I do not drive a car, I do not have a dog and I do not own a gun. Not surprisingly I do not have a driving licence, a dog licence or a gun licence. The authorities that check these things do not constantly pester me to find out if I am driving without a licence, keeping a dog in secret, or possessing an unlicensed firearm.
But the television licensing authority feels it necessary to send me nagging letters asking why my address does not appear on their database of TV licence-holders. The idea that there are actually people who prefer not to watch television seems beyond their comprehension.
We may be eccentric, we may be missing out on important news and information but we are not actually breaking the law by not owning and using a television. However, I imagine it won’t be long before people like us will have to band together and form an association of Telly-free households. We are probably fewer in number than the Vegans or the Monster Raving Loonies but as a minority we should have some protection.
I am approaching my seventy-fifth year, the age at which I can have a “free” TV licence – should I so wish. I didn’t expect the TV licensing people to simply notify me of my new status, though surely there must be some national database of names of addresses of pensioners over 75. That would be too simple. After all I had to request my bus pass, it wasn’t just sent to me when I reached pensionable age.
So I searched for the TV licensing Authority website, imagining that all I’d need to do was send them details of name, address and date of birth – perhaps a photocopy of my birth certificate. Nothing as simple as that.
Pages and pages of forms, all assuming that I wanted to cancel an existing TV licence or the part of the payment relating to the time after I reached 75. I ploughed through many pages of this garbage and even filled in a form – I think – explaining my rather unusual circumstances in that I was applying for something I didn’t want or need simply because I had been told it was available free and I ought to have a bit of paper to say I didn’t need it!
It beats Charles Dickens creation “The Office of Circumlocution” into a cocked hat!
I wonder how much it costs the treasury to administer this unwieldy bureaucracy, not only the collection of annual licence fees and the receipts for payments, but the vans going round to check on those dangerous lunatics who watch Coronation Street or Strictly come Dancing without a licence! I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the cost of policing the TV licence fiasco comes to more than the sum collected.
It is obvious to me that the licence fee is a crazy way to pay for public service broadcasting. The BBC is a public service As such it should be funded out of general taxation, like other services schools, hospitals, libraries and the emergency services. You know it makes sense. Alas the government don’t.