I note that many countries still have these – but that many have ceased them. In Britain, our license is decades behind what is on offer and how people view.
My issue is firstly that a compulsory legally backed fee was ever levied from the public. Although the British Broadcasting Corporation was created as independent, the fact that its licence was equated in law to tax – and thus has the same punishments of fees and ultimately imprisonment for non payment – shows that it is not independent from the establishment, and thus neither is the BBC. This shows how law and crimes are often relative and privately self serving, not public safe keeping.
That the decision for change has to come from parliament is also telling.
It is often commented on that the BBC is biased. Its news is very negative and feels created to gain a particular response. During the credit crunch and since Brexit, it repeats doomful ideas. Watching it alongside other news – and in the early evening, you can chain watch about 4 different channels – you see the particular tone of the BBC. In a couple of weeks, everyone appearing on BBC TV will wear a red poppy, which has connotations for beliefs about war. The BBC skips over other matters – such as the unpopularity of its licence and the widespread historic abuse in it uncovered around children’s presenter Jimmy Saville.
Although some proponents claim that the BBC is standard bearer in both television and radio, it is not to everyone’s tastes. Its programming is repetitive (thus across more channels we do not gain more content than before BBC 3 and 4 were created), and that its drama is outweighed by the reality and non narrative programmes. Peeking at the BBC’s website, I see that programmes about food, dancing, antiques and nature are high profile. We should not be paying for that website – one I don’t even really rate or find user friendly.
I personally now don’t see BBC as appealing or good quality, in any of its media.
There’s also a certain kind of Britishness associated with the BBC. The BBC creates and maintains a status quo. Many of the BBC’s popular programmes are older ones. I’ve not yet seen it be ahead of the curve, and truly radical.
It’s also pointed out that BBC does have many adverts – for itself – and thus isn’t really better than a commercial channel.
The BBC hasn’t been the nation’s only provider of television or radio for some decades. By the early 1980s, there were four TV channels and three providers; the other two – Independent television (ITV) and Channel 4 – having to fund themselves via advertising, thus introducing the commercial break that is so familiar in other countries. There were other radio stations, locally and nationally, and further, if you could find the frequency. At that time, home video had arrived, and we covered the cost of what we watched in the purchase or hire fee.
And many videos – now in a different format – are of films, and I wonder if there’s a trend that non TV owners are regular cinema goers. Or perhaps they prefer theatre, or music, or sport, or lectures, or they’re involved in churches or politics.
So my point is that yes there are still people who don’t have a television and aren’t interested, and find other ways to find out about the world and have culture in their lives.
But these non viewers can be disbelieved and harassed. No, we’re not all glued to the box.
But it’s not easy to prove that we’ve no such box and that other devices which can pick up pictures are not being used for the purposes that require licensing.
I have seen some websites put out incorrect facts regarding when you need a licence: owning a DVD/video player and TV do not require one, it’s watching new programmes, live or recorded, on any device. It has been the case for some time that viewing prerecorded media only does not require a licence – and rightly so.
And if we’re watching DVDs of cinema films, then why should the BBC expect to gain a share by enforcing a licence that almost solely benefits itself? Or what of television shows that don’t come to Britain, or aren’t British made, or are made by another channel? The BBC doesn’t have to prove its share or gain an audience to elicit its fees, unlike anyone else.
This is the point that many people have made, and it’s been valid since the introduction of the 3rd channel, but especially from the 1980s, which is now over 30 years ago. By 2000, satellite and cable had arrived for many, as had the net. Now of course we have much greater choice and diverse habits and the BBC is an ever smaller offering of our media diet.
The BBC makes most of us pay them a tax (or be prepared to prove why we are exempt) but it itself does not pay corporation tax, as it’s non-profit making. This is huge: that it takes tax but doesn’t expect to have to run like other companies. It has also been accused of avoiding other kinds of tax on a large scale, by using a not long closed loophole.
And then, the most pertinent point: the TV license funds bullying.
I read huge numbers of prosecutions, many of which are thrown out of court. I’ve heard above 180,000 a year, and that 1 in 10 UK prosecutions are to do with TV licensing.
The licensing company has a whole collections arm, which are thus paid for publicly. They employ bully boy tactics, including their fear inducing adverts, with vans cruising about watching for signals from unpaid watchers, and then swooping on whoever answers the door, often exaggerating their powers (which is an offense of both kinds). They say that non payment is unfair on those who do pay, and call non payers “evaders”, which is an emotive and negative word.
But fee abolition website SpiderBomb shows that the BBC’s revenue from licensing creates a huge budget and it’s much more than it needs. Large salaries are pointed out – why should we have to pay for those? SpiderBomb suggests a much more modest fee is viable.
Yes I’ve heard the Beeb themselves argue that the radio part of the licence is pence, that it’s like a pint of beer each week, but what if we don’t drink Beeb beer? The price of beer argument’s a weak one, for some people still struggle with the £147 annual license and certainly the £1000 fine. There’s been much about the economic imbalance that the fee is a flat tax, unrelated to income (or usage), and that the poor are disproportionately harassed and even end up in prison because of this matter.
This sounds so familiar in inequitable governing around the world and history. I believe that the BBC and its overseas branches often argued for are part of empire retention, and that the real issue is about the use of public broadcasting.
And what if we resent funding a salaried collections company who are paid bonuses and given quotas, such as Capita are?
Many of us would be keen to not fund organisations of abuse and oppression, but we’re being forced to do so directly, via British law and our own so called Aunt.
Auntie Beeb is not seen as our caring trustworthy source of news and stories, but a not so subtle controlling matriarch who seems exempt from critique and change.
The BBC is one of a large family now, and a relation we may not ever spend time with, especially due to her brutish behaviour – that she requires gifts for visiting not only herself but other aunts, and sends in her henchmen for those who don’t. Is this someone you want to have a relationship with, and feel should go unchecked?
Today, a debate is happening in Westminster about the TV tax. Let us ensure our views are listened to and that it’s not replaced (which it needs to be) with more draconian rules.
– We need a new system which doesn’t involve further watching the public, as I fear subscription and online based scenarios lend themselves to, and we know that digital television sets assist with
– Fines and especially prison and door to door bullying is an abuse and needs to stop
– TV licensing needs to come off people’s criminal records; it makes a mockery of what law and crime really is
– Look to New Zealand as an example of a country who stopped the licence through peaceful people power
– Find a solution which reflects people’s habits and what there is now
We’ve put off this conversation too many times: we need to listen to the public to create a decision, and make something for them, not against them.