Paul Langton-Rogers

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

1) Can you confirm whether owning a TV without a digital TV receiver box and no way of receiving live broadcasts requires a TV license?

2) Can you confirm whether owning other equipment, such as a tablet or computer, capable of receiving live TV broadcasts via the Internet requires a TV license?

3) If you answer yes to 2), can you explain how and why (under current legislation, citing that legislation)?

4) Can you tell the public how many search warrants were issued by Magistrates Judges during the last 12 months against individuals suspected of watching live television unlawfully without a TV license?

5) Can you give us a break down of all the search warrants issued during the last 10 years by court, town or County.

5) Can you tell us how many of these warrants applications were supported by:

a) Actual physical evidence of unlawful use of a television to watch live broadcasts without a license held at the premises.

b) Evidence that is circumstantial in nature and doesn't meet the legal burden of proof normally required in a criminal proceeding (for example; statements purportedly made by defendants at the doorstep which may be ambiguous to a Magistrate - ie "I own a television" and "I watch television sometimes" or merely opinions of TV Licensing employees; for example the sight of an digital broadcast receiving antenna, satellite dish or cable TV box on a property, without supporting evidence that actual live broadcasts were being received, or that the property had equipment inside that is capable of receiving live broadcasts).

6) Can you tell the public, how many people in total you attempted to bring legal proceedings against for not having a TV license during the last 12 months?

7) Can you also tell us how many of those cases resulted in a successful prosecution?

8) Can you tell us the average fine, damages and court costs awarded over the last 12 months, and also over the last 10 years? If you do not have that data, can you tell us how many court cases, resulted in the maximum £1,000 fine being given to defendants for not having a TV license, over the same periods?

9) Can you tell us the legal and court costs of bringing all your cases before the court, during the last 12 months, and over the last 10 years?

10) Can you tell us, whether the BBC made a net gain or loss, as a result of bringing legal actions during the last months for TV license evasion during the last 12 months, and also over the last 10 years?

11) Can you tell us, of the successful prosecutions over those periods (12 months and 10 years), how many were for for:

a) Not having a TV license and watching live TV broadcasts unlawfully.
b) Not allowing TV Licensing to inspect a property, and obstruction of a search warrant.

12) Can you tell us, where you do not have the legal name of legal occupiers, how you normally find out their name, in order to make a search warrant application?

13) With regard to the last question, can you tell us, whether the procedure for obtaining a legal occupiers name is in legal compliance (ie does not breach data-sharing restrictions) under the Data Protection Act (in cases where you do not have any actual physical evidence to support any criminal act)?

14) Can you tell us how much of the BBC's revenues received during the last 12 months, and also over the last 10 years, came from commercial activities (ie from any source other than the TV License fee revenue, for example the overseas licensing of TV shows, premium subscription services, DVD/BlueRay sales, live performance ticket sales etc).

15) Can you give us a comparison of the above figure, in relation to the TV License revenue received for both periods (12 months and 10 years)?

16) Can you confirm whether the above commercial revenues generated by the BBC are retained entirely for use by the BBC itself, or whether these are shared with other non-Government broadcasting media, or else passed to the government?

17) How financially transparent is the BBC as a company funded by the tax-payer? Are the public able to access a full set of audited accounts of the BBC?

18) Can you tell us during the last 12 months and over the last 10 years, how much the BBC has spent on overseas flights?

19) Looking at the above figures, can you tell us:

a) How many of these flights were first class and non-economy class?
b) How many were on British Airways and other non-budget airlines?

20) Can you tell us how much real-estate property the BBC owns in the UK and overseas? Can you tell us approximately how much that property is worth at the most recent valuation?

21) Can you tell us how much the BBC Director-General earns annually?

22) Returning to TV Licensing and Capita plc, can you tell us how much the BBC pays Capita plc for running TV Licensing?

23) Can you confirm whether Capita's TV Licensing employees earn commissions in addition to salary?

24) Can you explain what regulations or regulatory oversight is in place on Capita and TV Licensing? Is there a body members of the public can bring complaints about Capita/TV Licensing to?

25) How many complaints has the BBC received directly concerning Capita/TV Licensing during the last 12 months, and over the last 10 years?

26) How may of these complaints, resulted in police complaints or criminal proceedings being made against Capita/TV Licensing, over the last 12 months, over the last 10 years?

27) The BBC states it is completely independent organisation from government, can you tell us then:

a) How many meetings took place between members of the government, and the BBC, during the last 12 months?
b) How many people on the BBC Trust are either members of the Government, or civil servants, employed by the government?

28) European law states that it is unlawful for EU Member State governments to prevent EU citizens from watching live news and television or media broadcasts by other member States. Can you explain then how current UK legislation requiring a license to watch European TV news services, is not in breach of EU law (for example, individuals who either cannot afford a TV License due to not having any income, or individuals who are not UK residents, but who spend significant periods living and working in the UK?)

29) Of the TV license fee revenue generated during the last 12 months:

a) How much of it, in percentage terms, was used by the BBC, and how much of it was retained by the government for other purposes?

b) How much of the TV license revenue was retained by Capita for collecting it, and enforcing TV licensing?

c) Do the BBC/Capita carry out an annual financial audit using a firm of chartered accountants concerning TV Licensing and the TV license fee?

d) Are these audited accounts in the public domain and easily accessible, as they normally are for other public owned corporations?

30) What procedures and methods of scrutiny are in place within the BBC and by government, to ensure that the BBC as a major UK news source, as well as a major producer and broadcaster of political-content programming, is fully independent from government, other political parties and political interest groups?

31) Does OfCom monitor the BBC for political bias and is there any specific regulatory or legislative power concerning the BBC and political bias, given its audience size and significantly larger resources from the TV license fee, relative to commercial rival TV and radio media?

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Mr Langton-Rogers

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as detailed in your email below. Your request was received on 1st June 2016. We will deal with your request as promptly as possible, and at the latest within 20 working days. If you have any queries about your request, please contact us at the address below.

The reference number for your request is RFI20161092

Kind regards

The Information Policy & Compliance Team

BBC Freedom of Information
BC2 B6, Broadcast Centre
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TP

www.bbc.co.uk/foi
Email: [BBC request email]

Tel: 020 8008 2882

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Peter Jones left an annotation ()

I'd brace yourself for a knock-back here as you're asking them to create answers to your questions (e.g. generate new information) rather than release existing information (as the Act intends).
I think you'll find the answers to most of those questions on our blog - http://tv-licensing.blogspot.co.uk
Over the years we have picked away at the BBC to provide a lot of information about its sinister TV Licensing operation.
For convenience I shall summarise a couple of key points we have learnt over the years:
- The BBC will never release information about the number/success of search warrants, because the numbers are very small indeed. Search our blog and you'll find some statistics.
- Any prosecution costs awarded by the court are retained by Capita and not paid to the BBC. In our opinion Capita makes a healthy profit from these costs - it is not uncommon for them to amass £10k-£20k in a half-day court session.
- The BBC will never release information about the number/proportion of unsuccessful prosecution cases. If you compare the number of convictions (MoJ data) to the number of "evaders caught" (TVL data) then you'll quickly realise that only about 40% of "evaders caught" are actually convicted. TVL considers anyone who gives a prosecution statement to be an "evader caught", even though nothing has been proven against them.

Paul Langton-Rogers left an annotation ()

Thanks for your rely Peter and the information shared which is really interesting.

TV Licensing run by Capita is a private commercial enterprise many would argue has major conflicts of interest in being given the task of enforcement by the BBC without any clear regulatory body or framework over it. It's a company lacking ethics and has been proven time and time again outright deceitful and criminal in its methods. Interestingly, we see the same conduct in other areas of Capita's business where they have government contracts (for instance disability assessment and disability benefits) - people have reported outright lies, and misleading statements appearing in reports written by Capita employees.

As it stands, TV Licensing's approach is "suspected criminal unless proven innocent" with the burden of proof which is normally always on the accuser to prove a case in criminal law. This goes against the basic tenet which underpins criminal law and the right to a fair hearing:

"presumed innocent until proven otherwise"

The right to freedom from persecution by a government, the right to a free hearing trial, and the right to be not accused of crimes without evidence, are all basic human rights.

Why then is Capita-TV Licensing acting contrary to this and expecting innocent law-abiding citizens to allow complete strangers working for a private company into their homes? Refusal puts people at more intense harassment by Capita/TV Licensing/BBC, and sometimes leading to a court summons.

I have seen innocent people fined, and prosecuted for "obstruction of a warrant" even when it turned out they did not watch live television broadcasts. And the warrant was obtained on very flimsy circumstantial evidence, which definitely would not be grounds for issuing a search warrant if most Judges applied proper judgment on whether a crime has been committed.

This cannot be right or fair, in a modern democratic country, where people are prosecuted like that and have to prove their innocence of any wrong-doing. And where search warrants are being issued that invade peoples privacy, without any criminal evidence to justify it.

It also raises the question, if Capita-TV Licensing have all this detection technology they keep telling us about, which can detect if a TV is being used to watch live broadcasts...why aren't they using it, instead of relying on search warrants, and doorstep harassment?

The government already has introduced legislation requiring ISP's to retain meta-data on Internet users. So really TV Licensing you would think, should be able to tell whether someone is accessing live TV streaming websites from that meta-data and shouldn't need to harass people, if their TV detection equipment doesn't detect anything.

I think if nothing else, my request should hopefully make people think a little more about these issues, and about the BBC & Capita-TV Licensing relationship, and how those companies are run, the lack of accountability, financial and legal transparency, or any proper regulation.

People may also want to question whether it's in the public interest (and even fair, practical or sensible) to allow the BBC to continue being funded via a TV license fee, when it does so many commercial activities, and there's so much waste within the BBC itself. Not to mention the danger of political bias, for such a powerful media corporation that relies entirely on a government for its funding.

How much of the fee revenue is actually used by the BBC and how much by the government. Is the TV license fee really a stealth tax on the poorest in our society?

Should we really be having a TV license in the 21st century? Why isn't the BBC run on a proper commercial footing like every other media broadcaster. And does Capita-TV Licensing need closer scrutiny and regulation over it, due to the amount of complaints and evidence now appearing online of harassment and very unprofessional conduct by employees of Capita. The BBC continues to evade questions on these issues, and according to a review of TV Licensing and the TV license commissioned by the government, is actually lobbying the government for even MORE enforcement powers.

TV licensing being run by Capita (given its track record, why isn't that contract under review and open for competing bids from other companies?) and the way the BBC is funded in the 21st century raises so many questions, and really the public has a right to ask these question and start a debate on the future of the BBC.

Consider this: Practically any device with an Internet connection and browser is capable of receiving TV broadcasts without a digital TV receiver. That make everyone without a TV license who owns those devices and has an Internet connection, a potential criminal unless they can prove otherwise, according to Capita-TV Licensing's current methodology? Should all those people have to allow a private company into their homes to check over those devices for any evidence of live TV broadcast streaming?

And what if computers are used for home and business use? The Data Protection Act states only authorized "data controllers" should be accessing that equipment if it contains third party personal data. I wouldn't consider an employee of a private company an "authorized data controller", so really Capita's actions are putting home-business or people who work for a company and hold third-party personal data into a criminal situation.

It's quite absurd. Many countries around the world are appalled at the harassment and having to let a private company search your home and being accused of things you haven't done, which seems to go against basic human rights.

Peter Jones left an annotation ()

Apologies Paul if this sounds a bit more preachy than intended, but there will be people reading this who don't realise the full situation.

Legally speaking the BBC is the Television Licensing Authority by virtue of the Broadcasting Act 1990. The BBC is fully responsible for all aspects of the administration, collection and enforcement of the TV licence fee. It does this under the guise of TV Licensing. The BBC contracts a number of private companies to fulfil its TV licence duties, most notably Capita Business Services Ltd, which acts as the TV Licensing operations contractor. The BBC imposes strict targets on Capita in terms of the number of "evaders" caught and prosecuted. Capita, in turn, provides a financial incentive to its employees for collecting evidence of TV licence evasion. Capita expects every one of its "visiting officers" to take one prosecution statement every hour of the working week, which we consider very difficult to achieve by legitimate methods. Any "officer" falling short of the mark faces the real prospect of disciplinary action. Capita also performs TV licence prosecutions on behalf of the BBC. Capita also retains any costs generated as a result of these prosections.

The whole thing is wide open to abuse and in our opinion a lot of the prosecutions instigated by Capita are done so on the most spurious and unsubstantiated of evidence. Capita realise that most people will be clueless about how the TV licence works and loathe to appear in court, so many will just plead guilty even if they aren't. The BBC is fully aware of our concerns, but isn't bothered at all about the conduct of Capita.

I could rant all day about the corruption of TV Licensing, but the nice people at WDTK.com would not thank me for it. If you'd like to discuss this further please email me - tvlicensingblog (at) gmail (dot) com

Paul Langton-Rogers left an annotation ()

Not at all Peter, I really appreciate your quick response and for sharing your insights and findings.

When I threw all these questions at the BBC (it's good to make them face these questions, regularly, don't you think), I was fully expecting a brush-off or being stoned-walled on the majority of them.. for the reasons you covered. We cannot expect an unethical and often criminal organisation (I consider the BBC complicit in criminal activity) to be honest and straight-forward in replying to Freedom of Information requests.

We're turning the tables here and applying the BBC's methodology, they're guilty and the FOI request is their opportunity to prove otherwise . We're saying the BBC is not operating within the law, is politically biased and and operating unethically and not in the public interest.

Prove us wrong BBC?!

If we can find out a little bit more information though, that's a good result. We are trying to shine a light on the criminality you covered quite clearly in your last post. If the BBC declines this request entirely or skips the serious questions posed, then it really just reinforces the allegations we're levying at them.

We *know* this is going on everyday in the name of the BBC. A public funded, private-owned) corporation which claims to be a totally independent oganisation (yet is operating with government funding and under a shield of government granted legislative powers).

If we can get some people sharing their experiences here, or opinions on the legal and ethical dimensions to the topics we've raised, that would be a good result, even if the BBC provide very little information to this request.

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Rogers,

 

Please find attached the response to your request for information,
reference RFI20161092

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Information Rights

 

Information Rights, BBC Legal

BC2A4, Broadcast Centre

201 Wood Lane

London W12 7TP, UK

 

Website: [1]www.bbc.co.uk/foi

Email: [2]mailto:[BBC request email]

Tel: 020 8008 2882

Fax: 020 8008 2398

 

 

 

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Robert Leask left an annotation ()

Will you be breaking this down into smaller chunks of questions? Two or three should be easy for them.

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