NEW POLL: time to scrap the BBC licence fee?

In his Lib Dem News column this week, reprinted on his Liberal England blog, Jonathan Calder poses what he terms “an awkward question that won’t go away”:

How can you justify financing the BBC through the licence fee in a multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-everything world? Increasing numbers of people rarely watch its programmes and the fee is the nearest thing we have to a poll tax. If the BBC has its way, it will cost us all £180 a year by 2013.

Those arguing the case for the continuation of the BBC licence fee have not had their case made any easier by the weekend’s controversy over Jonathan Ross’s and Russell Brand’s prank phone calls. The Daily Hate-Mail’s overblown faux outrage is beside the point. The bigger issue is that stars such as Ross would be equally at home on ITV or Channel 4 – but the state-funded BBC outbid their advertising-dependent rivals.

Where once the licence fee levelled the playing field, allowing the BBC and ITV to compete to ratchet up standards, the BBC is now completely dominant, and commercial channels are rapidly withdrawing from their public service obligations. As recession reality bites, and advertising revenues dwindle, this process will only accelerate. ITV and Channels 4 and Five are certain to be looking for further programme budget cuts, leaving only the BBC to cater for those who value quality telly and radio. Which is fine, I guess, if you’re happy with the idea of a state-run monopoly, answerable only to a quango, funded by a regressive poll tax. But that’s not my liberal cup of tea.

So, two questions to ponder: (i) does the state have a role in the funding of broadcasting? (I say yes); and (ii) if it does, what’s the most efficient and effective way of funding public service broadcasting? In this poll, we’re looking only at the second question – but feel free to ponder (i) in the comments section – and asking you, LDV’s readers, the question: How do you think the BBC should be funded?

Here are your options:

> As at present, through the BBC licence fee
> Scrap the licence fee, but pay for the BBC through general taxation
> Scrap the licence fee, and let the BBC become a subscription-based members’ service
> Scrap the licence fee, and let the BBC compete for advertising revenue

Over to you…

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  • broncodelsey 28th Oct '08 - 12:48am

    Scrap the license fee & let the BBC become subscription based.
    We keep on being told how popular it is so they can expect literaly milions of subscribers.
    If it has to continue ‘as is’ then limit it to maximum two TV channels and one radio station,we can then look forward to having the forced license fee cut.

  • To me, there’s two problems with the BBC. The first is the license fee, the second is the size of the corporation. I just don’t think it’s healthy for one broadcaster to be so overwhelmingly dominant, especially when it is effectivly unaccountable.

    So I’d break the organisation up into little independent pieces, keeping just one channel to carry the actual public-service stuff financed out of general taxation while flogging the rest off to be paid for by subs or advertising.

  • Mark Littlewood 28th Oct '08 - 3:00am

    I can’t vote either. I favour a mix of the last two options.

    If you break up and privatise the BBC, some of it will compete for advertising, some of it will be subscription viewing and other parts will disappear altogether.

  • Oh dear, here we go again. As every other channel struggles to get advertising revenue, up pops the idea that the BBC should compete for advertising revenue too. That will help everybody, not.

    Yes the BBC should be scaled back. Drop a couple of channels and local radio. Pay for it out of general taxation, ending the bureaucracy of licence fee collection.

    And stop the BBC employing the over paid ‘stars’ which has little to do with public service broadcasting.

    And is anyone wondering what the coverage of the Lib Dems would be without a public service BBC ?

    Is it odd to describe the BBC as a state run monopoly when clearly it isn’ a monoploy?

    As for regressive taxation – the describes the entire UK tax system at the moment.

  • Andrew Duffield 28th Oct '08 - 8:24am

    The BBC should run the National Lottery (instead of paying to advertise Camelot!) and fund itself accordingly.

  • The issue here is about value for money.

    Scaling back the BBC in order to reduce costs will be fought tooth and nail because the consequence of this is a reduction in the public service angle of broadcast media as it chases viewers.

    The only alternative is to expand the public service remit and force it to provide greater in-depth coverage of those areas.

    As a political anorak I’m a big fan of BBC Parliament and I think a similar model would also work for other areas. For example the financial crisis is showing there is an appetite for impartial market news and our conference recently discussed the idea of cameras in court – two areas where informative coverage sensitively handled would benefit public debate and audiences could be guaranteed.

    The BBC cannot continue to disadvantage its excellence in specialisation by focussing on generalisation if it wants to retain the fee at its current level or higher, otherwise a more mixed funding mechanism should be required.

  • If BT hadn’t been privatised, we’d probably seen a move away from the TV license to a Internet license. Ah well.

    I’d scrap the license fee and move over to direct taxation, in the same way that the NHS is funded from direct taxation. As both provide valuable services that the private sector wouldn’t find profitable.

    The BBC needs to be maintained for the good of the country. You can argue whether or not to scrap it’s entertainment programming, but the news and current affairs needs to be guaranteed.

    The country needs to have an impartial brand of news and documentary programming so that its citizens can make informed choices.

    As we can see in the US, market forces only lead to highly partisan news and the kind documentaries that ignore the important, if obscure, topics to concentrate on mass market appeal.

  • I don’t know what kind of absolute barbarian would want to do away with the BBC’s service. Some kind of reform, yes, but a strong public sector broadcaster needs to exist.

    This is not a cause which goes beyond a few Tory wingnuts who want a British Fox News & the absolutely rabid “libertarians”. Yes, there are problems, but they can be solved by a relentless focus on quality.

    Going to the lowest common denominator has been a massive contributor to dumbing down, which is why Thatcher & followers are far more responsible for the swamp we live in than anything describable as “left”.

    There are some public goods which should have nothing to do with the market & this is one of them.

  • Neil Bradbury 28th Oct '08 - 11:40am

    Totally support public service broadcasting – howver much of the BBCs product does not fulfill that remit. And some of the commercial broadcasters product does. Tax funding for “Aunties Bloopers” or “spooks”, whilst Dsipatches gets no state funding strikes me as odd.

    In addition I cannot support the TV Licence. It is much more regressive than council tax and is perniciously enforced. Just because most people are used to paying it does not mean it is defensible. Indeed in an increasingly multi platform broadcasting world it will become a declining source of income and we need to be prepared for that.

    I would like to see state funded public broadcasting system funded through direct taxation and/or a levy on commercial advertising income.

  • I am in near-total agreement with Andy Hinton’s views, & can’t think of any instance where he goes wrong, apart from his assessment of Radio 2 which produces some remarkably good programmes.

    The BBC needs to become a bastion of standards. Moyles, Clarkson et al can stand or fall commercially, but services such as Radio 2, 3 & 4 should be preserved against the rampant market place surging down & down & down.

    There should definitely be an emphasis on quality.

    Nick Reynolds has made what I consider a persuasive argument. How can anyone here not be uncomfortable about what the usual fanatics on Conservative Home want to subject us to?

  • Ian Eiloart 28th Oct '08 - 2:54pm

    The quality of programming on other channels is pretty poor, probably because there’s so much competition nobody can afford to create decent programs now.

    The license fee, on the other hand, is intrusive and regressive. A more efficient tax would be rental of spectrum to other broadcasters.

  • If the BBC is that wonderful then surely it would have no problems convincing people to subscribe voluntarily.

  • Nick Reynolds – thanks for your response, but I have never understood the argument you make against public funding through other means:

    “Funding the BBC through general taxation gives the Government of day direct control over the BBC and would erode the BBC’s independence.”

    Yet the license fee review is sufficiently frequent that it provides as much political control in reality as a hypothecated portion of the income tax would. How about a BBC budget, paid from general taxation, set on the same cycle as the current license fee review?

    I am staggered at how otherwise compassionate people are happy to support a poll tax just because its public faces are David Attenbrough, Simon Schama and Basil Brush.

    The ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ model used by some Lib Dem commenters is a pretty odd response. That could be the reply to almost every reform our party proposes, in any sphere.

  • Why not make the BBC explicitly democratic, and have its leadership subject to a public vote? It couldn’t possibly get any more abject and lowbrow than it is now, and electoral scrutiny would at least limit the bloated salaries of the likes of Ross and Brand.

  • johninpenarth 28th Oct '08 - 10:52pm

    Just out of interest, does anyone know how much of the ‘fee’ (ie bbc tax) is spent on collection/detection vans/persons who send threatening letters to people who doen’t watch tv/making and broadcasting scary ‘we’re going to get you’ ads?

  • Perennially Bored 29th Oct '08 - 12:42pm

    Allowing people to subscribe to iplayer overseas would be brilliant and would probably raise a reasonable amount of money. I live overseas and would gladly pay almost any amount to be able to access the iplayer, mainly because I’d like to be able to watch question time and newsnight. The money could then pay for a reduced license fee. To be honest, given that it wouldn’t really cost them anything to make the iplayer available abroad, I can’t see why they haven’t done this already… would the guy from the BBC like to enlighten me?

    As for the rest of it, definitely beef up the public service element but some of the programmes coming out of BBC 3 and BBC 4 have been excellent and I think it would be a shame to lose them.

  • Thomas Hemsley 29th Oct '08 - 2:25pm

    If we have to pay a regressive tax for anything, I’d rather it were for things like the BBC, which I am highly proud of. Yes, it does things wrong – everything and everyone does. That is not an excuse to cut its budget, to introduce advertising, or to allow political interference. I’m glad we have a broadcaster which is independent of party allegiance and generally gives balanced coverage to different arguments.

    If we want to tackle regressive taxation, we should focus on the much more expensive council tax.

  • Are the libertarians not planning to make a “contribution” to the thread?

  • Let’s backtrack here – the BBC is a major player in the global media marketplace and it already takes advertising on its non-UK outlets, which helps keep the size of the license fee down.

    The Beeb has a competitive advantage internationally in that it has guaranteed levels of income and a commitment to more in-depth coverage than its rivals – not even CNN, Al-Jazeera and News Corp combined produce as much original news coverage and analysis.

    So are we getting enough value for money from the fee we pay?

    I think the fee could definitely be structured better by clarifying the difference between the public service information services and the pure entertainment function.

    Today’s front pages encapsulate the debate.

    I, for one, have never appreciated Russell Brand’s broadcasting qualities, but neither have I ever understood why his obvious commercial appeal as a performer made his excursions into broadcastland a good fit with the national corporation.

    The current furore about his offensive attitude is deserved, but it is also a product of the dominant market position of the BBC, because if he were DJing elsewhere his indiscretions would attract as much attention as those of a real-life Alan Partridge – public funding assumes general endorsement, commerce takes what it can get (even if it means being discounted).

    So Brand at the BBC was always going to come to this and Jonathan Ross should have been wise to this to prevent himself from getting led astray.

    Yet do we get to read about how the BBC’s Persian service is being expanded (with additional funding to the same amount as Ross is being paid)?

    If it came down to my personal choice I feel I get more value from TV, Radio and internet services which I don’t access and couldn’t understand than one which would be otherwise moderately compromised by a few additional breaks – if I was more cynical I’d say that Ross and Brand could potentially fall into both categories.

  • David Morton 29th Oct '08 - 5:04pm

    Augustine is reported to have commented “Oh Lord, Did I do enough ?” as he watched the smoke rise over Rome in 412 AD. I feel the same way about the BBC. For all its many faults the BBC remains

    – An amazing british Global brand.

    – A signifigant artistic subsidy

    – a direct subsidy to national democracy

    – a bulwark against the Americanisation and infantilisation of our culture.

    Its also dirt cheap and already signifigantly defrays the cost of the licence fee from commercial income.

    I beseech people to seperate out the Poll Tax element of the licence fee from the basic premise. Public money buying value, excellence and public sxervice via an arms length QUANGO.

    How would I reform it ?

    – mutualise the BBC giving every citizen an 18 a non transferable share in its newly set up Trust Status. Allow direct election to its national boards and regional panels set up to shadow local radio areas.

    – allow tax free donations to the trust and encorage philanthropy

    – Hypothocate a progressive tax on the luxury end of the electronic goods market which would be paid directly to the trust. set it at a counter cyclical level to keep things going through recessions. This would need to be put at arms length via Act of Parliament.

    – strenthen the public service ethos in the act to mitigate agaionst the worst excesses of Celebrity come Fishing and anything by George Lamb.

  • A licence is a ‘granting of permission’. In this modern age ought we really need the Government’s permission to watch television? It is an archaic practice, inane and should go.

  • Hywel Morgan 30th Oct '08 - 12:11am

    “Allowing people to subscribe to iplayer overseas would be brilliant”

    Allowing people in this country would be a pretty good idea too says a grumpy Mac user.

    4OD (to which the same licence fee points apply)

  • Hywel Morgan 30th Oct '08 - 9:40pm

    It’s the download bit that I would find really useful as I (could at least) have downloaded things to watch on the train.

    Maybe I would have been disappointed with the actuality though 🙂

  • Terry Gilbert 31st Oct '08 - 2:52am

    I just like to annoy Americans by harping on about the superior quality of ‘socialized television’….

  • What a fascinating discussion. Rather than ‘I rather like their programmes, and their website is super’ or ‘it defends us from those ghastly American ways’, could the BBC’s supporters here come up with a principled defence of the licence fee; one that could actually justify a regressive, ‘taxation without representation’ tax? I don’t think ‘it works’ will cut it with those people who struggle to find the money. Please remember, you are supposed to be ‘liberal’ and ‘democrats’. ‘It works’ for whom?

    It’s indefensible on a principled basis, and you know it.

  • Hywel Morgan 7th Nov '08 - 1:48am

    After Brand & Ross more ridiculous nonsense

    Not a joke in the best of taste but no more tasteless than, say, Ricky Gervais’s comments about Schindlers List

  • Radio 2 is doing a lot of things that aren’t done in the commercial sector. The depth and diversity of its programming is huge. Where else could you get Chris Evans at one end of the spectrum and David Jacobs at the other not to mention music documentaries of real depth, comedy and almost every genre of music covered. While commercial radio has become homogenised, Radio 2 shows difference does work. You would never ever be able to achieve that purely in the commercial sector. I’m in favour of keeping the licence fee but re-focussing the money. Despite the huge salaries that keep being bandied about in the press, those of us who make programmes for the BBC (as independent suppliers) are increasingly making them on smaller and smaller budgets. I can’t go into detail for client confidentiality reasons but you can barely scrape a living as an independent radio producer. So keep the licence fee but plough the money more directly into programme making. As for the Ross/Brand affair, i’m sorry but it says more about the state of broadcast journalism in this country than it does about anything else. Our TV and radio journos should be following their own agendas not jumping on bandwagons. “One Story’ news is getting oh so very boring.

  • No Nick, that’s not a principled defense, it’s circular logic at its most imbecilic.

    “You need a license, therefore that license is justified”.


  • @Nick Reynolds

    OK, you’ve rather enjoyed this road tax analogy, so let’s have a look at your argument.

    ‘People who say “I don’t watch the BBC so I shouldn’t pay the licence fee” are saying “I have a car but I don’t use all the roads so therefore I shouldn’t pay car tax”’.

    This is sophistry.

    1. Roads are a public good. Everyone uses roads, even if it’s just the way that the food is delivered to their supermarket. I agree that we should all pay for them.

    2. I can’t use my car without using roads. I can use my TV without watching the BBC.

    What these people are really saying is ‘I use my own car, I don’t see why I should pay for my neighbours’ cars’.

    Let’s have a look at another argument:

    ‘The Licence Fee could be described as a “regressive tax”. So is car tax as this is not adjusted so the poor pay less.’

    This one’s quite easily dismissed – road tax is unfair too.

    To answer your question, no, it’s not principled. I want to watch Channel 4, but I’m taxed as if I’m watching the BBC. Should I pay for ‘The Economist’ if I read ‘Heat’ magazine? Well, you might say, you can always just not read magazines, but does that make it fair? Should I be taxed at Tesco to pay for Waitrose? Well, you might say, you can always not use supermarkets, but does that make it fair? The principle is not difficult to grasp.

  • I doubt so many people would have a problem with the BBC license fee if it only concerned itself with public service broadcasting, but really, what percentage of the BBC’s total output can reasonably be claimed to be pubic service broadcasting?

    A vanishingly small percentage in both terms of total air time and total cost, I’d have thought.

  • “I believe that both Strictly and Eastenders are public service broadcasting.”

    Then you are insane, and there is no point in even trying to engage with you.

  • Nick,

    Thanks for a well-reasoned and intelligent answer.

    With regards to your first point, let’s leave discussion of road taxes to a different day.

    Let’s have a look at part of your argument here:

    ‘society has decided that public service broadcasting should be available to everyone, and that best way to provide that is through a compulsorary fee on everyone and for all the tax to go to the BBC, regardless of whether you individually actually watch the BBC’

    As somebody said before, your argument is circular:

    The BBC and the licence fee should exist because society has decided it should exist as evidenced by the existence of the BBC and the licence fee.

    Or do you have another justification for your statement?

    In essence, this is what this debate is about: even if we ever did give our consent to the licence fee (a moot point), do we still give our consent? I’m arguing that it’s deeply unfair, and we shouldn’t. Whether we should have public service broadcasting or not is an entirely different matter, and one on which I have made no comment.

    I think it’s entirely consistent with Liberal Democratic viewpoints that we should be considering the fairness of the licence fee.

  • Nick, public libraries are not paid for by a special poll tax on bookshelves.

  • Thanks for your reply Nick.

    ‘My argument is that the licence fee is a little unfair (not deeply), but no more unfair than lots of other ways of paying for things which have a public benefit.’

    Sorry, I never meant to suggest that you did think that it was deeply unfair. But I don’t know how you can justify the statement that it’s no more unfair than other ways of paying for things. It’s a regressive poll tax. I agree with Richard:

    ‘I am staggered at how otherwise compassionate people are happy to support a poll tax just because its public faces are David Attenbrough, Simon Schama and Basil Brush’

    I feel sure that there are fairer ways of funding the BBC.

    ‘And that the unfairness is outweighed by the large amount of public benefit.’

    You seem to think it’s the licence fee, or nothing. You can have the public benefit, without the licence fee.

    ‘You pay for public libraries out of your taxes. That’s unfair if you never use a library. Is that “deeply unfair” too?’

    Not at all. I’m not saying that something that society has consented to paying for collectively is therefore unfair on people who don’t use it. I’m a democrat: that would be an untenable position. What is “deeply unfair” is the method of taxation.

    @ Jennie

    That’s a good question. You’ve grasped my point, which is just about the fairness of the licence fee. We can argue the pros and cons of hypothecated taxation. However, there’s no reason to equate it with the licence fee. Any fairer replacement could be hypothecated.

  • It doesn’t matter how much you inflate the perceived social value of the BBC, it will never be enough to alter the inherent unfairness of forcing people who don’t want, don’t use and don’t value an entertainment service, because fundamentally that’s all it is, to pay for it for the benefit of those who do use it, or of criminalising those who can’t pay for it.

    The BBC is not an essential service. It is not the road network. It is not the health service. It is not even the provision of public libraries. It is just an entertainment company.

  • The Beeb has become, by virtue of many of the senior people they employ, conceited, arrogant, closed-minded, hypocritical and condescending. Those who claim to offer choice, yet remove any by demanding unconditional payment. Who claim impartiality in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Iain (and others) have repeatedly hit the nail on the head, but until the public are actually given a choice, Auntie won’t be listening.

  • Nick, surly if your precious BBC is so great then the BBC would do just fine under a subscription service in fact it should do better if we believe the hype.

    Also I think you are well out of order by trying to speak for commercial rivels who don’t get BILLIONS forced from the public like your employer.

    The truth is if your employer doesn’t think a subscription method would be enough for them perhaps they’ve grown too big and should reduce the dinosaur to 1 channel and 1 radio station!

    Ps I wish I could get paid to service the internet all day trying to put down discontent regarding my employer…

  • “Nick Reynolds Says:

    Andy – what ways of paying for the BBC would be fairer”

    Those like you who think it’s the best thing since sliced bread paying for it.

    I have cable TV myself but that is down to choice MY CHOICE and it works out a damn site cheaper than the BBC as I don’t watch or listen to the biased rubbish they produce.

    I’m proud to admit I follow Noel Edmonds approach –

  • Peter Ashman 19th Nov '08 - 8:25pm

    The BBC has become far too large, and has far too much influence over all of us – swamping the competition.
    More to the point, with all its TV channels, radio stations, vast website, and that blasted iPlayer, it is probably the single biggest contributor to the massive increase in morbid obesity in the population (all ages) of this country.
    Utopia – in the eyes of the fat cats of the BBC – is a constant supply of licence fee cash, and all its TV channels, radio stations, website, and iPlayer heading the ratings around the clock.
    What with the “news is updated every five minutes” (what the hell for?), and constant trailers for “the one to watch tonight”/”coming on BBC2 tomorrow night”/”award-winning (says who?) drama starting on BBC 99 next Thursday” and – of course – the iPlayer “making the absolutely appalling unavoidable”, it is little wonder the nation is becoming overweight, morbidly obese, and workshy.
    The BBC should carry a government health warning.
    The sooner the licence fee goes to a more deserving cause (any cause is more deserving), the better. I would like to see it go to better equip our armed forces, and/or provide better care for the elderly.
    PLEASE can someone start a boycott of the Licence Fee – you can count me in, and if it means prison, so be it.

  • If the nick reynolds posting in this thread is the same one writing that blog then the man is a disgrace, a parasite, and the living embodyment of everything that is wrong with that organisation.

  • To go back to Nick’s question about what might be more fair… the first question that needs to be asked is ‘what is public service broadcasting’?.

    Evidentially the answer is not ‘what the BBC does’, nor is it likely to be ‘there is no such thing’. Any definition should be based on what the market doesn’t or can’t provide for which there is a wide consensus that it is socially useful… maybe news & education for example, but I think it would be hard to argue that the market doesn’t provide enough light entertainment.

    If a definition of PSB can be agreed the next question is how it should be funded and for how much.

    How much is a political toss-up, but I’d suggest the lottery fund might be more a more appropriate source than the license fee if not general spending within the DCMS budget. Another more quixotic idea might be a media monopoly tax that placed an escalating premium on corporation tax for market concentration. The more concentrated the market the more PSB funding to mitigate against that market failure.

    Who should get that money…? It should be an open competition… and any programme in receipt of PSB funding cannot carry advertising. That way you might get the best of both worlds, the BBC would have to carry advertising on it’s market broadcasting, whilst Sky, ITV etc. could run shows without ads if from that source.

    That system then discredits the BBC fantasy that they have to dominate every media market segement in order to provide the audience to justify the occasional Walking with Dinosaurs type show.

    And there are many other options. However until the BBC starts addressing the modern world, where they are just one player amongst many in an international market, one that provides much good stuff, but are not unique in that, one that can quite happily mix public and private broadcasting, and don’t need their own tax to preserve their independence, then they can expect growing hostility from outside.

    Where is the BBC plan to ween itself off the licence fee?

  • Nick,

    I don’t know if BBC Four would or wouldn’t exist, or what advertising it would it wouldn’t carry, it would depend how public sector broadcasting was defined and whether the producers at BBC Four were any good at winning tenders. Similarly on your question on BBC2 it would rather depend what it produced.

    It should though be a matter of blinding irrelevance to government policy how many channels the BBC deems itself fit to run and what programmes it puts in them. Those are matters for a regulator if those channels or programmes are in receipt of public money for public service.

    The point about people liking the BBC being free of advertising is very dishonest of you. Given a choice people would like all TV to be free of advertising. I doubt though they would be happy to pay a massive tax to fund that.

    It’s not then an argument in favour of either the BBC or how it is funded, simply a statement of the obvious that people prefer broadcasting to advertising. That preference though does not justify forcing people who don’t watch the BBC, ads or no ads, into paying for it. Particularly not with a poll tax on a piece of furniture.

    For that you need a genuine public service justfication, and for that you must define what public service broadcasting actually is. As noted before, “it’s wot the BBC does” or “TV without ads but only on the BBC” is not coherent, fair, or reasonable.

    I further note your point about the commercial broadcasters. Presumably you assume that deregulating the BBC and putting about 80% of it’s output into the commercial sector would crash the TV advertising market. I have to say this is economically illiterate.

    While it’s certainly true prices would fall in the short-term it’s also true the market would have become markedly larger creating many more opportunities for different types of advertising. Lower advertising prices would further stimluate marketing budgets, overall the price of the pie might be lower, but the pie would be larger.

    And you’ve also neglected the other salient feature of the plan to diversify PSB funding, ITV and Sky could bid for that money as well, so it is simply not clear that ITV or Sky would lose any money at all, they might offset any falls in their commercial revenue by winning tenders against the BBC for PSB funding. In that respect, they might even gain.

    So return the questions to you…

    Do you object to the notion that PSB should be properly defined?

    Do you believe that properly defined PSB should be financed then from the public purse?

    If so do you believe that only one organisation, the BBC, should receive that money or it should be open to competitive tender?

  • Nick,

    Sector/Service, typo, should say service.

    In respect of defining PSB, I’ll buy inform and educate, but entertain…? Maybe in the 1940s, but we now have plenty of TV entertainment provided commercially. What possible justification is there for state-funded soap operas and reality TV? Both formats, I might add, invented by the private sector.

    In respect of obligations, I agree the current system is messy, with different obligations on different broadcasters, but I don’t follow your logic that it’s good thing, particularly not now that network television no longer has a natural monopoly.

    On your TV license definition, you rather duck tackling the problem that it is a poll tax, whether or not you are personally offended by the imprecision of the reference to furniture. I further don’t think highlighting that some wrist-watches and mobile phones fit the legal prescription helps your case. This is a mad bad tax left over from a world of near ubiquitous state monopolies, long gone.

    You are right though that commercial money can fund PSB, and on your 1940s ‘state entertainment’ definition, well nearly everything that ITV and Sky do is apparently a warm-hearted public service, as is Triple-X-TV. My question though is should it, or should there be a level playing field between the BBC and other institutions to compete for that money? And frankly should the definition to be tighter to exclude light entertainment, porn and other items which evidentially don’t need public subsidy.

    As for competitive tendering increasing red tape, could you enlighten us as to what proportion of the BBC staff base currently works directly in programming versus management and administrative functions?

  • Richard Church 23rd Nov '08 - 1:47pm

    The TV Licence is a poll tax. It bears no reraltion to ability to pay or even to the services used (there’s no radio or web licence).

    There is a need for public service broadcasting. Just as their is a need for public subsidies to the arts, there are quality programmes that wouldn’t get on TV, or radio, without a public subsidy.

    The conclusion must be to scrap the licence fee and fund public service braodacsting through general taxation. This could include local radio. Providers can bid to deliver the needs of public service broadcasts, with bids based not just on price but their record in communicating with key target audiencies.

    The worldwide power of the BBC brand is enormous. Compare the respect for the BBC world service with any other country’s alternative. There may be a case for continuing to brand public service braodcasting with the BBC, but the case for it to be delivered by a single monolithic corporation has gone.

    I surprised to find myself writing this, as one who generally objects to the the worship of the market in delivering public services. There is just too much on the BBC that has nothing to do with public services and compulsory taxes should not be funding them. With the arrival of multi-media, the TV licence is just out of date.

    Scrap the TV licence, help people on low incomes and probably a great many other people too.

  • I gave examples in the Nursery Britain thread of the nanny state retreating; the scrapping of ID cards, ration books, the death penalty and national service. It’s hard not to group the TV license with these.

    Mill wrote that a good test of the public institutions was if they increased the moral and intellectual virtues of the population. The BBC clearly does not do this. Yes, it produces some excellent stuff, especially nature programmes. But this is drowned out by the torrent of tawdry, celebrity-focused rubbish. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it proselytises a celebrity-obsessed lifestyle.

    I remember feeling guilty as a child that I was not interested in the ‘latest showbiz gossip’ that was already creeping into the BBC’s children’s output. Now young people are even more aggressively targeted. The Newsround website has an entire category dedicated to ‘showbiz’ news, containing such edifying stories as ‘Ashlee Simpson names baby Bronx’ and ‘Madonna: Is she the Queen of pop or just plain past it?’

  • Why would we scrap the best media service in the world. Let’s be honest 124 a year is cheap in comparison to the alternatives. Radio, tv and new media no one else can even come close…..and all the surplus gets put back in rather than lining some greedy deep pockets.

    The only thing the BBC should do is pay it’s top stars less and if the argument for keeping them is to keep them from moving to sky or itv….then let them go.

    Get real lib dems

  • raymond jacques 22nd Jul '10 - 7:40pm

    i sat down and watched (the one show) for the first time tonight, and to my disgust they showed an outside broadcast on a tv the size of my living room this is where every ones money is going SCRAP THE LICENCE FEE NOW IT IS VILE

  • raymond jacques 26th Jul '10 - 5:03pm

    I think the bbc is a vile out of date out touch organization that has the government on its payroll, and it should be held to account. They do not know what value for money means, or what quality programming means they just spend (our money) on absolute crap (eastenders) TIME TO SCRAP THE WHOLE OUTFIT and let people make their own choices.FORCE THEM TO FIND THEIR OWN REVENUE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

  • There is a lot of unfairness about this licence fee: I will outline why i believe the BBC Licence is unfair. Remember all heads of the household pay £145-50 per year every year for a BBC Licence neglecting future increases. Lets look at some of these heads of households. 1. A family of 4 adults sharing a home (4 salaries coming in) One person pays – Not a problem. 2. Two elderly people living together on two basic state pensions (Can be a problem but not to worrying) One dies, therefore the house is reduced to one state pension (then it becomes a problem) 3. Students having to pay every year on top of their student loans (This can be a problem as they are up to their neck in debt) They also have to pay for rented accomodation etc 4. Single parents – one source of income – bringing up children (Then it becomes a problem) All these people have the same things in common, they have to pay for energy, food, council tax etc. Have you seen the millions the BBC spend on generating computer generated threatening letters from their office based in bristol, together with enforcement officers chasing up and down the UK knocking on doors and threatening these people with Court Action. If you look at case 1. Here we have 3 adults paying nothing (The household pays the same £145-50 per year, whilst in cases 2, 3, 4 these people on reduced incomes have to pay the same. In case 1, there can be salaries totaling over £120K average whereas in cases 2 and 4 there is only one low income. In case 3 these people are in debt and don’t need this! That is in part why this tax is unfair and it is pushed on to people, by highly paid lawyers working for the BBC via parliament. All this burocracy has to be paid for out of the same BBC Licence. So i would conclude that the system needs overhauling

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