Monday, 22 December 2008

TV Li(non)sense

I was recently pointed in the direction of this article on Jonathan Miller's Blog. Aside from Dr Miller's usual libertarian but distinctly illiberal claptrap the article raises a few interesting points.

Is TV detection possible? In theory, yes. Practical? Sometimes, it depends. As long as the dwelling in question is a detached house, occupied by one household, receiving its television through a conventional television or set top box and without any complicating environmental factors. A soon as these conditions vary the ability to pick up and locate the source of the RF leakage of any operating receiving equipment, declines rapidly.

Is the current way of enforcing licensing moral? If the picture painted is anything like accurate then the answer must be no. No method of enforcement can be if it seeks only to prosecute those least able to pay and least able to defend themselves, it violates the basic principle of equality before the law.

Is the method of enforcement legal? Despite implications in TV licensing's literature and the appearance and attitude of its Enforcers, they have no legal right of entry or the right to have there questions answered, they are, in fact, sales agents and any attempt to represent themselves as having any more powers than a door-to-door cosmetics salesperson could leave themselves, and their employer open to prosecution.

Is the TV license legal? Mr Miller makes much of the claim that this violates the European Convention of Human Rights, however, as EU Citizens we are guaranteed many rights which are then taxed making them only accessible to those who can afford them. The very same television set used to receive those broadcasts is subject to VAT (sales tax to non-Europeans) and our right of freedom of movement within Europe is curtailed by having to pay for a passport as well as taxes on every method of getting into and out of Britain.

This leads us to the question of how should the BBC be funded. It is my contention that what provides the unique spark for the UK's program makers is that at the heart of the British TV industry there is a commissioner and broadcaster of programs that is substantially independent of commercial and political independence. Indeed the only confrontation that i can think of between the BBC and the government of the day in which the BBC had to climb down was when one of its journalists had shown a level of political bias that caused him to fabricate evidence in order to further his own agenda.

The corporation is now governed by what is called a trust. Not what the rest of us would call a trust, it has no assets from which it draws an income it is reliant on a settlement over which it has no control. It is my opinion that the best way guarantee the future of the BBC is to make this trust a real independent entity that could then mange its funds to provide the BBC with a guaranteed income that would remain free of commercial and independent pressures for the foreseeable future.

I propose that a new BBC Trust fund be set up and that this be funded by a single, fixed grant from central government of some £15 Bn, equivalent to about 2 months government borrowing, this would free both the corporation from having to collect revenue and the state from any future financial obligation whilst remaining within its international obligations. Even conservatively invested this should provide the BBC with enough money to continue making excellent programs in the worst financial years whilst any surplus should be made available to other media outlets who wish to use it for Public Service programming.

If you've got to the end of this post without falling asleep please let me know what you think.

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