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When we were kids there was something called the 'TV Detector Van', or at least we thought there was. It was a phantom like vehicle that no one ever saw, but believed to have some sort of diamond shaped aerial on top and often disguised, hi-tech electronics inside that could tell if people had their tallies on or not without looking. If you were watching the Grundig Grinding without paying the license then there was a small chance you could be fined if this thing pulled up outside the twitching net curtains.
The van tended to patrol in the middle of the day, inevitably ending up targeting gullible housewives who would crack and own up to watching the telly when they weren't licensed. The people from the mysterious vans wouldn't bother knocking on doors after the kids came home from school as the men of the house would come up with all manner of excuses why they had no license but they had a telly, Vivian, memorably eating the telly on the Young Ones!
If you have a TV in the U.K it's presumed you watch BBC and so you must pay the license fee, the only country in the world,I believe, that operates this bizarre anarchistic state control. At least the propaganda is free in Russia, country that enjoys patrolling neighborhood in sinister undercover vans. Nobody likes paying the bill and as the detectors targeted those women in their homes during school hours it's inevitable it's the one non payment that puts most women in prison. In Scotland this and shoplifting are the number one reasons why women go to jail, some 1200 alone last year, which is quite extraordinary if you think about it.
The latest push to bring in revenue from the license fee is business radio taxing. Some firms started receiving emails and letters demanding money for using a radio at work. Nearly all of the companies thought it was a con and so ignored it, only to get a higher fine. But it is legal and if you or your staff play a radio at work it's deemed usage and so eligible for the BBC version of the radio license, some £36.50, the real earn for the BBC being the fact no one pays its and so the fines multiply.
The BBC, of course, has never advertised commercially on its television channels, not knowingly anyway, although they have decided to have limited commercial representation on their web content as from the spring. With the BBC, under the mercurial Greg Dyke, effectively taking on the government of the day over the illegal war in Iraq it has inevitably seen the so called 'establishment' close ranks and effectively 'knee-cap' their news content for telling the truth over the dodgy dossier, threatening to send half the corporation to Manchester and Birmingham for their sins. The heads of the BBC are appointed by the government and they expect them to be favorable to the party. Dyke was card carrying Labor and didn't play ball. Eventually it was decided the punishment would be cost-cutting measures and the sports section targeted, including the whole of Radio Five, all having to move north whilst millions of pounds are continuing to be wasted in the South East on BBCi , their lavish TV and radio digital channels. When you pay the full license its bloody annoying you can't get the full services if you don't have a digital TV. Surely by the laws of the license they should buy us all digital TVs! If they can detect what telly you are using they should be able to know if you can get digital, and so a reasonable refund if you cant get digital.
So now the big debate is should the BBC scrap the license fee and compete with the dwindling advertising revenues that are seeing the likes of ITV and C4 somewhat squeezed. With more and more people spending time on the Internet or playing video games, more advertising is being switched on-line . Although the BBCs news and entertainment websites are the most popular and most trusted news outlets on the planet they cant really bring in much money. It's the TV where they would need to earn the considerable billion pound revenue they have been used to and so couldn't possibly support the logistical world wide set up they have now. The whole point of the BBC was to be impartial and not to be influenced by commercial concerns. ITV are solely commercial and we all saw what happened with their rip off phone scandals. I'm still stunned no one went to prison over that blatant fraud.
Big business can influence factual content, usually news content loyal to certain corporations they may be financing stations. This is particularly noticeable in America. Whilst working in Miami I recall being intrigued by the amount of good news stories there were about google , only to discover the software mega-corp had big share holdings in the Florida TV station chain. If you didn't know that you would be tempted to buy stock in goggle as they are doing so well and in the news all the time. This does happen on ITV and the likes of SKY here but it's more subtle, perhaps hot hearing the connected company's bad news when you perhaps should.
The advertising industry, of course, has one purpose in life, make you think like you have a hole in your life and then make you feel guilty enough to fill it with crap you obviously don't need. The men in the TV adverts are deliberately wet and hen pecked, making guys feel inadequate, the women hold the purse strings in the commercials and so women then feel they are in the right and so feel justified in spending all the household income on more crap. You may not think you are influenced by TV ads but now I have told you that I'm sure you will study the adverts and think again.
There are plenty of people out there that think the BBC is a propaganda arm of the government of the day and it's a bit rich that we have to pay £140 a year to listen to that preaching-but should the BBC be free? For me, no, but £140 is too much. If they go commercial they will no longer be impartial and so bound to tell the truth. I do trust BBC newsmen over nay others and when I have traveled around the world everyone tunes into the BBC if they can get it when looking for world or even locals news of a big event. When I was in South Africa and Mandela came out of prison it was BBC pictures the black were watching on the early cable station because the local ones where in Afrikaans only, the blacks wanting to know it was real.
I think the BBCs radio coverage is excellent and unrivaled although the TV content has dipped badly in the last five years. They are obsessed with repeats and politically correct TV and are blatant about it. Do we get value for our money? Probably, but its one bill I could do without these days. I say its time to tie in the license fee with subscription channels as the digital age kicks in so you get the lot for so much a year. If we can get digital. I seem to recall John Major telling us we would all get Channel Five some 10 years ago. Hands up who still cant get C5 on the analogue! Roll on digital I say.