Should the TV licence fee be scrapped?

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Posted Mar 26 2016 by Dave Darby of

It’s a tricky one. The argument for the licence fee (and one that I used to subscribe to until I watched the Panorama corporate propaganda piece – see below) is that the Beeb produces drama of a quality not found anywhere else. But a) they can still do that with a subscription service, b) the vast majority of the BBC’s output is no better than the commercial channels, and c) it’s not as important as countering corporate propaganda – we won’t die if we don’t get the occasional good period drama, but we might unless we get off the corporate path.

The BBC is a corporate mouthpiece. It’s a state organ, and the state is corporate. The BBC is pro-corporate and tirelessly promotes a corporate agenda – note, not a left- or right-wing agenda; there is a running battle between those who accuse the BBC of a right-wing bias and those who accuse it of a left-wing bias. That dichotomy is false, and worse, a distraction. The real distinction is between the corporate sector and the rest of us. The higher echelons of the corporate sector don’t care whether you call yourself left-wing or right-wing – they sit at the top of the economic hierarchy regardless, and you are subject to them.

So we have Panorama, with a serious documentary telling us that opposition to GM crops is scientifically illiterate. But the problem with GM crops has nothing to do with science – it’s about ownership. GM crops do what they say they do. The problem is that they funnel money and power to the corporate sector. That’s what they’re for – there’s no other problem that they solve. To focus on the science is propaganda.

And we have Question Time, which only questions the means, not the ends. Basing our economy on perpetual growth, exports and international competitiveness just reinforces the corporate system, and is inherently unsustainable. Unless we change direction, it will damage ecology to the point that our survival will not be guaranteed. And yet it’s the default position at the BBC. Economic policies are judged on their ability to increase growth and exports, claiming that it creates jobs, when an economy of smallholdings and small businesses producing for their communities provides many times as many jobs – and much higher quality jobs at that.


But of course no-one is forcing anybody to pay for a TV licence – no-one is forced to have a TV. The really low-impact thing to do is to get rid of our TVs – they’re manufactured by corporations, sold by corporations and used to pump corporate advertising or propaganda into our homes. I suspect that quite a few of you reading this don’t have a TV (otherwise you’d probably be watching it instead of reading this). But it’s difficult to do it wholesale when people are addicted to it and there isn’t enough community cohesion to replace it. I suspect that the next generation won’t be as addicted to TV, although they’ll probably spend more time in front of a screen – just online rather than being guided by a TV company.

There’s also something quite distasteful about a national licence fee for an institution that seems to have been systematically covering up for high-profile paedophiles for several decades.

If the licence fee is scrapped, the BBC won’t die – it will move to subscription or advertising or both. You don’t have to buy what the corporations are advertising, so at least they can’t demand money from you, even if you’ve already bought a TV from them. But even if the licence fee is scrapped, enough people will fall for the advertising and keep feeding the corporate beast to keep it alive. If you have any ideas on how to tempt people away from the noxious lure of the corporate sector, let us know.