BBC license fee

My views on the BBC license fee are very strong, but before I start ranting, let’s just review what the license fee is here to do. Basically every UK resident that owns a TV has to pay the TV license fee, this goes in part to pay for the monitoring, control and fraud detection associated with the licensing, and the rest goes to the BBC directly.

So if you have a TV, you pay a license, which pays the BBC and no other channel.

This is where my rant begins, you see I don’t understand or accept that model. Imagine the Goverment forcing you to subscribe to Sky because you have a TV? Or imagine the Goverment forcing you to pay a fee to my local shop because you can shop there, it doesn’t matter if you do or not, the choice is there and you might.

It’s a crazy scenario to start with, but the latest story from the BBC just has me even more infuriated.

The initial story from the BBC itself.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said the rise would fund the switch-over to digital TV and BBC on-demand services. The BBC says it needs an extra £5.5bn over the next seven years to pay for more original programmes, new digital and local services and increased costs…

…”We know that licence fee payers find the licence fee a burden in their household costs,” Mr Thompson said. “But on the other hand, we also know that they are overwhelmingly in favour of the BBC spearheading these new digital services.

The BBC Plans

So we’re going to be paying for the BBC to switch off all the analogue broadcasts (how you normally receive a TV signal on your TV) and for them to provide us with a digital signal. This, of course, means that we also have to find the money to buy some form of receiving a digital broadcast too.

We’re also going to be paying for new content, and that’s a big joke. Are we expected to believe that the BBC’s lack of decent programming over the last few years, albeit a very few programs, is down to not receiving this money? Hardly, the BBC have produced many good programmes in the past and without this extra over-inflation money.

Nowadays we’re given to Eastenders, repeats, and some of the dullest shows I’ve seen in my life, Johnathon Ross is perhaps the only saving light on this channel. Instead the BBC are pushing their new shows onto their other digital channels and leaving their main analogue channels a wasteland fighting against the growing popularity and quality of the other channels.

There is a poll tax on their TVs and they have got to pay it.
Nigel Evans MP, culture select committee member

It’s crazy, and from that story the MP Nigel Evans hit back with a very excellent comment there, it is a poll tax on owning a TV.

What about the other side though, the fact that none of the other channels offered in either analogue or digital are receiving any of this income? Yes it’s a tax on owning a TV, but all the funds are for the BBC only, not ITV, Channel 4, Five, or any of the digital services. They have to rely on their own methods of raising funds.

The arguement, I would guess, is that I could watch the BBC, listen to their radio channels, or visit their Internet site and that’s why I should pay. Personally I feel that if I’m sitting with my TV connected to my games consoles and home cinema system without connecting it to a an aerial I should not have to pay. Tough, I do. I still have to pay the BBC to make their programmes whether I watch them or not.

Even the TV we currently have connected to the aerial is never really on BBC, what do we watch? Well my girlfriend watches some soaps now and again all on ITV and Channel 4. Together we watch US shows which are all on Channel 4 and Five.

Sure I visit the website for some movie news now and again, but to be totally fair the BBC are always carrying the movie news much later than everyone else. In the times I’ve used it as a source it’s been because I’ve seen it there at the time, or that I’ve wanted to use the BBC reference rather than a smaller site to prove some point, just like here.

So here we are facing an exceptional hike in the payment for the BBC service which we may not even use, and when they use that money to decomission the analogue television system, we’ll have to pay more money to get the digital service. Brilliant, wonderful service.

Then there’s an interesting point my Father brought to me. Behind the policing of the licence fee is a huge organisation with computer systems, monitoring, detection, staff, Inspectors, mobile units and some extremely expensive television advertising. How does that get paid for? Well, with the licence fee we’re paying for.

All in all, and in this day and age, I can’t believe we’re being forced to pay for a service we may not use, a service we may not need, and against the whole idea of competativeness in modern business we are funding the Government to pay for a company to survive against all the others in its marketplace.

Again, would you accept an enforced tax from the Government to pay for my local shop, despite living at the other end of the country? It’s time that the BBC goes it alone, this tax is removed, and the viewer empowered with the ability of choice. Let the BBC enter the competative market, between its programmes there are adverts galore already.

I am not in favour of the BBC spearheading the digital revolution at the additional cost of the TV owners, nor do I believe that the BBC should be paid for by the TV owners.

10 comments on “BBC license fee”

  1. Martin Sutherland Reply

    I’ll agree with you that the License Fee is, in this day and age, an unfair and regressive tax, and should be replaced by a better funding model. I disagree strongly, however, that the BBC makes poor use of the funds, or that the BBC should go it alone.

    For good use of funds, I would point to Radio 4, News 24, and the Beeb’s programming for children, all of which are world leaders. As for the rest of BBC radio, its digital TV stations, and its internet presence…there’s a lot there that will be down to taste. But taking a view across all of the BBC’s portfolio, I can’t see how you can argue that it is performing any worse than any other media organisation.

    As for the matter of state ownership, what other media provider operates under a *legal provision* that it must “inform, educate, and entertain”? If the BBC were privatised, it would become legally obliged to provide the maximum value for its shareholders. “Educate” and “inform” do not usually go hand-in-hand with massive profits.

    I believe that the public’s interests are best served here by public ownership. In particular, the BBC’s archives are a massive public resource right now. In 2003, Greg Dyke outlined a vision where these archives would be opened up for public use (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3177479.stm), an idea which could only have germinated in an organisation whose idea of bringing value to its owners not directly equate to a financial dividends. I’m not one of those rabid “information wants to be free” types, but I believe that (a certain amount) of publicly funded–and *adequately* funded–media is massively important to our culture. (Since Dyke’s departure, the idea of the Creative Archive has largely been squashed, but it still pokes its head up in a few places, e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/calc/radio1/)

    Could the BBC be doing better? Sure. Every channel could, and I’m sure that just as every PLC is trying to improve profits year on year, the BBC is trying to improve its programming all the time. You could say that some of its digital TV channels are as commercial as those offered by any other company, but cutting them loose would undermine the BBC’s overall goal that for every “Eastenders” there should also be a “Newsnight”.

    Do I believe that I *personally* am getting good value from the license fee right now? Yes. Even leaving aside the matter of public interest, and how we as a country are enriched by having the BBC in place, I definitly feel that just in terms of *programming*, I’m getting my money’s worth. Would I be willing to pay more for the BBC services I consume than someone who never tunes in to BBC 1 or and BBC radio? Definitely.

    The funding model for the BBC is unquestionably in need of change (http://news.independent.co.uk/media/article320110.ece). The real difficulty is going to be figuring out how to square that away with its public duty–of which I am fundamentally in favour. “Letting the market decide” is an overly simplistic solution.

  2. Lee Reply

    I’m seeing two main things here, one for the Government and one for

    the BBC. I’ll take HM Government on board first:

    “Inflation” means whatever you want it to. It should be nice and

    simple, that your cost of living was x last year, is now x + y% this

    year. And y being the rate of inflation. Easy. So if inflation

    stands at 10%, what cost you £10,000 last year will cost you £11,000

    this year.

    So why, then, is just about everything going up by more than the rate

    of inflation? I can’t remember the last ANY of the list below had

    rises restricted to the published rate of inflation or less:

    Water rates

    Electricity prices

    Gas prices

    Council Tax

    Our factoring fees

    In particular with water rates, I can’t remember when our bill saw a

    single digit rise, I can remember 20%+ 3 years running earlier this

    decade.

    What else is volatile just now? Oil. And what depends on oil? Just

    about everything. Between manufacturing and distribution, is there a

    single item in the house that has not been made from oil products or

    at least moved by the use of oil? And that has gone up a little over

    inflation over the last few years.

    So where do our “inflation” figures come from? It doesn’t fit my idea

    of inflation, as the actual cost rises are x+y%+z%, where z is some

    massive unknown. For the BBC z=2.3

    Secondly, the BBC:

    As a programme producer there are areas where they cannot be beaten.

    As a corporation I hate the BBC and how it abuses its monopolistic

    position as being paid for by “law enforcable” funding. Don’t like

    Sky, then stop paying them and don’t take the service. Don’t like the

    BBC, sorry you’re stuck with paying for it. Only have a TV to watch

    DVDs, tough – if your TV is capable of receiving a signal then you

    pay.

    To say they are using the extra licence to spearhead additional

    digital services is more than a little rich. Sky will be the first to

    introduce HD signals to the UK. Sky “spearheaded” digital services in

    the UK, with a reasonable amount of cable competition. So where the

    BBC fits in, other than producing more channels, is beyond me.

    The licence fee payer is who exactly? Those who live in the UK and

    receive a TV signal. But our fee pays for BBC TV AND BBC radio, BBC

    website, BBC support services (although some support costs are

    recouped by charging, eg information booklets that accompany a

    series). Radio is free to anyone, whether you have a licence or not.

    I can stomach this, but…

    Radio 1 is available in the US airspace now. Hang on, who pays for

    that? Hmm, that’ll be the same British TV licence fee payer. And

    web-based broadcasts? Worldwide availability, at our expense.

    I put it to the BBC that the proposal is not to “spearhead” digital

    services, but to pay for worldwide availability and increased numbers

    of channels. What are they offering within their digital packages that

    are not already available?

    I firmly believe that if you use something you pay for it (which is

    why I agreed with the Community Charge in principal, just not the

    execution). And that is what a large number of BBC users are not

    required to do.

    If the BBC had to compete on a level playing field it would probably

    lose all that it is good at. But at the same time if it lost that

    crowning glory it would not be able to abuse its position any more.

  3. Patrick Hadfield Reply

    I feel duty bound to defend the BBC – not over everything, perhaps, but I believe on the whole it produces good programming free at the point of delivery.

    I am a fan of radio. The BBC produces a rich variety of programming to meet most tastes. As a DAB listener, I frequently channel-hop, but the only stations I listen to regularly are the BBC – the output from Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4 and BBC Scotland is excellent. (As a plug for Radio Scotland’s “Good Morning Scotland” programme, they cover the news agenda much more effectively the Radio 4’s “Today” – lacking the sneering, cynical approach of Today, GMS manages to get deeper into the issues.)

    The licence fee is worth not having to listen to inane adverts repeatedly.

    The licence fee also allows the BBC to indulge in projects that otherwise would not happen – which is what a public service broadcaster should do. Think of the Proms – an excellent festival of music available to all.

    I have my doubts about digital TV, but that is driven by the Government agenda.

    There are deeper issues about the value of supporting culture in society – I know the audiences for classical music and jazz are limited – but that is what a public service boradcaster is there to do.

  4. Richard Brunton Reply

    I really like Lee’s comments and wholeheartedly agree with them. I am sure that both Martin and Patrick feel that they are receiving value from the BBC, I and Lee are most definitely not. So how do you rectify that?

    Perhaps we should have subscription to BBC, much like the E4 channels?

    I think the big point that is being missed here is that people who don’t use or require the service are being made to pay for it, while huge numbers of people who use the service aren’t.

    I wish I could use that business model!

  5. Lee Reply

    It is possible to say ALL broadcasting is free at the point of delivery – Sky’s paid for in advance on a monthly basis so if you watch 24×7 you still pay the same amount as if you watched 1 hour a month, the BBC is paid for either monthly or annually in advance for the same use, ITV is paid for by advertisers, who inevitably charge a little extra for their products to pay for it.

    The only thing that differentiates the BBC’s funding is that the consumer has no choice but to pay it. If Sky went down the tubes, subscribers would cancel (I have this month), ITV would lose advertising revenue. The BBC are guaranteed their money no matter what. And this is how they abuse the public, by using this guarantee to increase the fee to do whatever they want, under whatever claims.

    I totally agree that they are world leaders in certain programming fields. But some of those have such limited interest that they are being heavily subsidised by the masses for the minorities. The Royal Opera House received £85million of lottery cash to subsidise a minority pastime, the BBC is fairly similar in this respect for the “arts”.

    Even governments have accountability – don’t like what they do, then vote them out next time round. The BBC is protected from such accountability.

    I think there is a half-way house solution. For the essential public service / educational programming have this subsidised by HM Government through taxation to make it more accountable (with enough seperation maintained so it doesn’t become a Government platform), but for minority interests programming have this funded by subscription paid for by those who watch it and not subsidised by those who don’t. And with the proliferation of channels then, god forbid, they could have dedicated channels for each genre. Now, why hasn’t anyone else done this? Oh, they have!

    Unfortunately that would never happen, as those minority ineterest groups would find out exactly how much the rest of the country pays for their programmes, and they would probably vanish through lack of subscriptions.

    When I was a Sky customer I never asked for, or had anyone, subsidising my sports viewing who did not want to watch the sports. So why should the arts lovers expect this?

  6. Richard Brunton Reply

    This latest story from the BBC is a shocking one, and here’s where the licence fee we’re being forced to pay is going:

    From: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1880715,00.html

    Through: http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2005_11_01_biased-bbc_archive.html#113269664366381536

    “THE BBC was embarrassed last night by e-mails that showed it “invented” a justification for spending £60,000 of licence payers’ money commissioning a Tracey Emin sculpture…

    …An e-mail dated February 22 from senior BBC publicist Janet Morrow to Vanda Rumney, head of communications, gave warning that the commission could create a “sticky situation on the public art front which could blow up”.

    Morrow noted that the sculpture “is not connected to a BBC building, nor is it linked in any way to a BBC broadcast or BBC activity — the BBC has purely used licence fee money to create a public sculpture”.

    She then said she had “invented” a “plausible line” to justify the commission.”

  7. Anon Reply

    This is how BBC scotland spend your licence fee, on a room full of the lastest technology, a big plasma, wii, PS3 and an XBox 360 not to mention SkyHD and plenty of other toys. They call the room the Playground and the catch phrase is “where work is play”.

    Here’s an image of its grand opening: http://media5.dropshots.com/photos/476872/20080415/062624.jpg

    [The image can be reached by copy and pasting that link or clicking on Anon’s name to the left – Richard]

    Should they not be making TV and radio programs rather than playing wii and PS3 games. Its no wonder all scottish content from the BBC is rubbish.

    I want a refund, or at least some of thet booze they drunk at my expense!

  8. jeff Reply

    I have to say, I aggree, bbc are being greedy, freeview is absolutely dire.

    if i’m forced to watch the same episode of Top Gear on Dave again, I think ill go mad…. again!

    it’s like they only have a certain amount of programs & they keep repeating them to death, because, I would suspect, for the lack of cash.

    B’b can’t make the programs that is required & justify their charge so time to spread it around freeview and alocate to channels with ideas, no?

    J

  9. R Davies Reply

    Complete nonsense. What else among those things that you HAVE to pay for, like taxes for instance, gives you anything like the value for money the BBC does. Answer – NONE. For the price of a Mars bar you get four TV channels, BBC radio BBC online and NO adverts every day AND good quality programs.

    I can remember when Commercial TV started. Then the commecial stations had all the money. They used it to entice talent away from the BBC and the BBC became better at finding and developing NEW talent because of it (Which then in turn was filched by the commercials). I dont remember anyone back then when shiploads of cash was pouring into the commercials that ANY of it should be used to reduce the license fee!

    Murdoch and his running dogs would love to bring down the BBC, not because they want to do any of us a favour but because he wants more money for News International and his envy of the BBC knows no bounds.

    I think Murdock and Blair did a deal during the 45mins scandal to starve the BBC of resources by capping the fee and publishing endless negative stories about it.

    The problem for the commercials is there are too many of them and they cant fill their schedules. Solution – for them – kill the BBC.

    I know which side my bread is buttered and if the BBC goes it will never come back. It isnt always till the lights go out we realise they were on. Take a look at US TV and see where the future lies if the BBC is axed. Mind knumbing advertising (which is itself a social evil) will increase and programme quality will go down. And sure I’d pay a fee for Sky IF it matched the BBC. Why not.

    Dont let the pinch brains win. Support the BBC.

  10. weblog.brunton.org.uk Reply

    Yeah, but if you don’t like Mars Bars it doesn’t matter what you pay for them, you don’t like them and you don’t want them.

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