A Licence To Search?



The above letter was delivered to a resident of Dublin 7.

The letter reads:

Dear Sir/Madam,

A Television Licence Inspector visited the above address in order to ascertain if there was a Television Set on the premises under Section 146 (4) of the Broadcasting Act 2009*.

The Inspector received no co-operation when visiting your premises. In circumstances such as these where an Inspector has grounds to believe that there is an unlicensed television set/apparatus on the premises he/she is authorised to obtain a Search Warrant to assist his/her enquiries under Schedule 2 Section 8-1 of the Broadcasting Act 2009*.

Futhermore Schedule 2 Section 8-1-(c)* authorises the TV Licence Inspector to seize and take away all or any part of such apparatus, and these confiscated items may be used as evidence in any prosecution brought….

The recipient writes:

This is new. A notification of a search warrant for no TV licence. I haven’t, and nobody I know has, ever seen this before. It’s weird. I sent them a strongly worded ‘come around and look around and go fupp yourselves’ as I don’t own a TV at all.



The rest of the letter detailing referring to the sections that have an asterisk (see comments)

It says:

*Section 146 (4) “And officer of an issuing agent may request any person on the premises or at the place where he or she finds a television set or evidence of such to produce the television licence for the time being in force in respect of the premises or specified place for inspection by the officer”.

*Schedule 2 – Section 8 (1) “A judge of the District Court may, upon the information on oath of an officer of the appropriate authority or of a member of the Garda Siochana that there is reasonable ground for believing that apparatus for wireless telegraphy is being kept or is being worked or used at any specified place, specified vehicle or in any specified ship or other vessel in contravention of the Wireless Telegraphy Acts 1926 to 2009 or any regulation made or condition imposed under those Acts or the Broadcasting (Offences) Acts 1968 to 2009, issue to such officer or (with the consent of the appropriate authority) to such member of  the Garda Siochana (as the case may be) a search warrant.”

*Schedule 2 Section 8 (1) (c) to seize and take away all or any part of such apparatus which appears to such officer or member to be kept, worked or used in contravention of the Wireless Telegraphy Acts 1926 to 2009 or any regulation made or condition imposed under those Acts or the Broadcasting (Offences) Acts 1968 to 2009.

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28 thoughts on “A Licence To Search?

  1. SOQ

    But it’s not just a TV though? Surely any device which can view programmes requires one? Ex. A laptop or pc?

    1. Cian

      In that act the following definition is used:
      “ television set ” means any electronic apparatus capable of receiving and exhibiting television broadcasting services broadcast for general reception (whether or not its use for that purpose is dependent on the use of anything else in conjunction with it) and any software or assembly comprising such apparatus and other apparatus;

      1. Cian

        “broadcasting service” means a service which comprises a compilation of programme material of any description and which is transmitted, relayed or distributed by means of an electronic communications network, directly or indirectly for simultaneous or near-simultaneous reception by the general public, whether that material is actually received or not, and where the programmes are provided in a pre-scheduled and linear order, but does not include:
        (a) a service provided in a non-linear manner where each user of the service chooses a programme from a catalogue of programmes, or
        (b) other audio and audiovisual services provided by way of the Internet;

        (my emphasis)

    2. Rob

      FG are holding off on the reclassification of the broadcasting charge until after the next GE.
      They will probably lump it onto a new telecoms tax for all TV/Broadband subscribers, you know to cover the €3bn black hole.

      The old owner of the house I’m renting has a sky dish on the roof. The license inspector didn’t stop coming until I remove the cable from the dish and called them to send me out another letter to declare I’ve no TV. Haven’t had them around since.

  2. Shay Kelly

    Throw it in the bin. It’s nothing. It merely points outs that “Schedule 2… etc etc, authorises blah blah blah”. No warrant has been issued. It’s also worth noting that you are under no obligation to open your door to anyone. And if you do you can politely tell them where to go and never to call to your home again. If your property has a gate, tell them you are removing their implied right of access.

    1. Cian

      Not true. Part 146 explicitly gives them that right:

      146. (3) An officer of an issuing agent may enter at any reasonable time any premises or specified place for the purposes of ascertaining whether there is a television set there and a television licence is for the time being in force in respect of the premises or specified place authorising the keeping of a television set at the premises or specified place.

      1. The Old Boy

        No, Cian, it doesn’t. The Constitution guarantees the inviolability of the dwelling. A statutory provision of that nature doesn’t give TV licence inspectors general power of entry.

        1. Cian

          Constitution doesn’t guarantee total inviolability.

          The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law.

          I take your point about a statutory provision.

          1. The Old Boy

            The case law has established that “save in accordance with law” means, with certain limited exceptions, “save with a properly obtained search warrant.”

    2. Dhaughton99

      All those inspectors are ex Garda and post men they can’t fire. The last time one came to this door, he started to kick the bottom of the door to make as much noise as possible. Neighbors had a good gawk out the window.

      1. Shane Duffy

        That happened here once. With the shock, the bottle of urine I happened to have at hand spilled down all over him as I leaned out to see who was kicking.

  3. Cian

    I’m a bit confused.

    The letter is saying “We called around to see if you have a TV & TV licence and received no co-operation when visiting your premises”

    The recipient says “I sent them a strongly worded ‘come around and look around and go fupp yourselves’ as I don’t own a TV at all.”

    Is the recipient not saying the inspector is welcome to satisfy themselves that there is no TV – so no search warrant is needed. So what is the point of the post?

    1. Lobster

      I used to get the letters saying they had seen receiving apparatus outside, when there either was no receiving apparatus (truly didn’t have a tv) or I lived in an apartment in a warren like maze of a complex, where they could never have known which section of outer wall belonged to which building. They just print them from a template, it doesn’t have to have any link to reality.

      1. The Old Boy

        It’s a bit like the old TV licence ads that showed a rather cumbersome “detector van” kerb-crawling down a suburban street with a chap inside twiddling a dial and saying something like “The Morrisons at number 38 are watching Van der Valk. And Mr Morrison’s just dropped his jam butty down his cardigan” or some similar nonsense.

        In the UK at least, the TV licencing authority still claim that detector vans are an effective method of enforcement, even though it’s easier to find schematics for thermonuclear warheads than a convincing explanation as to how those vans allegedly work.

        1. Mickey Twopints

          I may be able to help you in your quest.

          The old analogue TV sets operated on what is known as a superheterodyne system. The frequency that the TV signal was received on (which changed form low VHF Band I in the early years of 405 line sets to High VHF Band II and became UHF Band III at the end) was too high for the electronics to use directly, so the incoming signal from the antenna is mixed with a “local oscillator” signal generated within the set. The local oscillator changes frequency in sympathy with the channel being watched. It also leaks a little and a very weak signal is re-radiated back up the coax to the roof antenna. It is possible to “listen” for this signal and to detect it with a very sensitive receiver. Hence the detector vans. I doubt they were very good at discriminating between households on an estate, though.

          You can reproduce this effect with two MW transistor radios, if you can find them these days. Tune one radio to any station in the middle of the band. Turn the other radio on, and tune it up and down the band. You will find a spot where the second radio causes the first to go quiet, and that is the effect caused by the local oscillator leakage.

          In our next thrilling episode, we explore the finer points of thermonuclear weaponry, and ask whether entropy is just a sign that the universe is incurably lazy.

          1. The Old Boy

            Thanks Mickey! That’s very interesting. I can’t imagine they were ever much good save in the quietest country areas.

          2. Mickey Twopints

            I’m sure you are right, there. They would also have been useless where a community aerial system was in place, such as in a block of flats. It was a propaganda weapon more than anything, really.

  4. bisted

    …despite all their bluster and threats the licence model is failing…participation in the Eurovision sham in apartheid Tel Aviv should be reason enough to boycott the licence fee…

  5. phil

    Id be happy to pay 160e each year to any charity of their choosing , if I could get out of paying the license .

    I do pay for the license .

    I havent seen or heard RTE in years , all the better for it too …

  6. eoin

    Would like to see what the “*” means on that letter.

    Isn’t there an Irish scrap the licence fee Facebook group (didn’t RTE try to have them banned) which might be able to help on this.

    Not my area at all, but I would be shocked if a search warrant could be granted to a Garda for a suspected unpaid TV licence, I think Gardai CAN get a warrant if they suspect you are broadcasting yourself, as in, running a pirate radio station, but for a €160 licence, I would be shocked.

    Best solution of course is a laptop and a projector instead of a TV. And you don’t have to have a licence to listen to the radio on a radio.

    1. The Old Boy

      The Gardaí could get a warrant, if the licencing authority made a formal complaint and the Gardaí felt there was sufficient cause to apply for one and a District Judge was minded to grant one on the evidence that a TV licence inspector was told to sling his hook. I’ve never heard of it happening.

      1. eoin

        Likewise, I have never heard of it happening.

        The TV licence inspector would need make a complaint to the Gardai with evidence which rose above the level of pure suspicion because the homeowner told them to get lost outta it or was rude or (lawfully) refused to allow them on their premises. The Gardai would have to produce an application to the District Court and probably liaise with an An Post employee to seek the warrant. The Gardai would have to produce a sergeant or more senior to appear at the District Court in the application. For a €160 licence or to help with a prosecution to recover €1,000? No, don’t believe it.

        BTW, found that Facebook group that An Post wanted banned. It has 6,000 members and is private.


  7. Slightly Bemused

    I have had the pleasure of 2 visits from TV inspectors over time. The first was when, fresh out of college, I was living in a bedsit in Rathmines. My room was the front, downstairs, and I had no TV. The back room was another dwelling, and the lady did have a TV. The inspector tried to tell me I was responsible for it, even when it turned out the lady already had a licence.
    The second time was when I moved into my current abode. I must have been moved in about 10 hours (I was seriously still unloading) when up he turned. House had been vacant for several years before I got it, and had no licence. I was annoyed as I did have a licence from my old place, still valid, and had not had the chance to change the address.
    In both cases I reckoned they were out to score quotas or something.

    I don’t like the licence, but I will pay it as not doing so is just more hassle than its worth.

  8. Dave Freeband

    Honestly can’t recall the last time I watched live telly, but my house is festooned with aerials and dishes of all types, so I’d have a hard time convincing them I don’t have a set. I do have a set, of course, but even at that I tend to watch stuff I’ve downloaded on the monitor.
    I grudgingly pay the licence for the small glow of satisfaction it gives me to know I’m funding fat cat salaries in RTE.

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