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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Open goal (for a quick-off-the-mark blogger)

The Sunday Times today reports that certain celebrity TV license fee refuseniks are not being harassed, on account of being too famous and too keen on getting the splurge of publicity that they would get if arrested, taken away in chains, thrown into a government dungeon, etc.. Vladimir Bukovsky, noted dissident against an earlier evil empire, thinks the BBC is too biased. Charles Moore doesn’t like Jonathan Ross.

Noel Edmonds thinks the TV licence televised threats are too threatening. Personally I don’t see how those threatening ‘adverts’ could do their job if they were not threatening. After all, their purpose is to threaten. If, instead of threatening, and as Edmonds would apparently prefer, they emphasised what very good value the BBC is, and then only slipped in as afterthought that, oh-by-the-way just-thought-we’d-mention-it, you have to pay the license fee whether you agree with all that or not, this would be at least as obnoxious. The threatening messages Edmonds objects to at least tell the story as it is. But, he doesn’t like them, and objects to being made to pay the license fee. Fair enough. He shouldn’t have to, no matter how unreasonable his objections may seem to others. And nor should anyone else, whatever their disagreements with the BBC may be.

Meanwhile, guilty but too famous is an interesting verdict, nicely calculated to elicit contrasting reactions. On the one hand, one law for the famous and another for the rest, and that’s bad. But, at least someone is making this point, and at least some of those doing this are not just getting away with it, but willing to say so in public. I am sure that we all await the BBC’s response to this public defiance with great interest.

If the BBC does nothing, then here, surely is a great opportunity for people not just to get more famous, but to get famous from a starting point of more or less complete obscurity. It will not have escaped the attention of obcurities thinking along these lines that one of the refuseniks the Sunday Times reports on is a UKIP guy by the name of John Kelly whom you have probably never heard of in any other connection.

In particular, here is a great opportunity for a blogger. All it needs is for one of our tribe to say, there, I am still watching my telly, but have not paid the license fee, and screw you BBC, and get his mates around to video everything that then ensues, and for the rest of us to link to all the hoopla and make sure that Instapundit and Guido link to it also (the latter being a certainty because it was at Guido that I learned of this Sunday Times piece in the first place), etc. etc., and, well, … there is surely a big slice of anti-authoritarian pro-libertarian anti-nationalised-industry fun to be had here.

Personally I like the BBC and feel that I get rather good value from it, much as people on the dole (at my expense) and bankers whose jobs have just been saved (ditto) must likewise feel satisfied. I like the classical music. I also like to copy telly movies onto DVDs and much prefer the BBC’s output, because it is so much easier not to have to edit out all those annoying adverts. I even like Jonathan Ross. I regard his regular outbursts of rudeness as the price we who like him must all pay (and people like the unfortunate Gwyneth Paltrow especially) for the sake of the less tasteless and more interesting conversations that his wacky/rude style also precipitates.

I do not think that there is much future in the notion that the BBC might one day become less biased. It is a nationalised industry. Only those who favour or at least tolerate that are likely to apply to work for it in any numbers. And those who do not fit that mold but who do show up in the BBC’s output are more likely to be caricatures of pro-capitalism than the real thing. No, the only answer is to dump the whole principle of compulsory payment for telly, and in the meantime for all who despise that principle to stir up as much trouble around it as we can. And here is a fine chance to do that.

16 comments to Open goal (for a quick-off-the-mark blogger)

  • Ian B

    I haven’t got a licence, because I haven’t got a TV. The letters they send are rude, stalinist, “we know you’re guilty” threats. Every now and again one of their inspectors arrives and trumps around my tiny flat, with a face like a wet weekend when they see the absence of a TV. Actually, one of them once in London was quite nice, a polite slightly wet but pleasant type I thought might be an unemployed english teacher. Once I’d let him in, he didn’t seem to want to inspect and rapidly made his excuses and left, which was just as well as after he’d gone I realised I’d forgotten the ancient black and white portable I’d left in the kitchen (its picture had degraded to unwatchable, I still had it because I just hadn’t bothered to throw it away).

    The last time one arrived, as he was leaving I said I’d be round to his house later to search for drugs, guns and contraband. He didn’t seem to find that funny. No sense of humour, these types.

  • What happens if they knock on your door and you tell them to go f*ck themselves? Can they force their way in w/o warrents or probable cause? Or is not having a TV considered to be probable cause? Not familiar with English law, I’m afraid.

  • Ian B

    Legally, you can tell them to f*ck off, and then they might get a warrant and arrive with a police escort. But in practical terms if you haven’t got a telly you may as well quell your libertarian orineriness and let them do their inspection. It tends to stop the flood of abusive letters for a while, before it resumes again.

    If there were millions of refuseniks telling them to f*ck off, it’d be worth it. But since most people have a TV and a licence, there isn’t the critical mass to make the protest any significant annoyance to them, sadly.

  • Jerome Thomas

    I wonder how money the average British family have had extorted out of it by the BBC over the course of their collective lifetimes and what the return on such money might have been had it instead been invested at a moderate rate of return.

    I viscerally despise the BBC and everything it stands for.
    When I run into BBC employees at social functions, proudly crowing about their employer. (as such types are prone to do) I call them on it and don’t not politely change the subject. If THEY are going to work for a ‘cooperation’ that resorts to bully boy tactics and intimidation to extort license fee payments then they will have to deal with my rudeness and contempt when I run into them. Since the projection of a certain brand of ‘bland niceness ‘ is exceptionally important to such people they invariably switch to ‘Confused British Befuddlement’ mode when confronted about the thuggish threats that pay their salary.

    It is unclear why the average BBC employee is entitled to a greater amount of social prestige on account of his job than the average unemployed person on benefits and I refuse to accord them such prestige.

  • Privatise the BBC. Turn the licence payers into share holders. And don’t forget the value of the back catalogue. It belongs to the era of water boards, gas boards and GPO telephones. And its employees have the same mind set.

  • Privatise the BBC. Turn the licence payers into share holders. And don’t forget the value of the back catalogue. It belongs to the era of water boards, gas boards and GPO telephones. And its employees have the same mind set.

  • So good I had to say it twice! Sorry!

  • Alec

    ‘Noel Edmonds thinks the TV licence televised threats are too threatening.’ This from a man who became a millionaire from the TV licence. More like sour grapes from someone fired by the BBC. Mr Blobby & Crinkly Bottom anyone?

  • I sense that increasing numbers of people don’t pay the telly tax.

    It is hardly worth their while to pursue someone who won’t tell them their name or confirm whether or not they have a TV.

    If your TV can’t be seen from street level, they are unlikely to have proof.

    “No comment” is a good answer.

    They once turned up at my door. I told them to stop sending me letters, they asked me for my name and to sign a statement that I did not possess a TV, I took the form and signed it “M. Mouse”.

  • Ian B

    I suspect the BBC are already planning something more modern than the licence fee, such as an internet tax, collected by ISPs. That way none of us can avoid it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Using TV to make threats against the citizenry is alas becoming quite a British past-time. Remember those idiotic short messages urging us to pay out taxes. “Tax doesn’t have to be taxing”, and similar BS.

  • watcher in the dark

    A licence suggests you are allowed to do something. There are licences for guns and driving (and used to be licences for dogs) so I thought from those examples you were licensed to have something that was potentially dangerous, subject to properly measured safeguards.

    The whole concept of owning a television receiver is a concession granted by the government (and therefore written into law) in return for your private details in order to safeguard society.

    But how is owning a TV receiver dangerous?

  • Paul Marks

    I like to think that even if the BBC were not a bunch of leftists spitting out their propaganda every day, I would still oppose the television tax.

    However, I must admit, that the fact that the BBC are a bunch of leftists who spit propaganda every day – does influence how much I oppose the television tax.

  • Tim S

    Although I despise the licence fee I wish that all other taxes were so obnoxiously in your face, i.e. honest. Makes it much easier to make your point that taxation is theft.

  • Adrian

    …so I followed the link to your blog and watchd the Ting Tings then Republica and then I vageuly recalled the singer was Damon Albarn’s bird and then I discovered no, it was Elastica and her name is Justine Frischman and one of her more recent bands was… The White Rose Movement. Hmm.

  • john kelly

    My position is quite clear – the BBC has a contract with the licence payers which is defined in the Royal Charter and which demands that the BBC behaves in a certain unambiguous manner as regards any matter of political significance – i.e that it shall not have an opinion or a position but shall present the facts in a fair, balanced and objective manner such as to allow the listener to form their own opinion. As regards the EU issue, it does not do that and there is a wealth of evidence to prove that. It is therefore in breach of the contract and I should not be compelled to pay until they adhere to the contract. Cut out the crap and focus on that issue – the EU is the most significant political issue of our lifetime and the BBC must be made to follow its charter.