Is the BBC “liability laundering” with Capita?

TV Licensing is obfuscating who you are doing business with… and it smells of fraud

If I told you that…

  • The BBC owns the TV Licensing trademark.
  • The BBC gets all the revenue from television licensing (to pass to the government).
  • The BBC is the GDPR data controller for TV Licensing.
  • The BBC owns the intellectual property of TV Licensing.
  • The BBC is the owner of the SSL certificate for
  • The BBC approves the wording of bulk correspondence for TV Licensing.
  • The BBC is the sole named Licensing Authority in the Communications Act 2003.
  • The BBC fields Freedom of Information requests about TV Licensing.
  • The BBC commercial arm, BBC Studios, manages TV Licensing.
  • The BBC itself identifies TV Licensing as an entity having a “statutory duty”, which only the BBC has.

…then would you conclude that “TV Licensing” is indeed just a trade name for the BBC? Specifically, would you presume that if you sued “TV Licensing” then you were suing the BBC (and nobody else)?

TV licensing trade name for the BBC

The reason I ask is that I have been digging around after Capita Business Services Ltd have applied to overturn my default judgement against TV Licensing. The substance of their claim is that the dog ate their homework, and they had a nasty head cold during exam week, so they deserve pity. But there is a more interesting piece:

Capita Business Services Ltd (‘Capita’) administer the licence fee on behalf of the BBC using the trading name TV Licensing and we would ask the name of the defendant be changed to reflect the legal entity defending this claim.

They are implying that…

  • having a license from the BBC to use the the TV Licensing brand (but one of multiple licensees),
  • being a GDPR data processor on behalf of the BBC (but one of multiple data processors),
  • plus having an administrative sub-contract relationship with the BBC (but one of multiple sub-contractors)

…somehow gives them standing in my case. That is clearly nonsense — anyone can be given these contractual rights and still not be the defendant. You could give the janitor a license to the brand for their uniform, and they would be nothing to do with me. All the facts indicate that “TV Licensing” is the BBC (and nobody else) in terms of commercial relations. Nothing in the legislation, correspondence, or online tells me that the entity responsible and liable is Capita; quite the opposite. If it is, then they are clearly breaking the law by hiding themselves!

Curiously the BBC sometimes refers to TV Licensing as if it were a legal entity, and yet interchanges it with the activity of television licensing right after:

If you plan to publish or broadcast a story using the information provided in this response, or share this  information with the media, please include the following statement in full, attributable to a TV Licensing spokesperson: “If required, the contract enables the BBC to take appropriate action, where Capita’s ability to perform its TV Licensing duties is impeded. This is a standard provision typically included in most commercial contracts  of this sort.”

It’s all quite Alice in Wonderland, with “TV Licensing” as a metasyntactic term that morphs to mean whatever you want to it mean. As you go through all their documentation, it become obvious that they scrupulously avoid any discussion of who “TV Licensing” is in concrete legal terms. For instance, the website at the bottom shows:

Trademark TV Licensing 2023

This is like saying copyright Skittles, rather than Wrigley Company or Mars, Inc. that own the brand. The trademarked product can’t be the copyright holder. In the words of our favourite lawyerbot, ChatGPT:

Under English law, it is not appropriate to use a copyright symbol followed by a trademark, as these symbols are intended to represent different types of intellectual property and legal rights. …

It is not appropriate to use [copyright and trademark] symbols interchangeably or in conjunction with each other, as this can be misleading and may result in legal issues. It is important to use the correct symbol for the appropriate type of intellectual property in order to protect your legal rights and avoid confusion.

This suggests an intent to confuse the public. Furthermore, The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015 specifically list information (like company name, number, and address) that should be shown on the website as well as correspondence. These are conspicuously absent in the case of TV Licensing. Indeed, I cannot even find them on the BBC’s own main website! That they refuse to properly identify themselves again indicates a desire to obfuscate and confuse who is liable for what.

My case against TV Licensing is one of private law, not public law. Whether I have a private contract for my letter reading and writing services is independent of the public function of collecting the television license fee. It is pretty certain that the BBC is the actual defendant when “TV Licensing” is sued, and Capita Business Services have no standing. Per the TV Licensing website privacy policy:

The BBC is responsible for the personal data you supply to TV Licensing. In data protection law, this is called being a data controller. This means we decide how to collect and use your data as part of our duty to administer the TV Licence. We are responsible for ensuring that your data is used lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner.

The BBC also sets out strict rules about how its suppliers collect, store and handle personal data. The BBC’s contractors are data processors within the law. The primary TV Licensing contractors are: Capita, Communisis Postal, Havas, PayPoint, RAPP (formerly Proximity) and Target. These organisations are also bound by data protection law, as well as our commitment to our six principles to protect your personal data.

So for Capita to have written to the court, they either need to be a data controller (which is a GDPR violation as I have not given them permission to use my data), or they are just a data processor for the BBC (which makes the BBC the defendant anyway as they are just acting on the BBC’s instructions). Either way, I now get to sue them for tortious interference with my correspondence contract with the BBC, as well as a GDPR data sharing violation. So I may well end up with payouts from the BBC as well as Capita!

In terms of public law, my understanding is that Capita is prosecuting television license evasion via magistrates’ courts. The BBC is thus saved the PR hit for taking people to court for daring to use electronics they bought in their own home to decode electromagnetic signals they did not solicit. Does Capita Business Services Ltd have standing to do so? Is it a really a “relevant prosecutor” under section 29 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003?

In Capita’s Court Presenters’ Manual (obtained under Freedom of Information) they state:

It is for a ‘relevant prosecutor’ to identify cases which might be suitable for the single justice procedure. The BBC and consequently its agent Capita using the trademark TV Licensing is a relevant prosecutor. These cases are commenced by the issue of a written charge and a ‘single justice procedure notice’.

So are the BBC similarly claiming that merely having a license to use the trademark is the source of delegated legal authority? Is this truly what the Communications Act 2003 says? This opens up a legal challenge to every single historic prosecution for television license evasion. If someone turns up at your home presenting as TV Licensing, which is the BBC dressed in drag, how they they suddenly transmute into being a representative of Capita?

Furthermore, if Capita are making revenue off the court costs, is that lawful if they have falsely presented themselves to the public as a masked version of the BBC? Refunding all of these court case cost awards could easily bankrupt Capita.

In the TV Licensing Prosecution Code for England and Wales they state:

TV Licensing (including the BBC as the data controller, and its suppliers) will only use the personal data you provide to help decide whether to prosecute you for the offence of using a TV receiver without a licence and in connection with that prosecution.

Again, “TV Licensing” is used as an organisation entity, which means someone has to be trading as “TV Licensing”. They continually fudge who “TV Licensing” is, as a kind of business chameleon. It cannot just be a shell game where the assets go one way and the liabilities another depending on which way the wind blows and who benefits from the fallout. You can use a shared trade name for multiple independent businesses (e.g. restaurant franchises) but they have to clearly display who you are really doing business with. That is not the case here, to the public’s detriment.

Now, in this Freedom of Information response the BBC states:

Case law has established that a statutory power will be construed as impliedly 
authorising everything which can fairly be regarded as incidental or consequential to the power itself and this doctrine is interpreted widely by the courts. 

How far does this doctrine stretch? We shall see. But I am close to certain that Capita have no standing in my own case, which points to a much bigger problem. If they had simply paid me £5k to go away, I would not have bothered to dig further. Now, by insisting on winning in the short run, they have incentivised me to deconstruct their whole business model in order to look for defects. That’s my core professional expertise. My father did a comparable thing for Boeing 747s, stripping them down for major maintenance checks. I tear across information landscapes seeking anomalies, so it runs in the blood.

The really serious matter is that Capita may be the initial recipient of money paid to “TV Licensing”. If the latter represents the BBC, then the former pocketing the cash, even with the permission of the BBC, is criminal theft. This game of “keep the revenue, but put the dirty work at arm’s length and pretend it isn’t really the lovely old Beeb kicking your door down” could go horribly wrong. The worst case (or best case, depending on your perspective) is that all revenue paid to Capita acting fraudulently as “TV Licensing” has to be repaid, which would spell the end of the BBC.

Let’s say that again for the hard of thinking: deceptively presenting as one company in order to get revenue for a different company is fraud, even if they money is later passed to where you think it ought to have been. The takings are the proceeds of crime, and being stolen have to be retuned. The BBC would immediately cease to exist if this “transcorporate” identity confusion game turns our to be a criminal conspiracy to launder liability to a third party. It’s just money laundering applied to the other half of the balance sheet.

Again, according to ChatGPT:

Who carries legal liability for activities conducted under the trademark “TV Licensing”?

The legal liability for activities conducted under the trademark “TV Licensing” lies with the BBC. The BBC is the entity responsible for the collection and enforcement of the TV license fee in the UK, and the use of the “TV Licensing” trademark is part of that activity. The BBC is a public corporation and is ultimately accountable to the UK government and Parliament. Any legal issues arising from the use of the “TV Licensing” trademark would be the responsibility of the BBC.

Being rather keen to get to the bottom of this, I filed the following Freedom of Information request today to the BBC:

Dear Sir/Madam,

The BBC is incorporated under a Royal Charter, and is listed at Companies House as company number RC000057. It is authorised to act as the Licensing Authority for the collection of television license fees under the Communications Act 2003. Fee collection is implemented via The Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations over multiple years. The TV Licensing website at has a security certificate registered to the BBC.

I hereby request the following information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. For the avoidance of doubt, I also request that any reference to a document or website gives the specific content that answers the question, and not a generality in the subject area.

1. Please explain how the BBC website ( is compliant with The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015 by pointing to the relevant disclosures, or explain which act, statute, regulation, instrument, treaty, or ruling exempts the BBC from these rules.
2. Is the website at the BBC trading as “TV Licensing”? If not, please explain what policy or document describes how members of the public should identify the appropriate party with which they are interacting and carries legal liability.
3. Please explain how the TV Licensing website ( is compliant with The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015 by pointing to the relevant disclosures, or explain which act, statute, regulation, instrument, treaty, or ruling exempts the BBC from these rules.
4. Postal correspondence from TV Licensing only displays the trademark, and not any company details. Please explain which act, statute, regulation, instrument, treaty, or ruling exempts such correspondence from The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2015.
5. Which organizational entity carries legal liability for correspondence sent to the public under the trademark “TV Licensing”, and what is the supporting documentary evidence for this?
6. The TV Licensing website at says it is “Copyright TV Licensing” — which is confusing, as TV Licensing is a trademark owned by the BBC and licensed to multiple partners, and not an entity in itself with ownership rights. Which legal entity actually owns the intellectual property for this website?
7. The TV Licensing website states that the BBC is the sole data controller under Data Protection Act 2018 (GDPR) for data used in its role as Licensing Authority, and that Capita Business Services Ltd is solely a data processor on behalf of TV Licensing. Can you confirm that Capita has no independent authority to act on TV Licensing data (including use in court) without the permission of the BBC and/or the data subject?
8. When a member of the public is prosecuted for license evasion, in whose name are cases brought per the Single Justice Procedure? If not the BBC itself, which specific act, statute, regulation, instrument, treaty, or ruling gives the party the delegated authority to prosecute members of the public for television license evasion?
9. Are monies paid to TV Licensing in the first instance received by Capita Business Services Ltd, and then passed on to the BBC (for payment into the Consolidated Fund); or are they paid into an account owned by the BBC; or is there some other money flow (in which case please specify)?

Martin Geddes

Much as I prefer to be located in my kind heart creating beautiful things, it is occasionally necessary to give the brutal intellect a recreational day out beating up bad ideas and corrupt entities. I don’t mind sharing this information here, tipping my hand, as what matters is exposing the liability laundering scam rather than winning my own case.

I have a few other tricks up my sleeve to expose the truth about who “TV Licensing” really are, and whether the activities of the BBC and Capita are lawful. So watch this space for updates!

After all, it is much better than any TV drama.