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. Andy 115

    Only compulsory if...

    ...you watch or record broadcast television signals whilst they are being broadcast.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Eh?

    "So how unfair is being asked to pay for something you don't use, but somebody better off than you really likes"

    So poor people only like cheap TV, is that the proposition here?

  3. Natalie Gritpants

    No complaints from me

    Because I prefer to have the biggest media producer to be non-commercial. I don't want to have a bigger version of Sky thanks. Yes, I am middle class, so are most people.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Jamie Kitson

      Re: Eh?

      Either that, or Radio 4 is more expensive to make than TV.

    2. Not That Andrew

      Re: Eh?

      Noo, I think he's saying that 90% of the content produced by the Beeb is of no interest to 90% of the population irrespective of income, but the chattering classes can afford to pay for a TV licence they never use, unlike many poorer people.

      1. yeahyeahno

        Re: Eh?

        You can think that, but that's not what he says at all.

    3. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Stop

      Re: Only compulsory if...

      Perhaps you should tell that to Capita.

      They seem to think that the license fee is compulsory if you have an address. If you do have an address and don't pay the fee, you have to prove that you don't watch or listen to TV/radio output. Even after that, they will continue to harass you.

      If you have any equipment that is capable of recieving broadcasts, it gets even harder (even if you don't have an arial to connect to your laptop which happens to have a receiver built in). In the past there have been people in court having to prove that their VCR had never received TV broadcasts because the receiver had been removed from it.

      1. Vic

        Re: Only compulsory if...

        > Perhaps you should tell that to Capita.

        I did.

        They'd even sent a bloke round to get shirty on the doorstep after I ignored all their letters. I just told him he wasn't coming in, and I wasn't paying him anything because I had all the licencing I required[1], thankyouverymuch.

        They're actually quite impotent if you don't fall for the fake "officaldom".

        Vic.

        [1] We did actually have a TV licence. It's in my missus' name - and as we're not married, that's not my name. Blokey must have spent 10 minutes on my doorstep getting ever stroppier before he bothered to ring the office and check to see if we had a licence. The look on his face was *priceless*...

      2. Andy 115

        Re: Crapita

        Oh I know them well.

        Only this evening I returned home to find one of their snot-o-grams in my letterbox...

        "we called to check that you don't need a TVL (like you claim), you weren't in so we will call again (because we don't believe you)" this is after 2+ years of ignoring their "mock" legalese letters.

        Call all you like, you bunch of wankers, you have no right of access to my property and you will not get a court order to gain it unless you provide said court with proof, (which those semi-educated among us know you can't provide without gaining access to the property)....

        Don't forget, the offence is to be using a device to watch or record Live broadcasts, there is no requirement for me to de-tune my (previously incensed) freeview tv OR EVEN unplug it from the aerial. I also believe the radio channels are TVL immune....

      3. streaky Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Only compulsory if...

        "you have to prove that you don't watch or listen to TV/radio output"

        Go read some law, you really don't.

        Also for the record it isn't a criminal offence so I have no idea how 74 people have gone to prison. My guess is they didn't pay fines, which would put them in contempt.

        Allow me to quote the BBC - who are most likely to push the hard line on non-payment - "You cannot be imprisoned for TV Licence evasion"

        Also burden on proof is *always* on the plaintiff. Speaking as somebody who hasn't had a TV license his whole adult life (and doesn't watch UK broadcast TV), Capita and friends are easy to deal with if you play smart and tell them to fk off.

        Assuming you don't watch TV in plain sight there's nothing they could do and *TV licensing vans do not exist*. The word embezzlement springs to mind having read the BBC's financials.

      4. David Cantrell
        FAIL

        Re: Only compulsory if...

        You do *not* have to prove anything to Capita. I've been ignoring them for years, and just putting their monthly letters in the bin with all the other junk mail.

    4. JimM

      Re: Only compulsory if...

      ... you can't prove that you don't watch or record broadcast television signals whilst they are being broadcast, including internet streaming.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh?

      It's a shit being poor, but maybe the question is: Should people on benefits or poor get assistance with a TV licence?

      Yes, benefits should pay for some luxuries, the occasional beer, possibly some fags, maybe the ability to go out to a museum once in a while, but should they pay for telly? Should they pay for Sky or cable or Internet or Phone?

      1. JohnMurray

        Re: Eh?

        If benefits is the problem, then the richer people actually get more state "benefits" than the poor.

        Things like tax relief on pension contribs etc...all yield good returns to those on higher incomes.

        Without tax relief on pensions the pension industry would be in dire straits....the relief is worth 38 billion each year.

        And the rich also get the child benefit [benefit]...and the disability living allowance....etc etc....and a lot of private healthcare is provided courtesy of NHS....

        And why (apart from the constant harassment, threats and ever-so-frequent 'phone calls) would someone with internet bother with a tv licence ?

        Iplayer doesn't need a tv licence....just do not watch live programming.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Eh?

          @JohnMurray

          People on benefits get free NICs, so they may not get tax relief on pension contributions, but they do get free pension contributions to the state pension for the time that they're out of work.

          The child gets child benefit (or at least that's the theory), so the rich don't get child benefit, sort of.

    6. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: What a rotten piece of writing...

      Schizophrenic much?

      You demand that the BBC convert to a commercial provider and in the same breath you damn a commercial provider. Bet you also whined about the ITV ad breaks.

      Make up your mind - you cant have every you want whiney baby.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm all for the licence fee

    At least it means programmes get made that otherwise wouldn't. When content creation is left in the hands of private media companies it goes down the toilet as quality drama etc is expensive to make. The likes of Sky and Channel 5 go for the cheapest options and dumb the content down to the lowest denominator and we end up with pure shit like Big Brother, Jersey Shore, The only way is Essex and the staple of Channel 5 Let's all laugh at the freak while pretending it's a documentary

    1. Kerry Hoskin

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      actually Sky do produce quite a lot of their own content and the majority is actually really good

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      Not to mention CH4's piss-poor science and documentary programming, all of which, no matter the subject, seem to be a freakshow in one way or another.

      Imagine what CH4, ITV and BSkyB would be like if they didn't have the beeb to pull their game up, at least a bit.

    3. Citizen Kaned

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGvH86wfrzk

      boy with an arse for a face? :)

    4. Jamie Kitson

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is Channel 4, not 5 :)

    5. Seb123
      WTF?

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      I am curious whether you've actually ever watched Sky? Series like The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Spartacus and Boardwalk Empire don't fall into the crap or cheap category, in my opinion.

      Besides some great wildlife programmes, what exactly does the BBC make that is so awesome? Top Gear? I am not sure about the last couple of seasons.

      Eastenders? It seems to me that all channels in the UK are equally rubbish

      Some quality stuff here. I am upset that I didn't set the PVR now.

      6:00 – 9:15 Breakfast The latest news, sport, business and weather from the BBC's Breakfast team.

      09:15–10:00 Crime and Punishment

      10:00–10:30 Homes Under the Hammer

      10:30–11:30 The Queen's Jubilee Loyal Address to Parliament

      11:30–12:15 Cash in the Attic

      12:15–13:00 Bargain Hunt

      13:00–13:30 BBC News at One

      13:30–13:45 BBC London News

      13:45–14:15 Doctors

      14:15–15:00 Escape to the Country

      15:00–15:05 BBC News

      15:05–15:35 I Want My Own Room

      15:35–15:55 Lockie Leonard

      15:55–16:00 Diddy Dick and Dom

      16:00–16:30 Sport Relief Does Glee Club

      16:30–17:00 Pixelface

      17:00–17:15 Newsround

      17:15–18:00 Pointless

      18:00–18:30 BBC News at Six

      18:30–19:00 BBC London News

      19:00–19:30 The One Show

      19:30–19:57 EastEnders

      19:57–20:00 BBC News and Regional News

      20:00–21:00 Holby City

      21:00–22:00 Crimewatch

      22:00–22:25 BBC News at Ten

      22:25–22:32 BBC London News

      22:32–22:35 BBC Weather

      22:35–22:40 Crimewatch Update

      22:40–23:35 Rita Simons: My Daughter, Deafness and Me

      23:35–00:15 Film 2012 with Claudia Winkleman

      1. I think so I am?

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        think you confused sky with big American media companies HBO and such

      2. Piloti
        Thumb Up

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        As a counterbalance, this is Radio 4 tonight . This stuff must be paid for.

        The Life Scientific is, frankly, excellent. Worth the fee alone......

        Evening

        18:00

        Six O'Clock News

        20/03/2012

        National and international news from BBC Radio 4.

        18:30

        Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show!

        Series 7, Spanish Elvis

        5/6. Arthur's night of entertainment in a Spanish bar goes off with a bang.

        19:00

        The Archers

        20/03/2012

        Brian is in urgent need of advice.

        19:15

        Front Row

        20/03/2012

        Presented by John Wilson, including the verdict on the film The Hunger Games.

        19:45

        Pink Mist

        Hads's Story

        2/5. Dramatic poem by Owen Sheers about a soldier struggling to return home.

        20:00

        File on 4

        A Bridge Too Far?

        Why do so many British public sector contracts go to foreign companies?

        20:40

        In Touch

        20/03/2012

        Peter White with news and information for blind and partially sighted people.

        21:00

        Inside Health

        20/03/2012

        Dr Mark Porter demystifies the health issues that perplex us.

        21:30

        The Life Scientific

        Tejinder Virdee

        Jim Al-Khalili talks to physicist Tejinder Virdee about the search for the Higgs boson.

        21:58

        Weather

        20/03/2012

        Weather information.

        22:00

        The World Tonight

        20/03/2012

        Ritula Shah presents national and international news and analysis.

        22:45

        Book at Bedtime

        Stonemouth, Episode 2

        2/10. Stewart catches up with old friends and recalls his first meeting with Ellie Murston.

        23:00

        The History Plays

        A History of Blair in 9 1/2 Voices

        5/5. Tony Blair has just resigned. Somewhere in the BBC he gets mistaken for his own lookalike.

        23:30

        Today in Parliament

        20/03/2012

        Sean Curran with the day's top news stories from Westminster.

        1. Vic

          Re: I'm all for the licence fee

          > this is Radio 4 tonigh

          ...Which you can listen to without a TV licence, despite the implications in the article...

          Vic.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        Your point being?

        The Sopranos - Made by HBO (and crap but that's just my opinion)

        Game of Thrones - made by HBO, not Sky

        Spartacus - Made by Starz media (also crap but other people think differently)

        Boardwalk Empire - Also HBO

        So none of your examples have anything to do with Sky TV other than them buying the rights to broadcast it. The only things I can think of that Sky have actually produced is A League of Their Own (Not bad but not exactly thought provoking drama) and An Idiot Abroad (which is good).

        As for your attempt to show just how bad the BBC is in one day, here is the Sky 1 listing for today

        6:00am

        Bondi Vet

        6:30am

        Bondi Vet

        7:00am

        Stargate Atlantis

        8:00am

        Stargate Atlantis

        9:00am

        Stargate Atlantis

        10:00am

        Lie to Me

        11:00am

        Lie to Me

        12:00pm

        The Real A&E

        1:00pm

        Mental

        2:00pm

        Mental

        3:00pm

        Stargate Atlantis

        4:00pm

        Stargate Atlantis

        5:00pm

        Stargate Atlantis

        6:00pm

        Airline

        6:30pm

        The Simpsons

        7:00pm

        Futurama

        7:30pm

        The Simpsons

        8:00pm

        Touch

        9:05pm

        An Idiot Abroad 2

        10:05pm

        Film The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

        12:30am

        Dog the Bounty Hunter

        1:00am

        Dog the Bounty Hunter

        That's so much better isn't it? Lots of quality viewing there. How many hours of Atlantis do you want to watch in one day? At least the BBC try to put some variety in a days programming even if that isn't to your taste

        1. Vic

          Re: I'm all for the licence fee

          > At least the BBC try to put some variety in a days programming

          You've not watched BBC Three, then?

          Vic.

      4. yeahyeahno

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        You what? Since when did Sky produce The Saprano's et al? Get real, that's just content they paid for, and I first watched The Saprano's way back when on C4.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm all for the licence fee

        And what were the alternatives on ITV?

    6. Irongut

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      Yeah coz Dancing with Brucie is soooo much more intellectual.

    7. M Gale

      If you're all for the license fee...

      ...you pay it. Don't go pretending that the rest of us should finance your particular tastes in goggle-box programming.

    8. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: I'm all for the licence fee

      This is actually a very true statement.

      Come to the US where the networks spent the last 10 years creating really shitty reality TV shows.

      Why? Because they are cheap to make and offer great profit margins. Pay for TV is really in the business of selling advertisement space, not providing quality programs.

      When you have 500 cable channels to fill, you will see the quality of the shows drop.

      And yes, I apologize for the export of Jersey Shore. Be thankful that you don't have toddlers in tierras ?sp?.

  6. dotdavid
    Facepalm

    TV Tax Evasion

    I must admit I'm baffled why so many get caught, unless the advice of so many online forums is ignored by the infringers - i.e. "don't let them come inside your house to inspect it, tell them to return with a warrant (which they might get, but by then your unlicenced TV can be removed)".

    Unless perhaps this "conventional wisdom" is wrong?

  7. Greg 16
    Thumb Down

    The BBC can write their own press, and a pretty large proportion of the population lap it up and think that without the license fee their favourite program would no longer been made - the thing is, programmes like Dr Who, Top Gear, Natural World etc, are exactly the programmes that WOULD continue to be made!

    It's totally indefensible that some kind of viewing card was not introduced at the digital switch over. I literally watch zero BBC programmes and yet I am forced to pay.

  8. Kevin Pollock
    Alert

    I don't care what they do...

    ...as long as I don't have to sit through commercials.

    I suppose the existence of Tivo and other PVRs makes commercials more tolerable, but the fact that the BBC can craft their programs without having to work on a five minute timescale (as US TV programs have to), I think is one reason the quality of everything on the Beeb is higher.

    I like the idea of the Beeb becoming an international media giant, but I suspect in doing so it would become as rubbish as Sky, ITV and the myriad other mediocre content providers out there.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Much of the output of the BBC is skewed towards the middle classes. It takes on an Upstairs, Downstairs hue.

    Media consumers who can comfortably afford their children's piano lessons and private health care are effectively being subsidised by the underclass"

    What a disgusting and antiquated attitude to the working class, you should be ashamed of your self you elitist snob.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err...

      Not even half of the documentaries on BBC four would be made.

      BBC Radio wouldn't exist.

      It's likely that Digital radio and telly wouldn't exist, if not the the license fee, due to the contribution made by BBC R&D.

      You may as well complain that you pay for Sky 1, but only ever watch men and motors, you're still compelled to pay for Sky 1.

      1. Greg 16

        Re: Err...

        The BBC4 documentaries wouldn't be made, because TINY numbers of people watch them - if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

        And do you really think that the BBC radio stations could not be ran commercially? Plenty of other stations seem to manage it, and have large audiences even without their massive free promotion.

        And if you really think that Digital TV and Radio wouldn't have existed without the BBC, then you need your head testing.

        1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

          Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

          If they lack depth/intellectual rigour and are only really of interest to teenagers/young twentysomethings they go on BBC3.

          If they lack depth/intellectual rigour and are of more general interest they go on BBC1.

          If they have more depth/intellectual rigour and are of more specialised interest they go on BBC1.

          If they have most depth/intellectual rigour or are of most specialised interest they are shown on BBC4 and then sometimes shown late at night on BBC2. I imagine the BBC2 showing is for the benefit of those still receiving only analogue transmissions if there are any.

          1. snowlight

            Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

            Captain Hogwash hits the nail on the head. The documentaries on BBC 4 tend to be the most interesting ones that are produced.

            As for Greg 16's comment on commercial radio stations, I don't think I've ever heard any good music, shows or DJs on any of the ones I've been subjected to at work. At least BBC radio has shows about less mainstream genres and the comedy programmes are top notch, I doubt you'd get those on commercial radio.

          2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

            Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

            A slight correction is in order. The third option in the list should have said BBC2.

          3. Greg 16
            Mushroom

            Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

            You mean like tonight's BBC4 documentary on....documentaries? Followed by a 1 hour interview with...Terry Wogan.

            You can convince yourself that you are some kind of intellectual for watching that shite, but really you're basically a train-spotter (and boy, does BBC4 cater to train-spotters ffs)

            For what it's worth I quite like documentaries, but BBC4 documentaries do not have depth - they're just extremely 'specialized' meaning no one gives a fuck them, despite them paying for it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

              BBC 4 are currently doing a season about interviewers and interviewing. Missing out Wogan, whatever you think of him, would be a glaring omission. The program is an hour, with no adverts and will, if the others are anything to go by, be surprisingly excellent. I often find myself glued to the most unlikely sounding docos on bbc4.

            2. Roger Kynaston

              Re: if they are good then they don't go on BBC4!

              Hrmm. Trainspotting isn't a bad in itself. Just a minority interest. A couple of years ago BBC4 showed a program made by some middle class, middle aged guy about the A303. We watched it as we drive down that road a lot. Some of it was interesting. The number of people interested in it was probably tiny but it was, to my mind at least (and observation about a program on this thread should be prefaced with IMHO!) a lot better than paying 22 idiots squillions to kick a ball around a field while other (IMHO) idiots talk endlessly about it being offside.

              </rant>

              My rambling point is that Auntie by being insulated to some extent from the requirement to keep advertisers sweet is able to fund minority interests (but I do wish they would do more sailing!) while still showing majority interest stuff such as footie and Bottom Gear. The Discovery Channel doesn't seem able to fill that sector.

              With regard to the article. I found it interesting but this is a very difficult paradoxical area. The license fee is a regressive flat tax regardless of the actual legal situation. But, on the other hand, it does make for a richer TV and radio (Goodness Gracious Me, The Now Show, The News Quiz ...)

        2. David Cantrell
          Boffin

          Re: Err...

          Have you ever listened to commercial radio? Sure, Radio 1 and Radio 2, and most of the local radio stations could survive, but their content is indistinguishable from commercial radio anyway. And for that reason they should be closed. The BBC should not compete with commercial broadcasters but should provide services that the market chooses not to - such as Radio 3, Radio 4, and good quality TV. There's not enough good quality BBC TV programming to fill four channels, so some of them should be closed.

          The argument that "waah, I don't watch the BBC so I shouldn't pay for it" is stupid - I don't receive benefits, so do I get to opt out of paying for those? No. There are some things which I don't partake of but which are beneficial to society as a whole. Unemployment and disability benefits. Education for your children. Roads in Wigan. The BBC is another of those things that is beneficial to society as a whole even if, like going to Wigan, it isn't something you take advantage of personally.

          1. TimNevins

            Re: Err...

            "The argument that "waah, I don't watch the BBC so I shouldn't pay for it" is stupid"

            I think the stupidity lies in comparing television output to Education/Transport and Medical cover. Even if you do not make use of a specific road in Wigan chances are you have made use of roads at some point in your life.

            Television is at best informative and at worst entertainment.

            The BBC's model of funding is an unfair immoral unethical tax in this day and age. It should be no different than paying for any other non-essential item or luxury. i.e. A personal choice.

            For the record the rest of the worlds media content generation does not work off this model quite happily.

            If the BBC did not pay Ragdoll Productions for its childrens output(Teletubbies etc) they would simply have got their funding elsewhere.

            In this day and age the £145 can be better spent.

          2. Liz 1

            Re: Err...

            "Sure, Radio 1 and Radio 2, and most of the local radio stations could survive, but their content is indistinguishable from commercial radio anyway. And for that reason they should be closed. "

            Except that Radio 1 and Radio 2 are free from adverts (except for other BBC products). Radio listeners who prefer pop culture to highbrow are just as deserving of a commercial free service as the chattering classes are.

            Across their output, the BBC make or buy something for everybody to hate, but equally, something for (nearly) everybody to like.

    2. dogged

      This.

      Furthermore, there's always EastEnders and My Big Fat Racist Exploitation Gypsy Wedding and anything with Paddy McGuinness.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't care what they do...

      You say there's no commercials on the BBC but it's chock full of trailers for shows I don't care about, with "corporate branding" just like the rest.

      And that's before I get started on "trailers for Eastenders is news"....

      1. MonkeyBot

        Re: Re: I don't care what they do...

        There's a world of difference between advertising upcoming shows and advertising other people's products.

        1. Mr Nobody 1
          Thumb Down

          Re: I don't care what they do...

          No there isn't - you are splitting hairs.

    4. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

      Re: TV Tax Evasion

      No, you're absolutely right. The only way they can get a prosecution is if they can prove some wrongdoing. The only way they've ever managed to do that is if the viewer signs a confession.

      And this is what happens, because they pick on the vulnerable and stupid, pretend to be, essentially, law enforcement officials rather than the door-to-door salesmen they actually are, and bully people into signing.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Erm, his point is that elitism is a bad thing?

    6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I don't care what they do...

      "the fact that the BBC can craft their programs without having to work on a five minute timescale"

      Just watch any recent (say, last 5 years or so) BBC programme, particularly documentaries, and every 15 minutes or so there will be a re-cap and "coming next". Carefully crafted? Yes, with ad breaks in mind. Crafted for the commercial market where they are either expecting to be one day or for overseas/sat channel sales.

      There also seems to be more "dead" space just begging to be cut out so as to shorten the 50 minute program down to 40 to fit in those ad breaks to bring it back up to 1 hour strip scheduling standards.

    7. Neil Greatorex

      Greg16@

      "I literally watch zero BBC programmes"

      Well do you or don't you?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    don't have a telly then

    *sigh* Can’t stand the TV license myself, I hate paying it, BUT you do have a choice if you don’ pay it don’t have a TV simple as that. And the 74 people locked up for non-payment is nonsense, you don’t go to prison for non-payment of a TV license straight away, you’ll be given chance after chance after chance to pay it! Reduce your spend on fegs and booze and pay the fecking license otherwise don’t have a telly.

    1. Citizen Kaned

      Re: don't have a telly then

      well, say someone is 24 and doesnt watch the BBC. they are unemployed. should they really be made to pay a full months dole? maybe this person isnt a scrounger but was made unemployed recently.

      1. Kerry Hoskin

        Re: don't have a telly then

        And that is really likely is it? I think not. As I said I don’t like paying the bleedy thing but if you want to watch TV you have to have one, pay up or don’t have a telly. It’s what £12’ish per month ( 2 packets of 20 fegs) Be interesting to know the personal circumstances of the “TV license” 74

        1. Keep Refrigerated
          Flame

          Re: don't have a telly then

          I find it very bigoted to assume that all working class poor spend money on "fegs" and booze. Particularly the ones unfortunate enough to want but not able to afford a few simple pleasures in life - especially as TV and radio can be a source of education and news.

          People who don't have broadband (to watch iPlayer), a car, the latest mod cons, gadgets or fashion. They don't have money to eat and drink out every week, entertain friends with large parties or go abroad once a year. They certainly can't afford to piddle all their money away on "fegs" and booze.

          Speaking as one who grew up in a working class poor environment, I can affirm the fact that many working class are non-smoking, moderate drinking, decent, honest and reliable people - far more so on average than middle class people I encountered as I caught up with it.

          Walk around the average town or city on a Friday or Saturday night; most of the people p*ssing in doorways, throwing large quantities of their money about and getting arrested are middle class - the decent working class can be found behind the bar, cleaning the toilets or the streets after they've gone (for some their 2nd job as the first doesn't pay enough).

          Personally I prefer the company of either the poor or the rich, but middle class people in general are far too snobbish and judgmental. Sure, I have many middle class friends but I find spending too much time around them to be nauseating. Middle class people are often too self-obsessed to even see - let-alone understand - real hardship or the need for charity.

          Right, think I've upset enough of the El Reg readership, bring on the downvotes...

          1. DJ Smiley
            Trollface

            Re: don't have a telly then

            "Speaking as one who grew up in a working class poor environment, I can affirm the fact that many working class are non-smoking, moderate drinking, decent, honest and reliable people - far more so on average than middle class people I encountered as I caught up with it."

            The other 74 werent.

        2. yeahyeahno

          Re: don't have a telly then

          "Be interesting to know the personal circumstances of the “TV license” 74"

          Indeed, courts don't lock people up for none payment when the reason for none payment is because they cannot pay. That practice ended with The Debtors' Act of 1869, which abolished imprisonment for debt unless you could pay and just didn't, as best as I know the law remains basically the same today.

  11. Andy Roid McUser
    Megaphone

    License Fee

    <Rant>

    The thing I never really understood is that private users, i.e. the great general public ( not business ) all have to buy a licence per household. They've widened the scope of what a TV is to encompass Monitors and personal computers so there's basically no way you could ever claim that you don't own a TV. Tried it as a student a few decades ago and failed.

    So if this is a tax that everyone has to pay for public service broadcasting and we are in an age of austerity, surely the leanest way to collect the tax is to lump it into PAYE, so that everyone who is earning pays for the service. Kill off the individual billing systems and the countless staff required to enforce it and hey presto, cheaper to run, elderly people are automatically excluded and no one ends up in court for non payment. I'd like to know the cost to the state of prosecuting 150,000 people. PAYE may not be the most effective or popular system , but I seldom understand why a flat rate charge that everyone has to pay, must be paid separately and not deducted at source, the only people who loose are the poor and the only ones who benefit from such a system are the legal profession.

    As a side note, it upsets me that a state funded broadcaster like the BBC is contributing to the decline of modern society by putting out crap like Eastenders. Populist drivel is why ITV exists, the BBC should be there to educate and inform, so Radio 4 is just about spot on.

    </Rant>

  12. Semaj
    Holmes

    "The silence is deafening. Could anyone tell me why that would be?"

    Umm, maybe because it's all been tried (and ignored) before and for many years.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about commercial TV?

    This article does raise some really good points, but what about the way that commercial TV is funded? This is possibly an even more insidious levy because there's an advertising cost built into many of the goods and services we buy.

    ITV for example is approximately a £2bn per year business and we are all funding it. No-one gets dragged through the courts because you can't avoid paying - even if you don't have a TV.

    1. Greg 16

      Re: License Fee

      Why is everyone so obsessed with making sure that EVERYONE pays for it - I DONT WATCH OR LISTEN TO THE BBC. I own a TV for watching my own films and yet I'm forced to pay for 'your' BBC.

      What is the problem with introducing set top boxes with viewing cards for those who want the BBC? The technology is there, and it's not particularly expensive, especially when compared with the current costs of licence fee collection and enforcement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: License Fee

        No, you're not forced to pay the licence because you own a TV for watching your own films. The licence is for receiving/watching/recording broadcast material, not owning a TV to watch your own content.

      2. Tim Parker

        @Greg 16 Re: License Fee

        "I own a TV for watching my own films"

        Then you don't need a license.

        " and yet I'm forced to pay for 'your' BBC."

        No you're not.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: License Fee

      You sure about that? TV Licensing site says you need a licence if

      "You watch or record television programmes as they're being shown on TV - online, on a TV, or on any device (even a laptop)"

      so in theory, provided you weren't actually watching or recording TV on your PC, you wouldn't have needed one.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: License Fee

      The TV Licence is NOT a licence for owing a TV, monitor or computer. I own all of the above yet certainly don't pay the licence. The licence is for receiving/watching/recording BROADCAST material. Despite owning a TV, monitor and computer, I don't receive, watch or record broadcast content.

    4. Vic

      Re: License Fee

      > They've widened the scope of what a TV is to encompass Monitors and personal computers

      No. There was talk of such a thing a few years ago, but by and large, it failed.

      What we have now is this:

      "If you don’t watch or record television programmes as they are being shown on TV, on any device, you don’t need a TV Licence."[1]

      Note, however, "You need to be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record TV as it's being broadcast. This includes the use of devices such as a computer, laptop, mobile phone or DVD/video recorder."[2]

      So you only need a TV licence if you're watching broadcast TV - even if you're using a PC to do that watching.

      Vic.

      [1] http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/topics/what-if-a-tv-licence-is-not-needed-top12/

      [2] http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/

    5. Neil Greatorex
      FAIL

      Re: License Fee

      "state funded broadcaster like the BBC"

      This is the sort of drivel I despise, in no way is the BBC "State funded", yes there is a licence fee and, yes, it is compulsory if you watch broadcast television. But the BBC is not "State funded" it's "licence fee" funded. Gah!

      1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: License Fee

        state enforced licensing = state funding in my book. What am I missing?

        1. CowardlyLion

          Re: License Fee

          It's to keep it separate from the government, as with the police and the courts. One of the BBC's prinicpal duties is to be a publicly owned body reliably and accurately reporting to the British people what the government are doing and why. It's one of our safeguards against fascism. Becoming a directly funded media arm of the government itself would be a very, very bad thing.

    6. CowardlyLion

      Re: What about commercial TV?

      Exactly. I can't find a citation at the moment, but some years ago a research group did the maths for three consecutive years. It turned out that "free" ITV was, in effect, funded by a hidden sales tax of about £230 a year added to your grocery bill. At least if you don't have a TV you don't need to pay the licence fee, try asking Tesco for your TV subsidy back. As I recall the group in question were forced to stop publishing the numbers under pressure from the commercial broadcasters. Shame because I would love to see updated figures.

    7. M Gale

      Re: What about commercial TV?

      I call shenanigans.

      Those companies have an advertising budget. TV or no TV, that money would be spent on trying to persuade people to buy more of their produce. If it works, it brings in more than it cost, so that "hidden tax" that isn't, is SAVING you money, if you want to play that way.

      The BBC and Crapita on the other hand, survive on extortion and threats.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC = Middle Class?

    It's just as easier to make the opposite case: Radio 1 (Chris Moyles!), most of BBC1, Top Gear, East Enders, celebrity that & that, sport, sport, sport, sport and sport. - not noticeably aimed at the middle classes.

    The reason why Radios 3, 4 & 6 enjoy vocal support is because most of the rest of the Beeb's output is guff. The total of Radio 4 & 6's budgets is £115m - the same as BBC3 which is loved and watched by nobody.

    The justification for Radio 3, 4 & 6 is higher than that for BBC & Radio 1 et al as it's content that the commercial providers won't provide. So, the solution may be to let the commercial channels provide Strictly Come In the Jungle on Ice-type fodder, and have a smaller, cheaper, smarter BBC.

  15. Piloti
    Meh

    Just what do we want the BBC to be ?

    So, as I see it, this is where we are : we accept that we have a national broadcaster which produces a lot, a huge amount of content, most of which is very, very good, through a series of medium, [TV, Internet and of course Radio…..] and we pay a nominal fee up front for this, or, we turn the BBC into an advertising supported pay per use / view service, on all outlets. As a nation we need to ask ourselves what we want from the BBC and how we want to pay for it.

    Personally, I am in favour of the former.

    I've been to Germany and I have watched too much French TV, South African telly has more adverts than a sheep munches grass. Watching the recent France / England game on TF2 [France Telly] only have the top third with pop up 'sponsored by ….' flashes, and the bottom third having scrolling banner line 'information / adverts' frankly drives me insane. I am happy for the BBC to be ad' free, but it must be paid for. Radio content also comes from the Telly licence and frankly, I have never heard better radio that the BBC. OK, I've not listened to Radio 1 for a long /long/ time, but Radio 4 has some excellent documentaries and comedies / quizzes etc, R3 some wonderful concerts and the Today programme and John Humphries is worth the fee by himself.

    Boot licking over, but this is important. If we want to get rid of the Licence fee, then we can. It is pretty simple, but, then forever more, we will have a Sky TV-esque service forever more, adverts up and content down on Radio services adverts galore on the BBC website which is, still, happily, ad-free, if you are in the UK.

    Remember this : once you bin the fee and move to pay-to-view, it will be impossible, almost utterly impossible, to go back.

    The BBC will be lost forever.

    And finally, I am tired of people simply opting out of their responsibilities. The fee is there for all because there services are there for all. If people deliberately avoid paying the fee and still listen to the footy scores on a Saturday afternoon on Five Live, then stuff 'em in 't clink and throw away the key…...

  16. Christoph Silver badge
    Flame

    What you don't mention there

    There's also a very large number of entirely innocent people who get harassed over and over again by the TV licence people banging on their door and demanding to know why they haven't bought a licence for a TV that they do not have.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What you don't mention there

      my old dear used to have this as the TV licence people had a typo on her details. They showed up at her door several times, mum never let them in (she always had a licnese) The typo was sooooo obvious as well.

    2. Refugee from Windows
      IT Angle

      Re: What you don't mention there

      If you haven't a telly they automatically assume guilt and persue you with threatening letters, or rather they just keep bombarding addresses on their database with these. It's nothing personal.

      I can't figure that folk pay the BBC and then pay even more to watch a lot of the content again on Sky. The digital revolution has given us a lot of choice but quite frankly most of that is either recycled from an earlier age or just made to fill up the gaps in the schedules.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What you don't mention there

        I phoned them up once about 4 years ago and told them I didn't need a licence - haven't heard a peep out of them since.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What you don't mention there

          You're not the droid they are looking for?

    3. snowlight
      Devil

      Re: What you don't mention there

      Every sodding year they keep bugging the hell out of me despite the fact that for the past 7 years running I've told them time and time again that we don't watch live TV, don't want to watch live TV and will they please fuck right off and leave us alone.

      This year I decided that I wouldn't respond to any of their letters as I wanted them to waste their time and money taking us to court, sadly my housemate caved in and phoned them up. Roll on them being annoying gitbags next year :|.

      1. Christoph Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: What you don't mention there

        I have never answered any of their letters. Why should I? I don't answer letters from any other salesman trying to sell me crap, they are no different.

        I told the callers several times that I have no TV. They just kept coming. Now I tell them to get off my property.

        They cannot take you to court without evidence that you have a TV. If they don't have a record of you buying one and can't detect one, they have to enter your house and search. If you refuse entry they can only come in with a warrant - and they can only get that by perjury, which they are unlikely to risk for a single hit.

  17. George 8

    Andrew does debate...

    Andrew, I have great respect for everything you do. I smiled at this piece.

    I personally believe its one of the best things we do as a society. With the licence fee in place we are able to ensure we have the best quality TV, that is envied across the globe.

    The radio 4 jibe is good, but in days gone by, blind people used to get a £1.25 reduction on their licence fee as the £1.25 represented the cost of radio and this was offered free to them. Radio, *all* BBC radio does not cost *that* much of the BBC fee and given the number of national and local channels I cant say I begrude this. I personally have *Never* listened to Radio 4, but do listen to Radio 1.

    I dont watch much TV att all. I have SKY, but have to, to watch the football. Other than football, I only really watch BBC, Top Gear, Something for the Weekend (Channel 4 here I come...), The News, Question time and Match of the Day. Thats pretty much it. I can find nothing of interest on the 1000+ Sky channels I have and to be honest never really have -- Oh Idiot Abroad, that was excellent.

    I used to work at the Post Office when TV Licences used to be issued there. We would take the complaints on the cost from people. Generally then as it is today, the cost of the TV licence is about or less than the cost of a newspaper -- 40p per day at current rates. I simply cant see how anybody would begrudge paying this small sum for the quality TV, radio and web we get from the bbc.

    Compare that to the Murdoch Football Tax. Andrew, now theres an analysis I'd love to see you do.

    The Gorilla in the room is doing a great job. I'd love to see it be able to compete for football, F1, golf, keep the Grand National and Derby... They are the best at this, they really are. Its an interesting concept. Bring it on. I'd pay.

  18. jacobbe
    Megaphone

    My problem with the BBC is the shear size of the output, which has ballooned in the last few years. It clearly crowds out the private competitors. There are at least 8 TV stations and 7 national radio stations. This is far too much content to be considered "public service" ; it is every bloody service.

    Cut the BBC to the core, half the unaffordable licence fee.

  19. Pat 11

    Evidence?

    Andrew,

    The salient point of this piece is that the BBC's competitors are in favour of the license fee as the sole funding source. Do you have any evidence for this, or is it just what you reckon?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      WTF?

      WTF are you smoking jacobbe? It's £12.13 a month!

      The licence fee is £145.50 a year from April, and is fixed until 2016.

      To put it another way, it's approximately half what the very cheapest Sky TV pack costs.

      The monthly cost is less than a 20 pack of cheap beer from Tesco, or a meal for two from KFC.

      It's even less than taking two people to the cinema. (In London that's even before you buy any popcorn!)

      I'm sure you can come up with other comparisons.

      If (as an extreme example) you really did only watch and listen to an average of one hour of BBC TV and radio a day, that's 40p an hour - less than iTunes.

      Are you really saying that nothing the BBC makes is worth that to you?

  20. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    I like the BBC. I enjoy their programming. I like the fact that it has no adverts.

    However, I would completely agree that the TV license is regressive. TV has become a large part of everyday life for most of the population. In fact, you could argue that it is more important for the poorer sections of society as the richer end of the scale have much more entertainment options open to them.

    There are only 2 ways to address this:

    1) Spin the BBC off into a commercial broadcaster, removing all restrictions and the TV license (and, I think, destroying the BBC in the process), or

    2) Get rid of the license fee and roll the amount generated by it into income-based taxation.

    I actually believe 2) should be done with most taxes. Take the current total tax income gathered by the govt and roll it all into an income-based tax increase. The books balance, but it is completely progressive.

    It won't happen, though. The government prefers having lots of complicated taxes so people can't see how an increase will hit them till it's too late.

  21. MonkeyBot
    Thumb Down

    So what if it's high-brow?

    The purpose of the BBC is to "inform, educate and entertain".

    It's not supposed to just produce mass-market commercial shows.

  22. Jon Press

    Let's abolish tax altogether. Or maybe not.

    It would suit me fine - I pay way more in tax than I receive in services, a lot of which goes on the health care, education and benefits that subsidise the sprogs even of the wealthiest in the land. I'm alright, Jack.

    I suspect that the same people who bemoan having to pay the TV licence would be amongst the first to complain if their free education, hospital services, child tax credit or child benefit were withdrawn because poorer people were contributing to them.

    The TV licence is a tax. The only thing different about it is that it is entirely hypothecated which means that everyone who doesn't want to pay it can call it out as a separate line item in their budget. The solution is to stop pretending it's a licence fee.

    As a representative of a communal freehold, I have recently received a letter from TV Licensing asking for a pass key to our block of flats so that they can harrass potential defaulters even when they've been told to go away via the door intercom. Collecting via the Inland Revenue would also put an end to that kind of attempted abuse of authority.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's abolish tax altogether. Or maybe not.

      though HMRC have wide ranging powers, including I think forced entry and arrest, which potentially makes them the more determined and equipped to get the licence fee off people.

      Of course they wouldn't need these powers just to collect the BBC funding....

  23. Desk Jockey

    You are off your rocker! Granted, the licence fee is the worst payment mechanism there is, apart from all the other ones! Sky or Virgin media cost more per year than the BBC and although occasionally they produce good stuff, their general output is less than the Beeb and considerably worse quality. I bloody hate adverts too, I am willing to pay money to avoid adverts on TV, that is how much I hate them! Against that, the Beeb is good value.

    Who makes most of the decent documentaries? Who tries at least to provide unbiased media coverage? Who was the first to put TV and catch up services on the internet in the UK? Which single organisation does that despicable man Murdoch hate so much? All these arguments support the BBC being funded on a non-commercial basis.

    For those who don't want to pay the licence fee - DON'T WATCH LIVE TV THEN! You are allowed to watch catch-up services on the computer, read the bloody website/guidance which tells you this. You don't have to pay if you don't want to. Just like you don't have to pay if you don't want Sky. No one is forcing you, really!

    1. Seb123

      That's all great until you dare to buy a television to play games on or to watch DVDs and so forth.

      Have you ever tried to buy a TV without having a license? So no, you cannot just "choose not to pay the license, like you can choose not to have Sky". What if I am not planning to watch television? Or, even more so to the point, what if I am not planning to watch BBC or listen to BBC radio? Why should I be paying for this so that you can watch new episodes of Dr Who when this is something that I have no interest in whatsoever.

      I live with my wife on the south coast and we have a tv license for that property, but I also own an apartment in London. I do not have a TV there because it’s pointless. I don’t watch television. Yet, as soon as I moved in, I started to receive letters about my tv license. They become more and more threatening over time. The final straw was when I discovered that one of these tv license inspectors had slipped a note under my door saying things like, “We warned you we would be coming. You weren’t here, but we will be back. Big fines, jail time and other scary stuff to come.” There are no options to tick, “I don’t have a TV so **** off” on any of these friendly correspondences.

      I ended up phoning them and told them very firmly that I do not have a television and that they are welcome to come and check, but you need to come in the evening when I am not at work. They then removed my name from the magical list and the letters stopped coming, except for one a year checking if I still haven’t bought a TV.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So what is your problem?

        You rang them explaining you didn't need a license and they stopped coming.

        And I have never had to prove I have a license when buying a TV and I only bought a new 42" in October so it can't be a new requirement.

        1. Seb123

          Re: So what is your problem?

          I am not sure where you bought your TV from, but the retailer is meant to either check your license or share your details with the tv licensing bureau . If you don't have a license registered to the address you provided, then you'll get a letter from the tv licensing people.

          1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
            WTF?

            @Seb Re: So what is your problem?

            Al the TV's and monitors in my house are less than 5 years old. I have never been asked if I had a license for them.

            The retailer might be supplying my details - I certainly am not.

        2. JohnMurray

          Re: So what is your problem?

          Nope, you don't need to prove licence payment.

          But your purchase of a television/device capable of receiving television, has to be notified by the shop selling you same. By law. Even a usb tv-tuner adaptor needs to be notified.

    2. MrZoolook

      Quote:

      "For those who don't want to pay the licence fee - DON'T WATCH LIVE TV THEN! You are allowed to watch catch-up services"

      So because I don't want the SOLE BENEFICIARY of the fee to get the money for a service I don't use, I can't watch the services of the providers who WON'T receive the money? That sounds very much like the argument given in a certain web browser anti-trust law case... You can use whatever service you like, but only if you pay for the service you don't use.

      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
          WTF?

          JUST LIKE A DRIVING LICENSE

          BECAUSE I MIGHT KILL SOMEONE WITH 100MPH OF BIG HEAVY TELEVISION.

          Really, what the fucking fuck?

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. ZedThePirate
    Coat

    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!

    Yay.

  28. Captain Underpants
    Thumb Down

    Andrew, the breakdown of BBC spending at http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jul/12/bbc-spending#zoomed-picture 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.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. Sedo

    P.S.

    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?

  33. Jean Le PHARMACIEN
    Megaphone

    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.

  34. 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.

  35. Captain Underpants

    @Jean

    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.

  36. Ben Bawden

    What?

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

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: What?

      @Ben:

      No.

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

  37. 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.

  38. Rombizio
    FAIL

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

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

    Weird......

    1. GreyWolf
      Boffin

      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.

  39. GreyWolf
    Thumb Down

    I wonder how much Rupert Murdoch paid him?

    ..to 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)

      Ahhh....bless

      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.

  40. 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.

  41. Leo Maxwell
    Mushroom

    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!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    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.

  43. 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.

  44. Jon Smit
    Mushroom

    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.

  45. 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!!!

  46. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    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?

  47. 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?

  48. Kay Burley ate my hamster
    FAIL

    Change the record...

    Orlowski clearly watches too much TV...

  49. chrspy
    FAIL

    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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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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