Monday, 30 November -0001

Radio Review: 22 May

Our columnist stands up for the TV licence

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176So, we do know who’s running the country after all, and the licence fee is under threat yet again. I’m a staunch defender of the licence fee. Direct state funding would be dangerous politically, and a subscription model would either result in massively increased cost or massively reduced funding.

My direct debit is £12.12 every month, a sum that would buy four pints of Butcombe Rare Breed (with 12p to spare) in The Old Spot. I’d pay that for BBC radio and BBC Four alone. Would enough people subscribe to Radio 3 for it to continue its excellent work? On the face of it, Capital, Heart and XFM do the same job as Radio 1, while Classic FM covers Radio 3’s turf. In reality, the BBC stations create new music through live sessions and concerts as well as playing existing commercial recordings. The commercial outfits have their place, but if you listen properly, you can hear the differences.

If BBC funding were shifted to general taxation, those who moan currently about the ‘TV tax’ would have merely lumbered everybody with the need to pay. Nobody has to pay the licence fee, because effectively it is a voluntary subscription already. If you listen to radio and are happy watching television through catch-up services like iPlayer, you don’t need a licence. It’s only when you connect an aerial or a dish and watch live that you need to pay.

Also, what’s going to happen to the World Service if the punters get to pick and choose what they do and don’t pay for? It’s respected internationally and does a lot to shore up our reputation and influence abroad. Andy Kershaw once told me that on some African borders, a BBC staff pass is as valid as a British passport. We mess with our institutions at our peril.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email: wireless@cheeseford.net



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