A Most Indefensible Tax?

***BREAKING NEWS***

The Government has today announced legislation requiring every household to apply for a Newspaper License. Revenue raised from the license with fund a new publication to be known as the British Daily News.

-Renewal of the License will be ANNUAL.

-Leadership of the paper will be in the hands of a Trust, APPOINTED by the Queen on ‘advice’ from politicians.

-Participation in the scheme is MANDATORY.

-Choosing not to read the British Daily News is NO ESCAPE, you will still be compelled to pay for it.

-Refusal to buy a license will result in FINES and even IMPRISONMENT.

***More To Follow***

Sound ludicrous in 21st Century Britain? That’s because it is. And yet such a system already exists. In case you haven’t already guessed, I am referring to the current set up of the BBC and the License Fee.

The License Fee is, to all intents and purposes, a tax. You must pay £145.50 a year for privileged of watching a colour television that you bought with your money. This tax pays for 23,000 employees to provide you with a smattering of television, radio and internet services, the likes of which other media outlets manage to profitably finance themselves.

Choice

When the License Fee was introduced on June 1st 1946, you might (just) have been able to make the argument that it was legitimate. There were commercial radio stations, but only one television broadcaster. The BBC was product of its era; the State was big, paternalistic, and there to look after you. Indeed the unofficial motto of the BBC was ‘educate, inform, and entertain’. Television was a method for the State to communicate with its citizenry as much as anything else

Today, the picture is wildly different. A cursory glance at your television guide will demonstrate just how much things have changed. There are over a dozen news channels available, and literally hundreds of entertainment channels. The same goes for music and radio. And the beauty of it is, you decide how much or how little you want. For example if you don’t watch a great deal of sport or movies…you don’t buy those packages.

Yet we are forced to pay for the BBC.

 

Technology

Even the idea of a television is becoming outmoded. The vast majority of my news comes from my smart phone. For this I have a contract with the service provider for access to the network, and from there I access the news sources I want. Laptops, netbooks and tablets enable people to download just the films and TV shows they want, wherever and whenever they want.

Yet we are forced to pay for the BBC.

 

Regressive

Oddly, for an institution so beloved by elements of the Left, the License Fee is a rather regressive tax. It makes no distinctions between a part time admin assistant on £7k p/a, and a premiership footballer on £60k a week. The License Fee takes up a far higher percentage of the income of poorer households, for exactly the same level of service.

Yet we are forced to pay for the BBC.

 

Change will come, it’s only a matter of time. And the most radical solution is also the fairest and easiest to implement; let the BBC fend for itself.

In an age of multiple news and entertainment channels and outlets, there is no moral justification for retaining an archaic License Fee. If the BBC relied on advertising and product placement, it would immediately be accountable to its viewers and listeners in a way it has never been before. It would have to respond to changing tastes. If something wasn’t popular, it would be axed. The Sunday Sport was a rag of a paper. People voted with their feet. It no longer exists. Simple.

The cry will no doubt go out that this will result in wall to wall low-brow Reality TV and celebrity dross. My answer to that is two-fold. Firstly, some of the best television on right now comes from Sky Atlantic, the Discovery and History Channels, all of which are commercial. Secondly, demanding the BBC be shielded from the vulgarity of having to actually earn its keep is nothing more than snobbery and elitist paternalism. It is no better than saying that the Little People need the BBC because they can’t be trusted to watch (and thus support) channels that broadcast  the ‘correct’ programming.

The BBC produces world class news, documentaries and entertainment. Nobody doubts it could stand alone. It needn’t be scared of competition.

 

Within twenty years, your television and your computer won’t be separate machines. The idea that one media outlet will still be clinging to it’s privileged and cosseted position through a century old tax is not only laughable…it’s actually rather sad.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I’m happy to watch ad breaks because I knoew it means I don’t fund anything the channel does that I don’t agree with, which was not the case with Jerry Springer: The Opera, the Ross and Brand fiasco and, worst of all, a paedophile network using licence-payers’ money.

    Some of what the BBC does is world-class and sells internationally, and I’m sure that when it has to fend for itself it will raise its output. In the meanwhile, when my 25-year-old TV gives out, I’ll be ceremonially destroying it.

  2. Lee is right. Is bbc news and radio.4.an excelent product.? how can it be when it is so.biased
    as for the drama itv have been producing some excelent dramas lately.The bbc not as good hiw can it produce decent entertainment when it is using license fee money.to shore up its.pension funds and paying managees.collosal.salaries its time for it to srand on its own.2.feet.

  3. Thank you all for your comments.

    My issue isn’t with the content of the BBC. As I said, it produces some excellent stuff.

    My beef is that I am forced to pay for it. How can it be right and just that somebody could go to prison for not wanting to pay for one of may, many media outlets??

  4. I agree with Andrew.

    Funny how those who harp on about ‘British’ ‘Britishness’ and ‘Britain’ often are the ones that one to take apart one of the last of the great British institutions we have.

    The BBC is not perfect, but it’s the best out there.

  5. I understand where you’re coming from, but I personally think it’s £145.50 well spent. BBC News and Radio 4 are fantastic, and BBC dramas are high quality. The ITV commercial breaks drive me insane – introducing them to BBC radio and television would be awful.

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