Funding Auntie

Following on from Sunday’s leak/pre-announcement, yesterday saw the actual announcement of a host of changes to the licence fee.

In summary:

  • The licence fee will survive for at least another 5 years
  • The cost of the licence fee will rise by inflation, ending 7 years of price freezes
  • The government intends to alter the scope of the TV licence to include catch-up services
  • The BBC is take over the cost of subsiding free TV licences for those 75 and over

I’m not, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, a fan of the licence fee, considering it to be nothing more than a tax on watching live television. I’d much rather see the BBC funded though one or more of advertising, subscription or micro-payments.

For myself, I’ve not paid the tax since the analogue signal was switched off in my area in 2012. Having a (now) rather ancient, in technological terms, CRT set and no way to pick up the digit signal via it, I made the decision to stop watching and save myself £145.50 a year.

Like many I am though known to watch programmes via catch-up, an entirely legal (at present) approach which was last week blamed by Auntie for costing it £150m and 1,000 jobs. As if it has a right to that money.

If the government does go ahead and remove this ‘loophole’, I shall either stop watching anything on iPlayer altogether or use a VPN on the odd occasion when I do want to watch something. Either way, the BBC won’t be getting a penny out of me (directly at any rate) unless I buy some of its shows on DVD.

The sneaky, and perhaps downright nasty, move though is lumbering the BBC with the costs of subsiding the licence fee for those 75 and over. Previously this ‘freebie’, introduced by Gordon Brown in 2001, has been borne by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and is estimated to currently cost the taxpayer £631m.

Sneaky because it gets it off the government books and means that the BBC has to swallow the cost yet nasty because it is not the choice of the BBC to provide this subsidy and there is no way for them to withdraw it without finding themselves getting it in the neck from a lot of people and organisations.

If the government (rightly or wrongly) wishes to subsidise something it should pick up the tab itself (with taxpayer money) rather than pass the cost of doing so on to another party which has no power to end it.


  1. Tom says:

    I agree 100% with the last sentence but is the BBC really “another party”? It is nominally independent but was created by the state and is funded by state force. It is in practice a state broadcaster peddling the Establishment view. Surely the state can decide from which of its own pockets to pay a bribe? The real question is why a free society needs such an institution.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      It has a separate funding stream from central .gov unlike, say, various so-called charities so it is nominally a separate entity and one which could, in theory, break away – but won’t because it likes having a funding stream backed up by state violence.

  2. woodsy42 says:

    It’s actually an appalling arrangement. It means the iniquity of the ‘poll tax’ element is not only ignored but now the single mother on minimum wage will be subsidising the over 75s free TV (rather than tax which is at least nominally income related). That’s in addition to completely failing to sort out salaries, fairness and bias in the BBC or the creep of the BBC into local news with disasterous results for local papers etc and their tax funded competition with other mainstream media.

  3. Furor Teutonicus says:

    We have the GEZ in Germany, which is the same thing as the Licence tax.

    To get around people having the utter cheek to watch their crap on computer, now EVERY household has to pay GEZ.

    There are cases going to court of people who live in the middle of nowhere. caravans, one or two in tents, and do not even have electric, let alone all this T.V gubbins, no radio, no computers, no nothing, except candles and a roof. Yet they have to pay the tax, because they are registered as an address by the post office.

  4. Furor Teutonicus says:

    Oh! Ans, the programmes that are “financed” by this theft, are such utter crap, I know of no one, or any one who knows any one, that actualy WATCHES them.

    • Flaxen Saxon says:

      I live in New Zealand. There is no direct ‘fee’ for watching tele. However, most of the offerings are total shit. All reality cooking and property progs. Makes me want to burn stuff, it really does. To be fair though, NZ doesn’t have the population to fund quality tele. That is why we have adverts every 7 minutes. Frankly, I’ve stopped watching and retreat into my study. This leaves the missus and number one daughter to watch utter crap.

  5. john77 says:

    “Sneaky” – I agree. It is 5% of the so-called “savings” that George Osborne has said he will find in the welfare budget: one could almost call it “cheating”.

  6. tomo says:

    The BBC would have a shuddering climax if the GEZ made its way across the channel.

    As it stands – I’m guessing that the organisation is – indeed has – started snooping IP addresses on an industrial scale and that the TV version of speed cameras is on its way.

    The enforcement industry will fight subscription all the way – at every hedge , ditch and garden wall…

    Being a long term occasional iPlayer watcher – it suffers from the same manipulations as the broadcast channels and I’ve increasingly found it to be regularly unwatchable – which given the BBC’s back catalogue is simply an an indictment of the present corrupt cabal that operates the state broadcaster.

    If they put it on a subscription / pay per view model – then fair enough. If it turns into a “fines for stealing” media traffic warden jamboree which is the likeliest scenario…. I’d like to think that the backlash will finally bury this dysfunctional bunch of corrupt grasping bureaucrats.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      The idea of applying the licence fee to anyone with a computer/internet connection has been floated by Auntie in the past but has, so far anyway, been shot down.

      If they want to pull the teeth of the enforcement industry they should decriminalise watching live TV without a licence. This would also have the advantage of not sending however many thousands of people to court each year, thus generating savings within the legal system.

      • Furor Teutonicus says:

        XX thus generating savings within the legal system. XX

        YES! Exactly!

        And tell me the LAST lawyer you knew who willingly cut the throat of the golden goose.

  7. Bucko says:

    I agree with your last sentance but I don’t think I’ll shed a tear for the BBC in it’s current form.
    One thing I don’t mind my the tax pot paying for is free stuff for old folk. They’ve been paying all their lives, so so what? It would be better if the government didn’t spend all the tax as it gets it and rather keep some back for old folk subsidies. That way the young folk wouldn’t actually be coughing up for these things, they’d be paying for their own future.

    • tomo says:

      The free TV for old folk thing arithmetic is a crock …

      The way it was funded assumed that each and every over 75 had a TV licence…. (that the gubmint paid the BBC for) i.e. 2 tellys for a married couple and also that nobody didn’t watch… all those in shared accommodation were counted individually too for BBC tax… – dishonest hardly covers it.

    • Misanthrope Girl says:

      They’ve been paying all their lives in to a myth, a promise that held no water from the very beginning of the welfare state but was enough to capture everyone in the system with the promise of sweets tomorrow just so long as you didn’t mind having your pocket picked today. As we now know, the money stolen is spent that yet, not invested in a pot with your name on it.

      I’ve nothing against the idea of a pension, but I would like to see the age at which it can be claimed reflect something closer to the original idea of insurance rather than assurance as it is now. I’d also scrap all of the add-ons (free TV licences, winter fuel allowance etc) and roll the cost in to the weekly cash sum, capped at something fairly modest. That way they can spend it as they please and you make savings in the bureaucracy involved.

      I like to think we are moving towards the idea of people funding for their own early retirements (although it would help if .gov stopped reducing the amount you can save in to a pension over a working lifetime) and that, whilst the transitionary pain is falling on my generation and the one following, it will make life easier for the ones after that. Time will tell but I doubt I’ll live long enough to find out.

  8. Longrider says:

    The French add the licence fee to the Tax Habitation. There is a nominal opt-out. You have to declare that you don’t have a television. I wonder how many do and what the process is for catching liars? Or more likely, it has become a blanket telly tax.

    • Furor Teutonicus says:

      It also goes by what they define as a T.V.

      Germany it is any apparatus capable of recieving T.V signals or programmes. That means everything from T.Vs, to Mobile phones (The new ones), computers and lots in-between.

      The fact is, that courts nowdays, wherever you are just will NOT believe that there is anyone in the world that dose NOT have this capability. Therefore the “Opt out” is impossible here. You have an address, they assume you have T.V access.

      What ever happened to the days when they had to prove guilt, and Joe Bloggs did not have to prove his innocence?

  9. Dioclese says:

    The point is that it’s not actually a TV licence. It’s ‘broadcast receiving licence’

    You don’t need a TV to receive broadcasts. If you watch the BBC on a PC then you need a licence. It is logical that this should include so called catch up services like iPlayer (which is shite anyway IMHO unless you have fibre or cable. I don’t.)

    Maybe the BBC should be subscription like Sky and the others then there’d be a choice whether you watch it or not and pay accordingly.

    Of course, there’s always Pirate Bay which I would, of course, never endorse for illegal watching but would point out there’s stuff on there legally as well. I have a musician friend who has three albums of his own on there quite legally because he owns the copyright and chooses to give them away for free. Bit like Prince and U2 on iTunes if you think about it…