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