We Should Free the BBC | Jack Rydeheard

Over the years, we’ve all got used to tuning in to advert-free broadcasting from our state-owned channel. We’re accustomed to high-quality programmes being completely at our disposal. The BBC has, for an era, been the pioneer of televisual entertainment, allowing the licence fee payer to be captivated with quality programmes whenever we choose to tune in.

But we can all agree – it is not what it used to be.

For me, as you can probably tell from the title alone, I can’t justify the BBC continuing as per its state-defined raison d’etre. It has in no small way become a monstrosity. From disingenuous programming to fat cat salary-milking, the BBC is now an unwelcome mutation; a shadow of its former self.

The BBC is a monumental waste of money. The wages of the top ten earners alone come to £8.95million.

That could fund 500 new nurses, and with the cost of the Licence Fee rising by £4.00 as of today it is hitting the lowest-earning of our society the hardest.

One thing is clear to me. It is not justifiable for the BBC to line the pockets of multimillionaires in our name. It is not justifiable to give £250,000 per year to a news presenter on behalf of the taxpayer.

Why no outrage towards private sector pay? It’s simple – viewers choose to pay to see them, which justifies their wages.
The boss of the BBC earns £500,000 per year – his Sky equivalent earns £6.8million. This is fair, as there is no licence fee funding Sky. That such a cap is in place on Tony Hall’s salary, shows just how much of a degenerate organisation the BBC is; that its on-screen personas can be paid more than their boss.

The influential IEA has also called the BBC biased and overall ‘unfit for purpose’ – it is time that we, the licence fee payer, were given control of our now £154.50 per year.

The taxpayer can no longer afford the BBC. The consumer simply does not benefit as much from this institution anymore as it has done in the past. The licence fee has rocketed from £97.50 to £150.50 in just twenty two years!

Serious questions need to be asked about the willingness and the ability of the British public and the government to fund this service. It is largely inefficient when compared to commercial broadcasters like Sky, for whom adverts and subscription fees fund ventures, when you look at a £150.50 flat fee per household plus around £245million in grants and £72million in royalties.

It must be said that the BBC has a budget second in size only to Sky. But it’s a big difference nonetheless, and these limitations wouldn’t apply should it be given the chance to go it alone.

The lifting of draconian measures used to enforce the licence fee would let the corporation and the customer rest contently, knowing that what is chosen is more likely paid for. There is already mass discontent – 400,000+ households opted out of the licence fee in 2012.
Less time and money would be wasted pursuing fee evaders; a massive 10% of all Magistrates’ cases are for licence fee evasion.

Questions must also be asked about bias.

Television must criticise the government. What it must not do, however, is focus constantly on the bad news stories which sow the seeds of discontent whilst shutting out the good news stories. The bias shown by the BBC is more often against the right wing and the anti-establishment initiatives – both Corbyn and the Conservative minority government in the UK have come under fire for most of what they have said and done.

May’s cabinet has found the focus of the BBC on its disagreements rather than record low levels of unemployment, the lowest earning 30 million people being taken out of income tax, slashes in stamp duty and record investment into the NHS.

In the US, Trump has been the target of many attacks from CNN, focusing on his gaffes rather than his economy breaking records (for three consecutive days back in 2017), a record low level of unemployment and a 74% drop in illegal immigration in 2017/18. This is counterbalanced in the free market in the US by channels like Fox and rightly so.

The freer market means that all sides can put their spin on news and the people can choose between them – the BBC, as the most watched broadcaster in the UK by far – does not allow that choice.

One of two possibilities will happen should privatisation occur.

The licence fee could be absolved into another tax, leading to much-needed fund redistribution. This would likely prove to be very unpopular, and could put further strain on the already hamstrung budgets of the less well-off.
Another option is to abolish it, encouraging an American-style pay-tv model, in a free market. This is a better option, as it would allow the taxpayer more control over their finances, and would force the BBC to compete and drive up standards.

The same privatisation option, should it succeed, could be examined for other public bodies following successes including that of Royal Mail.

It could be said that excessive wages are necessary to compete with the free market. But why compete with it? Join it! Let it thrive! Public ownership can only go so far – the time has come to let the chick fly the nest. There are so fewer constraints in the private sector, as seen in Sky’s mammoth £6.5billion budget – that’s 270% of the BBC’s programming spending.

Sky has dominated football and, in recent times, F1 and British Open Golf. They bid £4.2billion on football coverage rights for 2016 to 2019 alone.

By letting the BBC join the market we encourage competition, vital for creating consumer choice and higher standards, but whilst the BBC is in public hands its pay structure must respect the people who fund it.

The BBC must be allowed to fly high and go toe to toe with other established broadcasting giants like Sky, Virgin, BT and ITV.

Sky is the ultimate private sector success story, having seen its broadcasting expand over and dominate six of the seven continents, including domination in sports coverage and award-winning home entertainment and children’s branches.

Why should our BBC be any different?

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