One of the things that periodically surfaces to my attention is the debate over the TV license that those in the UK pay. This funds the BBC including TV, radio and Internet activities (there are ‘fringe’ activities which are not funded by the license fee such as the BBC’s World Service. The notion of a tax on watching television is archaic and unfair to commercial broadcasters. However it should stay.
The first reason for keeping the license fee is that the BBC actually does quite a good job. Not all of it’s activities please everyone, but that is impossible goal to achieve and it is not something that the BBC should be trying to do anyway. Look at BBC News. This is the largest news organisation in the world with a well deserved reputation for probity and honest reporting … in any “big” news event, the UK population tends to switch to the BBC for news.
There are those who criticise the BBC News for impartiality … the one who makes the biggest noise is Israel who claim the BBC is anti-Israeli. Of course Israel views any kind of criticism of Israeli government actions as anti-semitic, so we can probably discount this criticism. In fact the BBC probably is not doing its job properly if it does not get criticised by Israel.
The BBC also produces a large range of original drama, documentary and entertainment programmes of high quality. In recent TV awards, the BBC was awarded 9 out of 20 awards. That sounds like the result a quality organisation would get.
There are those who say that having a well funded public broadcasting organisation is unfair to commercial broadcasters. They are right. So what? Life is unfair, get over it.
A far more subtle point is how the BBC could well be improving the quality of commercial broadcasting by existing. Thus those who only watch commercial TV (I have trouble believing anyone in the UK can actually stick to this!) are actually benefiting from the BBC without watching the BBC! It is hard to justify this claim especially if we are talking about the quality, but we can sort of see the effect on something that most people find irritating … the frequency of ad breaks on commercial channels.
When you watch American TV imports you can often see the pauses where advert breaks would have occurred had you seen the programme in the US; however over here we seem to have settled on having rather fewer breaks. Why? Well there is little commercial reason for doing so, except that if people get too irritated by ad breaks they can switch over to the BBC. So it seems that the existence of the BBC may have resulted in fewer ad breaks on commercial TV in the UK … which I’m sure most would agree is a good thing.
So we have decided that the BBC is good, but what about the license fee ? Well, the license fee is bad but it works … the BBC gets a fairly big chunk of money from it. Any change would risk how much money the BBC gets, and why break something that is not broken ?