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Subject: UKNM: Re: 24 tax on digital TV?
From: Phil Gyford
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 1999 18:56:01 +0100

In defending the BBC I have this nagging feeling I'm in some way
unfashionable in this brave new libertarian world, but what the hell...

>Plans for the new digital TV tax and BBC subsidy have now been
>formalised and it looks like users will have to pay 24 for the
>privilege of owning a digital TV or box. The money will presumably be
>used to pay the BBC to set up lots of committees, employ legions of
>secretaries and clerks, and have lots of expensive lunches. Any dosh
>left over will be parcelled up and sent out to their old-school chums
>and former employees to produce half-arsed sit-coms for digitised
>suburban consumption.

Not having worked at the BBC, I wouldn't want to comment on exactly how
incompetent and badly organised the company is, but I bet there are few
companies or public institutions which are a model of efficiency. And the
BBC are hardly the only company to hire old-school chums or produce
half-arsed sitcoms.

>Back to the real world, Sky and On are competing for the commercial
>digital TV space to the ultimate benefit of the consumer, who is already
>able to get free hardware (subsidised by content charges, of course).
>Unfortunately for Sky and On (and the consumer), neither operator gets
>any bung from the 24 which will act as a disincentive to digital
>uptake, an unfair tax on both operators, and a big bonus to Auntie's
>time servers.

Awww, my heart bleeds for these companies. Poor Rupert must be scraping
around for loose change these days with all these nasty competitors around.
I agree that the 24 will obviously act as some disincentive to take up
digital, but I can't say I'll be losing any sleep over Sky or On feeling
hard done by.

>The BBC (god bless their cotton socks) is a fine British institution,
>one of the few things us Brits can still boast about, has done some good
>stuff in the past, helped us to win two world wars, set the standard for
>quality TV worldwide (though still surpassed by the likes of Granada who
>did it without government hand-outs), and you have to love them to bits,
>etc., etc.

Well of course Granada did it without government hand-outs, as it's an
entirely different model, and I'd quibble with your "surpassed by the likes
of Granada". The BBC still does great stuff now. FWIW, I personally rarely
listen to anything but BBC Radio, I'll be tuning in to the World Service
when I leave the country, and there's TV programming to match the best of
the commercial sector.

>But, like the Royal Family, the BBC has had it's day, is a dying
>institution, and should be put out of its misery pronto. So let's have a
>big fanfare and three cheers for these two great British institutions,
>stuff them, and put them in a museum dedicated to the 20th Century.
>Oh, and while we are at it - no tax on digital TV!

Yes, all very rousing Ray, but not terribly useful. Call me old fashioned
but I still like to believe there is a place for the BBC. As you point out,
it has had plenty of great moments but it's still having them now and
there's no reason why it shouldn't go on having them.

I'm not saying commercial TV is crap, as there's plenty of wonderful stuff
out there, much of it from the far more commercial USA. The BBC also caters
far more for minority programming, and while things like C4 also do this I
believe (do correct me) it's in their remit to do so - so they're not quite
competing in the global free for all which I doubt could provide this stuff
in any great degree.

I'd say the license fee as it stands is incredibly unfair and should be
means-tested in some practical way, but I see no reason why we should put
the BBC out of the misery you seem to think it's in.


Phil Gyford
philatgyford [dot] com - icq:3794783 - h:01376.513238 - w:0171.766.6491
http://www.gyford.com - http://www.haddock.org
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