MY open letter to BBC director general Tim Davie on their attempt to gag our criticism of the TV licence fee, published yesterday, provoked a satisfyingly rapid response.
Not from the great man himself, I am bound to say; that honour was not accorded me. The task of putting me in my place was delegated to the Head of Communications/TV Licensing. And very revealing Tania Pearson’s reply was, too. Unlike the originally unidentified Alex Skirvin who demanded we ‘correct’ the assertion that ‘single mothers are jailed for not having paid their TV licence fee’, Ms Pearson did thoroughly identify herself. To give her her due, she did not repeat her staff member’s correction request. What she did do, however, was to repeat the BBC’s covering defence, the carefully tailored assertion that: ‘Nobody is imprisoned for non-payment of the licence fee – the maximum sentence is a fine which may be imposed by a court. If a court fine isn’t paid this is a separate matter, a custodial sentence may be imposed, but that is entirely a matter for the courts. In 2020, there were no admissions into prison associated with failing to pay a fine in respect of the non-payment of a TV licence in England and Wales.’
What, we wondered, was so significant about 2020? What about 2019, 2021 or all the other years for that matter? This was what was behind the key question in my letter to the BBC:
‘Is it now the BBC’s official view that no one is jailed in consequence of non-payment of the licence fee?’
I wanted to know, but Ms Pearson chose to ignore it, neither acknowledging it nor answering it, leaving me to take her silence to mean that the BBC’s official policy remains the same. It has not changed its policy re imprisonment; the fact of no imprisonments in 2020 being neither here nor there – a year perhaps we are meant to be grateful for?
By contrast the Head of Communications/TV Licensing’s defence of Mr Skirvin’s peremptory emails to us was vocal and removed remnant doubt that this was indeed an authorised communication from BBC Licensing.
From which I am led to conclude that on top of a fleet of snooping detector vans contracted to the BBC to enforce the television licensing system in the UK, with some of their equipment ‘developed in such secrecy that engineers working on specific detection methods work in isolation – so not even they know how the other detection methods work’ to give them the ‘best chances of catching evaders’ whether they be pensioners, hard-pressed families or single mums, the BBC is also sanctioning a posse of expensive communications geeks to trawl the internet to gaslight internet sites about their self-righteousness.
Paid for, of course, by who else but the much-abused licence fee payer.
This is Tania Pearson’s reply to me:
Dear Ms Gyngell,
Thank you for your email of 22 February to Tim Davie, which has been passed to me to respond.
You got in touch in relation to correspondence with Alexander Skirvin, a member of my team, in connection with the article Iron Fist for the Truckers Velvet Glove for Eco Terrorists, published on the website TCW on 21 February 2022.
I should say at the outset that Alexander is a professional and courteous member of staff and having reviewed the exchanges I can see nothing in them to indicate otherwise.
It is standard procedure for the TV Licensing communications team to contact journalists, bloggers and websites who have published information relating to the licence fee to request corrections or clarification so that readers are correctly informed. This is why Alexander wrote to you.
His emails to you were authorised communications from TV Licensing and the statement, copied below, is an accurate representation of our position.
Nobody is imprisoned for non-payment of the licence fee – the maximum sentence is a fine which may be imposed by a court. If a court fine isn’t paid this is a separate matter, a custodial sentence may be imposed, but that is entirely a matter for the courts. In 2020, there were no admissions into prison associated with failing to pay a fine in respect of the non-payment of a TV licence in England and Wales.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) holds data on prison sentences. The MoJ confirmed in the House of Commons that: ‘In 2020, there were no admissions into prison associated with failing to pay a fine in respect of the non-payment of a TV licence in England and Wales.’ This statement can be found here.
Tania Pearson (she/her)
Head of Communications | TV Licensing