Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Taking Auntie’s Shilling

Auntie Beeb herself reports:

The BBC could be made to share part of the television licence fee with commercial rivals under government plans to be announced later.

No no no. The problem with the licence fee is not that it doesn’t benefit commercial broadcasters, it’s that it is an anachronistic, unnecessary, anti-competitive dinosaur designed from the days when there was only one broadcaster, transmitting for a few hours in the evening, with continuity announcers dressed in full dinner jacket – even on the radio wireless.

That fact is that today there is no good reason for any broadcaster being publicly subsidised. The basic question remains unanswered: if the BBC is so good, why do they need to force viewers to pay for it?

Instead of exposing the BBC to the real world of commercial pressures, without the protection of their extortion unique method of funding, Labour want to expand the licence fee’s benefit to the commercial broadcasters. In what is yet another state bail-out by another name, it may also have the effect of expending the licence fee payroll vote. Whatever the public pronouncements from Broadcasting House, licence fee proponents are probably quite pleased that their constituency will be so expanded.

And yes, I’m quite aware that the Conservatives were proposing something strangely similar over a year ago (though more recently we’ve simply tried to freeze the fee). Frankly, it’s one policy of ours I’d rather Labour didn’t nick.

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