Among many other curious customs we have in Britain, is the way we fund our public service broadcasting, the B.B.C. (The British Broadcasting Corporation.) There is a levy, a tax if you like, on every household with a television. Yes, that’s right. A one-person household pays the same as a twenty-person household; you pay the same whether you watch B.B.C. programmes all the time or not at all. People who watch only independent television channels or even just use their set to play films and D.V.D.s are still subject to the same charge. The levy takes no account of how many televisions receivers you have. Think of a family of two adults and two teenage children. Gone are the days of the whole family clustering round the television in the sitting room to watch the same programme. The children will be likely to have their own tellies in their bedrooms; there may be a set in the kitchen and another in the main living room.
I’m not against public service broadcasting. I think the B.B.C. is a good idea. While I wouldn’t say it is perfect, some sort of news and information service, not directly controlled by the government is necessary. The B.B.C. is claimed to educate, inform and entertain and by and large that is what it does. The only thing wrong is the archaic system of funding this service.Public service broadcasting should be just that – a public service, like the NHS or the schools, paid for from general taxation and free at the point of use.
The current TV licence costs £145. The collection of it is both costly and complicated with letters and queries to non-licence-payers and television detector-vans roaming the streets to catch the miscreants who haven’t paid their fee.
Now we’re told that from 1st September – less than a month away – we will be required to have a TV licence to look at BBC programmes on a mobile phone or an i-pad. This extra extortion will be impossible to police. How many people own portable pieces of computer equipment that can download broadcasts from BBC i-player? A hell of a lot. How can it make sense to try and check whether little Jimmy is playing an innocent computer game on his i-pad or breaking the law by watching a BBC news or sports broadcast? How about Mum on her mobile phone? Is she simply emailing a friend (legal) or watching Come Dancing or the Great British Bakeoff? (not allowed) Then there’s the thought that a TV licence as I understand it covers a building not an individual. We found this out when the TV licensing authority sent us a letter telling us in no uncertain terms the we should not allow any of our workforce to watch TV on their computers as we do not have a licence. Since we are two pensioners both retired we do not have a large number of employees. In fact we have none.
Since a TV licence is linked to a building rather than a person someone going into a friend’s house or visiting a pub with Wi-fi could presumably watch TV on a tablet or a laptop to their heart’s content. And the friend, pub or coffee shop owner need not even know.
Yes, of course the TV licence fee should be altered. It is an out-dated and archaic system. The best replacement would be a standard fee for each income-tax or council-tax payer. This should be easy enough to calculate and would remove the chance or people trying to dodge payment. If it is felt necessary the “free” TV licence for the over-75s could remain, as could the similar concession for blind people. (Isn’t it odd that we provide something like TV free for those least able to benefit from it? Deaf people don’t require a radio licence either!) This system would also remove the regular badgering of those of us eccentric enough not to own a television. Just imagine if we received a regular notice saying “our records show that you haven’t got a shotgun license” and demanding that we get one immediatley, even though we don’t own a gun!
I suggest £100 per annum would be a reasonable amount to charge each tax-payer for what is after all a very worth while service. This should be easy to administer. Even the most incompetent of governments should have such basic information as Total population, broken down into those paying income tax or council tax and charge them a fixed sum each. People over 75 could be exempt, if this is felt necessary, as could school-age children. Then all that needs to be done is to bill each individual or household for the appropriate amount.
This would actually cost me and my husband more as we don’t have a TV (or a licence). But the idea of paying for something you don’t immediatley want or need is nothing new. All taxpayers contribute to the cost of the Health and Education Services. We all pay towards the upkeep of our roads, even someone who never leaves their home. Will the government adopt this obvious easy and sensible way to fund public service broadcasting in Britain? NO WAY!!
One extra thought: it seems unfair that the licence fee goes to the B.B.C. and the independent broadcasters get nothing.