy to pay it if I could, because I watched a bit of iPlayer. However I let it slide, intending to sort it out when I was back home full time.

      However I received letters accusing me of being a criminal, and that annoyed me so much, I gave the TV away. (Useful in a caravan) And ignored everything from then on. When they changed the rules I deleted iPlayer, and found that the other channels offer some good stuff. (Humans is particularly good).

      I do think the new rules are wrong. (Not that I think the BBC should be forced to let people have catch up for free, but it was nice of them to allow it for so long). The BBC should be behind a paywall unlocked by the licence, and streaming other channels live should not require a licence.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Fuck them

      On the other hand if they had put London on the MUXes without a regional feed and all hell would have broken loose (metropolitan elite, etc... etc...).

      If the BBC were monopolizing MUXes with regional feeds then all hell would also have broken loose (special treatment for the BBC, etc... etc...).

      Is changing over to SD so difficult if you want regional news?

  15. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    in new technologies to making paying easier....

    Guess they're designing a phased plasma rifle in the 40Mw range....

    See icon

  16. Oldfogey
    Black Helicopters

    A conundrum

    I don't have a telly - not had one for 30 years, and don't get hassled. Just confirm every few years if they send me a prepaid envelope and not otherwise. There is no obligation to say anything, or to let the inspectors who never turn up in without a warrant.

    But say I take my laptop round to a friends house who have got a licence, and legally download from iplayer? And then take the laptop home and watch it from the HDD? Does it matter whether the laptop is plugged in or running on battery?

    Can't find an answer to this!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: A conundrum

      A device running on a battery is covered by your main home licence. You have no main home licence so it's not covered if you use it to watch live TV via any transmission method or use iPlayer.

      Taken from:

      Second home TV Licence

      Students (scroll down and click on "Who doesn't need a TV Licence?" too).

      Understanding your TV Licence

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ignore them

    I haven't had a TV for over two decades. TVL continues to write to me, and long may they, as their letters go in the kindling bag for the fire. I have no intention of responding. I don't speak to their sales staff at the door. Neither do I ring the Police every two years to let them know that I haven't committed any crimes.

    The BBC needs to get into the real world as more people watch catch-up services and on demand TV. In the meantime I am sure that their revenues will dwindle as more and more people wise up to the incredibly poor value that the BBC offers as a broadcaster compared to commercial services.

  18. Christoph Silver badge

    They send me letter after letter after letter. Those go in the recycling unopened.

    They occasionally send a bloke round to hammer on the door. I no longer bother telling them yet again that I don't have a television - I just tell them to get off my property, and shut the door.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But its all ok, if you dont watch TV or iplayer, the detector vans will know and they wont bother you... oh wait...

    It does make me laugh a petition either last year or the year before that had well over 200,000 signatures calling for an end to the licence fee basically got ignored, the power that be are happy for the licence fee to continue as we all can pay for their propaganda machine directly. It will never end.....

    This is why the law was changed to include iplayer, they knew as more people swapped to streaming services the argument would be i dont have an antenna or a connected antenna... so now if you have broadband or any device that capable of reaching the internet you will also be bullied into paying.

    Someone should sell an cheap router you can connect that blocks all of the bbc and that automatically spams crapita by post to inform them your address does not require a licence fee as its using x proven and tested device.

    Although its easy to do myself (router block and posting the letter out) i would happily pay for a cheap approved blocking device and a cheap subscription for someone to send them a recorded letter every few months and harass them back.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pretty sure some people are just making up stories for internet points.

    I haven't had a TV licence for around 7 years. The most I get is a letter every year or so about it explaining the penalties for not buying a TV licence. I simply call them up, confirm that I do not require a TV licence and then i don't hear from them again for another year or 2.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The calls you make are free of course?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They pay you for your time, of course?

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