Wednesday, 29 December 2004

Britain's older poll tax

Jane Galt is amazed to discover Britain’s television police, responsible for ensuring the BBC gets its £121 a year from TV-watching Britons—even if they never watch the BBC. From the article:

The fee is very much a part of British life. It is a criminal offense for anyone with a television set not to pay it, whether they watch the BBC or not. Fee-evasion cases make up 12 percent of the caseload in magistrates’ courts. Although most evaders are fined, 20 people were imprisoned for nonpayment last year.

The BBC took in £3.9 billion ($7.5 billion) from the fee in 1993, but 5.7 percent of television owners still failed to pay. TV Licensing regularly carries out campaigns to warn them about the consequences of inaction that say, for instance, “Get one or get done” – “getting done” being slang for getting caught.

Enforcement officers visit homes and businesses about three million times a year. They have a variety of weapons at hand, including a law that requires retailers to notify the government whenever someone buys a television; a database with TV-owning information about 28 million Britons; and specially equipped vans and hand-held devices that can detect unlawful television-watching.

The predecessor of the TV licence, the radio licence, went away in 1971. For more details, visit the TV Licensing website, where you can learn about the TV licence in 12 different languages.


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Reminds me of the Monty Python skit, “Eric the Half-a-Bee” in which the fellow with the odd pet notes that he had acquired a cat license because the “man from the cat-detector van” had told him he needed one.

I am thinking that living in Europe would drive me nuts.

I am thinking that living in Europe would drive me nuts.

I’m not sure if it’s still true, but it used to be that if you moved in Germany, you had to inform the police in both your old precinct and the new one of your address change. So they’d know where to find you.


Yes, I have heard of this before from a friend who was Scottish. It gets very ridiculous, and we yanks would definitely be screaming for a second Boston Tea Party if that kind of ridiculousness were adopted here. I mean, the satellite companies can’t even ensure people don’t steal satellite signals.

Granted, it’s a lot easier to police those little islands than it would be here in the U.S.

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