In a media world defined by choice, the BBC licence fee is an outdated compulsory subscription model that should be scrapped. How can we keep justifying this outdated TV fee?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