Licenced to Bill

RTE frequently run ads exhorting us to pay our TV licence, and warning of the inevitability of detection if we don’t. In these ads sceptical Licence Inspectors smile condescendingly while flustered evaders come up with excuses such as “the baby ate my licence”, “burglars stole our licence (though oddly not our telly)” and “TV? No, that’s not a TV, it’s a portal to another dimension”.

In one old ad inspectors sat outside a house in a van with blacked-out windows with a rotating satellite- dish on top, saying things like “the TV’s in the back room. They’re watching Lost“.

This is the image of Licence Inspectors that RTE would like to portray – hardened, all-knowing, hi-tech sleuths, like Philip Marlowe with Wikipedia.

In reality this is all bollocks. I used to work from a Georgian house in Dun Laoghaire – the front room downstairs was my office, the rest of the building was in flats. About once every 18 months – certainly not nearly as often as RTE would have you believe – there would come a knock on the front door, and the person standing there would announce himself as a TV licence inspector. He would ask had I a TV, I’d say no, it was just an office. I’d ask would he like to come in and check, and he’d say no. Sometimes the person would ask were there other people in the house and I’d reply yes, but they were all out at work.

And he would go away. They never called in the evening, when they might actually have found some of the flat-dwellers at home. They don’t go around in blacked-out vans, they don’t know you’re watching Lost, they don’t feel sorry for you if you are.

Their detecting stretches to keeping a list of who actually has a licence, and relentlessly harassing anyone on that list who doesn’t immediately renew it.

When I first got a licence, about 18 years ago, I paid for it by credit card, and ticked a box authorizing them to charge my card every year from then on. And that’s how we’ve operated ever since, the money would vanish from my account, the licence would arrive in the post (don’t know why they bother actually giving you one – an inspector’s never going to call to a house where they know the person has one) and the whole transaction would take the minimum of fuss. Then last year a note arrived with the licence saying that they weren’t going to accept payment by credit card anymore, and that I’d have to pay by a different method from this year on.

They changed the arrangement, not me. So when the renewal date arrived on April 1st I did not, you’ll be surprised to hear, rush straight to the Post Office to stand in an hour-long queue with eight brand-new twenties clutched eagerly in my fist to immediately pay for something that I don’t actually want (why do I need a licence for a TV? It’s not a gun). Instead I decided sod them , they can bloody well wait till I’m ready now, and the battle of nerves began.

So far I have received five letters carrying various shades of menace (the third of the five, bizarrely, was called a Final Notice, which is a somewhat fluent definition of the word “Final”). Some have gently sympathised that I have understandably forgotten, others have sternly hinted that I am little better than a thief. None of them has been signed.

Last week I relented and paid it, since I knew the whole thing was freaking Mrs Tin out (in fairness, it’s far more likely to be her than me to be at home if an inspector does call, and she’s not had as much experience at dealing with the bullying of petty bureaucrats as I have). I paid it online, and was informed that the licence will be sent within the next ten working days (what, do they weave them by hand, like tapestries?).

In the meantime I have, of course, received another letter. This one asks me to sign a Statutory Declaration (their capitals) as to whether I have a TV or not and return it to them immediately.

I was going to ignore the letter, except for one thing. There is a place on the Declaration where it says (again, their capitals) DO NOT WRITE BELOW THIS LINE.

I’m afraid they don’t know me very well.

2 thoughts on “Licenced to Bill

  1. Kick Out The Jams

    You should write 5 letters to them demanding your licence immediately – written in green ink…


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