Neil White: We should be given choice over whether to pay for the BBC
IN a supposedly free, democratic society, isn't it time that the BBC licence fee became optional?
Every year, we have to pay £145.50 for a service which we may or may not use.
For me, that amounts to nearly £150 to listen to the Chris Evans show on BBC Radio 2, the news output of BBC Radio Derby and tuning into Radio CWR (Coventry and Warwickshire) for 45 minutes either side of my team's football matches.
For years, I have failed to understand why BBC Radio doesn't carry adverts like every other station.
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It certainly would not ruin my listening enjoyment.
As for the BBC TV stations, I don't watch any of them out of choice.
Occasionally, I will be in my lounge when the channel has been flicked in the direction of Strictly Come Dancing (just Come Dancing by another name as far as I can see), Match Of The Day (lots of talk and little action) or the news (not as good as Sky).
And don't get me started on the One Show. Mrs W insists on watching it while we are eating our tea. I have never seen a worse programme in my life.
Regardless of my opinion of their quality, I would ask again whether any of the so-called jewels of the BBC's crown would be diluted by commercial input? I don't think so.
The BBC does not take the commercial buck because it claims it needs to be seen to be impartial.
Isn't it ironic, therefore, that ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all interrupt their news with advertising and yet their coverage comes in for less criticism over bias than the BBC's?
Let me put into context the origins of the licence fee.
It was first introduced in 1923, a year after the BBC was founded and made its first radio broadcasts – that was, believe it our not, 11 years before the first experimental television began from Alexandra Palace.
In 1923, a Parliamentary panel, known as the Sykes Committee, rejected advertising for the service as it would lower standards and recommended that a 10 shillings licence fee fund broadcasts.
It was agreed that the BBC should not have an adverse effect on the commercial media to the point that, to avoid competition with newspapers, Fleet Street persuaded the government to ban news programmes until 7pm.
It was also agreed that the BBC could only use news from wire services instead of reporting its own.
Of course, time has moved on. The BBC still demands our cash but couldn't care less about the impact of its free services on other media (such as the Derby Telegraph).
In fact, it seeks to compete with commercial organisations by using photographs and the written word on its huge number of internet sites.
It also provides a news service for foreign audiences on radio and television.
And we pay for it all.
I am not tight when it comes to the media. I pay for a Sky subscription and buy newspapers and magazines.
All I ask for is the choice over whether I should also pay for the BBC.