Do You Have A License For That, Ma'am?

I was telling Sean a story the other day and I happened to mention my TV license.

"Wait," said Sean. "A TV license?"

"Yes," I said. "In England, if you have a TV, you have to have a TV license."

"What?" he said. "That's insane! That cannot be true! Are you making this up?"

"No!" I said "It's true!"

"Do you have to be sixteen before you can get one?" he asked. "Like a driver's license?"

"No!" I said. "It's---"

"You are now licensed to push these buttons!"

"No, you---"

"Congratulations, this license entitles you to change the channel!"

"No!" I said. "It's basically just a tax for having a TV. When you get a TV, you also have to get a TV license. They're really strict about it and sometimes they'll send a TV license inspector over to check if you've got one. Apparently they have these vans with special TV license detectors inside and they can tell. During my last month at university, my TV license had expired and there didn't seem much point in getting another one because I was going to be leaving the country in a few weeks, but I still lived in fear that I was going to get caught. One time, I was watching TV, and the buzzer to my apartment rang, and I was so frightened that I switched my TV off, pulled it out of the wall, wrapped all the cables up, and shoved it under my bed. My heart was racing the entire time. Turns out it was just my friend Louise, who I'd forgotten I'd invited over to watch Sex and the City. But I was so freaked out after that, I wouldn't even get the TV out from under my bed. We ended up just playing Scrabble."

Sean stared at me open-mouthed.

"Hang on," he said. "And you make fun of us for having groundhog day?"

1
Michelle
Mar 24, 2011

Hey! In Singapore we have tv licenses and radio licenses as well, for our cars!! Otherwise you will have to live with arkward silences in cabs or ride in friends' cars that are not really your friends. :)

2
Debi
Mar 24, 2011

That's just weird! Do you have to get one for each tv in the house, or are you only allowed to have one tv?

I think groundhog day is lame too :)

3
Joanna Marple
Mar 24, 2011

We sure have a TV license in France too. In fact here they assume everyone has a TV so it s automatically put on your Habitation Tax invoice!!

4
Solidknapp
Mar 25, 2011

Same thing here in Norway. It's a sum of money that is payed a couple of times a year to the public tv/ radio company, about $200 each time I think. We have those scary lisence inspectors too...

5
Anna
Mar 25, 2011

That's what funds the Beeb!

6
Rachel
Mar 25, 2011

I think the Netherlands may be one of the few Euro countries without the tax. When I first moved here and would watch BBC, I'd see commercials about the tax (those commercials seem so sweet and innocent as well). I was totally flabbergasted until a British friend explained it to me.

7
Isobel
Mar 25, 2011

Ah, but we do get the BBC with no adverts out of it, so I reckon it's a fair deal!

@Debi - just one license per household, not per telly!

I think Groundhog Day is kind of cute in an anachronistic sort of way, like the rolling cheeses down hills days we have here.

8
Nicole
Mar 25, 2011

Oh, in Germany we have that too. I thought it was totally weird and unfair when I first moved here. But then I found out that you can cheat and ignore the letters they send and just not pay it. :) For the first two years, I freaked out every time the doorbell rang, thinking the inspector guys were coming! Thank goodness I got over that...

9
charlotte
Mar 25, 2011

Yes, we all gripe about paying it but since we wouldn't get the beloved BBC without it and be able to enjoy programming without adverts then I reckon it's worth it!

10
Annika
Mar 25, 2011

I had pretty much the same conversation with my husband.
In Germany the license funds public radio and TV. So, yes, you can still make fun of groundhog day!

11
gillian
Mar 25, 2011

yes, but it pays for the BBC!!

12
Kathleen
Mar 25, 2011

I also vaguely remember, in one of those threatening notices they leave you to ensure you pay, that black and white TV licenses are only a quarter of the cost of color (colour?) TVs. So weird.

13
Thespian Libby
Mar 25, 2011

If "they" tried to impose a TV license here, sheeple everywhere would be screaming yet again about Obama being a socialist/fascist/commie/whatev. As for Groundhog Day, it's also my birthday, which makes it an excellent holiday.

14
Elizabeth in Chicago
Mar 25, 2011

When I lived in Brighton for a year, they used to send threatening letters to everyone in my house, saying, essentially, WE KNOW YOU HAVE A TELEVISION WE'RE GUNNA GET YOU (except fancier, because, you know, British), despite not having a television in the household. If it wasn't for the fact that my sister had experienced the same while on her year abroad, I would have been terrified.

15
Sheila
Mar 25, 2011

Do you think the License Detectors are really real? We used to hear the same thing about Cable Box Detectors back in the day when four apartments would be pirating cable TV from one single payer. How do they know?

16
Kate (and Ben)
Mar 25, 2011

This is the best thing I've learned all week!
-K

17
Sharone
Mar 25, 2011

I was going to say that I'd pay to have the BBC (or whatever its parallel would be here - is there one?) without commercials, but then I realized that with the magic of the DVR, I never have to watch commercials anyway. So.

Thanks for the giggle, I'd forgotten about tv licenses.

18
Maureen
Mar 25, 2011

When we were living in the UK, I let the TV license expire and one evening an inspector showed up at our door. She was very nice, but I had to purchase a license from her, it was 90 pounds.

19
Starla
Mar 25, 2011

As a BBC employee, sorry, I think it's worth every penny!
It keeps the benchmark of Broadcasting levels high in the UK....ITV anyone?
And it pays my salary ;) And even as an employee, I need to get one. No staff perks or discounts!

20
Carmen
Mar 25, 2011

We moved for Canada to Denmark for a few years and were shocked to hear of TV licenses as well. It seems strange to us, but we do pay for national TV in Canada as well: it's just included in our national taxes. I did enjoy the fact that the public channels in Denmark are commercial free -- CBC is not that well funded.

21
Suzanne
Mar 25, 2011

I completely understand! There are 2 things in life that send me running to hide under the bed quaking - one is Jehova's witnesses and the other is the tv licensing people! And I have a license....... You know that now in the UK if you buy a tv you have to provide the shop with your address so they can check and see if you have a license? There's no escape now! But it is worth it ;)

22
Amy in StL
Mar 25, 2011

I had to read the whole Wikipedia article. I was just flabbergasted... A tv tax. I love how the tv inspectors can come and inquire about having an unlicensed set but they can't enter unless you allow it; because warrants are rarely sought. Here in the USA, they'd never get in someone's home without a warrant.

Okay, that is by far the craziest thing I have heard in a while...what's crazier...the cost of the license, per year! I don't know I may give up TV if that were the case. Do you have to pay for cable or satellite too? Just wondering.

24
elz
Mar 25, 2011

Oops, I don't they we ever paid that license. I got away with watching all that "Blue Peter" for free. Ha ha ha

25
Shut The Folk Up
Mar 26, 2011

The other day someone came to my door and rudely asked for my TV license, then barged past me to find the TV. I was so flabbergasted I didn't move.

Turns out it was my housemate's older brother who I hadn't met before. He fooled me good.

26
Raz
Mar 26, 2011

We were also told in university halls that the porters would 'protect' us from the license inspectors. I'm not sure that did much good for my fear levels!

27
SuzRocks
Mar 26, 2011

You better keep quiet about this TV license thing, or the U.S. government is going to think it's a great idea and start instituting a tax on TVs...shhh!!

28
Ruth
Mar 26, 2011

Hi Holly, I live in Dublin, Ireland and we too have to pay for a tv licence....when you move into a new place you just wait for a few months...then they send you a letter and you might get a visit from an inspector! The irony is that a big percentage of our tv is made in America! Ah well...at least I live in a country where I am free, can follow my passions and have received a great education and the opportunity to travel and see the world....really like your blog...you and Sean make a lovely couple and you have a fantastic family...all the best Ruth in Dublin

29
Patty
Mar 26, 2011

I had the same reaction when my British husband told me about TV licenses. I was also amazed when he told me about some of the homes he stayed in when he was young that had coin boxes on the wall to pay for electricity (no change, no power). We tease Gary (my husband)because he always says, "let's see what's on the other side," when we watch TV. A throw-back to the time when the extent of British telly was BBC1 and BBC2 (he watched one "side" or the other). The first time Gary asked my dad, "what's on the other side?" while watching TV, my dad said, "uhhhhh, the wall?"

30
Marcheline
Mar 27, 2011

Isn't it amazing, all the ways people have of screwing other people out of money? And we put up with it!

31
SP
Mar 28, 2011

Non English speaking countries tend to have a TV Licence for obvious reasons, language barrier (lack of content) however England still has one because its now a leftist mouth piece and they don't want to give up the guaranteed billions they receive.

http://www.tvlicenceresistance.info/

32
Sensibly Sassy
Mar 28, 2011

wow, wait...so you aren't teasing?

33
annie
Apr 11, 2011

According to the guy who called round to enquire about our lack of a tv licence, they don't have the vans anymore. (not cost effective)

Personally, I've always questioned how that technology would work with terraced houses.

34
Amelia
Apr 13, 2011

What really, really bugs me is the shit you get if you don't own a TV.
I can't stand TV, I have no use for one, and I get shitty letters all the time telling me "they" know I have no licence and if I don't get one I'll be prosecuted!
And if (it implies) I'm some strange alien life form who doesn't have a TV I should send back their form to let them know that.
Er... No, I think not. I don't drive either, and I don't get threatening letters from the driving licence people.

The assumption that everyone in the country has a TV drives me, quite frankly, bonkers.

35
Ellen
Apr 13, 2011

Wow... I have no TV and would LOVE it if here in Canada the CBC funding came out of the pockets of people who actually watch TV, as opposed to out of my taxes as well.

Though I can see how they might get aggressive to prove we don't have one, which would be annoying. I just don't like TV. Furthermore, I'm assuming all of the "license inspector" salaries come out of tax dollars, which is equally nonsensical?

36
g-the-b
Apr 20, 2011

I'm really enjoying reading the surprised comments from readers who didn't know we have a TV license here in the UK. I grew up in South Africa and, certainly while I was at primary school, you had to pay for a little metal disk to fix to your bicycle - which we called our bicycle licenses!

(Ooh, Ellen in the comment above, re the inspectors' salaries being paid out of our taxes - I wouldn't be at all surprised if this function was outsourced to an independent company...)

37
Chynna
Jul 04, 2011

So excited I found this article as it made things much qiukcer!

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