Thursday, January 18, 2007

Another £20bn For Telly Tax

Plunging customer demand

Amidst all the BBC hand-wringing over the "disappointing" increase in its funding, we ordinary mortals are livid at still having to pay £20bn of tax over the next six years simply for owning a telly.

The best broadcaster in the world, huh?

How much BBC do you actually consume? For me it's R4 Today (at least up until it sinks beneath the trivia waterline at 8.30), various other bits of radio news, and Newsnight two or three times a week. That's it. BBC TV news is now so dumbed down and lefty, it's best to steer well clear.

I'd be quite happy to drop Newsnight, in which case, the following BBC chart suggests I should pay no more than 13 quid. And chopping Wogan and Wossy would bring that down to about a fiver:

And while Mrs T has an unhealthy addiction to Desperate Housewives and a certain other soapy substance, that's all provided tax-free by the commercial channels. Plus of course, the Desperates are the product of that supposedly hopeless market-driven US system.

At some stage over the next six years I'm hoping that internet telly will have developed enough for us to slip the surly bonds of aerial/satellite telly altogether. The young Tylers assure Mrs T she could already download the latest episodes of DH gratis within hours of their first US screenings. And 18 Doughty Street will surely have surpassed Newsnight in significance long before then.

PS Talking of public service broadcasting, I think we can all see what a service Big Brother is providing. Remember although C4 gets no overt tax funding (yet), it does get a public subsidy in the form of free use of analogue spectrum. Can't find a serious estimate of what that's currently worth, but since the value of spectrum freed up though digital switchover has been estimated at between £2bn and £5bn, you'd have to guess the value of C4's bit is £200-£500m, translating into an annual subsidy of say £20m. And that's after the decline in its value as digital TV has exploded. Of course, the BBC gets an even bigger spectrum subsidy, on top of the telly tax.

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