My beef with TV licensing (and the BBC)

tv licensing

So I heard that the BBC are rolling out new changes to the TV licensing laws, which effectively mean that, starting from September 1st, you will have to get a TV license in order to download or even watch BBC programs via iPlayer. What it means it that, if you want to watch TV shows on BBC iPlayer on any broadcasting device at all (including tablets by the way), you have to pay the extortionate TV licensing fee (which as of 2010 is frozen at £145.50 per year).

For starters, it means that I have to basically stop watching anything from the BBC (which I can totally do because I don’t even like the BBC, for reasons we’re about to get into) because that rule extends to university students like myself. However, the main thing about this new law is that it shows how desperate the BBC has gotten. When I first heard of this, I thought it was basically an obvious attempt to target university students (as if we don’t have enough expenses to pay as it is) just to keep the god-awful BBC Three alive.

To clear things up, BBC Three died a natural death. Viewership began declining as young people moved towards tablets and online on-demand content, and so the BBC couldn’t afford to keep the channel anymore, as would inevitably happen over a period of time. They kept it running as an online channel, but while its rating aren’t catastrophically bad, I don’t see a lot of people clamouring to watch it. I personally don’t feel that people living in halls should have to pay an arm and a leg every year just to keep a dreggy, ancillary channel alive in a era where it is no longer relevant, and clearly can’t survive in a free market.

In fact, I’ve always despised the TV licensing fees. For those of my readers who live outside Britain, the TV licensing fee is an annual fee that we in Britain are forced to pay if we have a TV, and because the BBC is owned, operated and controlled by the government, that fee is basically how the BBC is funded (this is why BBC channels and radio stations don’t need ad revenue, and therefore have no ads). To me, this sounds like a blatantly socialist concept, as it is counter to the idea that a TV station should survive or collapse on its own in the free market. I also find it very bizarre that the majority of Brits actually defend the institution that forces you to pay extortionate amounts of money just to stay alive, so here are a few reasons why I think we should abolish the TV licensing fee.

1. The concept of a public TV station is outdated

As I mentioned earlier, the BBC has slowly become an irrelevant institution. In the old days, people were basically stuck to the live channels as they were the only source of TV programs, sport and news updates, and whatever they had what was you got. Flash forward to 2016 – now people can get their news from an array of online sources, including social media websites, and thanks to the invention of tablets and streaming services like Netflix, you can stream any TV programme you want without the need of a TV.

In today’s world, the TV is becoming a relic of the 20th century, and by consequence, so is the BBC, and they know that. Why else would you have thousands of British households cancelling their TV licensees? In a world where you can catch up on BBC’s programmes through the iPlayer service, why even would you bother paying the license for something you don’t need? With that in mind, we come to the only reason the new law is being rolled out – the BBC is losing money.

The BBC has apparently lost £238 million because people have decided that, with tablets, there’s no need to pay an expensive TV license fee. Of course, the regressive government institution that it is, they want to close that loophole because they’re afraid of becoming irrelevant, and thus unprofitable. The new law is simply a way for the BBC to try and make money by forcing people to pay for iPlayer, a service that, by all rights, should be available for free. All the new law will end up doing is driving people over to the alternative streaming services, which are significantly cheaper if not available for free, further crippling the BBC.

2. Why should I pay for bad TV?

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but most of the shows on BBC’s channels are mediocre at best. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule (such as “The A Word”, which is due for a new season), but most of the BBC’s programming consists of much of the same kind of claptrap you find on its competitors (Channel 4, ITV, Channel 5), all of which can exist without the licensing fee.

The only good thing I can say is that BBC’s shows have better production values than their competitors (the nature documentaries look and sound fantastic), and I have no doubt that BBC programmes might have been much better in the past, but I don’t feel it to be the case now. I’m aware that there are quite a few popular and highly-regarded shows on the BBC, like Doctor Who and Sherlock, but I feel that if people really like them enough, then they will survive without the need of a licensing fee. I don’t really care what people watch. If they like it, it’s their prerogative, but I shouldn’t have to pay for them. I don’t see why people should be prosecuted just because they don’t want to have to pay to keep Flog It on the air.

I’m also aware of the fact that the licensing fee also funds BBC Radio. To me that means it sustains one of my most hated institutions – BBC Radio 1. If I were to pay the licensing fee, I’d be paying to sustain the vapid cesspool of decadence and garbage that I always thought of Radio 1 as back in high school. The other radio stations, however, I have a mixed opinion of.

3. Why should I pay for propaganda?

In the old days, most people got their news from the BBC, and when I was young, it was generally assumed that BBC News is completely unbiased, but that’s complete balderdash. Because the BBC is essentially owned by the government, BBC News is the state news network, meaning that it will invariably be promoting some sort of agenda.

Many right-wing newspapers accuse the BBC of having a blatant left-wing bias, and they’re absolutely right. I noticed this during the Brexit vote, and the BBC showed an obvious bias in favour of the Remain camp (but then, most of the establishment media was in the same boat). They’ve also been known to spin anything involving Donald Trump (I don’t support him, but I dislike the intellectual dishonesty displayed by the media right now). Recently, Donald Trump said that supporters of the Second Amendment could hinder Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He said this while making a point about how gun rights may be endangered if Hillary got to appoint her own judges of the Supreme Court (which, if she’s president, she will). However, the mainstream media, including the BBC, reported it as if Trump was calling for Hillary’s assassination.

The BBC is also very much entrenched in the ideology of political correctness, which makes sense coming from a pro-government channel. The BBC have made various documentaries that serve to promote an ideological agenda, and the best example I could think of is on BBC Three, who made a documentary entitled Porn: What’s the Harm. What was it? It was basically a piece that promotes the lie that porn causes sexual violence, child abuse, and rampant underage sexual activity, with no proof at all. This came in around the time when David Cameron’s government came under fire for attempting to implement a controversial porn filter (which was also going to block a number of non-pornographic sites), and since the BBC does the bidding of the government, the BBC, through it’s teen-oriented channel, was focused on trying to convince young people that porn is evil. They even brought in a former child actor to promote the lie. They also love to tout the merits of cultural diversity, while simultaneously chiding American Christians because they believe in angels (as they did in at least one BBC Three documentary).

4. If the BBC can’t survive on its own, what’s the point of keeping it alive?

Being a filthy capitalist libertarian pig dog, I believe in the virtues of the free market. Hence, I’m diametrically opposed to the idea of the citizenry being forced to pay for something against their will. That is why I oppose state-funded media and arts, because it comes at the expense of the taxpayer.

As I mentioned earlier, the BBC is clearly struggling to survive in an era where we can live without it. If it weren’t for the fact that we’re forced to pay the license fee, the BBC would probably be dead, or at least it wouldn’t have the money to keep producing so much content, or it might have shrunk to just a few TV channels and possibly one radio station.

Besides, I remember watching the BBC often because nothing else. Whenever I could choose something better, I would never watch the BBC. Of course, what bothers me even more is the concept of a TV license enforcement division, with officers that can search your home if they have a warrant. I haven’t heard of any other country in the world that has them around. And of course, the enemy of the BBC, which controls 70% of news output on TV and radio, is competition. If it was freed from government control, it would be forced to succeed or fail by its own merits, like all the other channels, but apparently the government doesn’t want that.

 

5. What are the arguments in favour of it?

Since the BBC is entrenched into the fabric of British society, it generally goes unquestioned despite the horrendous extortion Brits have to put up with. Naturally, a number of arguments in favour of the licensing fee (and the BBC) have come up, so I’d like to address the main arguments before I tune out.

  • The BBC does wonderful work and we must protect it – From what? The BBC is a corporation. It doesn’t or shouldn’t need government protection. And further more, what wonderful work? If you mean TV programming, then that’s completely subjective. For instance, I can’t stand Strictly Come Dancing. I find it a vapid exercise in brain-melting distraction. That’s why I’ve stayed away from it ever since I was 14. If you mean the news, then, as I’ve already said earlier, the BBC’s news service is essentially politically correct propaganda that omits any details that are inconvenient to their narrative.
  • The BBC does not have to sell advertising – I agree that ads are extremely annoying, with their universally crappy jingles and barely passable actors, but I don’t think that the licensing fee is the best solution. Besides, you can now streaming videos online with minimal ads, and on Netflix, you can stream TV programmes with no ads at all, which means the point about having no ads is a moot one.
  • The BBC delivers a variety of content – So does the Internet, which provides the greatest possible amount of variety known to man, catering to every niche you can imagine, and the best part is that you can pick and choose what you want to watch or listen to online, and it usually doesn’t you a dime (even the internet bill in my house isn’t as expensive as the TV licensing fee).
  • The BBC charter defines quality content – Again, that’s entirely subjective. Of course, the BBC can boast higher production values than their competitors, but remember, that money comes from leeching the public dry. Also, you can find great content that the BBC doesn’t have online, for free. You don’t have to go to the BBC at all for high quality content. Hell, if you were rich, you could afford access to content that is even better than the BBC if you knew where to look.
  • The BBC is an essential public service – Let me be clear on this final argument. Television is not an essential public service, and neither is the BBC. To those who say the BBC’s remit is to inform and educate as well as entertain, education should be the responsibility of either schools or your parents, not a state-owned propaganda outlet such as the BBC. As for entertainment, you can literally get entertainment anywhere other than the BBC, and for information in relation to news, you can get your news anywhere else online. Barely anyone watches broadcast news anymore since you can get it all online now. BBC News even has its own website, and with iPlayer around (which they’re going to charge you for through the license fee), you don’t even have to watch the channels proper.

Through all of this, I my principal argument is that the TV licensing fee should be abolished. All it does in the long run is preserve an outdated institution at the expensive of the taxpayer, which I find to be a frivolous excess. As for the BBC, I think it should be privatised, which of course would force it to compete in a free market, freeing the citizenry of an arbitrary expense. Yes, this will probably mean ads, but if I were watching TV, I would rather sit through terrible ads than be forced to pay for a channel I don’t want to use. Besides, I’m very certain that privatising the BBC will have no effect on the quality of the BBC’s programming. I’m sure the BBC can still capably produce programming to its viewers’ liking without forcing the rest of us to pay for it.

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2 thoughts on “My beef with TV licensing (and the BBC)

  1. You mentioned that you’re a student: I don’t know if you’re aware of the workaround, which allows you to watch at university on a device that is not plugged in (e.g. laptop/tablet with wifi) as long as your non-termtime address is covered by a valid TV licence. This will still be the case after the new rules come into force on 1st September 2016.
    More info here on our blog: http://tv-licensing.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/student-guide-to-tv-licence-rules.html

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