Sunday, October 16, 2005

Licensed Robbery

I can't help noticing that the people who keep telling us what wonderful value for money the BBC licence fee is are people for whom £10 a month is just loose change.
Most of those who are sent to prison for not paying the licence fee are people who are struggling to survive below the poverty line.
And when you think about it, it's extraordinary that we imprison people for refusing to subscribe to the BBC. No wonder our prisons have now reached capacity. Can you imagine locking people up because they refused to subscribe to Sky or to one of the cable companies?

In our society, it's easy for the poor to imagine what life would be like if they won the lottery because the lives of the rich are all over our newpapers and televisions. But those with money seem incapable of understanding what life is like without it.
This was brought home to me again by an article in The Guardian by Maureen Lipman in which she said she has found an excellent hairdresser who will cut her hair for only £28! "You all want his number and the address of his salon, don't you?" she said.
No, Maureen, we don't. We want you to understand that £28 is not a piffling amount to all Guardian readers. It's actually 50% of the weekly benefit paid to the unemployed.

Even the Government, and presumably the BBC, accept that the licence fee cannot continue in the long term. But the multi-channel age is already here and the Government should have at least started the process of replacing it with a different funding structure at this licence review. Instead they have made things worse by using the licence fee to raise money to pay for the costs of digital switch-over which should have been funded by the Government, not by a regressive tax which penalises those least able to afford it.

My own short-term method of phasing out the licence fee would be to allow the BBC to sell programme sponsorship. I would actually prefer a brief sponsor's commercial at the beginning and end of programmes to the endless BBC commercials for its own output that already make it feel like a commercial broadcaster. This should make possible a reduced licence fee that would be less onerous for those on low incomes.

The Government have already set a precedent in departing from a universal licence policy in exempting those over 75 from the licence fee. This is a blunt and expensive policy anyway because it means millionaires over 75 don't have to buy a licence. So they should now exempt students and those on benefits and low incomes from the licence fee. It's called joined-up Government. Or simple logic. After all, they've already announced that they will provide financial help to those who need it when analogue is switched off and receivers need upgrading to digital.

The whole subject needed thinking through in a coherent way, instead of which it's a shambles.
And for all the BBC's qualities, we need to stop treating it as a sacred cow.
Although it still produces some good content, it is also a profligate, bloated bureaucracy that, in this brave new corporate world, constantly forgets that it is actually a publicy-funded organisation, just like the local authority that empties your bins.


At 1:43 AM, Blogger portuguesa nova said...

Ten pounds a month??? That's quite a lot of money. What if the people for whom ten pounds a month is pocket change were required to donate it to the homeless?


Post a Comment

<< Home