Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Why Are We Forced To Pay A BBC Tax?

If you run a car you have to buy a licence. If you watch television you have to buy a licence. Only it's not a licence to watch TV, it's a licence to watch the BBC. And it's not a licence, it's a tax.

This week the BBC was forced to justify the obscene £240 million of our money it pays out to celebrity presenters (and that doesn't include its own top brass). 

Last week it had to justify the £110 million it spent on its websites (even though the budget is supposed to be £74 million).

Before that, it was forced to justify the spending and purchase by its 'commercial arm' on things like Lonely Planet books. Before that it was trying to justify its pubic service output. 

That's an awful lot of justifying and an awful lot of money for a public service broadcaster. And while that's going on, we have to put up with the chilling TV Licence advert warning us that "It's all in the database". Very scary. 

We only moan when the Licence Fee goes up, not why we are forced to pay it in the first place.

Back in the days of steam radio when money (our money) was needed to set up a terrestrial TV channel, it seemed like a jolly good idea. Officially we still pay the Licence Fee to receive any public broadcast but the money goes straight to the BBC. 

That was way back in 1946! This is the 21st century. 

Today we have a number of terrestrial channels, some getting money from advertising and some (like Channel 4) receiving huge government subsidies. Then there are the paid-for subscription channels and all sorts of internet broadband services.

A BBC website was a good idea at the time - but look at it now. It’s huge, not just news and sport but hundreds of mini BBC sites, covering everything from cookery to gardening. All, already catered for by the private sector.

The BBC used to be a highly respected public service broadcaster and that, we are told, is still the core remit of the BBC. There are still some admirable examples to be found, but just look at the dearth of anything on the many BBC TV channels that could be remotely described as public service. 

How can we explain the BBC and its New Labour paymasters' reluctance to scrap this hidden tax? 

It seems to all goes back to the lies and deceit which the BBC exposed over the Iraq War. The infamous "sexed-up" dossier. In the aftermath, New Labour came down very, very hard on the BBC. In future, the BBC would have to tow the New Labour line. But in return, the BBC would be given a free hand to spend our cash how it wants. And so it does.

So what's the answer? Well, just scrap the Licence Fee. Outright. Give the BBC a generous grant, ring-fenced to maintain it's public service programming and let it dabble it's toe in the wonderful world of commercial media. 

It will stop us shouting at the puppets presenting the 6'oclock New Labour News (just watch their hands). And get rid of those scary TV Licence adverts.

1 comment:

michael said...

don't forget the world service which also includes a 24 hour news channel paid for out of taxation; and how about the overseas television services which had to have their setup costs from where?