TV Detector Vans

Iain McFadyen mcfadyenusa at
Sun Jul 15 12:08:31 CDT 2007

The British are probably the only ones who do this. 

It dates back to the time when the BBC were the only UK TV broadcasters. Their
costs were covered by a receiver license. 

BBC TV channels are 'commercial free' , so there is no revenue from

When the independent television station started up, they were advised that
they would get none of the revenue from the receiver license, and so they had
to earn income by adding advertising.

However, the old law states that if you have a TV receiver capable of
receiving any BBC TV channel, and installed in such a way that it can be
activated and viewed, then a license is required. 

It is NOT strictly true that if you own a TV receiver you pay the license fee:
I bought a TV receiver in 1985 when I moved back to London on an assignment. I
soon discovered that I was required to work l.o.o.n.g hours at the office,
typically between 1pm and 1am every day, and I had virtually no opportunity to
watch TV! So, I didn't renew my license.

I had seen the Commer vans touring London in the early evening hours, and was
not going to take the risk of a very hefty fine, even though I was hardly ever
home at the peak viewing hours when they did their tours.

I pushed the TV on its cart into a back bedroom, put it in a spot where the
6ft cord would not reach an outlet, and put an upturned cardboard box over it,
and allowed a pile of 'junque' and belongings to accumulate in front and on
top of it. I never really missed any shows on the TV.

Then, years later, in around 1989.... 

.... the man from the "Beeb" came calling, in his tweed jacket, with a
clipboard. He asked me some questions at the door of the flat. He knew the
name of the store where I bought the TV and the date of purchase. I didn't
deny it. I told him I no longer watched TV. He launched into his routine
cautionary statement about using a TV without a license and the stiff fines if
caught, and so I offered to show him the set. (Most people slam the door in
his face).

The man from the 'Beeb' agreed with me that the TV receiver was indeed deemed
by him to be in an unusable/inoperable condition (though still functioning
perfectly), and that I didn't need to take any further action like cutting off
the power cord flush with the back of the set, or removing the RF tuner.

The TV remained in the same place till I rented out the apartment in 1992. The
TV conveyed as part of the furnishings, and my rental agreement stated (and
still does) that the tenant must apply for the license if he uses the supplied

Iain  KI4HLV/6Y5

--- Nan and Sandy Sanders <esanders at> wrote:

> Are the British the only ones who do this?

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