Soapbox David Culm: Time to scrap the TV licence fee and fund the BBC from general taxation
IT cannot have escaped the more eagle-eyed of this newspaper's readers that the majority of those brought before courts for the "crime" of having no TV licence, are women. Why is that ?
What really puzzles me are the disparity of fines imposed for that offence compared with other more socially harmful offences.
On average the courts impose a £200 fine and (this makes me laugh ) a "victim surcharge" and costs.
Some recently reported driving offences (no insurance, no licence, and no road tax) are penalised less severely in many cases.
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Even assault and obstructing the police is treated less harshly.
If the fines are passed on to the Government and onwards to the BBC, it begs the question: "Who are the 'victims' if people don't pay their licence fee?"
Surely an increasing number of users does not incur extra costs? The opposite, in fact.
But the answers are under the control of fat cats at the BBC and those of the population who prefer not to watch programmes interrupted by commercials.
With developing digitalisation, cable networks, computers and online access, we are seeing a reduction in BBC costs by the closure of local radio stations.
With modern communications, what is wrong with saving money by having regionally weighted broadcasts from BBC employees working from home or a rented office? That makes economic sense.
Let's reduce costs by stopping the BBC giving endless contracts to celebrities and board executives.
It is true the BBC will claim they can go on making quality programmes and are the voice of Britain for discerning viewers and a world market. But perhaps there has to be a balance between compulsion and choice.
If the BBC is a world voice, then the Government should pay for it out of general taxation. If that happened, I feel the available funding might be far less than it is today.
What really intrigues me is what might be passing between Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond and the director general of the BBC, with the forthcoming referendum on independence in Scotland.
"Hello Alex, DG of the BBC here, I hope you don't mind but you haven't answered my question about the imposition of and collection for compulsory TV licences for Scotland if you get full independence!"
"Oh, hi there DG. We've had a chat up here about it and decided we're going let people watch TV for free."
"You can't do that! What will you do about policing TV viewing and providing programmes not interrupted by commercials?"
Alex replies: "We won't, we'll let the people of Scotland choose what they watch for free."
You can almost hear the smile.