Blogathon 06/17: Licence to print money

BBC something's up

The BBC have announced a revamp of their iPlayer service.

A recent change in the law has already tightened up the rules about how and when people can use the iPlayer.

The rules are now very clear.

BBC iPlayer

You need to have a TV licence to watch BBC TV programmes, whether you watch them via broadcast, or watch them via the iPlayer catch-up service.

This is fair enough.

Because if you don’t have a licence but you do consume BBC TV output, you are a content thief.

Let’s face it, if you live in the UK you get a pretty good deal from the BBC.

  • A local radio network that mostly delivers unique content 24/7
  • Ten national radio networks that all deliver unique content 24/7
  • Eight national TV networks that mostly deliver unique content for a large part of the 24-hour day
  • A comprehensive news/magazine/weather website that is updated 24/7
  • A global network of BBC reporters, capable of reacting to, and reporting on, almost any event that that is thrown at them

And you get all of these things, advertising-free, for £145.50 a year.

That’s a pretty good deal.

Actually, no, it may not be.

It is only a pretty good deal if you actually make use of BBC content.

If you don’t consume any BBC content, it becomes a tax on a commodity that you’re never going to use.

There is a Facebook group dedicated to not paying the BBC licence fee.

BBC Licence Fee Witholders

I hung around there for a while, and was very disappointed to see that most members of that group are only concerned with not paying the licence fee whilst getting all the benefits of using all of the content.

People in that group say things like ‘I only have the BBC for my children’, and ‘I only watch Strictly’.

No, really they do.

Ironically, a significant number of the people in that Facebook group have Sky (with all the exorbitant costs that involves).



The thing I don’t like about the BBC licence fee is that there is no opt-out.

The way the law currently works, the licence fee agents (Capita) have to prove in a court of law that people are consuming BBC TV programmes, and the defendants have to show that they aren’t.

It’s one word against another.

This adversarial system is obviously flawed, and for the C21st, it is outdated.

We need a better, a fairer, and a more modern model of funding the BBC.

And of making sure that only those who consume BBC output pay for it.

I feel certain that the new version of iPlayer will have some sort of TV licence/account authentication mechanism built in to it.

And, in this digital TV age, it would surely be simple to encode BBC TV transmissions, and to have them decoded with a licence-related PIN?

I realise there are people who wouldn’t like this thinking, but moving the TV licence fee to a subscription model would be a step towards a fair system.

Wouldn’t it?

What’s the alternative?

Is there even an alternative?

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3 Responses to Blogathon 06/17: Licence to print money

  1. Dave says:

    We are able to watch and listen to the BBC live here in Franceland. When it comes to iplayer we cannot watch anything at all but can download podcasts and various past radio programmes through the BBC site. I’m reliably informed that if I set up a vpn then I can access iplayer. Now all I have to do is to work out how to do that.

  2. Masher says:

    TV is slowly but surely heading toward a subscription model, I’m sure of it.
    It is probably the only alternative to a licence fee system.
    But, where does it differ?
    Amazon and Netflix’s foray into the TV market, offering movies and TV box sets, are pretty good and both companies are making a profit on the back of it, I believe.
    But, subscription costs 6 quid a month. That’s seventy-two quid a year. And that price is bound to ramp up as they make and provide more content.
    Eventually, it will be a similar price to the licence fee anyway. And offering far less.

    I like your idea of a licence-based PIN number, but I fear the cost and logistics of setting up such a thing would probably make it completely nonviable.

  3. Allister says:

    We used to have a TV license in NZ. It was abolished around the turn of the century, but there is a government fund which any commercial broadcaster can apply for funds from. Our “state” broadcaster is in fact a “state owned enterprise” which must survive on commercial funding and return a dividend to the government.

    There is some poli in the news this week saying the gummint should sell off their interest because the “public service” provided is nil.

    So yeah, there are alternatives.