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The BBC will not ‘reinvent’ its thugocratic model

Jeff Jarvis is consulting the BBC, and is excited over the Beeb’s claims that it wants to “reinvent” itself. Here is what I said to Jeff:

Jeff, the point is that the BBC doesn’t want to ‘reinvent’ the very worst element of itself: the funding via shakedown of Joe Public. We’re not talking about a situation where a small percentage of the income tax or sales tax a person pays over a year is diverted to the BBC. One cannot own a radio or television without paying a ‘protection fee’ – Mafia-style – to the BBC. Don’t pay? You get a huge fine, and if you don’t or can’t pay it, you are thrown in prison.

The BBC is not going to ‘reinvent’ the threat of violence under which they operate. It’s not even a remote possibility. Ask some of your contacts there what the odds are, and I assure you they’ll laugh in your face.

The facts are inconvenient and chilling, but they are facts. Isn’t that what journalism is supposed to be about?

I really do not understand how people – not just Jeff, because there are a hell of a lot of them – who would be outraged over being shaken down by corporate interests can be so qualm-free about being shaken down by politicians and bureaucrats. Then again, these are often the same people who fully realise how incompetent and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats are, yet want to give them more and more responsibility for running a big chunk of our lives (healthcare, education, you name it). Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

15 comments to The BBC will not ‘reinvent’ its thugocratic model

  • When analogue TV is phased out, which will happen some time during the next few years, we will be able to make disappear the current difficult situation with the TV Licence Fee.

    Then, the BBC (like all other digital TV stations) will be able to introduce encryption and so introduce user selection of whether to pay their charges to watch their stations.

    That will buck them up.

    Best regards

  • Paul Marks

    There is no radio license in Britian.

    However, “Capita” (a company that lives off government contracts and handles T.V. license stuff) has a practice of sending threatening letters to any address without a T.V. license – even if there is no television at the address concerned.

    Many people just give up and pay in the end.

    “But that is silly” say people in a good position in life.

    You forget, many (millions) of people in this country are border line depressives (or over the line deressives) who just can not cope with yet more threats and general irritation.

    The rise in this state of mind is not genetic (there has been no time for such evolution to take place) it is simply that (for ever increasing numbers of people) life in modern Britain (perhaps the modern world in general) is just unbearable.

    I have a television, but I can understand people who pay up even when they do not have one. A friend of mine in Scotland has had endless letters going over a period of years. Letters from him saying he had no television and invites to officials to come and look round his flat have had no effect.

    He has still not paid (as far as I know), but only because (in his situation and state of mind) being sent to prison may not be such a bad option.

    One must also watch out for legal action. The way that the courts have mutated, it is quite possible to lose an action (during which one has bankrupted oneself with legal costs) even if “common sense” would indicate that one should win.

    It would not surprise me to learn that the courts have ordered people without televisions to pay T.V. licenses (plus vast fines and threats of being sent to prison) – after all such people may not have turned up for the relevant court date, or may have filled one of the (endless) legal documents in wrongly – or whatever.

    The endless bits of paper and weird management language one faces in any walk of life in modern Britian just leave people in despair.

    The days of if you could do a job well you would be left to it are long gone. These days one does not even get a decent job unless one has contacts or is good with forms and “management speak”.

    Take my own stituation. I not only have a good knowledge of various subjects (even my worst enemies admit this), and I can teach (even establishment “observations” confirm this), but there is no way what-so-ever that I could ever pass a P.G.C.E. course (of whatever type). So I will never got a job teaching (the role of the “class room assistant” is one that should not exist).

    It is the gap between myth and reality.

    Take study for a higher degree. The myth is that presenting powerful eviedence in a well argued way for an thesis (an argument) will get one a Phd – D.Phil. The reality is that neither evidence or argument have anything to do with it.

    “You must adapt to modern society”

    Sorry, I do not want to – I am not interested.

    And there are vast numbers of people like me in Britain.

    However, we seem to lack the energy to smash “modern society” (as we would like to do), so the government is safe in ignoring us.

    Still (to end on a positive note), I do believe that the days of the B.B.C. (as a major power) are numbered. The improvements in technology mean that (over time) television shows will come via the internet.

    People will simply claim that they never use their (big screen) computers to watch television shows (and get rid of their television equipment).

    Enough people will summon up the energy to fight Capita (or whoever) in the courts – and they will start to win (perhaps with help with the forms and the costs).

    The B.B.C. will then appeal to the government for aid (thus blowing up the nonsense about it being an independent enity) and the government will indeed give it taxpayers money.

    BUT – not huge amounts (money will be very short by then).

    So the B.B.C. will end up like P.B.S. in the United States. It will exist – but it will not be important.

  • Paul Marks

    Well I just wrote a comment and I have got a “Thank you for commenting….” piece of nonsense in reply.

    To judge by the fate of the comment I wrote in reply to what some people said concerning my “Vikings” posting, my comment will never appear.

    By God I hate this world.

  • Damocles

    Don’t worry – when everyone’s watching programmes online instead of on TV, they’ll want to introduce a computer licence or internet connection licence. Then maybe these people will understand the fundamental disgrace in the licence fee, but probably not until then.

  • @Paul Marks, who wrote: “By God I hate this world.” and other things about lost postings.

    For fact and informed opinion, you do very well; even impressively. This is even though I do occasionally disagree with you conclusions.

    So please keep on.

    Concerning the bastard computer losing your hard-written stuff: it is a bastard computer!!

    However, if you write the longer stuff with your word processor, you can save it to disc to avoid losing it, and have the spelling checked. [Note: on the latter, I don’t see any problem at all with you spelling, so perhaps you are really good on that, which would not surprise me (or even check it already).] I know it’s a pain, but it’s like insurance. [Have fun parsing that “like”. I’m sure the subtle tease won’t be lost on you, but I’m mentioning it for the less erudite Samizdatzi.]

    Best regards

  • Pau

    A computer license (or other form of tax) – I had forgotten about that.

    Still at least my comment was kindly put on (thanks to Jakie).

    I still feel (“in my gut”) that the B.B.C. will decline. If this is an illusion I will cling on to it.

    The B.B.C. is losing viewers. And everything it does (from getting rid of the “U.K. theme” to axing “Grandstand” just irritates people.

    The fewer viewers it has the weaker this vile organisation will be.

  • Nick M

    The computer license idea has been around for a while.

    The last I heard, they floated the idea of a 10% additional sales-tax on PCs and PC bits. And that’s on top of 17.5% VAT. Talk about a way to screw the UK’s competiveness for the C21st.

    Internet broadcasting destroys the BBC funding model totally. I’ll be torrenting shows down the wire while they’re still persectuting pensioners. They’re finished. Alas, the abhorent Tessa Jowell hasn’t woken up and smelt the flowers.

    The great digital switch-over will see absolute chaos. It wouldn’t surprise me if it brought civil insurrection to UK streets. I suspect it’s just second to ID cards because those lovely BBC Freeview ads don’t mention that you need a set-top box for every TV in the house, you might need a new aerial for 200 quid and because the boxes only have a single tuner you can’t tape channel x while watching channel y. There will be blood on the ceiling.

    Any attempt to further tax computers will see blood on the walls too. Certainly from me. I would personally spay Ms Jowell with a rusty hacksaw.

  • Verity

    Nick M writes: “Alas, the abhorent Tessa Jowell hasn’t woken up and smelt the flowers.”

    I’ll bet she’d wake up if she smelled Gordon Brown.

  • watcher in the dark

    The Beeb lives on under the shelter of what is still perceived in many homes as a fair and righteous organisation, and those who do not pay the licence fee are considered wastrels and scoundrels. Indeed I recall my grandparents, when ITV began broadcasting, calling BBC “our station” and the commercial channel “theirs.”

    Back then, people who preferred ITV’s output were considered not quite right. Poor things!

    With its wartime radio “heroics”, accessibilty and vaunted World Service educating the rest of the planet, the BBC was thus able to capitalise on its position and threats of detector vans (did they actually work?) and fines were seen as okay. How could we object to an institution the like of which the rest of the world could only envy?

    Even relatively recently, the “shock” of Des Lynam switching to ITV was a result of the BBC’s carefully established position. people and the MSM were thus signaling that the licence fee was a small price to pay for maintaining this neutral, fair and superior public service.

    So, how much more decay will it take, how many more defections of “talent” will it take (including the increasing loss of major sporting events) and how many more pro-terrorist, anti-British way of life editorial stances to persuade us that it isn’t worth whatever they charge.

    I don’t have much time for Sky (once known as the channel where the only British accents you heard were in ads, between-programme links and the villains in cheap US Movies) but at least it is a choice whether I want to buy into it.

    On this matter, why does the government waste then so much money and time chasing the fee? If they stuck a £100 on each new TV sold for the Beeb to skim off, then they can have an income… of sorts.

    Programme sponsorship would be an even better idea… say a discrete ad at beginning and end. But then, fewer people are watching “auntie’s” ouput so maybe it is only a question of time.

  • This is just a list of some of those at the sharp end at the BBC God knows what all the invisibles get,Paxo is on a million a year so you will have to go through him first.
    The idea that the BBC will wither and die is pie in the sky,there are simply too many vested interests.No political Party would survive trying to take te BBC down.
    What we have is the 21C version of feudalism.

  • The Internet spells the end of BBC. Who would pay for the propagation of opinions directly opposed to theirs and to reason unless there was a gun at his head? The Internet has given the gun to the bloggers.

  • Julian Morrison

    I think the internet will end it for another reason: it attacks the root strength of BBC, which is that the public thinks it’s necesary.

    As TV shifts to online, people will realise that most of the interesting content is produced by “ordinary people” with no more funding than a tip jar — that is, the BBC’s “need for public funding” will be exposed. They’ll be one content provider among many, and people will ask “why are we subsidizing them”. At that point, they’re rootless. Political support will dry up, and the TV tax will vanish.

    This would be accelerated by any attempt to push for a computer tax. People would say “you produce a lot of the stuff on our TV, but what do you have online? one measly site out of billions, and for this you want to tax us?”

  • Nick M

    The net will screw the BBC for another reason as well… I’ve had ADSL for a while but I always considered the idea of listening to the radio via my computer a little bit of technical overkill. In the last few weeks that’s changed and I’m now used to reliable reception and the choice of thousands of channels.

    The wire will win.

    You must get over your obsession with Gordon Brown’s odour. Having said that, your post almost made me spill tea over my trackpoint… Keep up the humour, we need more of it round here.

  • Those who think that digital will kill the TV tax because it would allow a subscription model to work are misguided. The BBC pulled off a strategic masterstroke by becoming part owners of Freeview. This allowed them to destroy the subscription system used by ITV Digital. I think our best hope is to publicise widely how easy it is to evade the licence fee. This will force them to make enforcement more draconian (or switch to funding out of general taxation). When this happens public resentment will increase and we’ll have them on the run.

  • Ali Hussein

    How to get a letter posted on “Have Your Say”: Submit a shallow, two-dimensional, illogical, naive opinion, shot through with spelling, typing, punctuation and grammatical errors. Show you have no notion of capitalisation, hyphenation or consistency, so politically correct BBC Muppets exiled to the “Letters Received Department” will assume that English is at best your second language. Finally, use an obviously Muslin name from a place that no one has ever heard of, that either ends in “stan” or begins with “Al”. Throw in expressions like “God the merciful will punish all unbelievers” and success is all but guaranteed. Where’s your sense of humour, Infidels?