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It all seems comical, if not ridiculous now, but the TV license has been back in the headlines recently with the threat that many heralded its removal as the way forward, while others jumped to its defense, defending it as “great value for money.” -price”. ‘.
It got me thinking, is there still room for a license fee model that was introduced in 1946? Back then, the license covered a single black and white channel and cost £2, about £85 in today’s money.
Looking at it from that perspective, today’s £157.50 color license fee (or £53.50 for a black and white licence, which I must admit I was surprised to find was still a thing), seems like good value, giving access to , as a quick look at the television licensing website revealed, nine national TV channels plus regional TV services, 10 ‘pan-UK’ radio stations, six national and 40 local, the BBC website, BBC iPlayer , BBC Sounds, World Service and a host of apps and online services.
Probably if you fully enjoy everything on offer, I imagine very few do.
From that list I’ll happily acknowledge the fact that there was a time when I would have missed out on BBC Sounds, when it was Radio iPlayer, the portal to a host of informative podcasts and classic comedy. I’ve worked on most of them now, and unfortunately new flashy content is slow to show up.
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Similarly, while BBC iPlayer is invaluable for tracking down shows my Virgin Box can’t record, it’s not something I use regularly. Similarly, much of BBC drama these days is a shadow of its former self, both technically and creatively, so give me a Netflix drama abroad any day about BBC drama (and ITV , for that matter) which is now so formulated that every turn is telegraphed in advance.
Then there is the BBC news. It may not be as broad as it once was, although the fact that the right finds it too left and the left finds it too right probably means the truth lies somewhere in between.
So whether the license fee should be removed is a difficult decision, as a public broadcaster the BBC has a responsibility to be accessible to everyone but technology and the way we get our entertainment, sports and news has moved on… the days of gathering around the glasses case once a week and then living with a cliffhanger for seven days are gone.
The truth is that for many people the annual license no longer works. Many see a subscription service as the way to go. I agree with former BBC chairman Michael Grade that there is a need now to discuss the future of BBC funding, whether it remains a license, a hybrid license/subscription scheme or a simplification of platforms and BBC content to cut costs.
Either way, it’s a discussion that’s going nowhere anytime soon.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.