Anorak News | Licence To Print Money

Licence To Print Money

by | 12th, October 2005

‘ANYONE who’s ever seen the BBC show Two Pints of Lager And a Packet to Crisps will have wondered how much value they’re getting for their TV licence fee.

Not that it’s entirely fair to single out this dire show, not when just looking at last nights schedules you could have watched the celebrity spelling contest Star Spell on BBC1, followed by an ice and a slice of life in the EastEnders panto pub and then lost all hope as cringingly self-important Bill Oddie taught us how to spot crocodiles in Surbiton in Bill Oddie’s How To Watch Wildlife on BBC2.

But rather than wondering how much bang you get for your buck, the BBC’s executives want us to think about how much better the corporation’s output would be if they had more money.

Three Pints of Crème de Menthe and a packet of black olives, anyone? Bill Oddie being fed to a shark in a garden pond?

The Sun’s front page says the BBC wants to raise the licence fee – a compulsory purchase for any Briton who watches telly – from its current £126.50 a year to just under £180 a year by 2013.

That’s a lot of cash to watch average actors tell each other to “Sort it!” on the Beeb’s flagship soap and to keep TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh in rakes and hoes.

And people are unhappy. “Sort it aht,” says Tory MP Nigel Evans, who sits on the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, to which BBC chairman Michel Grade and BBC Director General Mark Thompson made their pitch.

“There are people out there who just don’t get inflation-busting increases at all”, says Evans. “There is a poll tax on their TVs and they’ve got to pay it.”

As the Mirror says on it front page, the plan is for the licence fee to rise by the level of inflation – currently 2.8 per cent – plus an extra 2.3 per cent each year for the next eight years.

But why the extra cash? As the Sun says, the BBC is already swimming in the stuff; well, not the Sun, but a certain Mark Thompson, who three years ago, when head of rival broadcaster Channel 4, said the Beeb was “basking in a Jacuzzi of spare cash”.

What happened in the last three years? Did someone turn the bubbles off? Was all this extra cash wasted? How much can it cost to broadcast reruns of Only Fools And Horses and put a tape of Neighbours in the video player twice every weekday?

“Our audiences, rightly, have high expectations of the BBC,” says Thompson to the parliamentary committee, as reported by the Mirror. “They themselves are driving incredible change by the way they want to access our programmes and services.”

If we the viewers are playing a key creative role, we should be paid for our time, or given a reduced licence fee.

But who are we? It’s not all of us. British TV viewers might all pay for the BBC, coughing up £2.94 billion of our hard-earned cash each year, but, as the Mail says, not all of us tune into BBC TV.

What with satellite and cable, the Mail says only one viewer in four looks at BBC1; fewer than one in ten watches BBC2; and you might well be the only person alive or dead staring at the dull BBC News 24.

Rather than going up, the licence fee should be scrapped. People who want to watch the BBC can then pay to watch it, as they do with SKY TV.

The quality of the programming might not improve, but at least we won’t be made to pay for it…’

Posted: 12th, October 2005 | In: Tabloids Comment | TrackBack | Permalink