Delingpole on Friday: Smash the Licence Fee!

When I become Britain’s benign libertarian dictator, the very first thing I will do to make my people free is to abolish the BBC. Not abolish as in “Cartago delenda est”, poetically just though that might be. Just abolish as in remove the licence fee and allow the market to decide the organisation’s fate.

Sure there’ll be a few transitional hiccups – in much the same way there were when Russia’s state-owned oil giants were privatised. But the net result will be good for everyone. Well, not quite everyone: not for the kind of people who put “I heart NHS” on their Twitter profiles; not for the Occupy crowd; not for Israel-haters; not for Belfast and Salford taxi drivers (of whom more, later); not for the Islington chatterati… For the country as a whole, though, it will offer a welcome taste of freedom after decades of entrenched socialism.

I didn’t have time to make this point in my Telegraph podcast debate this week with the BBC’s former arts correspondent Rosie Millard but I didn’t need to: Rosie did the job for me. The giveaway came when – after the usual protestations that the BBC isn’t remotely biased – Rosie paused to sing the praises of a programme called Sunday Morning Live.

This is a political debate programme which goes out – no go on: guess – on Sunday mornings. It’s recorded, though, not in London but in Belfast. This means that if you’re a mad enough to agree to appear on it for whatever derisory fee they currently pay you’re basically kissing goodbye to most of your weekend. They fly you out the evening before, put you up in a hotel, then fly you back home once the programme’s over. Is this a good use of licence-fee payer’s money?

Well I’d argue “No.” It seems to me that there at least two problems here, the first being the additional costs generated by the relative remoteness of the location: the flights, the overnight stay, the airport taxis and so on. And the second being the calibre of guests the programme is capable of attracting.

Contrary to what you might think if you’ve never done work with the BBC, the amount you actually get paid for appearing on the box – unless you’re Jeremy Clarkson or Graham Norton – is in fact quite insultingly small. Belfast, I’m sure, has many merits. But being conveniently accessible to where most people in Britain live is not one of them. It follows, therefore, that many potential guests will look at the fee, look at the location and go: “Naah. Can’t be bothered.” That has certainly been my view whenever they’ve asked me – and I speak as someone not that famous and reasonably desperate.

Sunday Morning Live, in other words, is a programme designed by policy to be not as good as it could be. It’s more expensive than it needs to be (thus denying the people who paid for it – whether they like it or not – via their licence fee the best value for money). And it attracts a poorer quality of guest than it would do, were it purely subject to the exigencies of the market.

So what, exactly, is the licence-fee payer gaining from this arrangement? How does this square with the claim frequently made by defenders of the BBC – as Rosie does herself in the Telegraph podcast – that it provides a superior quality of programming than commercial stations do?

The short answer, of course, is that it doesn’t. At least, certainly not always because – as is clear from the Sunday Morning Live example – the BBC has priorities which are not solely to do with providing the best value for money for its market. Priorities like bringing programming to the regions, so as to ensure that – a big hang-up at the BBC, this – the broadcaster is not too London-biased.

This policy is explicitly defended by Rosie on the podcast. “It’s really important that something the whole nation is paying for benefits,” she says, going on to give examples of the local jobs which are created by the BBC’s presence in Northern Ireland: the taxi drivers who get the extra work ferrying guests to and from the airport; the make up artists at BBC Belfast; and so on. In other words, Rosie sees the role of the BBC as being more than just as a maker of quality programmes, but as a kind of statist job-creation scheme. “But that’s socialism” I protest to her. “Good!” says Rosie.

Is it?

Yes, arguably. But here’s the thing: it’s arguable because it is not an objective position but – as Rosie unconsciously let slip with that “good!” – an explicitly political one. It only makes any kind of sense if you are of the view that confiscating money from your audience in the form of a fee compulsory on pain of imprisonment – and in return giving your audience what you decide they ought to have regardless of whether it is what they actually want is a “good” thing. If you don’t then it’s not a “good” thing at all. It is, in fact, much closer to being a bad thing.

Now I wouldn’t mind if the BBC’s defenders were more upfront in admitting this. It would be annoying, yes, but at least it would have the virtue of honesty if they said: “Yes. We’re another branch of the socialist state. We believe that programming, like healthcare, should be allocated by people who know better than you do what it is that is good for you. People who know – because that’s just how much wiser they are – that free markets, free schools and private schools, elitism, conservatism, libertarianism, economic growth, national sovereignty, Israel, lower taxes and Daily-Mail readers are bad things, and that the EU, environmentalism, comprehensive schools, immigration, the NHS, the public sector, Palestine and bigger government are all good things.”

But they don’t and they won’t. “In wartime truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies,” said Churchill. The liberal-left, it would appear, holds much the same view on the sanctity of the BBC.

  • http://jazz606.wordpress.com/ jazz606

    “…… “In wartime truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies,”…..”

    That’s a dangerous statement, but then Churchill was a menace.

  • http://grumpsville.wordpress.com grumpyoldmanuk

    “That’s a dangerous statement, but then Churchill was a menace”
    Another Lefty revisionist parroting falsehoods. Churchill was a menace only to Socialism – National or International.

  • http://jazz606.wordpress.com/ jazz606

    I’ve been called many things in my time (some of them deserved) but never a lefty revisionist. Most of my lefty acquaintances think I’m a fascist…not that they really know what that is.

    • http://grumpsville.wordpress.com grumpyoldmanuk

      In that case, my apologies for misinterpreting your dig at Churchill. What is your beef about the great man?

      • http://jazz606.wordpress.com/ jazz606

        I’m a little older than you, though no by much, and up to about ten years ago I too thought Churchill was a great man. Actually I still think he was, after all you can’t cause the degree of mayhem that Churchill did without having ‘something about you’.
        A trawl through Amazon and other sites will reveal in addition to the standard hagiographies other more objective accounts of Churchill.
        Be prepared to ditch all your previous misconceptions.

      • http://grumpsville.wordpress.com grumpyoldmanuk

        Actually, I’ve read some of those. Raico’s, “Rethinking Churchill”, is pretty typical. Articles written from a viewpoint of embittered iconoclasm leavened by 20/20 hindsight invariably produce a narrative reminiscent of those of the Furies in ancient Greek literature ie. interring the good that men do with their bones, and ensuring that the evil done lives after them.
        Churchill wasn’t a saint, he was a fallible human being whose role in history accentuated his failings. There was, however, nobody else who could have instilled the will to fight in the UK then rallied the Free World against the Nazi menace.

      • Hilton Gray

        And what of the “Communist menace” that replaced the “Nazi menace”?… All that Churchill succeeded in doing in Europe was ensuring that one bloody tyrant (6 million body count) was replaced with another even bloodier tyrant (40 million body count) – he didn’t “Free” Europe from anything! He ensured that eastern Europe was crippled for the next 40 years under an even worse blood thirsty regime than the Nazis! I fail to see how this can be viewed in any way as some sort of freedom or victory? Churchill, like Hitler, was a great orator, but he was a poor diplomat, and an even poorer organiser. He muddled his way through WW2 making some disastrous decisions along the way – including the loss of the British Empire!

  • http://www.bogpaper.com Russell Taylor

    Do you know what, James? I think that’s one of the most enjoyable things I’ve read in a long time

    • princess twinkletoes

      Definitely up to his usual standard of twaddle!

  • Vincent Jappi

    Censorship through theft and subsidization is so much more efficient than direct censorship — because most people do not perceive it for what it is, that the censors will not easily renounce it.

  • steveU88

    Strange how those two socialist institutions the beeb and the NHS are also some of britains most treasured institutions.

  • http://www.anthemshrugs.co.uk Anthem

    It’s all becoming a bit embarrassing even arguing against the BBC these days. It’s like picking on people who call people with different colour skins unpleasant names.

    It’s a no-brainer that they’re in the wrong.

    If we were deprived of any news and/or entertainment media then maybe, just maybe, there would be a place for the BBC but as it is…

    Well… it really is time to call time on the Licence Fee.

    The slightly worrying thing is that the Government seems to want to call time on the BBC’s “exclusive right” to it but don’t seem to want to abolish it altogether.

  • MellorSJ

    Yes, indeed, it is strange.

    But that’s because people know no better. Because they can’t compare heath care and there are few dissenting media voices.

  • Simon Roberts

    I listened to the Telegraph interview and that woman’s logic was scary – the BBC is not left wing because it is populated by Oxbridge graduates. Bizarre.

    On the subject of the BBC, they are currently conducting a consultation (http://consultations.external.bbc.co.uk/bbc/news_review).

    I don’t imagine for a moment that my accusations of bias will receive any attention, but my accusations of failure to declare financial interests might.

    BBC pensions are heavily invested in green funds. Their pension scheme is a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change.

    This means that BBC staff have a direct financial interest in promoting the theory of AGW, which they fail to declare when they report on the subject.

    As I’m sure you all know, one of the few benefits that leftists bring is the joy of seeing them squirm when confronted by their own hypocrisy.

    Being a breeding ground for pedophilia doesn’t seem to have bothered them much, perhaps highlighting their blatant dishonesty in failing to declare financial interests might.

  • http://twitter.com/Jay_Ramella Jay Ramella (@Jay_Ramella)

    So that nobody can leap upon it with a cry of revelation, I’ll confess to a healthy dislike of Rosie Millard. I’m sure she has many lively qualities, is just the gal you’d want beside you in a shell hole etc but she has the same effect on me as Polly Toynbee or a screech on my audio-visual blackboard. I’m not going to parrot the points that James has made so excellently but why is the flag of our anachronistic Public Service Broadcaster always waved by a liberalista who is anything but when boring on about public transport users who complain about her sprogs’ bad behaviour – sorry, self expression. I should like to hear those complainants’ opinions of Sunday Morning Live and its BBC stablemates because I bet they would be more representative of the viewing-tax payer than Ms Millard and her smug ilk. This week the free press was dealt a mortal blow. The farcical Royal Charter had the tandem effect of delivering a backdoor coup for the State’s own mouthpiece. With the press virtually gagged, the BBC is now more powerful than the propaganda organs of any repressive or communist regime. The coup de grace is that they force us to pay for it!

  • http://jazz606.wordpress.com/ jazz606

    grumpyoldmanuk

    “…Articles written from a viewpoint of embittered iconoclasm leavened by 20/20 hindsight invariably produce a narrative reminiscent of those of the Furies in ancient Greek literature…”

    Gimme a break

  • Chris

    The only way the BBC will change, is when they get rid of the BBC Trust, and have the organisation monitored by a regulator with teeth. People should by now, have been fired for the Saville, McAlpine and waste of money at the BBC.

  • David

    Yeah it should go, but hear it from a ‘leftard’…whatever.

    Firstly, while state control of medicine, utilities and basic welfare might seam abhorrent, state control of ‘entertainment’ is criminal. Taking money by threat of prison for those without the means to pay, and lining the pockets of the likes of…well who deserves most of that bad money for presenting celebrity dance off’s driving cars, or chatting about football?

    Nothing of the BBC is made available to the people. Nothing whatsoever. No ‘normal person’ can use it to even help facilitate community access. Television, and the trough it feeds its pigs with is extremely elitist. No one goes into schools to tell pupils how to get a job on state T.V- ‘your’ station and studios. It is a playground for intellectuals, artists and elites who feed the plebs whatever it regards as necessary ‘for the people’, dross like Eastenders, The Voice, or whenever it decides it has to ‘compete’ with other trash.

    Anyone can be on T.V see, as long as you don’t seam too clever, are deluded about your real chances, and don’t mind being taken down a peg or two by a ‘real’ telebox fab.

    And while I get your point about protest, sort of, kinda, I think you are dead wrong about how it is perceived by people form the left . It is on of those rare instances were extremes meet, and as the famous line has it “join us and together…etc”
    Nah maybe not.

    I am not sure what your point about the median is in the telegraph article. You cannot be arguing that it is at a median yet biased at the same time, and if you don’t like a median, then you don’t want it all then, surely not what you would consider a state contoled ‘Libertarian’ Channel!

  • silverminer

    We don’t have to wait for James to take over as “benign dictator”. The good news is we can all abolish our own part of the License Fee right now and begin to starve the beast.

    Just get rid of all your televisions, buy a nice big flat screen monitor for your laptop, without a TV tuner, and decide what you want to watch and when using iPlayer (about an hour later than live). Never pay the BBC another penny.

    If you’re anything like me, you’ll find there is nothing much worth watching on it any way (unless Nigel or James are on Question Time) and you’ll soon stop wasting your time looking.

    An important step out of the matrix. Stop ponying up like a bunch of chumps ;)

    • David

      Absolutely.

      At digital switchover our receiver could not cope – so it was computer only.

      Once you use iplayer and have to decide to deliberately put aside time out of your day to watch something, instead of like sheep putting the kettle on at five to what ever you think is unmissable – the whole thing just evaporates. I did not fix the aeriel. I’m free.

      Still, of course if I was invited onto the Review Show to be an ‘intellectual’ and display my deep need to actually be accepted as one of the elite, instead of a J. Blog nobody, I would – without blinking.

      I suppose it’s some sort of recoup.

  • http://mikecunningham.wordpress.com/ Mike Cunningham

    A mate of mine, bloke called David Vance, is invited regularly to appear on that programme. Now David is a bit like me, fairly right wing, but not foaming at the mouth, and he writes on his blog occassionally of the surreal times when appearing on the Sunday telly.

    From what he tells us, care of his blog ‘A Tangled Web’, if he so much as blinks twice, he is accused of funding the BNP etc. The trouble with just about all who work for the BBC is that they just ‘know’ that they are correct, and view anyone who has even mildly opposing views as the tip of Attila the Hun’s charge into Europe at the head of a slavering horde.

  • TheBogpaper

    Ohh, swoon. I do love James Delingpole so much.

    • Joshua Roberts

      perfectly natural

  • andyL

    Blue Planet was good though. And the dinosuar stuff an’ sh*t.