David Thompson
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November 01, 2010

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KMcC

Here's my simple solution to the BBC: David C announces that it will no longer be an offence to possess a TV without a licence. How the BBC chooses to secure funding is not the govt's concern. The changes take effect on January 1 2012.

Then we should see exactly who wants to pay for the BBC, and how much.

Me, I'd be happy to subscribe for those bits I use. The things that annoy me would annoy me less, knowing that me decision not to pay for them won't end with me being put in a govt cage.

svh

From the Guardian comments:

"Nobody is 'forced' to pay the BBC licence fee. Just don't have a TV."

rjmadden

"Only a fiend would stand in the way of the Beeb and its subsidised tumescence."

David, do you remember this?

BBC sends over 400 staff to Glastonbury

"THE BBC has sent 407 people to cover this weekend's Glastonbury festival, almost as many as it flew out to film last year's Beijing Olympics. There are so many on the corporation's payroll that it has had to block book hotels within a 10-mile radius of the festival. The BBC sent just 32 more to cover the Olympics.

The camera crews and presenters were joined by a clutch of senior corporation executives, who earlier this week were forced to disclose their expenses and earnings. They received free passes to attend in a "work capacity". One of the executives at the festival, Mark Byford, the deputy director-general, routinely charged the licence fee payer £240 a day for a chauffeur to pick him up each morning at Waterloo station. Another executive, Alan Yentob, the BBC's creative director, once hosted a Glastonbury festival reception at his nearby country home, paid for by the licence fee."

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article6591261.ece

Your public sector broadcaster...

David

“THE BBC has sent 407 people to cover this weekend’s Glastonbury festival… There are so many on the corporation’s payroll that it has had to block book hotels within a 10-mile radius of the festival.”

Somehow, amazingly, I’d managed to forget that one.

WTP

"...the pending journalists’ strike over pensions..." Unionized journalists? Oh, sweet Jesus…you lucky bastards. How do we get our U.S. journalists to unionize (and then strike)? No journalists slanting the news until their demands are met? No "news" about Britney Spears or Paris Hilton's underpants? No sports reporters running around like 7th grade girls breathlessly reciting gossip from athlete to athlete? I wonder if the AP would still be able to try to poll me every freakin' day. Perhaps the pollsters can unionize too? Cool, I’m feeling so much better I could cake-walk into town…

AC1

"The licence fee isn’t a tax,"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licensing_in_the_United_Kingdom

"The licence fee is classified as a tax,[3] and evasion is a criminal offence. Since 1991, collection and enforcement of the licence fee is the responsibility of the BBC in its role as TV Licensing Authority."

Simen Thoresen

"Nobody is 'forced' to pay the BBC licence fee. Just don't have a TV."

Beautiful!

A commenter at a different forum told of his experiences with people of strong opinions. The point was his annoyance over being referred to and addressed as a 'kaffir', even though it was posited to be a value-neutral and descriptive term. The suggested solution was to simply accept the new faith, which would of course render the term 'kaffir' incorrect and thus not used.

I believe both of these are variations over 'if you don't like it, then you should just move'.

Thank you, very much.

-S

Lovernios

You need a license to own a TV in the UK? Do you have to get a Learner's Permit first? Take a test to ensure that you know how to safely operate one?

David Gillies

This is just another example of the Leftist sense of entitlement that so many find so unattractive, and which is busily contributing to Barack Obama's being a one-term President. You see, if you disagree with the proposition that the progressive consensus is the only moral stance to take, you are either evil or guilty of false consciousness. Of course if the Left were able to diagnose its own pathologies, it would have shut up shop years ago and slunk away, grinning sheepishly.

SZ

Watching television is an unhealthy vice, like smoking, which is also taxed, albeit based on a different rationale. However, the effects of television upon civilisation - mass stultification, social, cultural and moral decay - are far more devastating than those of any drug, no matter how widespread. Neuroscience has revealed the catastrophic effects that exposure to television has upon the developing brains of young children. In this respect, programme content is secondary; the medium itself is brain-altering. Ultimately, given the insidious nature of television in itself, it is entirely irrelevant whether one pays the government or a private provider in order willingly to submit to its deleterious psychical and spiritual effects.

David

The tin foil is in the left-hand drawer.

David

David Gillies,

“If you disagree with the proposition that the progressive consensus is the only moral stance to take, you are either evil or guilty of false consciousness.”

For the most part, I don’t think the Beeb is that overtly ideological. It’s fluffier than that, smugger and more gently condescending. It’s more a matter of assumptions and predictable omissions; things that go unchallenged or unsaid.

Though there are times when assumptions are made explicit. For instance, a month or so ago, I was listening to Radio 4’s Loose Ends programme – a sort of whimsical revue of chat, music and substandard comedy. The comedian of the week (whose name I didn’t catch) was amused by the taboos surrounding immigration and multiculturalism. The gist of his punch line was “Isn’t it hilarious that people who have concerns about immigration and assimilation now have to be quiet because otherwise they’ll be called racists. Ha! We won!” This was deemed incredibly funny.

But setting aside these fits of triumphalism, it isn’t necessary to invoke planning or conspiracy. It’s largely a gravitational thing: lots of people with broadly similar views and broadly similar arts and media educations hearing their own assumptions repeated back to them. It’s a kind of bien-pensant consensus. As Jeff Randall, a former BBC business editor, put it, “It’s not a conspiracy. It’s visceral. They think they are the middle ground.” It’s just that this “middle ground” is by and large mapped through a soft left filter.

As others here have noted, this is hardly a surprise. It’s the nature of the beast. A public sector state broadcaster gorged on subsidy and grounded in paternalism will attract certain kinds of people and have a certain… disposition. A vast media organisation funded by extortion and accustomed to that privilege will tend to view coercive subsidy much more sympathetically than the general public does. And it will tend to favour politics that dignify that coercion.

georges

David

You ridicule the suggestion of any Murdoch agenda behind the proposed changes. But our politicians feel Murdoch is powerful, and seek to curry favour with him. Labour believed it was the Sun which lost them the 1992 election, and this led Blair to make himself as Murdoch-friendly as possible. David Cameron had private meetings with Rupert Murdoch in 2008 aboard Murdoch's yacht.

There is a pattern of articles in Murdoch-owned newspapers making attacks on the BBC; most do not explain to the readers that their proprietor owns a rival TV company.

I don't think Murdoch is the Antichrist. But I do think he has too much power, and we need media antitrust laws to limit his influence. Many democratic countries impose limits on foreigners owning their media and on media ownership concentration generally. If a policy of BBC cuts and restructuring went hand-in-hand with new laws like these, it would do much to reassure people that the motivation for the reform was honest and straightforward.

David

Georges,

“You ridicule the suggestion of any Murdoch agenda behind the proposed changes.”

I’m mocking the assumption that Murdoch’s business interests are the sole explanation for a desire to restrain the BBC’s sense of entitlement, as if no other motives could possibly be in play. The Observer, like the Guardian, isn’t known for recognising a moral case for scaling back our bloated state broadcaster.

“There is a pattern of articles in Murdoch-owned newspapers making attacks on the BBC; most do not explain to the readers that their proprietor owns a rival TV company.”

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticise the BBC. That some of them are aired in Murdoch-owned titles doesn’t invalidate the criticism. An argument stands or falls on its merits. And Murdoch’s business interests are quite well known, wouldn’t you say?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/294766.stm

“I don’t think Murdoch is the Antichrist. But I do think he has too much power, and we need media antitrust laws to limit his influence.”

Unlike the multibillion, global, multi-platform BBC?

Update:

If you’re concerned about monopolies and conformity (a reasonable point), then surely those concerns must also apply to the dominance and influence of the BBC? The corporation has huge influence in the media market (while being largely immune to market effects) and it has enormous influence over issues of, say, the role of the state or public sector reform. Being a leftish state funded entity, it will tend to favour enlargement of the state and greater public spending. So whatever anti-monopoly safeguards might come to mind, I’m not sure the Beeb is an obvious solution. I can always choose not to buy Mr Murdoch’s products. But it’s very difficult to avoid bankrolling the BBC. The objection here is the means of funding – i.e., monopolistic extortion. If the BBC operated on a voluntary subscription basis – perhaps something like Sky – then I’d have no real grumble. I might even subscribe to a package of natural history programmes and Top Gear. That’s the point. I could choose.

Sting

I admit the loss of Al-beeb's ability to make EastEnders, populate Question Time with a greater proportion of lefties and take planeloads of freeloaders to exotic places is worrying.

But putting that fear aside, the argument that Sky engineers all this is not quite on target. I believe that ITV and others are also a rival to auntie's bias.

Karen M

Speaking of Murdoch…

http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2010/11/doh.html

sackcloth and ashes

'There is a pattern of articles in Murdoch-owned newspapers making attacks on the BBC; most do not explain to the readers that their proprietor owns a rival TV company'.

Speaking of the Murdoch press, I find that there's a greater diversity of opinion and debate within 'The Times' than their is within the 'Indie' or the 'Guardian'. But that's just me.

Elements of the BBC are worth keeping, notably the monitoring and World Services. We should certainly be investing in the Farsi, Mandarin, Arabic and Russian stations. BBC News (national and regional) deserves to be retained, but the recruiting practice for the corporation needs to be revised (namely, advertise job vacancies in all broadsheets, not just the Graun).

As for the rest, why exactly should taxpapers money be used to pay for 'Strictly' and 'Bonekickers'?

Ted S., Catskills, NY

Wouldn't it be easier to advertise job vacancies on-line?

rjmadden

"the BBC’s sense of entitlement."

David, I think you'll like this one.

"John Simpson, the BBC's World Affairs Editor, has compared the licence fee freeze to "waterboarding"."

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2010/11/john-simpson-compares-bbc-licence-freeze-to-waterboarding.html

He blames "far-right ideologues and the Murdoch empire".

Anna

Didn't Simpson liberate Kabul single handed?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1662979.stm

sackcloth and ashes

'John Simpson, the BBC's World Affairs Editor, has compared the licence fee freeze to "waterboarding"'

I believe him. He did liberate Kabul, after all.

David

“He blames ‘far-right ideologues and the Murdoch empire’.”

Of course he does, because only *bad* people would question the Beeb’s entitlement to even more of our earnings. And living within one’s means is now “an unprecedented attack” on all that is virtuous and fragrant. Presumably Mr Simpson feels that he and his colleagues should be free to raid our wallets as deeply and often as *they* deem necessary.

When faced with resistance to their expectations of indefinite subsidy, some people *must* see nefarious motives. Any other, less dastardly, motive appears to be unthinkable. It’s rather like how Hanif Kureishi saw reductions in subsidy for the arts as an attempt to cow “dissent,” or how the Guardian’s theatre critic Michael Billington claimed talent was being “suppressed.”

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/04/freeloading-and-snobbery.html

Because leftwing theatre is just so… dangerous.

Beerwulf

What amazes me is that Guardianistas normally decry any attempt to change the tax system as being regressive. However, the Licence Fee is an amazingly regressive tax, even more regressive than the "Evil Tory Thatcher's" Poll Tax, which had reductions for unemployed and poor. And yet, they're in favour of it.

I know the next logical step is to apply "revealed preferences", at which point my head explodes. I do not see how a functioning brain can accomodate strong desires for progressive taxation and the current TV licence fee.

Unless, of course, they have no desire for logical consistency.

SG

"It's more a matter of assumptions and predictable omissions; things that go unchallenged or unsaid."

Sometimes they just come out with it: http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2010/11/not-good-result.html

David

Heh. Well, yes, sometimes the assumptions are more explicit.

But still, I think the bias is most often a matter of omission. For instance, this morning Radio 4’s schedule was disrupted by the journalists’ strike, so instead of the Today programme there was some “fresh, provocative and fiery debate” on low-budget living featuring Guardian / New Statesman / Morning Star contributor Laurie Penny.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vky79

Ms Penny did her usual leftist student mewling, before being invited to read at length from her own blog. A whiny screed ensued, begging questions at a rate of knots. No surprises there. But, as usual, no contrasting point of view was aired. No-one had been invited on to challenge her assumptions in a remotely substantive way. They were just left hanging there as if self-evidently true. So in fact there was no “fiery debate,” or debate of any kind. Instead, you get the familiar bien-pensant consensus, like the Guardian read aloud.

(Incidentally, while the Beeb promotes leftist bloggers on its broadcasts and websites – Ms Penny, Bidisha, Sunny Hundal – such favours don’t extend so readily – if at all - to their non-leftist counterparts. Again, it’s done by omission. And how do we think Ms Penny would fare against Jeff Goldstein, Scott Burgess or someone from Samizdata?)

More on Ms Penny here:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2010/07/bikini-ideology.html

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/06/hyper-indeed.html

Sam

David,

"The Today programme is off air today due to industrial action. As a service to the nation, the Guardian is offering this substitute live blog. It may be brilliant – or the best argument for the licence fee yet put forward."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2010/nov/05/today-for-one-day-only

I thought the Today programme was ALWAYS edited by the Guardian…

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