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Detectors

Some of the older British readers of this blog may remember the old TV adverts featuring TV detector vans. For the uninitiated it was claimed in these adverts that these vans with their revolving detector dishes could not only determine which houses had television sets switched on but even which channel was being watched. Those who did not have a current TV licence, required to be be allowed the privilege of watching television and used to fund the BBC,  had better beware. The thing is I suspect TV detector vans were a massive confidence trick played on the public. In all the time I spent covering the courts in Scotland and England, I never came across anyone caught by one of these vans. Enforcing TV licensing was the responsibility of the Post Office. What they seemed to to was simply target homes which had no TV licence listed. The presumption was that every household had a television and the addresses without a licence were obviously occupied by evaders. When I lived in a bungalow in Inverness I came home to find a letter from the Post Office demanding to know why I didn't have a TV licence. The answer was simple: I didn't have a television. But I had more sense than to ignore the letter. In my work as a journalist I had recently interviewed one of the local licensing enforcement officers and he seemed to regard evasion as somewhere on the scale of criminality between murder and armed robbery. I also believed that the enforcement officers had the power to smash down my front door to search the premises for an unlicensed television set. I didn't fancy the hassle involved in seeking compensation to pay for a new front door. So, I went down to the main Post Office in Inverness to explain myself. Even though I had done nothing wrong. The satirical writer Richard Stilgoe did a song on the old BBC Nationwide programme listing the surprising number of people who could smash down a person's front door while exercising their Statutory Right of Entry To Your Home. The Gas Board was one. The cops seemed to be about the only folks who needed a warrant.

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