Monday, 30 October 2006

Woo and Yay for the BBC and the TV "Tax"

Snigger: UNEASYsilence discovers that the UK has a TV licensing regime. Way to go with the up-to-the-minute news, Dan.

Considering the quality of the programming on BBC TV and radio is consistently amongst best available, if not the best (IMHO), I’m really happy to contribute to the BBC this way. The moment “Aunty Beeb” stops giving value for money, that money’s going to be taken away from them. They know it, and the system works.

Also — “because of the unique way the BBC is funded” — the BBC has helped bring us technical leaps such as:

  • PAL colour (when the US had the awful NTSC standard)
  • 576 line TV (when the US had 480)
  • Digital stereo TV sound (when the US was doing analog)
  • RDS data over FM radio (which the US grudgingly picked up in half-hearted way recently)
  • An open DAB digital radio standard (when the US was doing closed, incompatible digital radio)
  • DVB-T digital television at no extra charge, using robust COFDM (while the US mess about with the quite dreadful 8-VSB)
  • 16:9 widescreen TV broadcasts (when the US was still bickering about HD)
The regulatory regime means that the majority of the population have access to 20-30 TV channels, free of charge, from a relatively small antenna, which doesn’t need to be rotated when you change channels. Meanwhile in the US, TV antennae are butt-ugly and often need to be pointed at several different transmitters, hence the popularity of expensive cable TV.

Detector vans are rare anyway — they’re only used to gather evidence for prosecution. If your household doesn’t have a license, you’ll be “invited” to buy one. If you don’t get one, it’s up to TV Licensing to prove that you’re breaking the law.

7 comments:

Gene & Linnea said...

Having lived in both the UK and the US, I can say that my favorite telly content has a British accent. But, while I tend to focus on the "taxation without representation issue" (and reveal my nationality) I think the real problem with the TV Tax is the poor value received. When I left the UK last year the tax was something like 130 GBP (that's about $210 USD). For the average bloke that is a weeks take home pay. So, is the BBC radio and television worth a week of your life each year?

Richi Jennings said...

Let's see, less than £11 a month for eight quality TV channels (plus bonus "interactive" channels that come and go), and something like ten radio stations, depending where you live. All ad-free, and much of it providing programming that simply wouldn't happen on an ad-supported channel.

Er, yes!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, the way the system works is that I have no c h o i c e on the matter. If I possess a television then I am forced to pay the license fee...under threat of fine and imprisonment.

Richi Jennings said...

@Anonymous: No choice? Except you can exercise your democratic rights -- the same as with other taxes.

Alternatively, either don't watch TV or live in another country.

Anonymous said...

It is a license fee, so its not IMHO a tax, but I take your general point. Trouble is these days my "democratic rights" are primarily assisted via the media or the political parties. Its hard to be heard through all the noise, although DIY blogs are a step in the right direction :-) No political party would dare take on the BBC. As for the media when was the last time you watched a sympathetic documentary about those in poverty who suffer the fines or imprisonment (they exist I know them). Tis true that I can simply not watch television. It is also true I can move to another country. But do you really think that this is a fair choice - if I want to watch a Bollywood movie on a Korean made DVD player then should I leave the country or pay the license fee. I 'kinda' made the choice, as my IP address no doubt tells you, I left the country. Remove the bias and much of the BBC output remains excellent. I really enjoy listening to their digital radio channels via the internet. I would pay for this privilege. Its just I prefer to have the choice. Btw excellent blog I would pay to read this also - albeit a small fee :-) Incidentally would you be prepared to pay a license fee to use a PC?

Richi Jennings said...

You bring up an interesting point -- we don't need a license to use a TV for things that don't involve watching broadcast TV.

Let me preface this by emphasizing that I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but it's my understanding that if you want to only watch DVDs, it's fine to do that on a TV as long as you don't also use the TV to watch TV (if you see what I mean). The usual advice is to make sure the TV isn't connected to an aerial/antenna and none of the presents are tuned in.

An issue that has been made far more eloquently elsewhere is that TV Licensing make it very unclear that this is the case. Generally, it seems to imply that "A TV requires a license", which isn't that case, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Having to pay a licence fee to the BBC makes it illegal to watch non BBc channels. It may be good value for some, but not for others. We only receive 1 & 2 in this area. Our fee is going to pay for the great programmes that others receive, but not us.

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