Why the licence fee should go…

by Stephen Tall on October 11, 2005

Abolition of the BBC licence fee is a debate which sparks up regularly to my never-ceasing delight. Steve Guy has put the argument in favour of its axeing over on his Political Weblog. I did so in August, via the Apollo Project, here. Go seek…

I won’t bore readers with another recitation, but there are some points worth emphasising as they seem always to be lost in the horror that greets the proposal that this middle-class subsidy be ended:

  • Public service broadcasting (PSB) is important to enable a civil society to flourish.
  • The BBC is not the sole provider of PSB: ITV and Channel 4 have also been responsible for some of the best ever PSB programmes (Brideshead Revisited, Jewel in the Crown, Dispatches, 7 Up, This Week, GBH, Brass Eye, etc, etc.)
  • To equate the BBC with PSB is to do a serious injustice to some of the great independent producers working outside the BBC.
  • PSB is at its best when there is healthy competition between the BBC and its commercial rivals, all of whom can compete on a level playing field.
  • The licence fee is giving the BBC a stranglehold of the PSB market: ITV and Channel 4 cannot afford to compete with the BBC any more.
  • That is because of the licence fee. The abolition of the BBC licence fee is, therefore, essential if we are to protect PSB in the future.

So there you have it: the greatest current threat to good quality TV is not Rupert Murdoch, is not Dick ‘n’ Dom, is not even Celebrity Bargain Hunt. It’s the licence fee.

And, yes, I did call it a ‘middle class subsidy’… Sometimes I just live to be provocative.