back to article Big Media drags 142,000 through UK's courts in a year

Not one Hollywood studio or record label company has ever incarcerated anyone merely for not paying for media consumption. A few years ago the entertainment industry filed civil suits against individuals, but received so much criticism it stopped. Now they target industrial-scale pirates, or push for milder sanctions such as …


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      1. Desk Jockey

        What TV services don't benefit from the licence fee? ITV? Channels 4 and 5? Sky? Virgin? You may be surprised to know that they all get something from the licence fee. Sure, they don't get the billions that the BBC does, but the BBC is obliged to work with them to ensure that they can broadcast their services or have access to BBC services. I think they get cash from the licence fee fo things like broadcasting news, but I am not sure about that.

        The BBC is not the sole beneficiary, just the biggest one.

        Maybe it will help you if you think of it like a driving licence - you can use any legal car on any public road that you like, but not without a licence. Don't want a licence? You can't drive, except on private roads. Your choice...

        1. M Gale



          Really, what the fucking fuck?

  1. b166er

    I think you'll find absence of advertising 'is worth the licence fee alone'

    Model A: Sky, Subscription AND Adverts, 15 channels of sh*t

    Model B: BBC, Licence fee, NO Adverts and programmes that would never have been made by Sky

    Tough one!

    1. MrZoolook
      Thumb Up

      b166er... I spotted a mistake in your post.


      Model A: Sky, Subscription AND Adverts, 15 channels of sh*t

      Model B: BBC, Licence fee, NO Adverts and channels of sh*t that you are paying for with no opt-out if you EVER watch live TV from ANY other suppliers.


      ... corrected!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now that Radio 3 had turned into shit ...

    They might as well close down the BBC. Radio 3 was the only decent thing they produced, and now it's barely distinguishable from Classic FM.

    1. CowardlyLion

      Re: Now that Radio 3 had turned into shit ...

      Rubbish. What about Late Junction for just one example? Do Classic FM have anything like that? Not any time I've listened to it. Classic FM seems to have, generally, what I'd term "chocolate box" classical, whereas Radio 3 has a wider variety of music, of all genres, than any other radio station I can think of. Classical, Opera, Rock, Jazz, Folk, Electronica, Experimental, you name it. I've discovered so many great things through hearing them first on Radio 3.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps people will pay when the BBC and others aren't transmitting it across public airwaves unencrypted.

    You should not need a licence to own a TV, a licence would make sense if you had to decrypt an encrypted Freeview signal.

    Except they never encrypted it as they knew it would reduce income as people wouldn't be bullied into paying a licence merely to have a television in their house.

  4. ZedThePirate

    No more license for me

    You only need a license if you watch live tv:

    From tv license website: "The law states that you need to be covered by a TV Licence if you watch or record television programmes, on any device, as they're being shown on TV. This includes TVs, computers, mobile phones, games consoles, digital boxes and Blu-ray/DVD/VHS recorders.

    You don't need a licence if you don't use any of these devices to watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV - for example, if you use your TV only to watch DVDs or play video games, or you only watch ‘catch up’ services like BBC iPlayer or 4oD."

    So you can watch iplayer etc, and considering lovefilm and netflix combined are about the same price as a tv license and that's what we watch more. I get to save money!


  5. Captain Underpants
    Thumb Down

    Andrew, the breakdown of BBC spending at suggests that Radio 4 *isn't* actually the horrendous moneysink you seem to fearfully imagine. The fact that it costs more than the repetitive shite on Radio 1 is probably down to not having an imposed three-tier music playlist that mandates playing the same set of top-40 guff interspersed with inane witterings from some moron, and therefore having to pay someone to come up with content worth a damn. It's twice as much as Five Live, but less than 20% of total radio spend. Which, in turn, is around 17% of the total Beeb public spend.

    Radio 4 is, in fact, around 3% of the total Beeb spend. Five Live is 2%, local radio services combined are 4% and BBC1 is 39%.

    Since you decided to go Full Classtard with this article it's worth pointing out that at least *some* of the celebritards on higher pay packets at the Beeb (predominantly for those programmes on BBC1) skew decidedly low-to-middle on the "class appeal" spectrum (I don't imagine Wossy is some sort of upper middle class darling, though Stephen Fry probably is). So if you're going to go into some fearful "HOLY SHIT THE MIDDLE CLASSES ARE OPPRESSING TEH MASSES VIA THE LICENCE FEE! ZOMGZOR!" frenzy, you'll need to provide a more detailed breakdown explaining what middle-class-only programmes are getting all this money thrown at them.

    I'm also genuinely reluctant to believe that *anyone* these days manages to make use of *nothing* funded by the licence fee. Not even using the radio, telly or websites to check the weather or catch the news/sport? Not even using the telly to plonk the young 'uns in front of CBeebies and keep 'em quiet? Not even when Little Tim *really* wants to watch Doctor Who or play the games on the website? And definitely not to watch Strictly Flailing Around The Place Like A Gibbon On Speed/World's Longest And Most Humiliating Interviews For A Crap Job (With Alan Sugar)/Get Humiliated By Self-Important Alleged Entrepreneurial Bellends/Three Cocks And A Car (you get the idea...) on the sly.

    I suspect there's one thing we could agree on, which is that the licence fee would make more sense if it were actually reformulated as an outright tax rather than a non-optional charge for owning certain types of electronics based on a paradigm that's totally out of sync with current technologies. As for the rest of it - I think you're choosing to see a classist problem where one doesn't exist.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Shamalam

    Long may it continue.

    For my money, the License fee is one of the few taxes I pay that actually delivers far and above what I could reasonably expect. Long may it continue.

  8. Sedo

    I couldnt agree with this article more and always wonder why there isnt more protest about it.

    Personally I cant stand the BBC. I dont watch their programs, pay Virgin for subscription to the channels that I do want so dont understand why I have to pay the BBC for content I dont want, dont generally rate and dont consume.

    1. Audrey S. Thackeray

      There seem to be a lot of people here who know the BBC products are bad without ever sampling any of them.

      I think they might be getting value for the licence fee just in the extra excuse for a moan that they seem to enjoy.

  9. Sedo


    As a side note, I would be very interested to see the BBC publish its accounts in full for public inspection and I wonder how much goes on executive salarys, expenses and other miscalaneous items?

  10. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    What's wrong with a licence fee then?

    I pay every day for media which I'm not keen on. I can't opt out of paying for it - it's compulsorily paid for.

    That'll be commercial TV/media. It raises it's cash by levying a tax on almost everything I buy. The revenue scheme seems particularly hard on the lower paid as the products they are likely to buy seem to buy into the funding scheme more heavily.

    The only item I 'buy' (or have as a taxation - if you have your way) is BBC content. Oddly; I don't mind paying that as the films/shows/news are not interrupted by 'devices for funding' aka advertisements.

    As another observation: in France you have a 'licence to be able to receive TV ' to pay - ITS PART OF THE LOCAL TAXES ON YOUR PROPERTY - IT'S ALSO A FIXED AMOUNT. There, I emphasised that for you. It was only introduced in the last 6 years ago to better fund state supported television. Interesting/curious isn't it; we're (well some of us) desperately trying to get rid of the lience fee whereas our neighbours have looked across the channel and decided its's the way to go

    1. M Gale

      Re: What's wrong with a licence fee then?

      A business will only advertise if it stands to profit from the arrangement. That is, the extra products or services sold due to the advert will outstrip the money spent on the advert.

      Suddenly the FUD about commercial telly being a tax on food or some other bullshit is exposed as just that: Thick, stinky bullshit.

      The license fee is still extortion and threats though, however you slice it.

  11. ukaudiophile

    What about the program archives?

    Whilst I personally would be glad to see the end of the TV Licence, as for me there are simply so many means of obtaining programming other than from a state funded broadcaster, I am troubled by the assumption that any NewBBC (subscription, PPV or ad funded) should have an automatic right to the programming of the state funded BBC.

    As I see it, we, the licence payers, have paid for this, this state funded company is owned by us, the licence payers, therefore the programmes are commissioned on our behalf. Therefore, as we paid for them and commissioned them, we own them! Any private company should not have an automatic right to them unless either:-

    A) The program archives are put into the ownership of another company, the shares of which are given to each licence payer and then the new broadcaster pays licence fees to that entity, and these rights are then licensed to overseas & satellite broadcaster, the profits of which are returned to the shareholders or used to commission new programming for onward licensing.

    B). As the licence payers have paid for the infrastructure, the new company's shares are given to the former license payers, and the BBC then becomes a profitable PLC with profits paid back to shareholders.

    I see no toher way for this to be done fairly, any other method is theft from the British public, pure and simple, but I am strongly in favour of a privatisation of the BBC using either of the above models.

  12. Captain Underpants


    What's wrong, I think, is that when it comes to paying for the Beeb (which by virtue of its size will be unable to find a single citizen who likes everything it produces, and yet probably produces at least some service that could be of use to any individual) a lot of people suddenly have a fit of Galloping Libertarian Farquar Syndrome, and because The Powers That Be continue to pretend the licence fee isn't a tax, they then fume about being forcibly made to pay Not-A-Tax for something They Don't Want.

    I don't have kids, and I don't own a car. Money from my tax contributions goes towards both those things, and I'm happy for that to be the case because I understand the greater social good that comes of having such infrastructure in place. (Aside from anything else I can see what's happened with the UK rail network since the Tories decided privatisation was awesome and flogged the things off...which, in its own way, is a great argument in favour of the licence fee).

    The Beeb produces enough services and creates enough public-interest content that its existence requires no further justification, in my opinion. Someone not wishing to avail of them should be paid no more heed than someone saying that because they're not sick they don't want to have to pay any tax towards the NHS.

    I can give you an even starker example of why the Beeb is actually a %^&8ing good deal. Ireland has a television license scheme, and it's much like the UK one. The state broadcaster does *not* have a no-adverts policy, and its home-produced content is largely crap. This is at least partly an economies-of-scale issue, but it usefully serves as an alternative example of what *could* exist in place of the Beeb.

  13. Ben Bawden


    Is he really saying that poor people watch less television than middle class people? Really?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: What?



      Things I'm also not saying: Reindeer can fly; association football was invented by Mormons; you're a careful reader.

  14. Cousteau

    @ Jean

    The TV licence fee is automatically charged on French Property taxes as you say.

    However you failed to mention that it is added in as a separate "line" and you can get a full refund if you sign a declaration to state that you do not own a Television.

    Once you have claimed your refund, they will send you a letter in advance of next year's property tax bill enabling you to declare in advance, your TV Tax is then not even charged.

  15. Rombizio

    What a weird system you guys have.....

    You have to pay for something that you don't want?


    1. GreyWolf

      Re: What a weird system you guys have.....

      Do you pay taxes? Do you want to? You are either wierd or in jail.

    2. yeahyeahno

      Re: What a weird system you guys have.....

      So either you pay no taxes, or you use all the services provided by your government, national, federal and local?

      Either way I suspect your headed for jail.

  16. GreyWolf
    Thumb Down

    I wonder how much Rupert Murdoch paid him? write this obvious piece of astro-turfing, so biased you could open tin cans with it.

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: I wonder how much Rupert Murdoch paid him?

      20 beellion pounds - and a free sky subscription for two years.

      Well done for catching us out.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)


      A reader who didn't get to the punchline. You can easily spot them.

      With GreyWolf, you only ever get as far as the byline, then it's Scanners time.

  17. Ketlan
    Thumb Up

    Dump it

    I haven't had a TV for twelve years now and haven't missed it a bit. Liberate yourselves and dump the bloody things! There's plenty of other stuff to do.

  18. Leo Maxwell

    Bully boys

    Someone mentioned the Radio4 lineup, "count Arthur Strong" is the best argument for ending the license fee I've ever heard :P

    I know several people who have been unmercifully chased over license fees when they don't own a TV, including one of my friends who lives in a valley in Wales where he can't actually receive terrestrial TV.

    My daughter just never bought a TV when she moved out 7 years ago, and she still gets 1 or 2 threatening letters a year.

    My wife's boss had a DVD player from Amazon delivered to his shop for convenience, and they started pestering him!

  19. Anonymous Coward

    You left out one thing...

    And that's the additional aspect that the BBC, after they were whipped into line by Campbell, have lost the one thing they had - independence from guvmint interference. The degree of bias has crept steadily up over the past few years. And with complex issues like the Scottish independence debate or the English NHS implications, among others needing good coverage, they're proving untrustworthy. Yet we have to pay for that failure.

  20. Jellied Eel Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The £5bn a year gorilla

    £3.5bn from selling people the right to watch broadcast TV, £1.5bn from flogging content. It's a big beast because we've allowed it to bloat.

    I somewhat agree with Mr Orlowski's suggestions for a NewBBC. Unleash it, and let it compete on fair market terms. Let it be a telco again. It tried this in the past and briefly sold some expensive DSL connections. I'm sure BT, Sky, Talk Talk and even Virgin would be happy to let the NewBBC resell services. And pay for transit to carry iPlayer.

    I disagree that NewBBC would be able to outbid for sports rights because to avoide competition problems, NewBBC would have to lose the £3.5bn from the licence fee, or have that severely curtailed. Without that cash, it would have even less money to invest in programming and it's programming would have to become even more commercial or populist. If that's possible.

    Commercially, the BBC as-is is a strange beast. iPlayer apparently only costs £2.9m a year to run. This may come as a suprise to rival online services, especially if that includes payment for content rights. If it does not, what is the true cost of iPlayer?

    That may be a recurring theme in BBC accounting though. PSB royalties were only £3.9m which does not suggest PSB/Licence fee funded content has much commercial value. It also may represent a lousy ROI given £2.5bn was allegedly spent on content. Or it could mean the BBC Group is not very effective at commercially exploiting licence fee funded content.

    At the moment if the BBC tries to move it's tanks onto new lawns, it's competitors can object and get it's commercial activities curtailed. No doubt this will happen with the plan to monetise it's archives.

  21. Jon Smit

    Like we're the only country that has a tv licence

    Practically ever other European country has a TV Licence. Some of them cost a lot more than we pay in the UK.

    Don't expect this or any other government to dump any revenue raising scheme, unless it's to put the money into the pockets of their, already rich, mates.

  22. malcontent

    radio license fee

    wasn't the license fee on radio abolished some years ago? or has the evil Cameron-Clegg gummint re-introduced. as an alternative, adopt an elderly person. My Dad lives with us, so we don't have to pay a license. IMHO makes the license even more value!!!

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Bloody Hell...

    ..I've opened up Socialist Worker by mistake.

    Little confused though, I hate Downton Abby and can't afford Piano lessons for the kids, so I must be poor, but I also hate shit like Jeremy Kylie, Loose Women and Bargain Hunt, which must be for the poor and needy. So am I middle class or not?

  24. Skyraker

    I only watch on demand

    I have a virgin box that CAN receive live TV but I ONLY watch on demand TV through the box and film flex through PS3.

    As I read it, I don't have to pay as I don't watch broadcast TV but have to pay because I have the ability to receive broadcasts.

    Can anyone enlighten me?

  25. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    Change the record...

    Orlowski clearly watches too much TV...

  26. chrspy

    There is no such thing as "free" TV

    What Mr Orlowski conveniently forgets is that we ALL have to pay for ALL TV, either through the licence fee or through the advertising 'premium' that we pay on the goods and services we purchase.

    Ofcom reckons that the total advertising spend on radio and TV per year is £4.5 billion. The number of households in this country being about 23 million, if my maths is correct that gives a mean average per household of something like £200 - well in excess of the licence fee!

    So most people are paying large amounts of money for channels that they cannot even receive, because you must factor in the exorbitant subscriptions that we have to pay to receive most of those commercial channels!

    When one starts looking at it like that, the free to air BBC actually becomes extraordinarily good value, whatever class you are in!

    1. M Gale

      Re: There is no such thing as "free" TV

      See my other posts: businessess don't get into loss-making ventures deliberately, and would not advertise if it were losing them money.

      Commercial telly is not a tax on your food supply for fuxache.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insufficient punishment

    The conclusion that jail time is inappropriate for failing to pay for copyright protected materials is incorrect. Punishment is meant to be a deterrent. If people are dumb enough to steal copyright protected materials then they are dumb enough to go to jail and they should go to jail. If you distribute copyright protected works you should do a minimum of five years in prison and be thankful you don't live in countires that amputate one hand and leg for theft.

  28. Allan 1
    Thumb Up

    I always understoodthat...

    Only part of the licence went to the BBC for "content", the bulk of it contributed towards the cost of the transmission network (TV broadcast masts, etc), which is the reason a licence is required even if you only watch ITV.

    I don;t own a TV, and haven't since 2005, when I decided all the repeats weren't worth it. In 2007 I had a number of men from the licence inspectors call. The first one was a snotty git who tried to pass himself off as some kind of police man who had a legal right to enter my property. Access denied. 2nd one threatened me with a search order. Sure, go for it. 3rd guy asked nicely and politely if I'd mind him laking a quick look to confirm my assertation that I didn't have a TV.

    Politeness wins, he was admitted, he filled in a form, and... They've not been back since. Nor have I recieved any nasty-grams.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The entitled generation is really NOT entitled

    It's just a fantasy. They'll learn once they join the real world.

  30. Ben 60

    As a BBC employee

    I agree absolutely, the licence fee is archaic.

    However, Andrew criticises the BBC for being elitist - because it doesn't allow those in the lower income bracket to watch the lowest common denominator content that they'd (apparently) prefer. Really, who's being elitist here?

    Producing high-brow documentaries and programmes about niche/obscure topics is a bad thing? This is absurd. I'd say it actually doesn't produce enough.

    The real problem is that the BBC - aware that people across of all demographics pay the fee - tries to be all things to all people and so is in some ways neither here nor there. It produces a lot of the above but also, let's face it, a lot of mindless drek.

    In my* opinion, as long as it remains this way the BBC will always struggle to fully defend itself. The Reithian mantra to 'Inform, educate and entertain' was relevent when there were no alternatives. But we live in a different, on-demand digital world of choice. The commercial sector could and would produce the purely entertainment content. Leave them to it - focus on what they wouldn't produce and the BBC will be in a stronger position to defend a tax that some won't ever want to pay. That doesn't necessarily mean informative and educational content can't be entertaining.

    America may produce some excellent programming, but this is by and large in the minority - and then you have to contend with the constant barrage of commercial breaks. The weakness of the comparison made above of these type of adverts to the trailers on the BBC is apparent to anyone who has had to sit through an episode of their favourite show in America, only to be watching adverts immediately following the titles. And don't forget, if it's something like HBO you're also paying for that privilege.

    Is this really what you want in Britain - really?

    *A lowly, lowly digital native who loves the BBC but thinks it can't stick its head in the sand for many more charter renewals, but who's aware many cleverer people could probably pick his argument apart.


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