Why we're here:
This blog is to highlight the unjust persecution of legitimate non-TV users at the hands of TV Licensing. These people do not require a licence and are entitled to live without the unnecessary stress and inconvenience caused by TV Licensing's correspondence and employees.

If you use equipment to receive live broadcast TV programmes, or to watch or download on-demand programmes via the BBC iPlayer, then the law requires you to have a licence and we encourage you to buy one.

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Sunday, 18 February 2018

BBC Slammed Over Wake Up Payments


The cold, dark, winter mornings makes getting out of bed difficult at the best of times, but the experience is being financially softened for thousands of early-rising BBC employees.

The BBC has confirmed that more than 4,500 journalists and production staff working on early morning programmes receive special unpredictability payments of up to £5,462 for their troubles.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: "The BBC is offering perks and privileges that are unavailable to anyone else in the public or private sector. Hard-pushed doctors and nurses have to work all hours, and if work needs to be done in the private sector it has to be done irrespective of the time of day.

"The problem is that the BBC does not live in a commercial world and it does not have to because it is totally funded by £4 billion of taxpayers' money."

One former employee, who did not want to be identified, explained how bosses would sometimes top up employees' salaries with the payments, irrespective of whether they had worked anti-social hours or not. "We used to call them payments for getting out of bed. It was ridiculous", he added.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "This shows the BBC has still not got a grip on its bloated and byzantine payment systems.

"Licence-fee payers want their money to be spent responsibly, not given out in opaque payments like this.

"People who go the extra mile in the public sector should be rewarded through merit-based remuneration, but these unpredictability payments seem open to abuse."

Not surprisingly, the BBC has defended the payments.

A BBC spokesman said: "It's impossible to broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week without employing people to work through the nights, and sometimes shifts change at short notice.

"Like most organisations we reflect this in our pay structure. However, we're always looking to make savings and the unpredictability allowance has come down by over £11 million since 2009."

The obvious answer to us is to abolish these payments altogether, making it quite clear to new employees that they are obliged to work their hours according to the requirements of the BBC. If they don't like those terms of employment, they are free to seek an alternative elsewhere.

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Friday, 16 February 2018

Christa Ackroyd: Not Smiling Any More


Former BBC Yorkshire presenter Christa Ackroyd has been ordered to pay almost £420k in back taxes after a landmark Tribunal ruling.

Ackroyd, who previously co-anchored regional news programme Look North alongside Harry Gration, worked for the BBC on a freelance basis. Her £163k salary was paid via her personal services company, Christa Ackroyd Media (CAM) Ltd, which attracted a more favourable rate of tax than had she been directly employed by the BBC. We should stress that there is no suggestion that Ackroyd has committed a crime or acted dishonestly.

The 60-year-old presenter fronted Look North between 2001 and 2013, which required her to spend several hours every weekday at work for the BBC. According to the judgment the BBC refused to formally employ Ackroyd, because it was apparently reluctant to accept PAYE and National Insurance liability for her work on Look North.

As a workaround, the BBC suggested that she should be engaged via a personal services company. Ackroyd was unfamiliar with such a system of work, but her accountant confirmed that everything was in order. A contract for Ackroyd's services was drawn up between the BBC and CAM.

HMRC began investigating CAM's finances at the start of 2011. HMRC contacted the BBC to establish its working relationship with Ackroyd which, according to her, left the BBC doubting her integrity.

Prompted by HMRC's advances, the BBC started to take a much keener interest in Ackroyd's CAM contract of employment. Until that point the BBC had adopted a rather loose management style, which afforded the Bradford-born presenter a degree of autonomy. By mid-2013, with HMRC matters coming to a head, Ackroyd was axed by the BBC for breach of contract.


In the opinion of HMRC, which is supported by last week's judgment, Ackroyd was an employee of CAM and should have been paying income tax and National Insurance accordingly. Ackroyd's stance, perhaps not surprisingly, was somewhat different. She identified herself as being a self-employed contractor of CAM, which attracted certain tax benefits over being an employee.

Fascinating as Christa Ackroyd's tax affairs might be, the thing that strikes us is how the BBC encouraged her to adopt a routine that short-changed the taxpayer. We would also highlight a few other interesting revelations from the Tribunal judgment:
  • that Ackroyd received a £40k ex-gratia payment for agreeing to work exclusively for the BBC; 
  • that she received a £3k annual clothing allowance on top of her £163k salary; 
  • that she was eligible for a £7.5k bonus every six months if the ratings of Look North consistently and significantly exceeded those of Calendar (ITV's regional news programme).
Ackroyd was paid this £7.5k bonus on every occasion during her BBC employment.

There are around one hundred of these cases rumbling on at the moment. It'll be interesting to see if the BBC is routinely encouraging its "talent" to use creative workarounds in order avoid tax.

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Sunday, 11 February 2018

BBC Snubs Hypothetical TV Licensing Enforcement Questions


It came as little surprise that the BBC recently snubbed some hypothetical, albeit very interesting, questions posed to it on the subject of TV licence enforcement.

As we've previously said, it is not in the BBC's or TV Licensing's interests to clarify anything about its enforcement methods, as doing so would serve to illustrate how ineffective those methods actually are.

WhatDoTheyKnow member Tyrone Armatage sought information about the conduct of TV Licensing during the execution of a search warrant (an exceptionally rare event, which you can read more about here).

Tyrone's request was as follows:
_____
Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

If the BBC suspects a householder is watching TV without a licence and then obtains a search warrant to enter that person's property. On entering that property how can proof be obtained that they are watching live TV without a licence if...

A: The TV is turned off.
Or
B: The TV is turned on and the occupier is watching a film on catch-up TV, but not on any BBC channel.
Also
C: If an occupier is watching catch-up TV (not BBC channels) and their cat or dog accidentally stands on the remote control and switches channels to the BBC for a few seconds. Does that occupier then require a TV licence?

Yours faithfully,

Tyrone Armatage
_____
The BBC, just as expected, refused to respond to any of those points. Given the BBC's failure to respond, we shall have a go instead:

A. If, on entering a property, TV Licensing finds the TV is turned off, then it has no way of proving that "live" TV programmes (or BBC on-demand programmes) were previously being viewed. If, however, TV Licensing brought the set into use and saw "live" TV programmes on the screen, then it could reasonably argue that the occupier had being viewing those programmes earlier. The occupier could equally argue that they hadn't been, but ultimately it would then be for the court to decide.

B. If, on entering a property, TV Licensing finds the occupier watching a film on a non-BBC on-demand service, then it has no way of proving that "live" TV programmes (or BBC on-demand programmes) were previously being viewed. If, however, TV Licensing was able to access "live" TV programmes at the push of a button, then it could reasonably argue that the occupier had being viewing those programmes earlier on. The occupier could equally argue that they hadn't been, but ultimately it would then be for the court to decide.

C. This one really would need the court to decide.


It seems a prudent time to remind readers of the Rudd defence: For a defendant to be guilty of TV licence evasion, the prosecution (TV Licensing) must prove that a television receiver was actually used, and not merely that it was available for use.

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