back to article UK culture sec hints at replacing TV licence fee, defends encryption ban proposals and her boss in Hacker House inquiry

Culture secretary Nicky Morgan has hinted that the TV licence fee could be replaced with a Netflix-style subscription, defended Boris Johnson's involvement with Hacker House, and toed the government line on halting end-to-end encryption. Morgan answered a wide range of questions about the work of the Department for Digital, …

  1. Dwarf Silver badge

    So how will that work with Digital TV, Satellite and TV's that don't have any ability to log in or download an app ?

    Or is this one of those government policies on technology where nobody who understands the technology and its capabilities were involved in either the background conversations or the decision making process

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Most new TVs only have a life expectancy of a few years. No big deal. The rest can use a set top box or similar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Most of the TVs I've owned have made it well into their second decade of use. Also, set top boxes are a pain in the arse.

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

          Details, please?

          1. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

            You've got a second plug to connect, usually a bulky power adapter that doesn't play nicely with the other plugs behind the telly.

            You've got to put the set top box somewhere, and its not going to be on top of the set - they don't fit these days.

            You're using up another HDMI socket - TVs that are going to need a set top box only have a couple of HDMI sockets.

            You've got yet another remote control to lose down the back of the sofa.

            Should I go on?

            1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

              Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

              So basically it's connectivity issues, not something I would call a pain in the arse, but YMMV.

              And maybe you and I had something else in mind when referring to STB. My Roku takes little room (a USB stick would take even less and remove the need for plugs and HDMI cables) and gives me an all-in-one access to the content I use on my TV (Netflix, Plex, BBC, Amazon..), and for that I'm more than happy to use a second remote that I may occasionally misplace.

            2. NotBob
              FAIL

              Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

              You've got a second plug to connect, usually a bulky power adapter that doesn't play nicely with the other plugs behind the telly.

              Maybe, but not necessarily. Mine uses a USB power supply, and my TV could actually power it. Have you actually looked into it?

              You've got to put the set top box somewhere, and its not going to be on top of the set - they don't fit these days.

              They're surprisingly small. Have you seen a Roku or a Chromecast, or are you just making unfounded assumptions?

              You're using up another HDMI socket - TVs that are going to need a set top box only have a couple of HDMI sockets.

              You're grabbing at straws. You could use the old A/V hookup with the three RCA plugs, potentially. Of course, I'm tempted to ask what's plugged into those ports since there's no space to put anything that could plug into them based on your other question, but that would require that you maintain logical consistency.

              You've got yet another remote control to lose down the back of the sofa.

              So the fact that you're either disorganized or lazy should be the reason, ignoring that Roku, for one, already demonstrates using your phone as a remote?

              Should I go on?

              Only if you've got a real reason

              1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

                Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

                >> You've got yet another remote control to lose down the back of the sofa.

                > So the fact that you're either disorganized or lazy should be the reason

                For me, it's not so much losing the remote, it's having to have an EXTRA remote - so one to control the TV bits, a different one to control the STB bits. Yes I know that some STB remotes can control some TV bits in some setups - but I don't think I've ever owned one that has fallen into all three of those subsets.

                So one remote to turn the TV on, a different remote to turn the STB on, then back to the TV remote to put it back on the right HDMI port* because someone left it set for watching DVDs or the Playstation or something, then back to the STB remote to pick a program, then back to the TV remote to set the volume, and so on. Oh yes, and having to grab the TV remote to cancel the "you haven't done anything for 2 hours, I'm about to switch off" message because all the activity (switching channels) has been via the STB.

                * It was easier with SCART - they were usually auto-selecting. It's annoying that all the TVs I've owned or had to work with have lacked either an auto-sleep/auto-wake function (except on the VGA connector) and auto-input-select. So you can't simply have the TV auto power-on and auto-select the right HDMI (or Displayport) input when the STB is turned on.

                1. Roland6 Silver badge

                  Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

                  >* It was easier with SCART - they were usually auto-selecting.

                  Yes the beauty of SCART and devices of that era was that even the toddlers could work it (okay needed an adult to turn on), my toddlers very quickly worked out how to insert their favourite VHS video - doing so at times when they deemed what we were watching as boring...

                  Streaming, DVD's and HDMI don't seem to offer the same level of usability.

              2. gfx

                Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

                My current TV has a DVB-S tuner (no need for a box) a hard disk for recording, I must admit external and USB powered. A Netflix and Amazon app and can play from a network drive. It is just convenient with just one remote (and one for the amplifier)

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Holmes

              Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

              You've got yet another remote control to lose down the back of the sofa.

              And you just leave it there?

              If a physical object becomes a pain in the arse, why not just stop sitting on it?

            4. Tatsky

              Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

              My dementia ridden granny struggled enough just operating a normal TV equipped with big button remote. Set top boxes and DVD players were out of the question for her. So foisting a subscription service and more technology on people like here would be akin to cutting them off from the only company and entertainment they have for the majority of the day.

          2. jantill

            Re: set top boxes are a pain in the arse

            One of my elderly relatives has enormous trouble with both usage and settings of a satellite set-top box.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Define a few years, I'm not spending £700+ every few years. Still got a Sony DVB Widescreen CRT in the bedroom that has survived one decade and is still going strong towards finishing a second.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You don't have to - just buy anything with HDMI output from a cheap Chinese box to a mini pc (or even some modern phones), install some suitable home theatre software and your TV will have a long life.

          The golden rule is to buy the best visuals you can afford but don't waste money on clever internal functionality. External boxes can be replaced or upgraded significantly more cheaply than TVs.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        "Most new TVs only have a life expectancy of a few years."

        Is that true?? Wow, the quality of manufacturing must be utterly disastrous. All the more reason not to buy a new one at all.

      4. Wayland Bronze badge

        "Most new TVs only have a life expectancy of a few years."

        The first flat TVs did not last that long. If you go to the council tip they have a shipping container being filled with flat TVs and one being filled with CRT TVs. I expect that some of the CRT TVs still work were as all of the flat ones are broken. I've taken working CRTs to the tip.

        Having said that all of my flat screen TVs still work. The main problem is that the Freeview software goes out of date and especially the web TV type of thing. No Samsung TV web browser still works well enough to use.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          >The first flat TVs did not last that long.

          Yes there were longevity issues with the early cheap flat panels.

          My understanding is these were mostly resolved by 2008, I'm still using flat screens from circa 2008 that haven't required recalibration. Yes if placed next to a modern flat panel you will see the differences, but unless you are into high quality home cinema (in which case why are you using a flat screen and not a projector) I doubt you will really note the difference.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "No Samsung TV web browser still works well enough to use."

          So smart TVs improve with age?

    2. Muppet Boss
      Holmes

      >So how will that work with Digital TV, Satellite and TV's that don't have any ability to log in or download an app ?

      Generation Z, I assume?

      g00g1e for "newspaper subscription"

  2. Teiwaz Silver badge

    "I am keen to emphasise that any notion of the Prime Minister influencing – whether directly or indirectly – any aspect of the due diligence, assessment and award of any grant funding made through the CSIIF is simply not true," she said..

    Totally true, the post of Prime Minister was occupied by someone else then.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Yes, the key person who was involved in "the due diligence, assessment and award of any grant funding made through the CSIIF" was also occupied by something else - primarily legs and tits.

  3. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    From all of that I think the good news is the BBC license fee should be scrapped.

    1. Is It Me Bronze badge
      Terminator

      Re: Hmm

      I feel that the license fee is the best way to help fund our television service.

      I don't tend to watch much live now, with Netfilx etc., but do feel that the best quality output comes from the BBC with Channel 4 coming second. And the fact that there are minimal adverts on the BBC (usually just trailers for other programs) really improves the experience.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        With the exception of the news, all programs I watch are streamed, downloaded or recorded. Thus adverts are not an issue as they can be trivially skipped over.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          Streaming is the only time I *do* see adverts... not that I do that very often - but the rugby world cup is on...

          1. Andy 97

            Re: Hmm

            Agreed, "premium" content commonly has ads-a-plenty.

            Sport for instance, try watching a football match without seeing a betting company/Just Eat/more betting roll between the action. I pay top dollar for Comcast (formerly Sky) to slew shite at my eyeballs along with the content I actually want to see.

            Oh, and no, I don't want to stream off some dodgy m3u8 file that was uploaded to a Usenet group.

        2. WaveyDavey

          Re: Hmm

          You've obviously never used the pile-o-shite (TM) C4 on demand service then - skipping ads is an absolute no-no. Makes the catch-up watching experience pretty crap.

      2. Graham Cobb

        Re: Hmm

        It is essential that we have a non-commercial TV company. I don't want the BBC filled up with just commercially successful output. What would make it any different from any other channel in that case?

        That is why we have a mandatory licence fee, instead of a voluntary subscription. Let Netflix be Netflix, and the BBC be the BBC.

        This is an agenda being pushed by media moguls and the same right-wing financiers who want to give US companies the cream of the NHS, food supply, etc.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          @Graham Cobb

          "It is essential that we have a non-commercial TV company. I don't want the BBC filled up with just commercially successful output. What would make it any different from any other channel in that case?"

          Ok thats fine, so pay for it. What you have just said is you want other people to pay for things almost nobody wants to watch because the few who do wont pay.

          "Let Netflix be Netflix, and the BBC be the BBC."

          I am happy to do that. Let those who want to watch netflix pay for netflix (I dont) and those who want to watch BBC pay for BBC (again I dont). Instead of forcing people to pay for what they dont watch, you pay for what you want.

          "This is an agenda being pushed by media moguls and the same right-wing financiers who want to give US companies the cream of the NHS, food supply, etc."

          Other broadcasting companies dont like a scummy monopoly being able to tax their customers when the BBC provided nothing to produce the output! I am not shocked. Sky and Virgin are very popular but yet to watch such providers the BBC gets to take without producing anything for it. And the BBC doesnt run the NHS, food supply etc. They buy in content to distribute on a few TV and radio channels. Some people like the content and others are not interested (as with everything).

          If I buy a Vauxhall I dont get charged by Ford. The BBC has no good reason for special treatment.

          1. tin 2

            Re: Hmm

            If I buy a Vauxhall I dont get charged by Ford.

            No but you do get charged to use the roads.

            1. EvilDrSmith

              Re: Hmm

              Roads require maintenance (they don't always get it, but that's another issue), which costs money. Therefore all car drivers are taxed to provide money for roads

              What does the BBC provide that enables channel 4 or any of the other broadcasters which justifiers a tax on viewers who may not wish to watch / listen to a BBC transmission?

              1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

                Re: Hmm

                > Therefore all car drivers are taxed to provide money for roads

                That's incorrect. Your Vehicle Exise Duty goes into the general taxation pot and has done for decades.

                We're all paying towards the pot that road maintenance comes out of, whether we have a car or not.

                It's not an entirely relevant point (though I could ask why my having a car is paying for your kids education), but as we were already going down a rabbit hole in this thread I thought I'd add to it.

                1. stiine Silver badge

                  Re: Hmm

                  re: paying into one pot.

                  Yes, its called a general fund, and it prevents goverments from having to actually budget responsibly.

                  1. sed gawk Silver badge

                    Re: Hmm

                    Spending is not gated by taxation in our country.

                    We are a currency issuer, so we can spend by printing money at the cost of inflating the currency.

                    Taxation serves to remove money from circulation, resulting in a deflationary effect.

                    The issues with our Govenment spending are partly ideological, (e.g. we'll waste fortunes stopping people taking drugs), partly competence (e.g. see the cones hotline, austerity).

                    We (wider public) don't want to listen to the idea that paying for things collectively is cheaper. Hence we get one spiv after another trying to sell off our national assets, like the BBC.

                    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                      Re: Hmm

                      "Hence we get one spiv after another trying to sell off our national assets, like the BBC."

                      Although they're now more ambitious and going for as much of government as they can get.

                2. EvilDrSmith

                  Re: Hmm

                  Fair comment, Guilty as charged - VED isn't used just for roads and I should have been more careful with my language (though I believe it was originally, or at least that was the excuse for introducing it).

                  Nice rabbit hole, by the way.

              2. Graham Cobb

                Re: Hmm

                Taxation pays for very many services I don't use. That is what living in a society is all about. By taxing us all many things are made available which are only used by a subset. This means there are other things I do use which many other people do not.

                I consume very, very little "media" (TV, internet, recorded music, etc) but I do not begrudge the people who can watch their niche interest (a sport, a hobby, history of fashion, lifecycle of an otter, obscure music, ...) on the BBC. The only way unpopular interests can be made available is if the cost is shared among the whole of society - not just those interested in them.

                Even more important is news, with much less bias but more research than any of the paid-for media. Not perfect, of course, but we know that fact-checking is dead in commercial media, and distinguishing between opinion and reporting went away more than 20 years ago.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  The only way unpopular interests can be made available is if the cost is shared among the whole of society

                  Have you tried venturing to any user-generated content online, such as YouTube? Literally anyone can afford to produce a regular online video channel, and you can even make money from advertising or donations.

                2. Wayland Bronze badge

                  Re: Hmm

                  "Even more important is news, with much less bias but more research than any of the paid-for media. "

                  Even more important is fake news, with much stronger bias than any of the paid-for media. FIFY

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Hmm

                    "fake news"

                    The phrase invented by charlatans and frauds to try and gloss over when their lying and cheating gets exposed.

              3. This post has been deleted by its author

                1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                  Re: Hmm

                  "Part of the TV Licence goes to C4."

                  Funnily enough, I made that same statement to someone just a week ago..... And was proved wrong.

                  Channel 4 has a Public Broadcasting remit, but doesn't (and never has) received license fee money.

                  S4C does, however.

                  https://www.channel4.com/corporate/about-4/operating-responsibly/freedom-information/frequently-asked-questions

                  https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/topics/what-does-your-licence-fee-pay-for-top13

                  1. DavCrav Silver badge

                    Re: Hmm

                    "And was proved wrong."

                    Thank you for correcting me. I have withdrawn my original post, and (boo hoo) all 11 likes it had garnered were lost.

                    I knew that C4 was publicly owned, but it appears to be commercially run. It has been floated on several occasions to receive some money from the Licence, but it has never happened.

                    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
                      Thumb Up

                      Re: Hmm

                      No worries! It surprised me too. I was convinced it received some license funding!

                      Have at least one thumbs up to make up the loss :-)

                    2. John Robson Silver badge

                      Re: Hmm

                      Have one back for honesty ;)

              4. sed gawk Silver badge

                Re: Hmm

                What does the BBC provide that enables channel 4 or any of the other broadcasters which justifiers a tax on viewers who may not wish to watch / listen to a BBC transmission?

                Training & Education + routes into the industry, behind and infront of camera

                https://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/en

                Universal coverage requirements, the global network of foreign correspondents - these are not required for the other broadcasters.

                It's an example of our shared national assets, if you'd like to get rid of something offering no obvious value, I think you could look elsewhere.

                Finally, if you don't want to pay them, you don't have too, it's a little bit of a faff, I grant you but possible while using non-bbc services.

            2. Dr_N Silver badge

              Re: Hmm

              >No but you do get charged to use the roads.

              I'm sure codejunk becries that too.

              Along with paying for communist* school kids' education and poor sick people's healthcare, no doubt.

              Maybe have a vote?

              "Should the UK keep a world class public service broadcaster with free-ranging editorial freedoms or should the UK just have Murdoch content stuff down its maw for a premium?"

              *Anyone who isn't a fully paid up member of the well-off, tax-dodging, rightwing elite us clearly a damn communist!

            3. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: Hmm

              @tin 2

              "No but you do get charged to use the roads."

              That is general taxation. I dont have to pay a competitor to get the item I want. Buy a Phillips TV you dont pay LG. Yet to watch content you like (I dont care what it is) you must pay for it, but then also pay the BBC!

          2. Claverhouse Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            "It is essential that we have a non-commercial TV company. I don't want the BBC filled up with just commercially successful output. What would make it any different from any other channel in that case?"

            Ok thats fine, so pay for it. What you have just said is you want other people to pay for things almost nobody wants to watch because the few who do wont pay.

            This is gibberish. People who actually want certain programmes won't pay for them ? Are you suggesting only licence cheats want BBC programmes ?

            .

            Not that it affects me, no license and no TV; but fair play to those who like the BBC.

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: Hmm

              @Claverhouse

              "This is gibberish. People who actually want certain programmes won't pay for them ? Are you suggesting only licence cheats want BBC programmes ?"

              I am not sure what you are trying to say here (maybe I am under-caffinated) but his argument was that the BBC tax is needed to produce unpopular output that few are interested in. So the people who want those shows should pay for them and not rely on everyone else to pay for it.

              "Not that it affects me, no license and no TV; but fair play to those who like the BBC."

              Same here. I stopped watching live content when I got sick of paying the BBC so I could pay Sky for what I found entertaining. I dont have a problem with people enjoying the BBC, but I dont enjoy it so I dont watch it. Yet I had to pay for that to get what I did want.

          3. sed gawk Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            The BBC (full disclosure since I got hammered last time, they used to be a customer of mine, <5 yrs ago) is a model of efficient service provision.

            The BBC is perhaps our most effective projection of "soft power" throughout the world.

            I personally would increase the license fee to cover the non-payers, but frankly the value on offer from things from accessible web design, camera improvements, streaming improvements.

            The BBC kickstarted an entire generation of bedroom coders in the 80s, it's children's programming is generally safe to leave a kid in front of, which is less the case with e.g. SKY.

            150 Quid a year is a bargain.

            1. shaunhw

              Re: Hmm

              Sed Gawk "150 Quid a year is a bargain. "

              Yes it is, whilst it is being paid by those do don't want or need its services - just so they can watch "live" TV delivered by anyone.

              One should not have to pay a "licence fee" to watch commercial broadcasters.

              1. sed gawk Silver badge

                Re: Hmm

                One should not have to pay a licensee fee, however, it seems the lure of non-time-shifted content is seductive enough to convince some people to pay.

                If you watch time-shifted content, you don't have to pay them. It doesn't seem onerous IMO.

        2. EvilDrSmith

          Re: Hmm

          >It is essential that we have a non-commercial TV company

          Why?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Hmm

            Have you seen US TV?

            1. EvilDrSmith

              Re: Hmm

              One of the most acclaimed BBC productions recently has been Killing Eve - produced by an independent company on behalf of BBC America (a commercial TV company, part owned by the BBC, but not funded through the licence fee).

              So actually, yes, I have seen US TV: I've seen 'Killing Eve'

              I'm sure that there is lots of Dross on US TV, but the same applies to UK TV (including the BBC) (And what you or I consider rubbish, others will think is good).

              So two (genuine) questions for the wider audience:

              What other countries have a licence fee?

              Do those countries (that have a licence fee) have television that is clearly and consistently better than countries that don't have a licence fee?

              1. Tromos

                Re: Hmm

                Greece has a licence fee, and it can't be dodged. You pay even if you don't have a TV. Many people pay twice as much as others, or even 3, 4 or more times. It is simply a charge added to the monthly standing charge for an electricity supply. Shops, factories, offices, restaurants, etc. all pay. It does have the advantage of being simple to administer and fairly cheap provided you don't have a holiday home and a small shop and pay multiple bills.

                Doesn't help though, there are no advert-free channels and the content is crap.

                1. EvilDrSmith

                  Re: Hmm

                  I've learnt something today.

                  Thank you!

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Hmm

                "I'm sure that there is lots of Dross on US TV,"

                I was referring to the number and duration of commercial breaks, not to mention the banner adverts over the program after it returns "from these messages" and the fact the some programs are butchered to fit into the timeslot with all the breaks. I don't find it surprising that streaming services are so popular in the US because broadcast, cable and sat TV is almost unwatchable, even or especially if the show is worth watching (and yes, there is a lot of good US TV)

            2. Wayland Bronze badge

              Re: Hmm

              US TV has most of the shows I enjoy but I watch them on the Internet.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          "That is why we have a mandatory licence fee, instead of a voluntary subscription. Let Netflix be Netflix, and the BBC be the BBC."

          No one ever seems to consider what might happen to BBC Radio if BBC TV goes subscription.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Hmm

            Apart from you!

        4. Wayland Bronze badge

          Re: Hmm

          "It is essential that we have a non-commercial TV company."

          Essential to who?

          TV is crap. It's fake news and propaganda. YouTube was the model but that's been sold to the TV companies too so that fake news and propaganda now.

        5. shaunhw

          Re: Hmm

          If you want a none commercial TV station then you pay for it then.

          Please don't expect people who might NOT want it to pay part of it for you. The technology now exists to make the BBC licence free. You've only got to look at the cost of now TV boxes. Most digital boxes have conditional access - for the pron you see, so it really shouldn't be an issue.

      3. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        >but do feel that the best quality output comes from the BBC with Channel 4 coming second.

        A few years ago I'd have agreed but I had the opportunity to watch British TV recently and I was appalled at the quality of the programming. The BBC itself used to be the most reliable source of news but its now unwatchable (both live and on the Web) -- too dumbed down, too opinionated, just awful. ITV isn't much better, either, but at least the ads are interesting, they provide a window into contemporary British culture.

        I don't know how I'd react to having to fork out a substantial chunk of change for a TV service that I'd never watch. The license fee is really obsolete, its in the same state that the radio license fee used to be in before it got scrapped as unenforceable. My attitude is really that if I have to listen to government propaganda then the government should pay for it.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Hmm

          "My attitude is really that if I have to listen to government propaganda then the government should pay for it."

          Governments pay for nothing. It's taxpayers who pay.

      4. Muppet Boss

        Re: Hmm

        >I feel that the license fee is the best way to help fund our television service.

        >I don't tend to watch much live now, with Netfilx etc.

        Have you heard that you can get a criminal record and go to jail for watching BBC illegally?

        Most countries fund their public TV service from taxes, the UK is one of the very few remaining countries which still force people to pay up under the threat of criminal prosecution.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      >From all of that I think the good news is the BBC license fee should be scrapped.

      Trouble is that no politician has actually said they will scrap the TV licence, just that the BBC will no longer be funded from it...

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      I worked for a commercial broadcaster who didn't like the license fee. However they also didn't want the BBC taking advertising or sponsorship. Neither did the idea of encryption/subscription go down any better. People apparently might find the idea of two monthly charges unwelcoming and ditch the commercial one.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        "People apparently might find the idea of two monthly charges unwelcoming and ditch the commercial one."

        And as the various new streaming services come on line over the next year or two, we'll also see the balkanisation of TV and people will have to choose which and how many of them they subscribe to. I predict torrents and other less than legal ways of acquiring media will increase dramatically. Disney are already rescinding or refusing to sell rights to their properties with the launch of Disney+ due soon. "Can I afford that as well as Netflix and Amazon?" is the question many people will be asking themselves. Not to mention Britbox or whatever it will called, NowTV and others, all of which want "exclusive" content.

    4. Wayland Bronze badge

      Re: Hmm

      BBC should be scrapped.

  4. phuzz Silver badge
    Stop

    "Morgan also said she would not intervene in the BBC's decision to abolish free TV licences for over-75s."

    Except of course it wasn't really the BBC's decision.

    Licenses for the over-75s used to be paid for by the government, but they decided to stop paying for them in 2015, leaving it up to the BBC to cover the cost. So the BBC could either suck up £750M of lost revenue, or take the PR hit of being perceived as responsible.

    If you're going to blame anyone, blame David Cameron, George Osborn and Sajid Javid (who was the Culture Secretary at the time).

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Except of course it wasn't really the BBC's decision.

      True. But it was announced in 1999 by Chris Smith, and then Tessa Jowell, who were the DCMS heads at the time of DSO.. Which was where the problem started.

      So licence fees were increased to pay for DSO, which has long been completed. Costs were overestimated and the licence fee was never reduced following completion. So for a while, the DSO surplus was redirected to funding 'Broadband Britain'.

      Alongside that was the BBC's general jacuzzi of cash, and demands by first Labour, then Conservatives for the BBC to get more efficient and stop wasting money. The BBC claimed to have made around £800m in 'real cash savings'. If true, those savings + the DSO money should have meant the BBC was running at a healthy surplus.. So could afford to cover the cost of OAP licences.

      Of course that assumes that the claimed savings were real, and the BBC didn't simply carry on wasting cash. They continually plead poverty though, and blow money on marketing to claim the public really loves and values the BBC.. Which of course would be easily demonstrated when it's switched to a subscription model. Especially as it's the world's bestest broadcaster, and has had a few decades to build up it's commercial operations to supplement it's revenues.

      For some.. strange reason though, the BBC's always been bitterly opposed to market-testing it's customer loyalty, and hates the idea of a voluntary subscription. Can't think why.

    2. caffeine addict Silver badge

      I'm constantly bemused that no-one seems to remember that free licenses for over 75s only became a thing in 1999.

      Can't help thinking that they ought to be free to anyone under a certain income threshold. My grandfather's civil service pension used to be more than my salary as an IT professional, but he was entitled to a free license. :/

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      This!

      MPs lying by blaiming someone else for their decisions.... Who'd have thought it :-(

      https://metro.co.uk/2019/06/15/why-the-bbc-is-not-to-blame-for-the-tv-licence-fee-cuts-9956545/

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As much as I dislike the licence tax you do have to wonder what will happen when people are left with only all the other crap, for example kids tv, CBBC is quite educational in parts but that's it there are no alternatives (not that I know of). I do often wonder if threats to the tax are used by governments to dictate editorial policy within the BBC.

    1. drewsup

      oh Great!

      Easy, it will be commercial sponsored programs, like all of the non BBC channels already do. The most popular shows are US based anyway, so its a moot point, the BBC need to join the rest of the buggy whip manufacturers .. .

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: oh Great!

        The most popular shows are US based anyway...

        Citation needed!

        While it's true that I enjoy a bit of junk-SF as much as the next geek, I would not say that the shows that provide it are the best, by any stretch of the imagination.

        Some of the documentaries on BBC4 are world-class. Interesting and informative (without being too high-brow for the people watching on smartphones on the Clapham omnibus), and intelligently and well presented. The licence fee is a bargain for those alone.

    2. NiteDragon

      They can already do that. Since 2016 the BBC board is chosen by the government (Thank Whittingdale for that little gem)

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      It also tells you what a bargain the licence fee is: lots of original production, local news in TV and radio.

      A subscription fee is, by definition, not compatible with a universal service such as that which the BBC is required by law to provide. The licence fee feels like a tax but provides some degree of independence from government interference by going straight to the broadcaster.

      Of course, all the populist arguments are about how shit and biased the BBC is. This is because they are designed to ignore the millions of people who depend on the service for one thing or another.

      I'd much rather have a debate about possibly narrowing the remit for the service and possibly taking some of the money away from sport by defining more events of "national importance". Footballers, test cricketers, Formula 1 drivers already have more enough money. We can also discuss how to check for bias and mitigate against in ways other than giving nutjobs a right to vent – they're doing this anyway without any checks all over the interwebs – and also how much the BBC pissed on that pet project BBC Sounds. Apparently IPlayer Radio within the UK is no longer available: get yerselves the international version for buzzword free enjoyment.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        It doesn't go straight to the BBC though, it goes to the government first. I can't therefore see a reason not to just add it to general taxation. It would be far more efficient.

        I suspect, though, like replacing car tax with the equivalent on fuel, it's all to do with the jobs that would be lost when the inefficient collection systems are no longer needed.

        From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licensing_in_the_United_Kingdom#Licence_fee_collection_and_use:

        "Although the money is raised for its own use, the BBC does not directly use the collected fees. The money received is first paid into the government's Consolidated Fund. It is subsequently included in the 'vote' for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in that year's Appropriation Act, and passed back to the BBC for the running of the BBC's own services (free from commercial advertisements). The money also finances programming for S4C and the BBC World Service as well as to run BBC Monitoring at Caversham."

    4. gigabitethernet

      They will just show Pokemon.

    5. Andre Carneiro

      If you travel around Europe (and most of the world) you'll know the answer.

      Purely commercial TV is the most absolutely appalling bilge ever contrived in the history of mankind.

      1. FloMo

        No, that's just TV.

  6. jason 7 Silver badge

    Yes please...

    ...I would love to dump my license fee. I no longer watch broadcast TV or iPlayer but I pay the tax so I don't get the continuous harassment. Quite frankly it's a disgusting situation.

    1. NiteDragon

      Re: Yes please...

      You can do a form online to make them aware you don't use BBC services or watch live TV (that last one's a bit cheeky, but part of the rules). I haven't had any unwanted harassment since cancelling at all.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Yes please...

        I think the harassment letters start up again after 18-24 months - gets my blood pressure up every time.

        As I have ranted before - they don't seem to understand that not everyone's life revolves around watching broadcast TV (or iPlayer) content. Usually go online from a work computer to fill out the form.

        1. jason 7 Silver badge

          Re: Yes please...

          This is what I fear. If any other company did this it would be a huge scandal. This is just another reason I have little concern over the BBC's future.

          Any organisation that works partly through intimidation should be brought to heel.

          1. John G Imrie Silver badge

            Re: Yes please...

            I would be in total agreement with you if it wasn't for the fact that the Government outscored the TV Licence collection to Capiter. The BBC has no say in how often those letters get sent out.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Yes please...

              I would be in total agreement with you if it wasn't for the fact that the Government outscored the TV Licence collection to Capiter. The BBC has no say in how often those letters get sent out.

              Wrong. Responsibility for collecting the licence fee was given to the BBC in the Communications Act. The BBC then outsourced to Crapita and others (Proximity Marketing I think sends the threatograms) and is entirely responsible for the collection and enfarcement process. The DCMS has also slapped down the BBC for the tone of it's threatograms & the behaviour of it's subcontractors.. Which didn't stop the BBC re-awarding contracts to most of them.

              1. John G Imrie Silver badge

                Re: Yes please...

                I stand corrected.

              2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Yes please...

                "Which didn't stop the BBC re-awarding contracts to most of them."

                Nothing ever seems to stop any public sector body from awarding contracts to the usual suspects.

      2. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Yes please...

        I refused to contact them to let them know I don't watch live TV, and I've received a threatening letter every week for the past six years. I object to the environmental waste but I keep it going because it helps subsidise Royal Mail.

        It is cheeky/unjust that I can't watch commercial TV stations so I'd support a subscription service. I wouldn't subscribe, but I support the idea.

        Here is an idea to save the BBC money, sack anyone on screen who earns more than the average wage. You'd have an army of volunteers replacing them just to get their faces on the telly. I was going to call the existing presenters 'Talent' but that would be too sarcastic.

        [The only visit I from TV licensing guys was when I first had a cottage and a girlfriend. They interrupted an argument we were having about how little housework I did. She answered the door, and slammed it hard on them screaming, "Don't ask me, I only work here!"

        I answered the next time, she'd stomped off fuming, and they asked me if I had a licence. I replied I had a shotgun licence and they were standing on my property without my permission.

        His reply was priceless, "I'm going to tell my boss about you!"]

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yes please...

          "I replied I had a shotgun licence and they were standing on my property without my permission."

          You were lucky not to get a visit from plod and your shotgun license revoked.

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Yes please...

            It wouldn't have bothered me, I didn't actually have a shotgun. I just applied for the licence because all the pensioners owned one and it seemed like an arms race. This was a tiny (100 people, 100 cats, 25 dogs) village in the Scottish countryside.

            I do have a funny story. I was at work so this is second hand. A huge gang from Wester Hailes came to our wee village to lynch some crim who had been given sanctuary there by a local. They had baseball bats and machetes. They were scared away by octogenarians brandishing shotguns.

            Well, I laughed at least.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: Yes please...

              Threatening to use a gun, whether you have one or not, is an offence in itself.

              If you have the means to receive the BBC's content then you are, by law, required to pay the licence fee. You might not like it, and arguments about plurality obviously don't interest you, but it's still the law.

              1. caffeine addict Silver badge

                Re: Yes please...

                I have "the means" - a bendy metal thing on the roof, some cable, and a TV.

                I don't have the cable connected to the TV, or the TV tuned.

                This means I don't need a license. By law.

                (also - the pillock above us waffling about guns is a pillock)

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Yes please...

                "Threatening to use a gun, whether you have one or not, is an offence in itself."

                Based on what he posted, he did not threaten to use a gun. He simply said, when asked if he had a licence, that he yes, he had a shotgun gun licence and then asked them to leave his property.

                "If you have the means to receive the BBC's content then you are, by law, required to pay the licence fee. You might not like it, and arguments about plurality obviously don't interest you, but it's still the law."

                Having the means to receive live or near-live broadcast TV DOES NOT mean you need a TV licence. Otherwise everyone with an internet connection would need a TV licence, whether they had a TV or not.

                1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                  Re: Yes please...

                  Thankin' you, John Brown.

                  I would like to point out I was in the middle of a fight with my girlfriend, so I was all het up.

                  I also missed out part of the story. I honestly hadn't had a TV for years, a fact that made my IT colleagues ask me, "What century are you living in?" because I didn't know about Star Trek NG.

                  I was fixing a neighbours TV, and it was in pieces on my living room floor. The TV detectorist thugs said they'd seen it through my windows, so I explained I was just fixing it for a neighbour. They said I needed a licence for that, and I said I didn't because I wasn't going to turn it on, and didn't even have an aerial. "Well, how are you intending to check if it works?"

                  "That's a multimeter, that is an oscilloscope, this is an engineer. If you'd went to further education then you wouldn't be making a fool of yourself on my property"

                  I was totally in debt to my awful girlfriend who'd hyped me up. Her response was more succinct.

                  There are a lot of myths that keep people fearful and compliant. Off the top of my head, you don't have to register to vote. You don't have to attend jury duty. You don't have to pay local taxes. You don't have to pay the BBC tax. I don't feel I am above the law, more likely I'm below it.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Yes please...

              "Well, I laughed at least."

              Your story would definitely be funnier if you'd received a visit from armed officers.

              Try harder next time.

              ♩ ♪ De de da, de de da, de de da, de de da, da da ...♫

      3. SundogUK

        Re: Yes please...

        I haven't watched TV or paid the license for twenty years but I get harassed every year without fail. I really wouldn't care if they lost the license fee.

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: Yes please...

          As you are not a customer, and have no commercial or indeed private relationship with them, surely they are holding your data without lawful authority and should be penalised under the DPA 2018?

          If that one doesn't fly, report them to the police for harassment.

          When that one goes nowhere, ask the council to issue whatever the modern equivalent of an ASBO is.

          After that you can take out a civil injunction and claim damages.

          20 years of grief would be getting me fully engaged, and I think you'd be showing admirable restraint were you to only take the steps I've suggested.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Yes please...

            OP will be getting letters addressed to "The Occupier". That requires no PII, just a list of addresses. As no PII is being held Crapita have no information as to whether it's the same occupier as last year.

      4. jasper pepper

        Re: Yes please...

        But why should you inform them of anything?

        I don't need to inform the police I don't require a firearms license.

        I don't need to inform the environment agency I don't require a fishing license.

        I don't need to inform HMRC I don't require a distillery license.

        I don't need to inform the NHS I don't require a license to treat patients.

        I don't have to tell Sky, The Times, The Guardian, Netfix etc I don't require a subscription.

        What is so special about the bbc?

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: Yes please...

          You *do* need to inform US customs (when travelling there) that you don't have any social media accounts.

          It's almost like the things you listed are things that the majority of people don't have, whilst the majority of households do have a TV.

          1. Cederic Silver badge

            Re: Yes please...

            Is that mandatory now? It was an optional question last time I applied for an ESTA.

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Yes please...

          Jasper, it's worse than that.

          The BBC is not a government agency. Theu are a private company, and to answer your question, there is nothing special about the BBC. They operate on the assumption that people think they need to comply. They don't. They have no special laws.

          The fact is, you can treat them just like any other random company that writes unsolicited letters to you.

    2. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: Yes please...

      Why? I get one "you aren't being naughty, are you?" letter a year. Only time they've ever turned up in 18 years license-free, I showed them a roll of coax behind the TV as proof it had no feed. They left happy.

      I used to watch iPlayer til they changed the rules. Now I occasionally watch Only Connect at a friend's house. Don't miss anything else.

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Yes please...

      Their collection techniques are disgusting, like a dodgy bailiff, but worse, as at least the bailiff is owed something.

      They work under the assumption that people think they have powers in law that other companies don't.

      They don't

      Just as with any random company that hounds you for payment for something you don't owe...:

      Fact: You don't need to reply.

      Fact: You don't need to declare online or in writing that you don't need a license.

      Fact: You don't need to let them into your property (unless they arrive with the police and a warrant)

      Fact: You can ban them from your property.

      Fact: Someone charged them a £40 processing fee to deal with their email. When they didn't pay, he took them to small claims court and won!

      I only ever had/needed a license when I was a student. For years I'd just ignore their unsolicited letters, and write abusive replies to their followup abusive harrassing letters.

      Having said that, I guess I'm getting old and complient, because for the last few years I sign the online declaration like a good little citizen.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    replacing tv licence

    a great idea, in theory (level-playing field, funding directly tied to users, etc, etc.). But in reality, where is the beeb going to get all the money from, if this sweet 3.7 billion per year from tv license (tax) suddenly dwindles to 370 million, for example? Or 37 million? I mean, sure, with tv licence gone the beeb would have to become much more efficient (which brings some benefits but also loss to the viewers), but I doubt subscription would cover the gap left after tv license. I have a very bipolar view of the beeb, on one hand I applaud superb quality of _some_ material they present, on the other hand, I am appalled at their hypocrisy and patronizing attitude towards the unwashed masses who MUST be preached what's good for them, because they're too stupid to make up their minds. Well, that's perhaps more "in your face" on their website, than a telly.

    In any case, this is all moot, tv licence won't go for a long time.

    1. James 139

      Re: replacing tv licence

      Your claim seems incomplete:

      "I am appalled at their hypocrisy and patronizing attitude towards the unwashed masses who MUST be preached what's good for them, because they're too stupid to make up their minds"

      That can only be true if you also say "whilst claiming to be unbiased", otherwise they are doing nothing more than anyone else that is trying to convince you of a particular argument.

      After all, the popular papers, websites and organisations of the "unwashed masses" are only doing the same thing, but from the other side of the argument, and that should be no less appalling.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: replacing tv licence

        in theory, I would accept the "whilst claiming to be unbiased" makes the beeb particularly disingenuous, but in general, even without direct claims of impartiality, most media make every effort to portrait themselves as impartial, which in my mind is the same as a direct claim of impartiality, i.e. false and disingenuous. Whether somebody declares to be a hero and then smacks you in the head, or they greet you with just a false smile before they deliver the blow, the intention (and net result) is the same.

        1. batfink Silver badge

          Re: replacing tv licence

          I think you'll find that in the UK almost none of the print media claims to be impartial.

        2. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

          Re: replacing tv licence

          If they are truly unbiased (and personally, I think they are), then by definition they've got to be pissing off nearly half the audience nearly all the time...

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: pissing off nearly half the audience nearly all the time...

            .. and you'd be right. From my time there around 25 years ago, I can remember that the viewer/listener complaints people used to get roughly similar numbers of "blatant labour bias" and "blatant tory bias" complaints - often in relation to the same broadcast!

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: pissing off nearly half the audience nearly all the time...

              Indeed.

              I rememeber reading one quote from one of the BBC bosses a long time ago. I don't remember it exactly, but it was something like "We can tell when our reporting is unbiased when BOTH sides accuse us of being biased"

              Indeed, in the last month I've hear brexitters claiming the BBC are pro-leave, and leavers claiming they are pro-brexit.

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                Re: pissing off nearly half the audience nearly all the time...

                Thanks for no thumbs down considering the huge number of mistakes I made in that post!

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    FAIL

    "I do think it is right that we should understand what pages are most popular"

    You don't need PII to know that, you don't even need IP addresses. You have server logs that define pages that are accessed.

    That is a bullshit excuse to have people sign up.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: "I do think it is right that we should understand what pages are most popular"

      "you don't even need IP addresses. You have server logs that define pages that are accessed."

      Well, they do need IP addresses -- but those are contained in the server logs anyway.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "I do think it is right that we should understand what pages are most popular"

        To know the pages that were accessed they only need the URLs from the server logs, they don't need client IP addresses.

  9. SVV Silver badge

    BBC != Netflix

    Where on Netflix can I find regional news, quality new music radio, oh and a national cultural history dating back a century? That's right : nowhere. Are they going to scrap Freeview too? Make it internet only, therefore further enriching the telcos and BT? Imagine a future where all there is is ITV, repeats and shopping channels...........

    I suppose they might be cavalier enough to destroy all of this for the continuance of the political support of foreign based media owners, but even those who read the diet of daily anti-BBC guff in the right wing press would probably rue the day this happened at some later dater date.

    1. Unshakeable

      Re: BBC != Netflix

      Where on the BBC can find regional news, quality new music radio, oh and a national cultural history dating back a century? That's right : nowhere.

      BBC Look North is fixed on Arts stories, magazine content and never touches the news, unless there is an option to promote leftist views ( and double so if they can mention Jo Cox )

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: BBC != Netflix

        and never touches the news

        Bollocks. Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks. You're talking obvious bollocks.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: BBC != Netflix

        I can't speak for other regions but Wales Today does a reasonable job in Wales, and they even have reports from the Gogs who are usually ignored in these things. BBC Wales also supplies news to S4C which can be quite parochial but does therefore cover national and international stories reasonably well, with access to the full output of BBC news and Welsh-speaking correspondents in some surprising places.

        New music? I have to say that each time I turn on 6 Music I hear something I've not heard before. May not be to my taste, but it's there. Similarly with Radio 1 Xtra and Radio 1 late evenings sometimes, not that I listen a huge amount to those. Radio 3 did tone-down a bit when Classic FM came along in the 1990s, but it still has a far wider range of music and comment than its only competitor and I still get a bit annoyed that when I turn Classic FM on it's often a bit like listening to a "pop" music station where someone has gone through their CDs, singled out all the movements under 6 minutes and shuffled them into an oft-repeated completely disjointed playlist, rather like any one of a number of commercial "pop" music stations.

        As for the BBC's oft-complained-about political "bias", the only thing I would say here is that any such organisation that seems to get equal numbers of complaints from both sides of any argument must be doing something right.

        M.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: BBC != Netflix

          Ahhh, shout out to our Northern cousins, the prehistoric cavemen Gogs :-)

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: BBC != Netflix

        "BBC Look North is fixed on Arts stories, magazine content and never touches the news, unless there is an option to promote leftist views ( and double so if they can mention Jo Cox )"

        Sounds like you get a different Look North than the proper one up here. It's all about what Newcastle and Sunderland football teams are doing (or their managers or the owners), lots of "from our health correspondent" stories and the occasional nod that there is life in Cumbria.

        I'm guessing you are down south in Leeds or thereabouts?

  10. John Robson Silver badge

    "I still use the phrase 2025"

    Funny, I thought 2025 was a year, not a phrase...

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: "I still use the phrase 2025"

      Zager and Evans might disagree

      Well, almost.

  11. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    The BBC had their chance ...

    When the "digital switch-over" occured in 2009, the BBC had a say in the standard and could easily have specified that all digital TVs and STBs must have a card slot & capability to decode encrypted channels. This would have meant that the BBC could at any time have changed to a subscription service without requiring viewers to change their equipment.

    I think that the reason the BBC did not want all digital receivers to have such a feature was to make it more difficult for government to abolish the licence in favour of a subscription service.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: The BBC had their chance ...

      Or, unlike you, they hadn't forgotten that the BBC has a statutory obligation to serve the entire country.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: The BBC had their chance ...

        "Or, unlike you, they hadn't forgotten that the BBC has a statutory obligation to serve the entire country."

        And how would a subscription service change anything? At present the service is only legally available to people paying the licence fee. An encrypted subscription service would be available to anyone paying the subscription fee.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: The BBC had their chance ...

      It wasn't the digital switchover, it was the utter, utter failure of a subscription model for terrestrial digital TV. ONdigital and then ITV digital both failed to make it work, despite all boxes having card slots and an ongoing battle with the "pirates". At the time I seem to remember most of the discussion was around how poor the signal was (dropouts) and the fact that for your couple of hundred quid outlay (in the early days) and monthly subscription, the number and quality of channels available wasn't compelling.

      Digital Switchover was set for 2012 immediately after the Olympics because the government had already sold off the "800MHz" band and mobile operators were desperate to get services up-and-running, which they couldn't do while analogue TV still co-existed with digital; that band was required for transmitters.

      Given that two commercial ventures had failed to get the thing working, that uptake had been slow in the early days because of problems with low power transmitters, electrical interference, insufficiently well-designed RF "front ends" and a sheer lack of a "killer app", unless the government wanted to nationalise the network, the only thing they could do was to hand the whole thing over to a loose collection of others with the BBC in the lead - technically if nothing else - and give the licence fee a small boost so that they had the funds to sort things out properly.

      Moving from 2k carriers to 8k carriers improved robustness (a longer "symbol period") but rendered some of the very earliest boxes obsolete, which was a blessing in disguise because newer boxes had much better RF circuitry. Upping the power of transmitters where possible also helped.

      Once the signal was robust, moving from 16QAM to 64QAM increased the payload available (more channels) and mandating that nearly all the available space on the four "important" and two "less important" multiplexes was given over to free-to-air channels meant that suddenly the free offering was seen as reasonably good value alongside a basic Sky or cable subscription.

      By this point, a basic decoder could be picked up at Tesco for £50 or less, and PVRs were becoming affordable choices for the majority, rather than expensive toys for early adopters.

      All of which is a long-winded way of saying that you are probably correct about the card slot. It was never in the BBC's interests to mandate a card slot and one of the biggest practical arguments against moving to a subscription model now is the sheer installed base of incapable TVs.

      In fact the most practical way of moving to a subscription-only model would be to switch off terrestrial transmitters altogether and mandate that everyone either receives TV via satellite (all, or at least most, satellite receivers have a card slot) or over an IP connection. I have no doubt that the government would love to do that. They sold off 800MHz in 2012, 700MHz is being cleared as I speak, so making the 600MHz and 500MHz bands available too could be "nice little earners"...

      Pity those of us trying to use UHF radio microphones and the like.

      M.

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Re: The BBC had their chance ...

        IMO the current UK "Free" To Air collection for ~£150pa stacks up fairly well against the subscription alternatives. However, what I don't want to have to do is have numerous ~£150 subscriptions all running at the same time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The BBC had their chance ...

        >>and an ongoing battle with the "pirates".

        By "Pirates" do you mean Murdoch/News-International/Sky's encryption wing NDS?

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The BBC had their chance ...

        "Upping the power of transmitters where possible also helped."

        I thought the lower power was to reduce interference between the analogue and digital systems during the switch over and that the digital transmitter power was upped to the "proper" levels as each region had it's analogue transmissions turned off.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: The BBC had their chance ...

          My memory is dim, but my recollection is that this was the initial thought, but experience showed far less interference than feared so powers could be increased (if not to final levels) without penalty. I did miss a step though - robustness of the signal was instantly helped by moving from the original 64QAM to 16QAM (and a different FEC ratio?) but this reduced the payload - the amount of data that could be transmitted. At the time this wasn't a problem as many of the previously subscription channels did not want to go free to air.

          Once transmitter powers were upped and the move to 8k carriers was complete, moving back to 64QAM restored the original capacities.

          That's leaving DVB-T2 aside, of course :-)

          M.

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: The BBC had their chance ...

      When the "digital switch-over" occured in 2009, the BBC had a say in the standard and could easily have specified that all digital TVs and STBs must have a card slot & capability to decode encrypted channels.

      For some reason, the BBC didn't want that. Can't think why. Fortunately the EU regulations for TVs and I think most STBs sold in Europe mandate inclusion of a CAM slot for decorder/card modules.

    4. Timbo

      Re: The BBC had their chance ...

      How many people can see BBC TV channels via Sky or VirginMedia? Lots and lots.

      So, going with a subscription model and using Sky?Virgin to collect the monies will be helpful.

      Likewise, there are a number of Freeview channels that can now only be accessed via Smart-TVs (ie one's with internet access) - and in time I can see that Sky will switch off their satellite service and rely on fast broadband esp as they bought Easynet a few years back and have the infrastructure to support "TV over IP".

      So, in a few years time, Freeview channels could be sold off, Satellite dishes could be recycled and all TV can come down the "phone line". And no paying Arqiva for renting the "bandwidth space" on each of the transmitter masts to carry the DTV signals.

      And with a subscription model in place, like Amazon Prime/Netflix etc, the BBC will truly need to run a cost efficient service...then we might see them produce "useful" programmes without paying "Talent" £m's or £k's for their couple of hours work per month.

      You won't even need a CAMCard slot - just a login username and password.

      PS: Isn't the BritBox going to be subscription based and delivered over IP?

    5. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: The BBC had their chance ...

      All my DVB TV's have a CAM slot at the back and can add a conditional access at any time adding the appropriate CAM and card.

  12. batfink Silver badge

    In other news

    A politician lies/obfuscates/toes today's official line/knows fuck all.

    Colour me surprised.

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: In other news

      Colour me surprised.

      That reminded me - Black and White TV Licence. Thought they'd have discontinued those by now.

      https://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/faqs/FAQ236

      Cost £52, by phone or post only.

      "Unfortunately you cannot pay for a black and white licence on our website."

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Re: In other news

        Of course you can't pay for a B&W licence on the website. They've assumed that because you're still watching in B&W you haven't yet entered the Century of the Fruitbat and don't have one of those newfangled computery thingies...

  13. intrigid

    TV ownership fine

    As a non-Brit, it boggles my mind that an entire country feverishly defends its government fining people for owning TVs.

    And before you explain to me the difference between a "fee" and a "fine", I would like you to first explain it to yourself.

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

      Re: TV ownership fine

      By "fee" they really mean "tax". Meaning that the "fine" is the penalty you pay for not paying the tax.

      I was going to end with some pithy comparison about the difference in quality between UK TV and television here in Portugal, but the licence fee pays for Doctor Who, among other things, so I probably won't.

    2. Blane Bramble

      Re: TV ownership fine

      You can own a TV without paying the license fee.

      There, does that help?

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: TV ownership fine

        And the licence fee?

    3. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: TV ownership fine

      It's very socialist. Everyone pays a (relatively) small amount so the cost is spread around. If you don't want to make use of the thing the money funds, that's your choice. It's a bit like the way that people who send their children to fee-paying schools or who have private health insurance still have a portion of their taxes spent on education and the NHS, which helps those people who cannot afford to pay for those things (or the full cost of those things) directly themselves.

      It's not a fine.

      You could argue that it's a tax, but the government can't call it that because everyone hates taxes and anyway there's a legitimate (if difficult) path out of paying the licence fee.

      M.

      1. intrigid

        Re: TV ownership fine

        I like how your distinction between a fee and a fine is that a fee is something that a bunch of people pay for some particular thing that they shouldn't be allowed to do without paying for, which goes to provide funding for some greater good, and a fine is, well, let's stay on the topic of fees. A fine is something else.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: TV ownership fine

          No, I was saying that the licence fee is actually - to all intents and purposes - a tax.

          I suppose a fee is a simple payment for a service. The difference with the licence fee is that you pay it even if you don't take advantage of the service because the service is there for you to use. To avoid paying the fee you have to prove that you cannot use the service. Perfectly simple. If annoying.

          A fine is /not/ "something you pay for something you shouldn't be allowed to do" and I do not understand how you could possibly think that is what I said.

          A fine is a penalty levied as a punishment for breaking some rule or law to discourage you from doing it again. There is no way you can legitimately consider the licence fee to be a fine.

          M.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TV ownership fine

            "A fine is a penalty levied as a punishment for breaking some rule or law to discourage you from doing it again. There is no way you can legitimately consider the licence fee to be a fine."

            IYHO.

            Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go and Do Something Less Boring Instead?

            Older people are incredulous that youngsters appear addicted to their phones, yet can't see the parallel with their own addiction to facile TV.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: TV ownership fine

              "A fine is a penalty levied as a punishment for breaking some rule or law to discourage you from doing it again. There is no way you can legitimately consider the licence fee to be a fine."

              IYHO

              Not a matter of opinion. Go and look the words up in a dictionary. You'll find that in modern English they're two different things. Intriguingly they also meant too different things in medieval English although a fine then was more akin to a fee in modern English.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: TV ownership fine

                So, taxes on cigarettes or petrol aren't fines to discourage their purchase.

                Because of the words the lawmakers use?!?

                Maybe the Oxford English Dictionary isn't quite as infallible as you are trying to make out.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Socialism has a tendancy to communism as people demand more and more stuff for free. We should stick to the basics: food, water, clothes / warmth,accommodation (most of which the majority have to pay for) and unpolluted surroundings. Everything else is a luxury, otherwise there's less incentive for people to work to provide those things. We never used to subsidise news or entertainment before the broadcasting age, and the TV licence is a hangover of the pre-internet era.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          I don't think many are demanding stuff for free. They are perfectly willing to pay taxes so long as they can be sure it is redistributed fairly. There are exceptions but the stereotype of the idle poor is wildly inaccurate from what I see.

          The people who are not willing to pay taxes are often those who don't need to use ths facilities those taxes fund.

          In the days when news "wasn't subsidised" people on low income were often cut off from information. They might rely on word of mouth or - from the 19th century - libraries (effectively a subsidy because somebody else paid for the papers they read).

          After that came cinema newsreels. Interesting point here is that people rarely went /just/ to watch the news. They went to watch a film and part of the ticket price was - without them being able to opt out - used to pay for the newsreel shown at the start of the programme.

          The first radio broadcasts were paid for by philanthropists but very soon became funded from taxes because it was seen as a public good.

          You only have to compare the idealistic start of the commercial news services in the UK - ITN and IRN when they were the only commercial services - with the way things are now. They do their best but they are shadows of their former selves. If that isn't enough, compare the children's output of independent TV in the 1970s and 1980s with the almost utter lowest-common-denominator output of today.

          M.

        2. DiViDeD Silver badge

          More clueless rambling from people who don't know what socialism is

          Socialism has a tendancy (sic) to communism as people demand more and more stuff for free

          And of course, Scandinavians, living under the oppressive yoke of evil, commie loving socialism, are the most miserable people in the world. Oh, wait.

          1. flatline2000

            Re: More clueless rambling from people who don't know what socialism is

            They are capitalist first, you cannot have socialism without capitalism, socialism is a parasite on the capitalist host...

          2. Claverhouse Silver badge

            Re: More clueless rambling from people who don't know what socialism is

            And Communism = Free Stuff...

            No Marxist country ever gave it's citizens free stuff. Not the USSR, Cuba or North Korea.

            Communists --- deriving from the same Rationalist Liberal root -- are as fixated as American Libertarians on the utter necessity of non-stop work and non-stop growth as a religious imperative.

            .

            As that frenetic little tick, V.I. Lenin, was fond of implementing: "None Shall Eat Who Do Not Work.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: More clueless rambling from people who don't know what socialism is

              As that frenetic little tick, V.I. Lenin, was fond of implementing: "None Shall Eat Who Do Not Work."

              Although it's not clear what work he did in return for eating.

        3. Rich 11 Silver badge

          We never used to subsidise news or entertainment before the broadcasting age

          Tell that to the Romans, who provided the Acta Diurna and gladiatorial games to the public for free. (For different reasons and by different means, but the end result was the same.)

        4. Reg Reader 1

          Capitalism has a tendency toward monopoly and Fascism. There is no perfect system. The restrained Capitalism or Social Democracy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was the catalyst that built the middle class we know today and which is being steadily eroded by monopolies as the wealthy continue to buy political support and push politics further to the right.

      3. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: TV ownership fine

        You could argue that it's a tax

        Except that it isn't, since, unlike taxes, the money goes, not to the government so it can decide to hand it to the BBC as it pleases, but direct to the BBC itself. The government cannot withold part of the licence fee unless the BBC toes the party line.

        And if you want to see how dire things can be where the government can directly starve a non commercial broadcast channel of cash because it has been critical of some policy or other, pop over here to arsetrailer and see what our pentecostal, doG fearing prime minister does to with ABC funding in an attempt to stop them pointing out his political bollocks.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: TV ownership fine

          I think you collected downvotes because HMG has too much say in setting licence fees. As for your second point I did just that some years ago. My view of your TV back then was that it was like having multiple channels of UTV and it would be hard for me to get ruder than that.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TV ownership fine

      Okay I'm a "non Brit". No it doesn't boggle my mind.

    5. dajames Silver badge

      Re: TV ownership fine

      As a non-Brit, it boggles my mind that an entire country feverishly defends its government fining people for owning TVs.

      As a Brit, I can easily understand that in other countries the TV is so bad that no government -- no, not even a foreign one -- would have the face to contemplate charging for it!

      (Actually, we don't pay to own a TV, we pay to operate one.)

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: TV ownership fine

      As a non-Brit, it boggles my mind that an entire country feverishly defends its government fining people for owning TVs.

      And before you explain to me the difference between a "fee" and a "fine", I would like you to first explain it to yourself.

      First you have a false premise.

      Your second paragraph seems to indicate that realise that there is a difference so why didn't you use the correct term in the first place?

      And I don't need to explain the difference to myself, it's something I've known for as long as I can remember. I think I also have a reasonable handle on what the two words meant in medieval English but that's something I've only understood for the last couple of decades or so.

  14. Danny 2 Silver badge

    I love BBC radio

    I am always so negative about BBC TV I have to add I love BBC radio, and the website. BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland kept me sane when I was stuck alone for six months, like Tom Hank's basketball. I was in a remote place in Scotland and I'd wake up every morning and turn on the radio just to hear human voices. I especially enjoyed the traffic reports. When you are living in a wood and haven't seen anyone for ages you start to doubt your life choices, and the reports of traffic jams on the M8 are joyously reassuring.

    I know you get the radio and website without a licence now, but it does come out of the fee so I'd be willing to chip in for them. I hate how iPlayer insists you register and sign in just to get radio, that seems churlish. As is folk in prison for not paying their fines. As is the ~500,000 dementia sufferers who are now expected to pay for a licence - if they can't remember watching it, did they really watch it?

    The Beeb claim they need more revenue to compete with Netflix and Amazon, and that is ridiculously grandiose. Nobody wants them to compete with those services.

    Another option would be a two-stream BBC. A basic one paid for by tax-payers, and a luxury one paid for by subscription.

    1. Timbo

      Re: I love BBC radio

      "Another option would be a two-stream BBC. A basic one paid for by tax-payers, and a luxury one paid for by subscription."

      Quite.

      There's nothing difficult with the BBC switching the encryption on and off at specific times, so that the basic service can be viewed by anyone and subscribers only get to see the encrypted channels.

      I believe that certain Freeview channels do this already... ;-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I love BBC radio

      Maybe there wouldn't be so many dementia sufferer if they didn't have to listen to the incessant, wall to wall brexit coverage on Radio 4.

      You switch on at 10 o'clock at night there it is again, brexit... blah... blah... brexit... blah... blah...

      Just give it a rest. If it wasn't for the exorbitant amount they paid the presenters, it would be cheap radio I suppose...

  15. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    £3.7Billion? But we're saving TEN TIMES that not being in the EU, Brexit should give the Government loads of extra cash to cover such things as the BBC.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Errr no. We're spending ONE HUNDRED TIMES that to leave the EU.

  16. Gio Ciampa

    "gigabit speeds for all by 2025"

    Will Virgin have been persuaded to allow other providers to use their cables by then...?

    ...or OpenReach persuaded to lay cables in competition where currently there is none...?

    ...or will Morgan be on the board(s), raking in her share of the profits from their monopoly positions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "gigabit speeds for all by 2025"

      The third option goes without saying... it's why she's there.

  17. mark l 2 Silver badge

    From what I read saying that subscription TV has been successful for Netflix might be case of commentators curse, as Netflix are about to go up against Disney and Apple who are entering the subscription TV services, and both of these new comers to the market make their money from other sources and aren't totally relying on paying subscribers, so can afford to run them at a loss if need be. So it might be tough times for Netflix in the next few years as perhaps their subscriber growth might start to slow, or even decline.

    Personally regarding the BBC moving to subscription only would alienate a lot of people who probably watch a lot of BBC content and listen to BBC radio, those in the older generation who have already had to transition fairly recently from analogue to digital TV and would be asked to make further changes if the BBC were to go subscription only.

  18. dnicholas Bronze badge

    I get a letter or two from the licence people every few months. Haven't owned a TV for a decade. It really is time for the BBC to become a subscription service imo, so they can leave us law abiding conscientious objectors alone.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Can I ask if your threatening letters are addressed to you by name?

      I get one a week, but they are always addressed to "The Householder".

  19. Claverhouse Silver badge

    On the licence fee issue she said she was "open-minded" about scrapping the mandatory £154.50-a-year licence fee and replacing it with a subscription service similar to Netflix.

    As a legitimist I have many bad thoughts about democracy, and part of it's intellectual bankruptcy in western democracies has to be that important decisions are directed by a transient minister's personal current feelings.

    As for another example the difference in prisons under Grayling and his immediate successor, who overturned much of what the prior incumbent did.

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Just found out Mr. --- dare we hope Lord in one of those creepy Honours List stuffed with clapped-out pop stars of the 1960s, reputable Asian businesspeople, BBC producers who pleased the government, some prominent donators to party funds, including minor gongs for people who served school lunches for 50 years or who hair-dressed the PM's partner ? --- Grayling was himself a BBC producer before invigorating the political world.

      Gove was a Telegraph journalist, just like his dear master.

      .

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/03/world/europe/grayling-ferries-uk.html

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Raspberry Pi TV detector van detector kit

    For plans send £19.99 to Bob, block D, c/o Wormwood Scrubs

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Raspberry Pi TV detector van detector kit

      Hilarious, comedy genius. And they could be very small vans.

      I used to work in a very hi-tech company opposite the TV detector van company in Cumbernauld. There must have been at least 50 vans, and over three years none of them moved. Because everyone knew by then that they were fakes. They couldn't detect shit on their shoes.

  21. FromTheRoot

    Don't give a hoots about the BBC

    I've not personally watched it for 5 years, and haven't paid my license fee for 3 years.

    I am shocked that one of the key points of the article, the end to end encryption by Facebook, which includes WhatsApp messenger has not yet a single comment, although I believe there was an article sometime ago about it.

    Seems they are still pushing for it to be banned. I would imagine one day they will ban any app using e2e encryption, from the ministry of culture itself how 1984.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hacker House

    Would that be named after Jim Hacker ?

    1. Winkypop Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Hacker House

      Yes, Minister.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Hacker House

        And while we're on the subject:

        "But the whole point of having a government internal audit service looking at this is to make sure that we take it seriously."

        Surely she knows that the point is to find a lot of non-evidence.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you're paying for streaming, there shouldn't be any adverts

    That's the whole point - free TV with ads or subscription based without them.

    That Murdoch has hoodwinked the public that they should accept ads and subscription is an impressive confidence trick.

    Thanks OFCOM - great job of looking after the customer as always :(

  24. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Previously she was chair of the Treasury Select Committee"

    Gamekeeper turned poacher.

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