Do The Vans Exist Or Not?
Given the number of pictures I’ve found of them, some supposed detection vans have existed at various times – at least they’ve been labelled as such.
However, those who have asked the BBC how many vans it has usually get quoted the excuse that providing that information would negatively affect the prevention or detection of crime and the collection of the licence fee. Well, surely it wouldn’t if there were lots of them, so by inference, that answer suggests there aren’t many.
A hint about how few was revealed by a company called DB Broadcast, which, in 2004, put some information online to confirm that it had the contract for serving the detector van fleet. It said that one van was serviced each week and the whole lot every six months. Even with holidays and the like, that would suggest that there were then at least 20 vans.
However, when in 2009, when it decided to add another fleet of vans to the ones it supposedly already had, it bought five. Yes, five. One might reasonably infer that it previously had five, and this brought the two fleets up to a staggering ten, to cover the roughly 30 million UK households. A picture originally placed on DB Broadcast’s website showed six vans in 2006, so a ballpark figure of 10 to 12 might well be closer to the truth.
But anyone can have a van and put the words ‘ TV detector’ on the side, so can they detect. Numerous people who have worked on the vans have made online postings to the effect that they contain nothing or at best something that looks technical but does absolutely nothing.
Here is an example from the website www. bbctvlicence.com, that did an excellent article on the validity of the vans:
“I used to work for TV licencing driving around in the detector van. It was full of fancy looking equipment for show only. NONE OF IT WORKED! They have a database of the houses without licences, which they got by selecting streets and looking at who HAS got the licence. The remaining are targeted.”
But the most important evidence that they’re a hoax came from the BBC itself when rejecting yet another Freedom of Information Act request, and it explained the logic of why it won’t reveal this information.
“The BBC explained that the number of detector vans in operation, the location of their deployment and the frequency is not common knowledge. It relies on the public perception that the vans could be used at any time to catch evaders. This perception has built up since the first van was launched in 1952 and has been a key cost effective method in deterring people from evading their licence fee.”
And really revealingly: “The Commissioner recognises the importance the BBC places on the public perception of the use of detector vans, and he also recognises that disclosure of this information would change this perception.”
So if we knew they didn’t do anything, we’d be less likely to get a licence, right? I can’t see how else to interpret that statement, however the BBC chooses to dress it up. In short, I think the vans exist, but there aren’t many, and they are just vans.