Escape Your Television - Diary of an Addict

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Day 30

Just a quick post this time as I've finally managed to bring myself to cancel my Sky subscription which currently stands at about £20 ($38) a month.... well, at least I phoned them up with the intention but that department closed at 11pm and it's 11:30pm now. However, a friendly Scotsman working a late shift at Sky confirmed something I'd heard about today, that they're now offering a free package. It's not advertised on their website but apparently if I cancel my paid subscription it'll cut down to about 30 channels and some radio stations in competition with the new digital Freeview boxes which are now available. I'll still be able to get BBC News 24 which is handy on occasion and my girlfriend will still be able to watch her soaps.
So, I'll do that tomorrow and save myself £240 per year.... that'll take the sting out of next Christmas!

At the start of this experiment, one month ago, I had half-heartedly considered getting rid of the television all-together but I don't think my girlfriend would forgive me.... also I still like to watch the odd DVD and catch the news and weather from time to time. Apart from that, I'm pleased to say it's pretty redundant. Unfortunately, in the UK it seems that physically removing the TV from the house is not as simple as one might think.

Every household that watches television must pay for an annual TV license of £116 ($218) and as soon as I cancel the bank's direct debit I'll get a threatening letter with a demand for payment. The Television licensing Authority (TVLA) are there to collect this tax and assume, wrongly, that every house in the country has a TV and is liable to pay. If you genuinely don't have a TV in the house or only use it for playing DVDs / console games you don't technically have to pay but the TVLA will send threatening letters on a weekly/monthly basis, followed by doorstep visits from Enforcement Officers demanding to search the property and failure to allow this will result in a court summons where you need to prove your innocence.

That's right, with no evidence of a crime being committed, they will demand to be allowed to search your house (the living room, kitchen, bathroom, dining room and bedrooms) for any illicit device or court action will follow!

As one person put it :
"I have refused entry for the search, which means that harassment is constant: a letter every other month and two separate visits from Enforcement officers within the last six months. I strongly object to this invasion of my privacy: I believe that to enter someone's private property uninvited requires a compelling reason to do so. The "Well if we didn't inspect, everyone would say they didn't have a TV, and then where would we be?" response from the licensing authority simply isn't good enough. There are many activities in this country that require a license. Yet I have never received letters from the local authority asking why I don't have a license to run a pet shop, I have never opened my door to find a police officer asking to search my house for an unlicensed gun, and I have never been threatened by Customs and Excise for not possessing a license to import and sell tobacco. But these authorities would be quick to inspect if they had REASONABLE suspicion that I was doing any of those things without a license. Why should TV licensing be any different?"

Here's a link to a few people who've thought to put their experiences with the TVLA on the internet.

This is one is particularly worthy of note
(the links are at the bottom of each page).

So, despite the fact it might make for a more interesting blog, I can do without TVLA harassment for the rest of my life and I think it's better just to keep the TV and keep paying my tax.

On a completely different note, another interesting fact from the book I've been reading (thanks to all the spare time from turning the TV-off) follows:
"Incidentally, disturbance from cosmic background radiation is something we have all experienced. Tune your television to any channel it doesn't receive, and about 1 percent of the dancing static you see is accounted for by this ancient remnant of the Big Bang. The next time you complain that there is nothing on, remember that you can always watch the birth of the universe."


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