2008-01-23

Public Broadcasting stupidity

I'm a big fan of public broadcasting. I think it provides better news and current affairs than commercial channels and that the entertainment that it does produce can be quite influential in how commercial channels adjust their programming.

But where does public broadcasting get its funds? Here in Australia, the ABC is funded directly by tax revenue, and the amount given is determined by the federal government. In the US, PBS is funded by a combination of advertisers, government funding and viewer donations.

But by far the most weird way of funding is to be found in Britain. The BBC is funded by what are called "Television Licences". If a person wants to watch TV in Britain, they need to buy a licence. Those licence fees then go towards paying for the BBC's content. It's a novel way of doing things, but, I have to say, it is crazy.

Britain is (as far as I know) the only country in the world where you can be arrested for watching TV. If you haven't paid your licence, government heavies can get you taken to the police. Fines and even imprisonment can occur if you haven't paid your licence fee.

Ah, you may ask, but how would they know? Simple. "They" (ie the BBC) know exactly which residences don't have licences. So what they do is get a "TV detector van" to patrol the streets and nab people for watching TV without a licence.

Of course, owning a TV and only watching DVDs or videos is completely legal in Britain. It's when you start watching broadcasts without paying the licence that you get in trouble.

I have to say, the whole idea is obsolete and inefficient. Here in Oz we just buy a TV and start watching. No licences, no TV detector vans patrolling the streets, no threats mailed to you by the BBC.

To see just how ridiculous this system is, read this website. In it, a person has collected over two years worth of letters he has received since he stopped paying his licence fees. He is treated as though he were a criminal. Moreover, as the letters continue to arrive, he begins to discover bogus statistics and even three different signatures from the same person. Using FOI legislation, he is able to compare what his legal rights are to what he is told by the BBC. It's amusing and very annoying.

5 comments:

Ron Lankshear said...

We used to live in dread of the VAN coming round our street. Actually we had them in OZ too - I have one somewhere - in my "all the things I will scan one day very soon".

But WHO is the bloke with the mike?

One Salient Oversight said...

Alvar Lidell

apodeictic said...

Many countries have a tax on owning TV for the purpose of watching broadcast television. Wikipedia even has an article dedicated to the topic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licence

What's even more interesting is that in this day and age when you can listen to most radio broadcasts online for free some countries still place a tax on owning a radio. When living in Germany I was shocked to learn that by law I had to pay a tax of over 5 Euros a month just for owning a radio.

I'm not sure if any country takes enforcement for non-compliance as seriously as the UK though. When I was living in Germany I never saw any "detector vans" or heard of anyone getting letters (threatening or otherwise) from the GEZ (the TV and radio licensing mob in Germany). Most university students I knew who had a TV or radio didn't bother paying their licence fee and never got into trouble for it. But I think among people with real jobs that the rate of voluntary compliance was fairly high.

Australia used to have TV licensing as well but this was abolished in 1974 (one of the few sensible things Gough ever did).

apodeictic said...

Haha, after writing my reply Wednesday morning (GMT), upon coming home home on Wednesday evening I was privileged to become the proud recipient of my very own "OFFICIAL WARNING" (upper case, red, underlined,) from "TV Licensing", addressed not to me personally but to the "Legal Occupier". "TV Licensing" is in actual fact a number of companies to whom the BBC outsources the collection of this tax. The letter asserts that because I have "not responded to [their] warnings" my address "is scheduled for a visit from [their] National Enforcement Division".

This is a load of bollocks. It's the first letter they've sent me at this address and I've been living here for almost 9 months. They have no idea who who I am (the addressee is anonymous) and whether or not I watch television at this address.

Finally, that website you linked to now appears to be down (I could view it yesterday, however). Perhaps the TV Licensing heavies have finally caught up with him :-) I did, however, manage to find this pdf document apparently released under FOI. http://www.bbc.co.uk/foi/docs/finance/licence_fee/TVLicencing.pdf From there I then went and looked up the relevant legislation online.

I'm wondering whether I should just ignore their letter or ring them up (at my expense!!!) to get them to visit my house (at my inconvenience!!!) and confirm that I don't watch TV here so that they stop annoying me?

BLBeamer said...

When I follow the link you provided, I get this message:

The domain parked page appears when visiting this domain name because the owner has not yet uploaded their own website or holding page.

This page will disappear as soon as the owner of the domain uploads their own website. This domain parked page also confirms successful registration and setup of the domain name.

Are you the owner of this domain name?

If you are the owner of this domain, why not consider adding a hosting service and building your very own website for the domain?