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Why I want a compulsory TV licence to go

Black and white old TV

In a media world defined by choice, the BBC licence fee is an outdated compulsory subscription model that should be scrapped. How can we keep justifying this outdated TV fee?

The media environment is defined by choice. But the one element that’s missing is the choice to pay the licence fee or not.

We are forced to pay the licence fee by law, and thereby forced to pay for the BBC, despite alternatives being freely and widely available.

And as technology delivers alternative ways to watch TV, so the fee’s justification crumbles.

So, here’s my opinion on why it should be scrapped. Jon Barrow argues for keeping the TV licence in his Conversation ‘Why I’m in favour of the TV licence’.

Good value for money?

Fans of the licence fee insist Auntie beeb is good value for money and a bastion of quality and independence.

Indeed, the service sometimes does deliver high-quality programming the envy of the world over (insert the title of any David Attenborough film here), with no adverts and independent of the whims of media tycoons.

That’s all fine, but ignores the lack of real choice at the heart of the equation. Good value for money? If you don’t want to buy the product it’s not.

The guardian of quality and independence?

But surely the BBC ensures we enjoy high-quality programming the like the rest of the world can only sit and envy? Come again? Whilst this may have been true 20 years ago, nowadays it’s arguably the likes of non-publically funded HBO and AMC among others that are responsible for the ‘new golden age of TV’, not the BBC.

No adverts? Try using a PVR. And arguing that the BBC is a bulwark against nefarious tycoons foisting their political opinions should instead be an argument for regulatory bodies with teeth and strict regulation on ownership, not a compelling reason to keep subsidising.

If the licence fee was scrapped would the airwaves be awash with tosh rather than quality drama? The evidence would suggest otherwise. Award-winning shows such as Sopranos, Mad Men, The Wire and others are the product of subscription based TV, not subsidy.

In fact, many would argue that without the assured billions (£3.5 billion at the last count) from the hapless licence fee payer we would see a BBC that was forced to concentrate on the bits that could ensure it makes its own way in the world. And then move away from its own mind-numbing catalogue of low-quality programming (which looks a lot like the derided free stuff on the commercial channels).

Nevertheless there are millions of viewers who’ve happily been paying for the corporation for years. And given the choice will carry on paying for all the bits they love – the good bits. Cut out the largesse, put the BBC on an equal competitive footing and let the corporation show us what it can really do.

Pay-up or lock-up

A fuss over nothing? After all, the licence fee amounts to just a few quid a week. Unfortunately not. The licence fee is an anachronism, enforced by the strong arm of the law (and zealous BBC fee collectors) to make sure we cough up.

Using TV equipment (including computers) to watch TV as it is broadcast without the appropriate licence is a criminal offence and non-payment of fines can lead to prison.

In the words of one of the many BBC adverts doing the rounds, ‘Your town, your street, your home… it is all in our database.’ Good old Auntie!

Read the other side of the story in Jon Barrow’s ‘Why I’m in favour of the TV licence’ here.

What do you think about the BBC TV licence fee?

I agree with Jon and think it's worth the price (58%, 156 Votes)

I agree with Mike and think it should be optional (42%, 112 Votes)

Total Voters: 268

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Sinead says:
25 October 2011

I still don’t see why I should have to pay for something I don’t want. Surely for those who want it can pay for it. Those who don’t should be allowed to opt out. With digital tv now surely there is a way for those who don’t want the bbc to be disallowed from viewing their channels, same as having sky tv and not paying for the movie channels. As for the radio, I’m sure we can come up with something – a pin number for example. If someone came to my door asking me to buy a hoover and I didn’t want it that would be fair, but if they twisted my arm round my back and said but you have to buy it – would that be fair? It’s against my consumer rights. And I think it’s about time people in this country got off their fat backsides and started looking after them, because before we know it we’ll wake up one day and realise they were taken from under our noses.

Tester says:
24 October 2012

This tax needs to be stopped now, I would happily not watch the bbc if it meant saving a few she knows and avoid paying for the bbc’s perverts to carry on their work. It should be noted that the tv detector vans have never led to a conviction and should the licensing agent call at your premises you do not have to allow access you also do not have to give them your name and should you not admit you have a television there is NO legal way they can take you to to court, unless you admit it.

Tester says:
24 October 2012

Please replace she knows above with shekles !, again check the Internet for the facts given and see they are correct

spiceman says:
26 June 2013

I don’t care about the radio, i don’t care about ads on TV, i care about money in my pocket.
Having to think of every penny, consider the bills first before pleasure, having to tell your kids we cant afford it this month on a regular basis, tax after tax is not a way to live!
TV licence is totally unjustified specially when you hear about the millions given to BBC chiefs! its unbelievable.
If you notice BBC comedy shows you will find its not funny at all, nothing decent to watch before 8pm so why wast out money like this??

lets see the BBC charge you a TV licence But they can not deliver the programmes without piggybacking on others providing their programmes. For example, sky provides you with a box and a satellite dish, what do the BBC provide you with.? You have to buy the equipment yourself and then they charge you to use it.?
Everyone said its good value. How much do you pay to watch four channels and most of the programmes are repeats? Over 75s , if ten elderly people came into the country to stay and they are over 75 how does that stop the BBC losing money, by not charging people over 75 a tv licence they are losing money. I say stop paying people like Nigella one million for each programme she makes she is not even a proper cook

The TV licence fee is just another tax from which the revenues go direct to the BBC to avoid the government having to make a direct grant and taking away the BBC’s independence as a broadcaster. It has very little to do with the quality or appeal of BBC programmes because you have to have a TV licence if you never watch or listen to BBC programmes. The question really is whether we need the BBC, or could we get all our broadcast entertainment from other channels and alternative media?

I consider the BBC’s TV output that I watch selectively to be very high quality and good value for money. There is an enormous amount that I do not watch so I have no idea of its quality but the entertainment and drama programmes appear to be extremely popular so they must be getting something right.

I don’t watch programmes about food and cooking but I suspect that Nigella is a highly-paid presenter for more than her culinary skills.

Roy Moore says:
16 February 2021

I don’t object to the TV licence, I do, however, object to the money going to the BBC. The BBC are far from the impartial broadcaster everyone claims them to be (just try watching from one of the devolved nations). It is run by the same old boys club that haunts Westminster and only serves to harbour bully’s and sexual deviants.

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