It’s well worth anyone who works at the BBC looking at the BBC News talkback from viewers on whether the TV licence fee be increased. By and large, the viewers are opposed to the increases – perhaps unsurprisingly.
But it’s interesting how the same old nonsense is trotted out by viewers. Let’s look at a few of the myths:
They should be made to compete in the open market like ITV.
This, of course, would be the last thing that ITV would like. If the BBC was competing with it for advertising revenues, the effect would be to almost instantly halve ITV’s income – thus destroying it. And, of course, the amount that the BBC would get wouldn’t cover its own budget. Total net TV advertising revenues, split across all channels, was £3.4 billion in 2004 according to Ofcom (ITV’s total of this is about £600 million). In the same year, the BBC allocated roughly £2.3 billion to television alone across all its channels – which gives you an idea of just how advertising revenue it would have to take from the current commercial channels in order to retain its current programme making strength. The only other option would be to cut back its programme making budget drastically – which would, of course, mean more repeats and less original programmes, which is the exact opposite of what the audience consistently says it wants.
The licence should be scrapped and the BBC made more accountable, it’s almost like a government dept, wasting taxpayers money.
The BBC, of course, is not a department of the government, which has no say in its running beyond making appointments to its most senior managment.
Stop paying staff so much money and spend the licence
fee on better programmes if they don’t like it tell them to get another
job. Most people don’t get paid anywhere near Wogan.
Neither, of course, do most people at the BBC. In fact, the majority of people I’ve met who work there get less than the going market average for their job. There are, of course, other tangible benefits – the BBC pension scheme, for example, is excellent – but mostly they work there because of the public service aspect of the place.
Scrapping the BBC would improve the quality of private
broadcasters due to the decreased competition. All the best TV is from
America and is privately funded.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen the argument that a lack of competition improves quality. I’d certainly suggest that the writer go watch some old Soviet-era Russian TV, where competition was barred and quality was, to put it mildly, minimal. And I’d suggest that he watch Fox News and compare it to either News 24 or even ITN News if he thinks that all the best TV is from America.
I have no problem paying for the BBC – its a unique
public service and Britain would be poorer without it. I object to
paying for BBC programming twice, though. The entire historic output of
the BBC should be free to Brits on the Internet.
A position I have a lot of sympathy for, but which – alas – is not that simple. There’s two issues here. The first is the issue of rights. People who make and appear in programmes have "rights", which means that if it’s repeated they’re entitled to a fee. Not much – but over the course of an actor’s career, these rights can amount to a lot of money. Now if you’re allowing people to download programmes for free, how much money do you pass on to those actors? The BBC would like to do this, and is at the moment spending a lot of time and money on working out how to through efforts like the Interactive Media Player and Creative Archive.
The second issue is more difficult. The government has, for a while, been keen on supporting the independent television industry by ensuring that a proportion of the BBC’s money goes to independent TV makers – hence those "A Joe Blogs Production in association with BBC Wales" type of credits at the ends of programmes. In fact, the government insists at present that around 25% of the BBC’s output on its main channels is outsourced.
All well and good, but it means one problem: The BBC doesn’t actually own everything that goes out on its channels. Copyright resides with the production company, or is split between production company and BBC – which in turn means the BBC only has limited rights to show the programme, usually repeated for free within a strictly-set window after first showing. Any more showings, and the BBC has to pay more. And, of course, allowing people to download the content would cost more. A lot more.
Why oh why can’t the BBC be paid out of central
government taxes. Then it would be paid through our ability to
spend/pay. The argument that it would be under government control does
not wash, as it is the government that sets the License Fee.
First of all, it would end the arms-length relationship between government and BBC that allows the government its indepence. Secondly, it would mean that the BBC budget would be subject to direct political interferance: do a Panorama about how Tony Blair was a weasel, and you can bet that next year’s budget for news would be cut.
There is no need to venture into territory that is more
than adequately covered by commercial television companies. They should
be putting all their money into making quality programs for BBC 1 &
Ironically, the reverse would be true: ITV does a decent job of competing with BBC1, while C4 and (increasingly) C5 are doing excellent work on minority programming and documentaries (despite it’s low-rent reputation, C5 has done some very good documentary TV of late). BBC 1 and 2 would be the first for the chop if you decided that the BBC could only cover non-commercial territory – and under that system, the BBC would become a minority set of channels, and critics would justifiably ask why everyone had to pay for them.
I find it hard to understand why some
programmes are screened on digital TV first as this forces people to
pay a premium for the box to receive programs they have sponsored
Part of the remit for the digital channels is to experiment with low-budget programmes that might prove to be popular, but might not. They allow a higher level of risk than terrestrial channels, so that programmes like Little Britain can find an audience without the kind of major promotional budget that they’d need for BBC’s 1 or 2.
How about scraping it? We are fed up with being taxed for everything we do in life!
How about you grow up and realise that everything in life has to be paid for?