back to article SCRAP the TELLY TAX? Ancient BBC Time Lords mull Beeb's future

It was as good as anything on the telly. Four past BBC chiefs were giving MPs their opinions at Westminster. The Commons media select committee is running an enquiry into the future of the BBC, looking at how it should be governed, and as technology and habits change, whether should there even be a per-household fee levied on …

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No, she's only head of fucking state.

She's more part of the government than Cleggy or Cameron. Don't give me that crap about a "symbolic role", just because she's not shouty and on telly a lot.

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Anonymous Coward

Where

Did they say she was?

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Anonymous Coward

Well said

The BBC are and always have been part of the establishment and work hand in glove with the state.

All this "left-wing BBC" is absolute nonsense. They're as left wing as Adolf Hitler.

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"The Queen is not a member of the Government."

The UK is a Monarchy, the Queen reminds you every year in the Queens speech & state opening of Parliament that the Government is 'My' Government. Pay attention to the world around you.

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The original post asserted that playing the national anthem on TV is government propaganda. It isn't. Closing each day's TV with a party political broadcast by the prime minister would be government propaganda. Broadcasting the national anthem at closedown, although perhaps archaic these days, is not, any more than a US TV station that broadcasts the President's "State of the Union" address would be a "propaganda mouthpiece". The Queen represents the permanent state, not the transient government.

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Unfair Tax?

No.

It's the fairest tax of them all. It's the only tax where all the money goes exactly where you think it goes. And if you don't want the service, you don't have to pay the tax.

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Re: Unfair Tax?

Oh lovely. I don't want the BBC. Can I watch Channel 4? ITV? Sky? Anything?

Guess not, then.

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Re: Unfair Tax?

You are mistaken, if someone wants to watch television in the UK but never watches the BBC they still have to pay the BBC TV licence.

The fair way to do it would be a subscription, where you decide if you want to watch the BBC (not television in general) and if you do not want to watch the BBC you do not pay the subscription.

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Re: Unfair Tax?

The BBC tax is unfair (technically: regressive). The reason being that everyone pays the same amount, irrespective of their ability to pay. The modern trend with taxation is for the rich to pay more than the poor. Sure, there are some subsidies available with the BBC licence fee, such as a 50% reduction for the blind, but otherwise if you're on the minimum wage you pay the same licence fee as if you earn a million a year.

As far as hypothecation goes (tax paid to finance a specific thing), yes it is - and that level of transparency is good.

However, once the money gets given to the BBC, all transparency is lost. Who decides whether "our (TV) taxes" should be spent on a new costume drama, or adding stuff to their website, sending hundreds of staff on a foreign "jolly" to cover an event, or pissed against the wall on a digitisation plan that was totally mismanaged? The public pay billions every year for all these things, but the democratic process fails completely in giving us any say on where "our" money gets spent, or who gets to spend it.

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Re: Unfair Tax?

Except that isn't true is it. If I don't want to watch any of the BBC channels but do indeed want to watch Discovery channels on sky. I do have to pay the tax. What you mean is that if i don't want to watch all live TV so as to avoid the BBC I don't have to pay the tax. Thats not the same thing, it forces people who would otherwise do without the BBC to pay the tax unfairly.

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Re: Unfair Tax?

But that's because the tax is not 'to watch the BBC'. It's to receive and watch real-time TV. The grant the BBC receives from the government - and has to negotiate for every few years - while on the same general level as the expected tax take is not the exact value.

The tax from the independents is on every item you buy, whether you watch it or not. And when you add in a subscription as well... that's adding insult to injury.

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Re: Unfair Tax?

"The BBC tax is unfair (technically: regressive). The reason being that everyone pays the same amount, irrespective of their ability to pay."

The BBC License Fee is not a tax. The clue's in the name. It's a part of the price of owning a TV; the TV itself merely provides the machinery with which to receive the broadcasts.

The BBC is a Corporation with a Royal Charter, not a subsidiary of a government ministry. It is a legal entity that has been granted very specific powers. This is an uncommon form of business these days, but it's the same mechanism that was used to create the University of Cambridge, the East India Company, and the Bank of England.

Also, how is everyone paying the same amount "unfair"? I don't get a discount on shoes, clothing or food based on my "ability to pay", so why should I expect a discount on a luxury item like a television set? Do Sky give you a discount on their subscriptions based on your level of income? Do Tescos give you an "I never watch TV adverts" discount on the stuff you've bought from them?

A television is a luxury, not a basic necessity. I haven't owned a TV since 1996, so it is most certainly possible to live without one.

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@M Gale - Re: Unfair Tax?

> Oh lovely. I don't want the BBC. Can I watch Channel 4? ITV? Sky? Anything?

> Guess not, then.

Right, so if I only ride a bicycle, can I withold the part of my taxes which go to pay for motorways because I don't use them?

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Re: @M Gale - Unfair Tax?

Whilst so-called "road tax" goes into the same big pot of general taxation as everything else (at least in the UK), if you don't have a motor vehicle, you don't pay road tax.

Electric bicycles with a motor power of less than 250 watts and a top speed of less than 15mph do not count as motor vehicles in UK law, by the way. Your mileage may vary, but considering you're calling it "a motorway" and not "a freeway", I guess not.

Also little 50cc thingies that aren't allowed on motorways pay vastly, immensely less road tax than a car or more powerful motorbike.

What this has to do with the goggle box, I have no idea. Nevertheless, next please!

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Re: Unfair Tax? If it walks like a duck ..

> The BBC License Fee is not a tax. The clue's in the name.

It's a tax. Merely changing the name fools nobody (well, almost nobody - just ask the people who live near Windscale Sellafield). As for the wiki-gasm about the BBC's legal status? Well, nobody cares about that distinction, either.

As for why the tax is unfair, it's a shame you never managed to read past my second sentence or you would have seen the reason why that is.

So you don't have a TV - that's nice, if irrelevant. Some people choose to go without carbs, or meat, or clothes¹ too.. Does that mean they are "luxury" items? No of course it doesn't. So far as having a TV is concerned for a lot of the lowest paid workers, and those who don't/won't/can't work a TV is a necessity. If you have children there is nothing comparable to keep them occupied. The same can be said for adults, too, especially the housebound - if you can't afford other ways of occupying your "leisure" time, then a TV is vital. That's one reason why you find TVs in all parts of the world from Manhattan to Somalia. People are willing to forgo better food in order to have some source information and a way to add a little "sunshine" into their lives.

[1] The naked rambler.

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TV a necessity?

However did we manage before 1927?

Panem et circenses?

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Re: @M Gale - Unfair Tax?

M Gale - *NOBODY* pays "Road Tax" and haven't done since just after WWII, you are taxed on your ownership of a motor vehicle but you don't get a discount because "I don't use that sort of road, therefore I won't pay for it."

I'll spell out what this has to with the Goggle box: It's just like someone saying "I don't watch the BBC therefore I shouldn't have to pay for it." Is that clear now?

(Oh and BTW, if you ride a motorbike, which does not contribute to congestion and causes less damage to a road than a small car, you *still* have to pay VED, even though its capacity is less than those cars which are exempted from VED.)

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@Neil Barnes - Re: TV a necessity?

People went to the music hall and then the movies and watched News Reels.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unfair Tax?

"The BBC License Fee is not a tax"

It has been classed as a tax since 2006.

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/classifications/na-classifications/classification-articles/public-sector-broadcasting/broadcasting--how-ons-will-classify-public-sector-broadcasters.html

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Re: @M Gale - Unfair Tax?

The colloquial term is road tax, and you can wriggle as much as you like. If you're on a scooter, which can't go on motorways, you pay massively less tax on it. If you're on a bicycle, you don't pay any tax on it.

And it's still a stupid analogy, which has nothing to do with the idiot box. However, your insistance that I call road tax "vehicle excise duty" shines a light on the whole "it's not a tax, it's a license" bullshit. It is a tax. On the idiot box.

It needs to go.

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Re: @Neil Barnes - TV a necessity?

And read, sang, played musical instruments, discussed the situation of the day, drank beer...

This forum lacks a sarcasm flag.

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Re: @M Gale - Unfair Tax?

@M Gale - You can call it whatever you like, it's still not "a tax that pays for the roads", but you can keep (and will) wriggling as much as you like too as the rest of your post demonstrates.

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Re: @M Gale - Unfair Tax?

You're still talking about road tax, when I'm on about the telly tax. As is, well, everyone else.

You want it, you pay for it.

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Unhappy

Subscriptions

Perhaps you in the UK could adopt the model we use on the left side of the pond: Pay exorbitant cable/satellite rates AND contend with a ridiculous number of ads AND have to put up with the ever-increasing (in both number and physical size) and highly distracting promo ads for upcoming shows in the corner of the screen. All for shows that are of dubious quality at best. And that doesn't even count the channels that are *all* ads/infomercials/shopping.

Personally, I'd jump at the chance to pay an annual fee/tax and be done with all forms of commercial advertising on television..

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Stop

In case anyone needs reminding why we need the BBC

Here's the inimitable Mitch Benn setting it to music... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q2iZuU5WM

And the riposte "I'm Proud of Sky" song... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH-D7wLo2Fs

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Ship has sailed.

I still can't understand why they are going on about Subscriptions.

That ship sailed when HD boxes came on the market and there were no card slots.

The majority of Freeview equipment in use today does not have any conditional access equipment, and therefore it would require everyone who wanted to continue watching the BBC to replace their equipment, that simply is not going to happen.

The best they could hope for would be a phasing in (over at least a decade) of a subscription - but that would require manufacturers who are currently making the cheap freeview kit - adding CA to their kit and still keeping the cost down.

If it turns out that the UK Gov switched off Analogue - while promising that Freeview would still provide access to the channels, a pay once, watch forever deal (the freeview advert still says that) and then now that there is no-way back they change the system - there will be absolute hell to pay.

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bex

some what archaic idea but,

I am not a big fan of dishing out £145 plus but commercial TV is mostly awful so I guess it's business as usual.

The Tories have been goig on about this for decades but as per usual they will do nothing.

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Beeb

I think many people are more than happy to pay £140 odd each year to watch TV without adverts interrupting what they are watching, where you get 3 minutes from the end, then 4 minutes of adverts before they give you the final 1 minute of the show and then credits.

Could the BBC *really* show Watchdog slamming down on Company X when Company X is a major advertising provider? (yeah, you wanna show that, you lose millions in advertising, understood?). Lack of adverts allows for better impartiality for us, the consumer..

Not that I watch much TV, maybe an hour a day, but even then I think it's worth it to not have Top Gear cut down by 12 minutes just to show adverts.

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Re: Beeb

For me, Top Gear could be cut down substantially. I'd rather have adverts than 'nonentity of the week in a reasonably priced car', just so Clarkson can pretend he's Michael Parkinson every week.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't want to give them a penny of my money since I don't watch TV. Yet just by owning a TV you're supposed to cough up.

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Don't want to pay the license fee? Then don't!

Always surprises me that people still don't know that you don't need a licence for a TV if you aren't watching or recording programmes as they are being broadcast.

I know TVL are a PITA, but if you genuinely don't watch or record live TV, tell them to eff off and take you to court, then just bin any correspondence you receive from them. They've no legal right, as far as I know, to 'inspect' your equipment. Just don't lie about it and unplug any receiving equipment from the aerial/satellite sockets.

Even easier with smart TVs these days, plug into network and carry on watching catch up TV to your hearts content. Just don't watch anything live.

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We'd end up paying a lot more than £145/yr for a subscription-based BBC.

Call me naive, but I'd like politicians to fix broken things. And in the grand scheme of things, the funding method for the BBC comes way, way down the list of things that are broken.

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Anonymous Coward

Some Would

But at least we'd have a choice

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Anonymous Coward

And I'd like the politicians

to just stop messing with anything at all. They nearly always make things worse no matter which party they are and no matter what area they are messing with. There are so many things that are much more shit than they used to be because of unnecessary meddling.

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Re: Some Would

@IDontHaveAHandle

"But at least we'd have a choice"

You already have a choice. No-one's putting a gun to your head and forcing you to have a TV.

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Anonymous Coward

The BBC never really recovered...

...from having that talentless smirking POS John Birt put in charge of it. The same formula seems to have been applied to nearly everything else since then, ie: destroy anything that works, usually by throwing accountants at it. Why don't we just sell the entire country for scrap and emigrate?

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Re: The BBC never really recovered...

"...Why don't we just sell the entire country for scrap..."

Thatcher already did that.

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"If you've Silverlight installed, you can watch..."

Silverlight? What's that?

(chuckle)

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Silver badge

The BBC should be split into two halves.

One half should be funded by the public purse (taxation, license fee, whatever) and do public service broadcasting. e.g. apolitical news & current affairs, documentaries, etc. Maybe even trialling new technologies.

The second half should be either advertising or subscription funded (but not both, it shouldn't be another Sky) and do the rest of the commercial pap.

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The BBC should be split into two halves.

You mean like a licence-funded BBC for home use, and a commercial arm called BBC Worldwide that sells BBC programmes abroad to raise money? It is.

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Coat

jobs and...

The problem with these sorts of "thought experiments" is it tends to come across as an advert for lobbying services.

There might be a lot of cruft at the BBC, there may have been some dumbing down, it might not be very consistent.

But NOTHING compares to the cynical commercial exploitation of any sports fan, or of any other media made outside of the UK, or of any media that may appear in a cinema.

Both Sky ITV and the whole host of "pseudo-channels" padding the spectrum with fake quizs, hypnotic selling, advert-pepper replayed content, etc etc etc all profit handsomely by slicing and dicing the content you can see.

Let us all remember that there are powerful media forces, and the government that would all love to have a much smaller BBC to bully into their service.

It may need reform, but the decoupling from "taxation" has kept it largely away from the whims of government....

P.

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And who would produce...

... documentaries like Michael Moseley comes up with? Pain, Pus and Poison? Eww! Nobody wants to watch that!

Or what about Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades? A bunch of people sat around a table nattering about music? Too boring (the fact that the guy has forgotten more about music than most people know seems to be irrelevant).

And The Sky at Night would get the axe because it has no mass-market appeal.

I'll leave the last word(s) to Mitch Benn... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q2iZuU5WM

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the beeb is great

I think the BBC is great value. Even Radio 4 on its own is worth the licence fee in my view. Change the funding structure at the peril of destroying the best output.

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I really don't want the TV here to become like America

I don't enjoy paying the licence, but I have seen some American shows and they can be obscene in the amount of blatant advertising. If you want a funny example watch an episode of Top Chef!

All the kitchen equipment is name checked by manufaturer, the cameras linger on the logos all the time. The contestents don't just go and get ingredients, they take the Toyota Rav4 to Wholefoods. They have to include Philadelphia cream cheese in the recipe for this challenge, etc.

I realise it's how the show is funded though, these companies are providing the equipment and prizes because there's no other way of funding it

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Pay-by-view is the only ethical and sane way to do it.

The concepts of "TV channels" and linear-viewing are essentially alien to anyone under-40: they're all grabbing stuff to watch on their mobes and tablets and don't really care about the provider or what 'channel' it is on.

My issue with the BBC is that as a potential TV-viewer you're obliged to fund it even if you never intend to watch it: imagine the outcry if you were obliged to pay for copies of The Guardian even if you only ever read the Financial Times and Country Life?

[My house has been BBC-free for the last couple of decades. I don't have a TV licence either]

Convert rhe BBC intoi a subscription-service? Yes please! [alas, as someone else has said, the tacky "freeview" boxes don't have any kind of conditional-access/viewing-card mechanism, otherwise your annual TV-licence could have included a card to enable your box to decode the BBC channels].

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My missus watches the telly

Quaint.

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Very interesting discussion

Yes we moan about the licence fee, but what's the alternative? Watch ITV? I'd rather sh*t in my hands and clap!

We've got enough detritus on TV with Big brother, Strictly come dive with me, Jeremy Kyle, mind numbing soaps (they should seriously have a health warning stating long term exposure will turn you into an ignorant drama queen), and enough cooking and "talent" shows to numb the mind of even Steven Hawkins.

Certainly, by far and away, the BBC has the greatest wildlife and science documentaries in the world by several light-years. The factually tepid rivals, such as the penguin movie voiced by Morgan Freeman simply highlight how lucky we are. No matter how much money other enterprises from other countries throw at their own attempts, there is always that tangible stain of "dumbed down" that decades of catering to the lowest common denominator always leaves.

I would be out on the street with Molotov cocktails if they attempted to take one penny away from these. The vast majority of outspoken complainers simply don't know how lucky we are. If you'd like an education, try watching American TV! You'll be kissing the ground in Heathrow airport and offering up your first-born to David Cameron to get back in after a week!

I certainly agree that the BBC does need more focus, though. In the technology fields, there does seem to be a lot of wheel reinventing.

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Re: Very interesting discussion

> the BBC has the greatest wildlife and science documentaries in the world by several light-years. ...

> I would be out on the street with Molotov cocktails if they attempted to take one penny away from these

Better get the firebombs ready then. Their latest financial statement (for 2012/2013) shows that BBC2 had it's funding cut by £6M (that's a lot of "one penny"'s) compared to the previous year and BBC4 suffered a £2½M cut. BBC1 on the other hand (not known for its documentaries: science, wildlife or otherwise) gained over £120 Mil. Even though the corporation as a whole received £50M less than the previous year.

It would appear that Strictly (that is a BBC show, isn't it?) is where the funding is going and "serious" programmes are being cut to pay for it.

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It's a bloody goggle box.

It's not a fire service. Or an ambulance service. It's not even the police. It's not a school. It's not a hospital. It has fuck all to do with your life that is essential beyond plonking your arse down in front of a screen and vegetating. Don't give me that but-must-provide-educational-programming bullshit. That can happen without a tax. It's called "government owned", which the BBC is.

Now get your fucking hands out of my pockets and pay for it yourself if you want it so bad.

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