Dear Mr TV Licensing. The Ermine has no TV licence…

Because he doesn’t watch live TV. What part of that do you not understand?

It’s not often that the Repo Man tries to call at Ermine towers, but one of your boys visited this Sunday, while the Ermine is laying out a printed circuit board, so no, I don’t appreciate the gratuitous interruption to something that needs concentration and keeping a load of spatial stuff in mind. But you’re also cheeky enough to want to come inside my house because you want me to prove that I am not lying to you. Well F*** off.

I’m not having you search my house for it. An Englishman’s home is his castle etc. And I’m not pulling down my aerials either. I may want to use them one day, in which case I’ll pay out. All I have to do to be legally absolved of the need to buy a TV licence is not watch live TV as it is broadcast. And I don’t do that. It’s really no great deprivation, despite the apparent incredulity. One of the joys of becoming financially independent is you usually get to do that  by living a bit differently to the way other people do. This is one of them.

There are ways of looking for signals leaking from TV gear in use. It’s a lot harder now those damn Europeans with their pesky EMC regulations mandate lower emissions from  consumer electronics. I wouldn’t imagine it’s economically viable for TV licensing to have people capable of driving the gear and making sense of the results. And it doesn’t look like this

And it doesn't look like this you bunch of chumps
And it doesn’t look like this you bunch of chumps

There is a satellite dish and a TV aerial on the outside of my house. You are very welcome to park a Transit van on the public highway and point a dish at the Satellite quad LNB and look for the 11GHz local oscillator, and use a Yagi aerial to look for the Freeview local oscillator leaking from the TV aerial, it’s about 39MHz off the wanted channel if I remember right. Take yourself down to Livingston Hire and book out something suitable, the Rohde & Schwartz FSV13 would probably see you right. If you pay my consulting fee I’ll show you how to use it 🙂

You won’t find any signal, because I don’t watch TV, there’s nothing connected to these aerials. I do still have the Humax Freesat box I talked about a while back but it is in a box in my loft – the resale value is sod all and I might one day change my mind. It’s not hurting anybody and I’m not using it.

I’m not one of the rabid refuseniks who doesn’t think there should even be a TV licence, though the vexatious rudeness of TV licensing could turn me into one. There may be other better ways to fund the BBC but to be honest that’s not one of the problems in the world I give too much headspace to. The reason I don’t need a TV licence isn’t that I don’t watch TV, but I don’t have any way of picking out what’s worth watching ahead of time, other than people telling me. Obviously they have to watch TV first – thank you Under The Money Tree and Mr Squirrel for the last couple of recommends. I can’t abide TV series of the sort most people really rate like Breaking Bad or The Wire. I don’t do sport.  If I am interested in someone’s recommendation  I watch it on iPlayer or the ITV/C4 equivalents. There’s not much point in me shelling out £145 a year for the privilege of being able to do something I don’t do. If I needed to pay for iPlayer I’d live without. I do vaguely miss the TV news but it’s hardly as if the Web is without news, for instance if I want to see some people fighting over buying a television set then due to the magic of the new-fangled intertubes I can do just that. I think this is my favourite clip of Britons behaving badly, though I do note on some of the videos the gentlemen of the press outnumber the punters. The weather forecast is that much better on the Web, and if I want cat videos then there’s always Youtube.

I do have a TV, though not the big one from this post – that went to the county dump a while back. Mrs Ermine uses it to watch DVDs. It is so old it doesn’t do Freeview or HDMI, though it has a nice analogue tuner showing many varieties of snow. I was even toying with getting a bigger TV monitor, preferably without fighting for it, because a 20 inch 4:3 machine at not even SD resolution isn’t that easy to see from a distance[ref]I can see the damn thing perfectly well but it hardly fills the field of view :)[/ref] and does lose the effect somewhat. But then I’d have to get a secondhand stereo for the sound because that’s half the story and it would end up in some ghastly version of the Diderot effect. And I’d like to go HD but couldn’t find anywhere to rent HD movies without being sucked into a subscription, and movies aren’t important enough in my life to subscribe to anything. DVDs seem to be £1 a go PAYG from the library, and you can’t argue with that.

TV Licensing are a vexatiously rude bunch of tossers

The reason TV Licensing get such a load of shit from people is that they are bully-boys. There’s a tradition in this country that you are innocent until proven guilty, but in TV Licensing start from the assumption that nobody in 21st century Britain can live without the glass teat feeding the lifeblood of consumerism directly into their face. Despite there being the competing multimedia firehose pointed at their face that you’re now looking at, and the smartphone for da yoof. So you are guilty and they address you as such. It starts off with the wheedling


TV Licensing -> Ermine after 1 month  Shurely Shome mishtake, Sire has omitted to renew?

NO, you numbskull, I don’t watch live TV because it consumes too much of my precious time to find what I want, so I wait for others to tell me, OK?




Ermine to TVL – no, I am not telling you anything, this is something I am no longer doing. I’m not paying money, wasting time on your phone system, giving you my phone number or email address to hassle, and the onus is not on me to prove my innocence. The onus is on you to prove I am doing something you can charge me for. As I walk down the street I can see lots of people’s TV screens. You are more than welcome to see if you can see mine from the public highway. Maybe I should get me one of these TV simulators  to make your pay-per-hit Capita dudes have a rush from the thrill of the chase, eh?

TV Licensing -> Ermine after 2 months, random mailed intimidation and final demands.

Random unjustified aggro by post
Random unjustified TV Licensing aggro by post

I haven’t had this sort of aggravation since Thatcher’s Poll Tax in the early 1990s!

TV Licensing -> Ermine after 4 months  Up close and personal we want to inspect your house to make sure you aren’t watching TV.

Eh? I haven’t ever had so much bloody grief for something I’m not doing and don’t need to do. It’s not 1984 guys, where you get into deep doo-doo for switching the damn telescreen off! Chill out and piss off.


It appears that I will never be shot of this grief, this bloke has been harassed for the last 8 years…. Still, saving ~£150 a year is worth some aggro, the opportunity cost is a respectable  amount in red wine and coffee or 3 DVD rentals a week!


35 thoughts on “Dear Mr TV Licensing. The Ermine has no TV licence…”

  1. A very familiar story… just make sure if you ever buy any equipment that’s capable of receiving a TV signal, even as a gift for a friend, that you give a false address, otherwise the whole process will start again!


  2. I would enjoy antagonising them. Look forward to future updated posts to see how much taxpayers money they will waste trying to catch you out.

    Definitely don’t waste any time or money phoning or replying to them.


  3. Havn’t had a licence for the entire 9 years since moving out of my parent’s basement. In that tim I’ve had literally hundreds of letters with various degrees of misleading or misrepresented information attempting to intimidate.

    I have also had the joys of an ‘inspection visit’ a couple of times. Both have been told that they are more than welcome to come inside and disrupt my life if/when they return with a search warrant. It seems Capita have yet to take me up on that generous offer.

    9 years Ermine.. I suspect this will be an endurance you will face for a long time to come.


  4. Yeah, take enjoyment out of pissing them off!

    We don’t have a TV license either. The TV only ever gets turned on to watch DVDs (and even that is very, VERY rare).

    The problem is (and this is a horrible fact about our country in the 21st century), 95% of the time they will be right. “Everyone” watches TV is not too far off the truth and I imagine that there are a LOT of people not paying out there.


  5. I don’t have a TV or a license. When Crapita (Capita – the enforcement arm of the BBC) visit I greet them with a cheerful “Collecting for your pedophile ring?” They have now stopped visiting. Interesting point, Crapita like hiring ex-cons for their intimidation potential. Detector van evidence has never been used in an English court. They rely on self-incrimination.


  6. I do watch TV and I pay for a licence. When I moved house I rang their money-raking 0845 number to tell them, as per their published instructions. I still got two threatening letters from them over the course of time as I apparently did not have a licence, even though I did. I was going to make a constructive complaint to them, but then realised meh, really what was the point.


  7. @James & @Mike They never informed me of this. It would probably work for people who haven’t had a licence I think they just don’t believe people stop watching TV. I never trusted them with my email address, always used the post office paypoint. That’s why I never used the noTV part of their website, I just didn’t want endless ‘we don’t believe you’ spam.

    @all – it’s obvious in retrospect but I hadn’t realised the PF community was such a bunch of TV refuseniks 🙂


  8. “they just don’t believe people stop watching TV” – Funny because it’s true.

    I am still somewhat connected to the glass teat although my only current cost is the License (and any time wasted watching rubbish that I thought might have been good!)

    I think having basic TV + Netflix or something similar is a pretty good compromise, there are some good doco’s on there that won’t be on iPlayer etc…

    Also I’d imagine once you are FI and have more time on your hands it probably becomes less necessary to have the live connection, when you get home from work and are knackered and just want to switch something on for an hour or two to zone out then having to muddle through iPlayer to find something is a hassle you don’t need. And therein lies the rub… Get up -> Work -> Eat -> TV (Consume) -> Sleep -> Get up…. To break this cycle maybe the TV is one of the key elements to remove.

    Like I say I don’t watch a lot of it and am currently happy paying the licence, but am also not against cancelling it at some point in the future. Cheers for an eye opening article on the harassment I may receive if that ever comes to pass! 🙂


  9. @ Ermine, James

    I filled in exactly the same form after our 15 year old TV broke last year and I have never had any further contact from the TV licensing people. They simply take you off their list

    Actually you’ve got no cause to gripe at them about this


  10. @Neverland

    Why should we need to go out of our way to contact a private company just to inform them that we do not need their services and will not be breaking the law?

    It was asked in parliament a few years ago and confirmed that you are under no legal obligation to tell Capita that you do not need a licence. Perhaps therefore they should stop treating people like criminals who choose to exercise this legal right. As Ermine pointed out; It’s guilty until proven innocent with them.


  11. @Early retirement guy

    All in all I wish this country would take a bit of a firmer line about tax evasion in this country … then I’d probably be paying a lot less tax myself

    What that firmer line would look like would be the TV licensing/congestion charge regime

    Estimated tax gap lost to tax avoidance/evasion: £32bn (2010/11)

    Estimated amount lost to benefits fraud: £3bn (2013/14)

    Total UK income tax receipt – c. £175bn (2013/14)


  12. I was hassled by them 5 years ago. but this letter worked like a charm. I got the legal stuff off the internet – as far as I know it’s still current:

    “In view of the continuing decline in the quality, honesty, and objectivity of current TV broadcasting, especially from the BBC. I do not intend to purchase a TV, nor to watch or record live TV broadcasting from any source. My main interest is in news, and I find internet sources are far superior to TV, and I now use them exclusively. I do not now, and will not in the future, require a TV licence.

    This letter informs you of the situation at this address. However, take note that I strongly object to the tone and the content of the letters I have been sent, with their implications of guilt, and their implied threat of investigation and prosecution. In particular, the statement that “Our Enforcement Officers will soon be authorised to visit your property and take your statement under the relevant criminal law” in the most recent letter is entirely without foundation in law as written, and I regard the letter, and any future such letters or attempted visits, as being contrary to Standard Note SN/HA/1148 “Television Licence Checks” from the House of Commons Library. You will therefore not send me any further apparently threatening letters or any correspondence other than a direct reply to this letter. Your officers or employees will not call or attempt to call at my address; the normal implied right of access will be denied, as in view of this letter any such attempt will be regarded as harassment.”


  13. @Neverland I absolutely take your general point that this is a #firstworldproblem. It’s possible that you, James and Mike had a better experience because you actively ceased a TV licence, which implicitly fills in the I don’t have a TV form. I passively let mine run out, and actively seeking a refund is probably the takeaway for anyone wanting to do this. It’s living intentionally, it save you money, and you don’t have to deal with vexatious rudeness for a while. What’s not to like?

    However, they are ‘king rude, and sending oiks to ring my doorbell and demand to enter is obnoxious and it annoys me. It’d wind you up if I send my goons to disturb your Sunday and ask to come in to check you aren’t doing something illegal. They’re persistently rude in the post, they’re up close and personal rude, and if you were that rude to people in your life you wouldn’t have any teeth left.

    No, it’s not hugely important, it’s not earth-shattering, but that sort of rudeness demands equal rudeness back because of the nasty taste in the mouth left after being shat on. Meekly filling in a form please sir, stop bullying me is not how business should be conducted. If they had sent the link with the first letter maybe I would have done that. But no, it was the second letter sent with menaces. And ever since I kneed the school bully in the nuts 40 years ago despite it being against the unwritten rules of school fighting I have a poor tolerance for bullies. If you look at where that page goes they want to “interview” you in your home. They’re not the frickin’ law.

    In all cases, we may need a couple of minutes of your time

    As it is our duty to ensure that everyone in the UK who needs a licence has one, we may visit your address to check that no licence is required. It’s unfortunately necessary to do this, as when we make contact on these visits, almost one in five people are found to need a TV Licence. Please be assured that this is a routine visit, and will take no more than a few minutes. If we find during the visit that you do in fact need a licence, you’ll need to pay the full licence fee, and you could risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

    and they will harass you again in three years time. For not doing something.

    There seems to be something peculiar about the ‘entertainment’ industry that makes it rude to its customers. I recall a time when you could stick a tape in the machine, the studio logo would come up and you’d be watching the movie. Now there’s FBI warnings and aggravation and threats that you can’t ice. At least home taping is killing music was written on the inner sleeve, it wasn’t the first track on the record. Do these people not have mothers to teach them basic manners? This is supposed to be ‘entertainment’, it’s a fiction factory, it’s something you do for ‘fun’.

    As for tax, well, follow the power that follows the money, although you can only really moan about evasion. Avoidance is absolutely fine and encouraged. Your ISAs and SIPPs are tax avoidance, usually, and so are mine 😉

    @TFS I believe that commercial TV has a very insidious and toxic influence. I never grew up with TV – I was 16 before my parents got their first B&W TV, and for the next couple of years we got away with the B&W fulls size TVs I’d pick out of skips and get going by swapping parts because people were throwing them out in the late 1970s. I therefore never watched much TV and never used it to chill when getting back from work, though as a student I watched enough as students do 😉

    Even working in it as a studio engineer in the 1980s didn’t get me used to watching that much. It absolutely staggers me that old gits like me are meant to watch 5+ hours of TV each and every flippin’ day!. Even as a student/young adult I’d probably have managed that in a week. For all the stick that children get about TV they only watch 2 hours a day it seems.

    TV is insidious in creating wants and much TV sells a fiction, else you wouldn’t watch it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, humans have been storytellers and listeners since we gathered round prehistoric campfires. It’s how we shared our hopes and dreams, and music, theatre, film, TV and video games are how we do this now. But now those stories often have an agenda of creating wants, and feed that into you mind as it’s idling and I can’t help suspect something sticks. TV abstinence seems big in the PF community, there’s at least a correlation if not a causation.

    I explicitly bought a Humax freesat box to be able to easily skip the ads – I haven’t watched commercial TV live for years – just started watching it on record-pause 15 mins after the start and I’d catch up by the end. Although it solved the ads problem it didn’t solve the finding useful stuff in between problem – the Web is the best thing that’s ever happened to TV in my view 🙂 Other people watch it to tell me if something was any good and iPlayer et all show me the programme.

    @tortoiseman – I like it. And indeed after I have wasted a bit more of these douchebags’ time I’ll use it, bar the owning a TV. It appears possession of the kit isn’t the problem, it’s using it for live TV, and I don’t want to deprive Mrs Ermine of her DVDs!


  14. @ERG Crikey – thank you, I’ve obviously been asleep at the switch here, apologies to Neverland and all of us with ISAs and SIPPs (and those of us lucky enough to still have ILSCs, eh).

    When the heck did that change?!


  15. I’ve no idea, only spotted it myself about a month ago. Does mean that we can no longer sing the joys of tax avoidance but push for tax planning instead.

    Personally I’d have rather stuck to avoiding tax instead of now planning it. Sounds much more satisfying.


  16. This is the rant I’ve always wanted to write. Bravo, sir, bravo! 🙂

    Must be fifteen years since I opened the door to a guy who shoved a bit of paper in my face and said “*This* is what we’re going to do to you”. It was a shared front door, he didn’t even ask my name first. I went and fetched my TV licence to show him and he left.

    Later on I had a DVD recorder delivered to my work address. Had to call them up to stop getting accusations of operating an unlicenced TV at the work address. Of course I already had a licence at home.

    Then I lived in a flat which was one of six in a converted pair of terraced houses. No one could agree on the exact addresses (no 3? no 5? nos 3-5? Top floor flat? Second floor flat?). TV licensing felt the need to accuse me of not having a licence because I had it at one form of the address then they decided another form was definitive. I used to get a thrill of rage from walking past huge billboard ads touting how we were all on their database of every address in the UK and how there was no escape.

    I’m not enamoured of the BBC and it being funded by what I will loosely call a tax, but my major beef is with the attitude of the TV licensing body, as you say.

    I’ve seriously toyed with stopping paying – I watch about one live programme a month and could live without it – but haven’t wanted to go into the ins and outs of (eg) owning a TV (with built-in Freeview tuner) while the communal aerial socket is a metre away and only the absence of a coax cable makes me a ‘non-viewer’. Maybe when I hit FI I’ll feel up to the potential aggro.


  17. To all you rebels who don’t pay for their TV licence but who continue to watch programmes on iPlayer, what do you think provides funds for those programmes to be made in the first place?

    Yep, the TV licence!

    If you’ve ever watched programmes via ITV Player and find yourself having to sit through crappy adverts (you can’t skip past them), you’ll see why I don’t mind paying for my licence.

    Of course, I’d prefer to pay nothing, but it’s there and I’d rather not waste any time or energy having to deal with being hassled for payment.

    So yes, I pay my licence so that you lot can watch for free!

    I hope you all get hassled to hell by Capita but bravo if you can get away with it, haha! 🙂


  18. @Weenie Eh? I’m not challenging that the licence fee goes to making programmes, I’m perfectly aware of that. It’s still a non-sequitur to say I should pay to be able to do something i’m not doing.

    The sticker price (and ads) go towards paying to make the Guardian newspaper. I haven’t bought a copy of the Guardian for several years now, but I don’t expect Alan Rusbridger to send his goons to knock on my door, call me a liar to my face at my own home and demand to come in.

    There are well-known ways to paywall internet content, some of them actually work. If it’s important to the BBC to get rid of the rebels they know what to do.


  19. I do not have and never have had a television and yet I am regularly harassed with threatening letters from the Bristol Licensing Authority. The most recent one featured November`s calendar with the 20 circled in red and, emblazoned across the top of the letter, in large bold type, was the threat “We`re giving you 10 days to get correctly licensed. We will not visit you for 10 days but you must get correctly licensed.” They refuse to accept that I AM correctly licesnsed, as I don`t own a television. I strongly object to the word `corrrecly`. At my own expense I phone the 0845 number to inform them as such, but they insist that for all they know I may have moved on and someone else could be living here….unlicensed! Would it not be considerably cheaper for them to look up the electoral roll than to send me fortnightly threatening letters?


  20. Ermine, you have got off lightly as I have been suffering their harrassment for well over 30 years. They`re nothing if not persistent, but how much has it cost them in postage over all that time? Maybe I will be perverse and throw the entire system by purchasing a television on my 75th birthday, when no licence will be required.


  21. I had a TV licence until broadcasting of analogue TV stopped. When it stopped, I claimed and received a refund for the remaining months of my TV licence.

    Since then I’ve had lots of letters from them. I still have the last that that is headed “Your address has been scheduled for a visit by an Enforcement Officer”.


  22. @Jacqueline that sounds rough – sounds like communicating with TVL doesn’t so any better than blanking the suckers!

    @Bruce – looks like your experience puts the kibosh on the advantage of ceasing a licence theory 😦

    Maybe TVL target different postcodes differently!


  23. So based on the new HMRC definitions the activities of all non licence holders fall into one of three categories:

    1. Deciding not to watch any TV = Tax planning

    2. Watching programmes on iPlayer or using other “perfectly legal” loopholes = Tax avoidance

    3. Watching TV and hoping you don’t get caught = Tax evasion


  24. @mistersquirrel – to be honest I don’t really care about the £150. What really pissed me off was oiks coming to my land and calling me a liar to my face. That sort of boorish rudeness should be discouraged in all its forms.

    Not only is there the unprecedented reversal of the burden of proof, but for demanding that I take proactive steps at my cost and aggro to inform them of my ceasing the use of their service In which case they may or may not stop the harassment. If they deem me a fine upstanding member of society they’ll let go, but if they don’t they’ll keep coming, as the experiences on this thread seem to indicate. There seems no reliable way of getting away from these tosspots or knowing whether I am in the good guys or fundamentally guilty until proven innocent at my cost.

    In that case I will make sure I cost them a lot of money – by doing n’owt. It must cost them a packet to send oiks out. Although it’s difficult, there are ways they could find to see if I am using a TV without being to bloody rude (with the exception of live iPlayer). Rather than pay for engineering smarts they rely on rudeness, ignorance and intimidation.

    Intellectually I take your point re the information, though my personal use of media would probably not be worth £150 p.a. in this day and age where so much is available alsewhere. It is the indexing function I am short of, not the media.

    @BTS indeed – and 2 and 3 seem to end up in the same dark place 😉


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