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1952: Test drive for TV detector vans
A new method for tracking down users of unlicensed television sets has been unveiled in the UK.

The first TV detector van was demonstrated in front of Postmaster-General, Lord De La Warr and Assistant Postmaster-General Mr Gammans.

The detection equipment was developed at short notice at the radio experimental laboratories of the Post Office in Dollis Hill, London.

The units consist of three horizontal loop aerials fixed to the roof of a van which receives signals from TV sets and converts them to radio waves to give audio and video information.

Its inventors insist the system is sensitive enough to pick up the vast majority of television receivers, whether the aerial is external or internal.

We are most unwilling to start a snoop campaign
Lord De La Warr, Postmaster-General
Detector vans will pass slowly along roads and will be able to pin-point where receivers are in use.

TV detection officers will make doorstep inquiries as they go along.

According to Post Office estimates there are between 100,000 and 150,000 people watching television without a licence.

Lord De La Warr said people without licences were receiving free entertainment subsidised by those who had paid.

He said he was determined to discover who the non-payers were, although he was sure many people had simply forgotten to get their licence.

"We are most unwilling to start a snoop campaign or to follow it up by prosecutions," he added.

The Post Office will begin its campaign to catch up with non-licence payers at the beginning of next week, when the first detector vans will be on the streets.

A spokesman said many more of the specially equipped vehicles will be in action in the near future.

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Television detector van
Up to 150,000 people do not have a television licence



TV Licence Facts
The BBC took over responsibility for collecting the licence fee from the Home Office in 1991.
Rates of evasion halved but in 2002 the National Audit Office estimated it was running at up to 7.6% at a cost of 141 million a year.
The BBC issued a record number of TV licences in 2001. The figure of 23.7 million was a 20% increase over the previous 10 years.
TV Licence inspectors made 3,230,000 visits in 2001 and caught 400,000 evaders.
In the year to end of March 2004, licence fee evasion was estimated to be running at 5.7%, an all-time low.
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