I see from Kent on Sunday today (www.kentnews.co.uk, page 7) that the Television Licensing Authority are still alive, still well, and still terrifying innocent licence holders with threats of £1000 fines for evading a television licence. Last year, over seven thousand people across the county were prosecuted for not having a valid licence.
But even though the 25 million licences across the UK, at £135 each bring the Government nearly £3.4 billion pounds a year, they still persecute the elderly and frail. I ran a campaign back in 2006 because elderly people staying temporarily in care homes for respite or for recuperative care had to pay £135 for an annual licence if they wished to watch TV in their room. Even though they may have had a fully licenced TV back at home, this licence was tied to their address, not their set so they couldn't just go and get their own TV.
I fought the campaign across the summer of 2006 - see here - and even though I was told in a live debate with TV Licencing on Radio Four that "...it wouldn't be in the public interest to prosecute a load of old people...", still the Government wouldn't look to change the law. The BBC Charter had just been renogotiated, and that was that for another eight years.
And how many elderly people would risk watching TV without a licence with any chance that they might be prosecuted hanging over them?
However, what most incensed the public of Kent was when we discovered that if any of those elderly and frail people had been convicted of a crime and sent to prison, they would have watched their own TV in their cell without any need to buy a licence. The great British taxpayer covers both TV and licence...