For the benefit of American readers and as a healthy, timely reminder to my fellow Brits who can quite easily become used to the idea: the TV licence fee is a communist mechanism which provides the BBC a unique, privileged source of income from television-owning households in the United Kingdom on an involuntary basis under threat of imprisonment for failure to comply. If you have a television, no matter what you want to watch, and you happen to live in the United Kingdom, you have two choices: pay the BBC their damned licence fee, or be introduced to law enforcement officers and a possible jail sentence.

Now that we’re clear on that, consider today’s news from Reuters: “The BBC said it wants more than 1.6 billion pounds in increased funding to pay for a slew of new online services and the switchover to digital TV. Under the BBC’s proposal, the licence fee — a tax on all television-owning households, currently worth nearly 3 billion pounds a year — would be increased annually by 2.3 percentage points above the rate of inflation for the serve-year period from April 2007.”

This would make the licence fee 180 pounds – about $314 – per year, per household by 2014. Unbelievable. The fact that this archaic, impertinent, backward, abominable, absurd method of funding still exists is incredible enough; but now they want MORE? And, believe it or not, the extra funding they want to take from licence-fee payers is not enough to do what they want to do: “The BBC has identified 5.5 billion pounds in additional costs through 2014,” so they’re considering charging money for BBC online content as well.

And yet, I’m not surprised that The Behemoth has some ideas it wants to try. Who doesn’t? “The BBC is already testing a TV-over-internet product called iMP, which lets viewers watch the last seven days of BBC programming as a downloaded file on their computers.” Wonderful. Sounds great. But it is the pet project of a group of people who have the enviable position of having guaranteed funding by an act of law. When money is no object, one can try almost anything in the name of a public service, and, if it isn’t successful, at least it will have been regarded an effort in the public good. The problem is that the whole idea of a “public service” negates any sense of good that may happen to come out of it. It is NEVER in the public good to deprive people of the freedom to make their own choices on the issues that affect their own lives. The fact that their basic rights in this regard were violated to accomplish it invalidates any sense of betterment that may arise from being able to “watch the last seven days of BBC programming as a downloaded file” on your computer. It’s a no-brainer.

Indeed, the fact that you may not ever wish to use the extra “slew of new online services” or may object to the fruits of your hard-earned labour being taken for the forced “switchover to digital TV” is not even an object in this discussion! It simply does not matter – you still will be expected to pay 180 pounds every year for the few who do. The most astonishing thing is that people continue to pay it.

Does anyone seriously believe that British life would be any worse off without this socialist, freedom-sapping organization in the public pocket?

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John Wright

johnwright@softhome.net