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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 17:10 GMT
Head to head: Licence fee debate
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The TV Licensing Authority administers the licence fee
As the government announces a licence fee settlement branded "disappointing" by the BBC, two experts state the case for and against keeping the licence fee.

Putting the case for the licence fee is Peter Blackman, executive director of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV).

The consumer group has been campaigning for the preservation of quality and diversity in British broadcasting since being founded by Jocelyn Hay in 1983.

Last week, the VLV called on the government to deliver a licence fee linked to the Retail Price Index inflation figure, which stands at 4.4%.

On the other side of the debate is Sunday Times columnist Jonathan Miller.

In 2002, Miller announced he would no longer pay the licence fee, saying it was "anachronistic, unfair and cruel".

He was later taken to court and ordered to pay - but continues to run his anti-licence fee campaign, BBC Resistance.

FOR: PETER BLACKMAN

Peter Blackman

The VLV fears the licence fee settlement won't enable the BBC to maintain the quality of its existing and new programmes and services.

The licence fee preserves the integrity and quality of the BBC and protects it from political and sectarian interference with its crucial independent editorial control.

That's what makes it the world's leading broadcaster, admired and trusted at home and abroad.

The BBC Trust is responsible for governing the BBC and ensuring its accountability direct to the owners of the BBC, us, the licence fee payers.

We must have value for money, efficiency and our interests met.

Research shows most licence fee payers would pay a modestly higher fee for high quality programmes and services from the BBC.
Peter Blackman

Whilst we didn't favour an over-generous settlement, the BBC must be adequately funded to do the job that licence fee payers expect of it, maintaining existing services and delivering the new ones in the new Charter and Agreement.

The BBC's absolute priority must be the delivery of high quality programmes, content and services, fewer repeats and fewer cheap copycat programmes. This mustn't be compromised for any reason.

Research shows most licence fee payers would pay a modestly higher fee for high quality programmes and services from the BBC.

We're very disappointed licence fee payers - the audience - have been ignored.

Viewers and listeners will suffer, as will with the national interest, if the BBC is forced to reduce the range and quality of its programmes and services.

AGAINST: JONATHAN MILLER

Jonathan Miller
If the real viewers and listeners were consulted, the BBC licence fee would not have lasted until now.

The TV licence is wrong so many ways.

It is a criminal offence not to contribute to Jonathan Ross's 18m, four-year pay packet.

This is not merely a theoretical concept. Visit any magistrates' court in Britain and you will see the BBC's contractor (with an acquiescent magistrature) criminalise female poverty en masse.

A TV licence is a fortnight's income for a single mother on child support. The choice for them can be shoes or food or bus fare - or money for Mr Ross.

For those who defy the avaricious BBC, the threats are constant.

The BBC even claims the right to conduct electronic surveillance of your home, via its fabled detector vans, to determine what you might be watching.

You cannot watch New Delhi TV news without paying the BBC. It's as if you had to subscribe to the Guardian to be allowed to read The Telegraph.

The BBC broadcasting blancmange has grown fatter and fatter, consuming billions every year but strangely producing very little public broadcasting for the money (Grow Your Own Veg is a glorious exception).

You cannot watch New Delhi TV news without paying the BBC. It's as if you had to subscribe to the Guardian to be allowed to read The Telegraph.
Jonathan Miller

The licence fee produces further ill effects - including excessive BBC deference to the government, which has not hesitated to use its power to exact retribution when the corporation gets out of line.

The BBC's claim that the licence fee gives it independence is fantasy-based. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (with the consent of Downing Street) even appoints the BBC's own board of trustees.

Who benefits from the licence fee? Not the public, who have no ability to send meaningful market signals to the so-called public broadcaster. Not the BBC, which is missing the chance to develop a subscription platform of its own.

The government certainly benefits, keeping the BBC subservient.

This is a rotten deal. Don't tell viewers and listeners the BBC is great value for money.

Let them make up their own minds.



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