TV licence 'name and shame' ad backfires

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An aggressive campaign to cut down on television licence evasion by naming streets where alleged non-payers live has backfired.

The campaign has focused on one of the communities least likely to own a television: Manchester's large ultra-orthodox Jewish population.

A poster put up on hoardings across the city claims that four unnamed households on Broom Lane have no licence, in effect accusing its residents of committing a criminal offence punishable by a fine.

Unfortunately for TV Licensing, the private consortium that collects fees for the BBC, Broom Lane is part of one of Britain's largest orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods, where television and video are taboo.

The advert, part of a controversial campaign called Target Zero to collect up to £160m lost through evasion, has seemingly only increased hostility to the technology.

"The advert did cause great upset within that community," said a spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews. "There are several hundred families living in that part of Manchester who do not, will not and will never own televisions. They see them as things that bring filth into their living rooms, and they're forbidden from owning televisions."

TV Licensing spends £60m a year on anti-evasion campaigns. Despite Broom Lane's location, both the agency and the BBC insist some homes there will be owned by non-Jews. "It seems as if quite a lot of them have televisions if only four of them don't have licences," said one BBC official.