I took part in a debate on BBC5 live today regard the future of the BBC. One of my opponents was the rather plummy voiced Sir Christopher Bland. In essence, my argument is that the BBC’s method of funding is an anachronism and that it is grotesque it can extort over £3bn a year via the License Tax. I pointed out that the difference between myself and Sir Christopher was that I believe in choice whereas he believes in denying choice and enforcing this tax on people. Tomorrow evening’s “Moral Maze” will also discuss the future of the BBC and either Alan or myself will be on it.

My argument is that the BBC should admit is has a deep bias – we ALL do – it should stop pretending it is this impartial broadcaster – and unhook itself from the narcotic of the license tax and move to a subscription model of funding. THAT way, those who enjoy the serial bias of the Today programme for example – can PAY for it. Thoughts?

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  1. +james says:

    The use of the word ‘extort’ is great. The BBC claims to be great value for money. but something extorted cannot be seen as great value for money.

    It is like a gangster saying, give me a £150 otherwise I will break your hands, it is great value for money, because I don’t break your hands.


  2. Teddy Bear says:

    and unhook itself from the narcotic of the license tax…

    That’s a good way of putting it. But it also explains why the BBC is terrified of that option. ‘Cold Turkey’.
    As it is the BBC can pretend to itself that it is desired and those inhabiting it can believe they are successful at whatever they do.
    We’re asking them to put it to the test.

    They’ll use any excuse and tactic to avoid it.

    I would make this point public – that way whatever they choose to do, the public will at least have this in the back of their minds.
    Give the BBC EGOS a shrink!


  3. TigerOC says:

    There is much more to this than compulsory funding by TV owners.

    If you own a TV you are required by law to pay this “tax”. This is set by our Parliament. But because of its very structure Parliament (our democratically elected representatives) have no power to influence or guide how the BBC is run or what they decide to do with that income.

    The establishment created the BBC Trust to monitor the BBC on behalf of the payer but the Trust is neither accountable to either Parliament or the public. Lord Patten clearly pointed this fact out to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently when he refused to appear before that committee. In the normal course this could be construed as contempt of Parliament.

    The current structure makes them untouchable to all. That a publicly funded body should have so much power is beyond belief.

    The fact that they are publicly funded and distort the media in a free market economy with the sanction of Parliament is beyond parody.


  4. Will Jones says:

    How can seemingly liberal people defend a fee that is the epitome of regressive taxation?

    Hammer away about the single moms who are put in the dock.


  5. Philip says:

    Backbench MP’s are not quite as supportive of the BBC performance (or objectives) as Sir Christopher Bland seems to think – skewing news and media as a perfunctory ‘right’ is a clear ‘abuse’ of its charter… MP’s are finally speaking up about its monopoly position and asking questions… They are clearly not being fobbed off by Sir Bland or his BBC cronies either…

    ‘A compulsory licence fee might have been an appropriate way of funding the BBC back in the 1920s, but it is no longer justified in the 21st century. Does the Secretary of State agree that if the BBC’s output is as popular as everyone claims, if it changed to a subscription model people would be queuing up to buy a licence?’ says David Nuttall.

    (And then a follow up question in parliament):

    ‘Given that the BBC gets in more income every time a new home is built, does the Secretary of State agree that it has been pretty well protected during the period of austerity that other parts of the public sector have faced? Does he also agree that if the BBC ever feels short-changed from sucking on the teat of the licence fee payer, it can always try its luck in the commercial sector and move to a subscription model? says Philip Davies.

    Both MP’s have been awarded parliamentarian of the Week by the Freedom Association this week who are also sponsoring a private ‘Axe-the-tax’ campaign.

    Finally the answers from the BBC are being challenged under the new Culture Secretary John Whitingdale who has a new team of eight to counter the BBC offensives and manoeuvrings they employ to win ‘public support’ which they launch on the airwaves as a ‘threat to democracy’ when the reverse is true.
    Many MPs regularly fall over themselves to sing the praises of the BBC, however, both Philip Davies and David Nuttall told the plain truth: if the BBC is as good as many MPs, and indeed the BBC says it is, it will have nothing to fear from moving from a compulsory licence fee to a subscription model.

    Both Philip Davies and David Nuttall have been awarded. ‘Parliamentarians of the Week’. The Freedom Association is campaigning to Axe-the-tax.


    • Fly on the wall says:

      “awarded parliamentarian of the Week by the Freedom Association”

      1984 – The Propaganda department was called the Ministry of Truth.
      Through the Looking-Glass – “When I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean” Humpty Dumpty.
      Animal Farm – “some animals are more equal than others”.

      The Freedom Association only likes their version of freedom.
      About as free as Lenin’s Trust was trustworthy.


  6. Henry Wood says:

    Mr. “Fle[a]”

    I think you were trying to decry David Vance with your ‘silver lining’ post?

    Let me tell you this: When David Vance and his colleagues on this site eventually succeed in their attempts to eventually abolish the British TV Poll Tax, well, on that day I shall immediately make sure that my annual TV Tax, non-payment of which at the moment is punishable under criminal law in the UK., is *IMMEDIATELY* transferred to the credit of *their* account. More power to them!
    I look forward to that day!


  7. Nibor says:

    Some questions to be asked like ;

    Does the BBC have any commercial activity ?
    Why does it pay its managers , directors etc so handsomely ?
    Where else apart from the licence fee does it get any funding ?
    Are there any people or groups of people , societies, associations, political parties , pressure groups ,affiliations, cultural groups etc that the BBC, its reporters, journalists, editorial staff etc will not report favourably on ( I believe that the NUJ will not allow its members to report favourably on the BNP , and possibly other groups ~~the Orange Order ?) .
    Is the BBC obliged to pay any other person or organisation whether it wants to or not ?


  8. dontblamemeivotedukip says:

    My position is simple – regardless of bias I do not watch the BBC , it produces nothing I want to watch or listen to – how can it be fair , in the most commonly understood sense of the term, that I should be forced to pay for it in order that I can legally watch material ( at time of transmittion )produced and transmitted by commercial channels?
    If ,as they say, the BBC is such great value ( half a crown a day or what ever they claim) then those that want their produce will be happy to pay for it and even the poorest will have no problem finding the subscription


  9. Doublethinker says:

    The BBC’s main defence of the universal BBC Tax ,aka The License Fee, is that it can thus provide a universal service. Its absolute rubbish of course. The BBC tax was introduced before there was any real competition for a TV/radio service and before any technology existed to allow people to subscribe to a particular service ie before there was the ability to choose. Neither of these things has been true for at least 20 years. Of course the BBC should become a subscription service on a Not for Profit model. There is no need to sell it off. The take up of its service would be fairly high I think, at least initially, and so with only modest changes it could provide the same service , advert free, at the same subscription level as the current Universal Tax.
    I believe it impossible for the BBC to mount any honest objection to such a move. Of course they will mount many dishonest objections and I see they have already whipped up lots of celebs , some of whom are highly paid by the BBC , to come to its defence with all sorts of spurious nonsense. The most specious claim is that if the BBC were to be diminished then so would Britain! They need to watch the service the BBC provides. It is a long time since the BBC represented the majority of British views rather than those of a narrow metropolitan liberal elite who seem determined to force the rest of us to pay for their liberal left views if not for their entire life style!
    Emphasise, freedom to choose, subscription , not for profit, no privatisation, same subscription fee , no adverts and broadly similar level of service and the general public will accept the changes to the BBC.


    • John Standley says:

      Your first couple of sentences sum it up nicely – for years the BBC’s defence was that it had a licence fee to cover “market failure”. In other words, they had to produce the high-brow stuff which these oiky commercial broadcasters would not produce.
      Then along came Sky and viewers argued that they should not pay a licence fee because they did not watch the BBC’s output. The BBC’s response? “We have to do something for ALL licence fee payers” hence all the lowbrow dumbed-down populist garbage which they would have sneered at 20 years ago.
      And now, apparently the BBC has a remit of “Supporting the creative industries”.
      When did this become part of their remit? it seems like the BBC is pretty good at re-writing their job description as and when required.


  10. Thatcher Revolutionary says:

    Yet if you do not watch the BBC, you are forced to fund it even though you watch ITV or SKY? Unbelievable.


  11. Stuart B(eaker) says:

    1. The ‘cultural jewel’ argument. Yes, it is a jewel, but one which needs constant polishing, by being genuinely accountable to its audiences – plural – because no one organisation can cater for all points of view in its own right. If the BBC were broken up, there would then be room for disparate points of view through different, truly independent ‘containers’ – channels or programme streams, brought to air by a synoptic overall structure, rather like Network Rail affording a carrier base for competing transport providers.

    2. The ‘too big to fail’ argument. Just expose the folly of this attitude in re the banks, where in retrospect it would probably have been better to stand aside and let them fall over.. A subscription model covers that quite nicely.

    3. The hidden ‘arm of government, vital communication tool’ argument. Mainly just needs bringing out from obscurity, here. Once you can force people to elaborate it (why not state it for them, they can only disagree, which demolishes it for you), then its risibility is self-evident. Challenge anyone to provide examples where the BBC has ‘stood up’ for the present government – on anything. Mind you, that points the finger at their masters, Whittingdale et al, rather than the BBC itself. It’s up to them to turn it into a propaganda machine if they want to – I suspect it would be an impossible task for any government remotely of the Right. Which also reinforces the idea that the BBC is very amenable to outside influences – but only some outside influences.

    HTH, good luck.


    • Anne says:

      ‘Cultural jewel’?

      The diamond was quietly traded in for a cubic zirconia years ago. Probably at Ratner’s.


      • Stuart B(eaker) says:

        In debating with your opponents, it is useful to remove the ammunition from their guns and point it towards them.

        eg ‘We all aspire to preserving and enhancing this undoubted cultural jewel. We merely differ on the detailed diagnosis of its current state, and the kind of medicine that’s indicated’.


  12. stuart says:

    whenever the bbc or radio 5 live has a debate about bbc bias or the tv licence they always trot out these yes posh sounding establishment lefties like sir christopher or guardianistas like owen jones who bty get paid quite a nice little fee everytime they appear non stop on some bbc chat show or phone in praising the bbc,it just sickens me,but what can we do apart from have david vance giving a voice to the likes of me and you who are excluded from any debate regarding blatant politacal bias on radio 5 live and the bbc in general.