TV detector van

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A Leyland Sherpa television detector van.
Dodge SuperVan equipped as detector van. Displayed at Science Museum, London. (As of January 2015)

TV detector vans are vans which, according to the BBC, contain equipment which can detect the presence of television sets in use.[1] The vans are operated by contractors working for the BBC, in order to enforce the television licensing system in the UK, the Channel Islands and on the Isle of Man.


The first TV detector van was demonstrated on 1 February 1952.[1]

In 2013, the Radio Times obtained a leaked internal document from the BBC giving a breakdown of prosecutions for TV licence evasion.[2] The eighteen page document gave a breakdown of the number of people evading the charge, as well as mentioning the number of people employed to catch those who do not pay their television licence.[3] However, no mention was made of TV detector vans being used to catch such people, prompting media speculation over the truth of their existence. In response a BBC spokeswoman rejected claims that the vans are a hoax. "“Detector vans are an important part of our enforcement of the licence fee. We don’t go into detail about how many there are or how they work as this information might be useful to people trying to evade the fee."[2]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Test drive for TV detector vans". BBC On This Day. 1952-02-01. Archived from the original on 10 May 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Carter, Claire (27 September 2013). "Myth of the TV detector van?". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Robin (2 January 2014). "TV detector vans are out to catch Derbyshire licence dodgers". Derby Telegraph (Local World). Retrieved 27 September 2015.