Friday, October 28, 2005

BBC licence fee

[for those of you who don't live in the UK, all people who own a television (well, to watch television on anyway) must play a flat "licence fee", which is used to pay for our public channels, specifically BBC]

I've been thinking about the licence fee recently. Thing is, is its illogical. I love the BBC. I really do, I think its a great institution that supports talent and innovation that might not be noticed otherwise, and I love being able to watch programs and films uninterrupted by commercials. Also, the news, while tending to be pro-government, is generally fairly unbiased, and more independent than most other channels news. I want the BBC to continue.

But I don't think the licence fee is the way to do it. Some have said that BBC should be scrambled except for those who pay their licence fee, so people have a choice to watch it or not. That way the BBC would have to compete with the other channels, and only those who wanted to watch it would have to pay. While I sympathise with this argument, I tend to disagree.

I believe that certain elements of culture should be subsidised. If you applied that previous argument to libraries, museums, art galleries and theatres most would shut down by tomorrow. Instead we support them by taxation because we feel their cultural worth is such that they should exist. I think we should apply the same thing to the BBC. It should be supported, but by taxation. Right now television owners are essentially paying a flat tax to support the BBC, and a flat tax for so many reasons that I hope I do not have to go into.

Either way though, we need to make a choice. We either need to decide that the BBC is a culutural boost, and should thus be subsidised, or it isn't, in which case it should be scrambled and have to make its own way. I don't think the current system is just.


At 12:05 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very controversial! So what about those people who choose not to own a tv because they have neither the time nor inclination to watch it? Are you trying to suggest that tv watching becomes compulsory?

Mainly, I don't understand why you think in terms of black and white - that either the BBC should be subsidised by tax paying individuals or thus should not exist entirely.

If the BBC continues to produce programs of a high quality, then the British people will continue to watch tv and continue to pay their license fees. If the BBC is subsidised, surely there is a danger that this institution will lose its independence and become subject to Government intervention. Furthermore, that concern with public opinion would surely regress. Good or bad? You decide.

You say that you are already very happy with the content quality of the BBC - so why upset a system of funding which is obviously working so well!?

At 12:46 am, Blogger Mr K said...

Well I'm happy with the content, but I don't think the way we pay for it is at all fair. While you raise an interesting point about whether if funded by tax would make it more tied to the government, it wouldn't be hard to set it up so exactly the same amount came out in tax as currently comes out in licence fees. After all, I believe the government is responsible for setting the licence fees so there is still that level of control.

I don't think this makes tv watching compulsory, just as taxation for museums does not make museum visits compulsory.

At 10:49 am, Blogger Kirbie said...

I don't see what the problem with the tv license is. If you have a tv you pay and get to watch bbc channels, if you don't you don't pay. Seems pretty fair to me. You could argue that you don't want to watch bbc channels, but i think most people do.


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