Friday, May 13, 2016

BBC White Paper

Can any of my friends in politics explain why for the love of god we need to create a new completely-unenforceable offence of watching iPlayer without a TV licence, when there are technical solutions already in use by many many media organisations who have found ways to ensure only those that have paid for their content can watch or read it?

The TV licence is past its sell by date and needs to go now. It is the most regressive form of taxation on the statute book - a single parent on benefits pays the same as Richard Branson (and rather more than the Queen). Hundreds of thousands of people are prosecuted and fined annually for licence evasion - disproportionally women and the less well off. Every single one of these prosecutions occurs because a vulnerable person caves in to a TV licensing campaign of harassment and threats directed at everyone who legitimately or not doesn't have a license - and they self-incriminate. There is no effective way to gather evidence of the offence being committed without snooping into people's private homes and bullying or conning them.

Working on the basis that the government isn't intending to give TV licensing access to everyone's internet history (although scarily with Teresa May in the Home Office its hard to be sure this is the case) - watching iPlayer without a license will be a new offence with no plausible method of enforcing the law. 'Have you watched iPlayer without a licence?' 'Go away its none of your business' would appear to be completely effective. It doesn't need to be against the law - just put it behind a paywall (this doesn't require a new law, or statutory instrument as the government is thinking of doing to avoid debate and scrutiny).

Of course we know why they don't want to do that. For the same reason the white paper came out against decriminalising the licence fee - the number of people willing to pay for it would just collapse - and then how would they find the money to pay the 91 BBC executives currently earning more than the Prime Minister.

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