Firstly, it seems prudent to mention that I am a devotee of BBC programming. The quality has always been of a high standard, and I remain influenced by the BBC in general, whether it be radio or television.

I am not, however, a fan of how the BBC is funded. In fact, the idea of “public service broadcasting” has always seemed odd to me. The Communications Act suggests that public service television should: “inform, educate and entertain; offer something for everyone; be of a high standard, both in terms of the content of the programmes and the way they are made; include drama, comedy, music, feature films, news and current affairs, sport and leisure, educational programmes, science, religion and other beliefs, social matters, programmes for children and young people; reflect the different communities and cultural interests of the UK; and be made across the UK, not just within London and the M25.” (Ofcom.)

What strikes me as odd is that we have found it necessary to meet these fine objectives by providing them by force! Public service broadcasting, by its nature, entails that it is forcibly funded by everyone who owns a television in the United Kingdom (regardless of the purpose of their possession of the television). So, not to belabour the point, we are forcing the British people to pay for comedy shows on TV. We’re forcing them to pay for sports, at gunpoint if necessary. (Are we not?)

What if they don’t like sports?

And yet, many – perhaps most – do. So what strikes me as odd is that we must make such payment a decree, which applies across the entirety of society.

Before I go on, maybe I should present an alternative view of the television-watching UK public to you. It consists not of a single entity called ‘society’ which it can be assumed wishes to watch the output of a “public service” broadcaster and somehow automatically wishes to shell out £120 GBP per annum to pay for it, but instead sees the UK population as being 60 million totally separate individuals; individuals who have a diversity of interests, a variety of cultural attitudes, a multiplicity of styles, tastes and passions. It falls not to a singular organisation to provide for all of these individuals by forcible edict, but rather to a free market which – by its very nature – seeks to fill every need, satisfy every taste and fulfill every passion.

So let us look over the above Ofcom criteria in the light of a free market. It is in the interests of free market competitors to “inform, educate and entertain”, because by doing so they satisfy a demand for such programming that will help them stay solvent. The free market also offers “something for everyone”, does it not? It is in the interests of those in competition to “be of a high standard”, because in doing so they will be more popular and raise more revenue. Hallmark produces drama because of the market for it. Paramount offers comedy. MTV showcases music. Sky offers 12 channels dedicated entirely to “feature films” (another of the Ofcom criteria). CNN, news. ESPN, sports. Discovery, education and science. There are almost 12 religious broadcasters. There are scores of programs weekly dedicated to social issues. Fox Kids, Cartoon Network and others are dedicated to children’s output. The free market also reflects the diverse cultural interests of the UK by default, precisely because that diversity exists! Subscriptions to Asia TV and others are immensely popular among ethnic minorities. There is also a rich market for local broadcasting, allaying the fears of Ofcom (above) that such a thing can only exist by a coercive measure of law.

The interests of 60 million individuals are best served not by the commandments of their government but by other individuals who are attracted to the idea of serving those people and their interests. As I see it, the only reason we would need to force anyone to pay for anything is if that person didn’t particularly want the thing we are forcing them to pay for. And in that case, we need to ask some rather pertinent questions.

What possible motive could there be behind a drive to force on someone something they do not want? To engrain within them a certain kind of education? To keep 25,000 or more people in a job despite the demand (or lack) for their programming? To provide a powerful instrument of social engineering or political ideology? To satisfy the power lusts of a few? Or perhaps, in an admission of the banality of such matters, we should say that the motives simply align with broadly collectivist values which don’t have much respect for individual liberty, or which regard humans as farmers regard sheep.

No matter what the motive of “public service broadcasting”, one can be relatively sure of one thing: in its absence, it seems the folks who would miss it most would be those employed in its bureaucratic ranks. To be forced to fund a broadcasting corporation under threat of jail, the unpleasant upshot of an idea which ultimately intends to tell us all what we should value, and what we should enjoy (whether we want to watch the programming produced or not), is nothing short of a minor but blatant breach of human rights.

It is my view, therefore, that the BBC take one of two approaches to funding in future:

1) The BBC offer all current license fee payers the chance to convert their license to a monthly subscription at the same or an amended rate, or

2) The BBC revoke all direct viewer funding in favour of going commercial.

I will be extremely interested to hear the results of this charter review, and look forward to seeing some change. I wish you well in fulfilling the will of the British public in this area.

Yours sincerely,

John Wright