Friday, April 15, 2005

Avoid Brit Socialist TV

The money that pays for those BBC programs on US networks is extracted from Brits by force - if you watch them, you're supporting small-time tyrants.

Starting with an excellent satire. A basket-case Brit car company is going bust, and the usual suspects are trying to get the taxpayers to keep the corpse going. A suggested alternative is the BBC Funding Model:

In order to ensure that MG Rover remains fully funded in perpetuity, all the government need do is introduce a Motor Vehicle Licence of say £116 a year, which would be payable by everybody who owns any car. If you own more than one car, the MVL would be the same, and if your car is black or white you'd get a discount.

There are about 20 million cars in the UK so this would bring in £2.3 billion a year for MG Rover, a national treasure that the world envies. Thanks to the unique way MGR would be funded, it would no longer need to worry about producing anything people actually want. It would rake in billions a year whether anyone bought a single car or not, and no matter how third-rate its output, we'd all be forced to pay for it regardless.

This is how the BBC works, although it costs £126/year. It's watched by less people every year - currently 25% of the population, but every TV owner has to pay. But there's a discount if you're blind...

So, you have the usual statist result: inefficiency, contempt for customers, left-of-NYT reporting. And, like any tyrant, it uses deception and of force to collect money.

Gandalfs are modern people so of course don't own or watch TV. But we have a flat in the UK to which the BBC sends threatening letters - here's the latest.

TV Licensing Enforcement Officers are Visiting (Our Street)

Dear Owner/Occupier

You have not responded to our previous warnings that your address is due for a visit.

Why should I care? Anyone can knock at my door, but I can send them packing.

I must inform you that the London Area Enforcement Officers are about to call on households in (our street) to investigate unlicensed properties like yours.

Note the quasi-police "investigate"..

Watching or recording television programme services without a valid TV licence is against the law.

True, though they might for clarity add "and this includes right-wing pigs who only watch Fox News".

If this applies to you, there is a strong possibility that you could be taken to court and fined up to £1,000.

Which, skates over the getting the warrant, the presentation of the warrant, the search with Police. I'm surprised that they don't mention that if you can't or won't pay, you of course go to jail.

So that you are fully aware of the consequence of refusing to buy a TV licence, I'd like to warn you what to expect when (BBC) officers visit:

* Using sophisticated equipment on unlicensed households, we can identify if a TV is being watched within 20 seconds

The BBC has spent a lot of money on its detectors. But mostly they rely on a covertly-collected database. When Brits buy a TV, the retailer always gets their address "for warranty purposes" and passes it to the BBC. If there's no license registered for that address, they flag it for attack. Odd that this hasn't been challenged under privacy laws.

* If we suspect that an offence is taking place, we are authorized to request a search warrant if we cannot gain access

True. But to get a warrant they have to convince a magistrate that they have reasonable grounds. And when they arrive to present it, they have to have a policemen present, to make sure they don't steal anything.

* We may caution you in compliance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984* and use your statement as evidence in your prosecution

Hmm, interesting, the BBC can take statements in the same way as Police? Sounds unlikely, but maybe Blair has snuck something into law. If there is no legal basis, their words here are what the lawyers call "merely oppressive".

There may still be time to avoid a visit if you call us immediately on 0870 241 5698 and buy a licence over the phone (paying by debit card, credit card or Direct Debit).

The threat here is the "visit", not the prosecution - they are implying that they'll do some sort of damage, protection-racket style.

If you have recently bought a licence, please accept our apologies and ignore this reminder.

Your faithfully

Michael Tunstall
TV Licensing Enforcement Manager

Hopefully they'll turn up when we're in London sometime. We'll record what happens, blog it, and submit it for that much-sought-after Pulitzer Prize (Snuff Category).