Forty years ago, I lived in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland while a guest of HM Govt. The details don’t matter. Some may still be under the Official Secrets Act, but I’m not sure. One part is not. While living on the Islands, I found myself living in a flat, and in need of a television. At some point, I thought of renting one. The guy who lived next door sold/rented them and I discussed my need. He said, “You’ll need to get a license, won’t you?” 
Huh? A license? For a television?
LL – that long ago
The whole live free or die thing never seemed to connect with the all so proper and law abiding British mind. But to a yank who never thought that laws were really meant for him…
Yes, back in that dim and distant time you needed a license, which I refused to pay for. But I finagled the television all the same. It was almost like buying drugs – an untaxed television. You picked it up out of the back of an unmarked lorry in an alley and hauled it home under a blanket. I recall being shocked when I plugged it in, adjusted the rabbit ears and it worked. I wouldn’t have to hunt down the bootleg TV guy and beat him within an inch of his life. (that was my mindset back then) So much for the trip down memory lane.
It turns out that in our modern age, you still NEED A LICENSE to have a television in the UK.  But Boris Johnson is trying to put an end to it. (more here). The BBC used the government-collected the tax to fund its operations, which is why BBC2 (in my era) had programming that nobody would want to watch. BBC1 was bad enough. There was a third channel, ITV, as I recall, and they showed American TV shows of the era including Kojak. 


  1. While living in then-West Germany 40 years ago as well, television sets were also mandated to be registered and taxed. Still going on, there, too, from what I hear. Yes, many freedoms we take for granted in the U.S. are absent throughout most of the rest of the world, especially in communist/socialist countries. And Millenials are all for that kind of tyranny. I am guessing they will get their wish eventually, but hopefully after I am dead and buried.

  2. TV license? How daft. Just another layer of tax thieved from the collective…even if you can't drive your TV. Not unlike the stealth low-jacking of any new vehicle, or for that matter your new widescreen (presumably so they can keep track of your Netflix purchases so they can force you toward the Obama Channel.)

    BBC was great until they got rid of Top Gear (the original, not the lame US version), altho 20+ seasons was a great run. Despite it being Amazon, The Grand Tour had the best Season 1 opening sequence of any show – ever.

  3. My sister lived in Aberdeen for a while years ago where her husband worked as a diver in the North Sea oil fields. I seem to recall they never bother with the idiot box. Fredd mentioned Germany. I was stationed there briefly in '71 and I recall the German television. The commercials were all in one block and the show ran straight through. It was interesting to watch Chuck Connors speak (dubbed) German in The Rifleman. No registration for us on post.

  4. I should add: There's a reason why "we" left England in the first place (we're still "the colonies" to the Brit's)…seems the greedy Local/State/Federal bureaucrats are incrementally forcing us back to that point, where we work for them.

  5. Yes, it’s a weird thing but we all pay it. It’s not much- only about £30 a quarter. Now, whilst it seems antiquated and irrelevant in a world full of channels and now Netflix and Amazon Prime, it’s kind of worth it for the zero advertising and and quality BBC dramas. Imagine being able to watch something really entertaining and challenging all the way through without some loud mouth nuisance trying to sell something for $19.99. It’s worth the payment for that alone, right?

  6. I'd still go for the unlicensed TV just to be a rebel. It's like when we dumped all of your tea in Boston harbor. It was about the tax.

    Now, if the tea had been served over ice with a lot of lemon – it wouldn't have been dumped…

  7. Same here ('74-'77). In the barracks we watched AFN plus a couple of German stations. I was fortunate enough to get to know a German family and spend time at their home. I thought the commercial blocks were great. Plenty of time to take a leak, make a sandwich, and grab another beer. Local brewery pretty much had it down. Their label reads "Seit 1674".

  8. They would if they could, thankfully the patriots are more spread out now, makes it harder for them.

    Colorado enacted the Communist-like Red Flag law, most county Sheriff's refuse to enforce it (Denver & Boulder being the main exceptions). At some point the citizenry will overcome the unlawful takings aspect of gov't. Then again, my sentiment may just be wishful thinking, but I do see the tide turning, even if it is at Queen Mary slowness.

  9. If you read 1984 as the "Cliff Notes for Government", like most of Europe and a lot of the world seems to have, then the Government owning all of the TV programming makes perfect sense, as does making people pay extra to watch propaganda.


  10. I lived in Aberdeen and loved the place. But I didn't have a TV there. There was the Royal Deeside and so much else to explore, including swimming in the icy North Sea.

  11. Can you imagine a Tax like that here in the US, I am sure there would be a lot less TV and it's influence would be lesser, at least one can hope… I know, hope in one hand stuff in the other…

  12. Well, some do but you get put into gaol for that! I think it will go as it’s an old and unwarranted tax in the age of instant media.
    Oh, and look at you scoring the babes over here! Did you bamboozle them with good looks and iced tea?

  13. I was just a homely young man, far from home, with a kind word for all. She wasn't a British girl. She was from Oslo. My Scottish girl was named Audrey Milne and she was better looking.

  14. I was surprised in 2009 to discover "Hogan's Heroes" on late-night German TV, dubbed in German. It only hurt comprehension a bit since I saw every episode multiple times when I was a kid.

Comments are closed.