License to Print Money

The BBC is arguing that it needs to increase the license fee ahead of inflation year on year to deliver services for the digital age.Years ago, the BBC argued that the license fee was the only way to fund public service broadcasting. Historically, it had a point. First there was the BBC – and if you wanted to access the service you were asked to pay. Then came ITV – no extra cost to us because it was supported by commercials. A few people would have watched only ITV, but were still compelled to pay for BBC. But the number of people in that position would have been very small.

Enter Sky – and Britons gained access to subscription based televison for the first time. And by and large we seem prepared to pay on a subscription basis for channels we want to watch. Todays channel line-up offers us a panoply of programming which can choose to pay for if we want it.

So where does that leave the BBC. Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of the BBC and everything it stands for. But it now wants to compete in the multi-channel world offering a la carte television, radio and internet to a hungry audience. The license fee model just doesn’t stack up any more. Why should the moderate consumer who just wants a couple of programmes a week on BBC1 be forced to pay for this ever broadening output?

It is time to draw up a roadmap for future funding of the BBC which needs to be a mixture of commercial advertising and subscription based models dependent on what is appropriate for each service. Consumers of television in the 21st century should not be forced to pay a ‘one price fits all’ fee no matter how much or how little BBC they consume. Safeguards to editorial independence must be part of this plan, that is sacrosanct. Until the government is prepared to deal with this, the BBC will continue to have no other option than to keep going cap-in-hand to the poor license-payer.

Paul Goodman MP – backing a loser

Interestingly, David Davis claims to be “odd on” to win the Tory Poisoned Chalice contest – curiously none of the online bookmakers give him “odds on” today, although he is still favourite (though his lead is shrinking). Perhaps he was referring to the fact the he has the backing of more MPs than any other contender? Our own Paul Goodman is supporting Davis – no surprises there – Wycombe Tories have had one foot in the past for as long as anyone can remember!What fascinates is the way the Tories continue to plunge lemming-like into the abyss. That the Tories must change if they are to change their electoral fortunes is well documented, and obvious to anyone with even the most passing interest in politics. That they must change is like telling Comet that nobody buys twin-tubs and 405 line TVs any more – it’s that obvious.

So they listen to leadership hopefuls making their pitches. About how they might “claim the centre ground” or “lose their nasty party image” from the Winter Gardens platform. One contender stands out as the voice of “carry on regardless – don’t apologise” – and that man is David Davis. And the Tory faithful say, “that’s the very fellow for us!”. We’ll have another four years of carrying the right-wing, sceptical, bang ’em up, perks for the rich, family values, wasn’t Maggie great, outdated, outmoded, irrelevant attitudes and we’ll continue to get our MPs re-elected in the rotten boroughs of the South-East and not much else. Then when we lose in 2009 we’ll do it all again.

Will they ever learn?

A true comedy genius

I was always a huge fan of Ronnie Barker and would watch anything that he was in. The Two Ronnies on a saturday night were one of the highlights of the week and the reruns that were shown earlier this year were a reminder that they don’t make shows like that any more. Barker’s mastery of the english language meant that tongue twisting word play was delivered so impeccably it left you breathless. What was less well known was that he wrote much of this material himself, but under assumed names so that his writing would be judged on it’s own merits.His characterisations like Fletcher and Arkwright showed that he was also an actor of diverse talents and the sitcoms are as funny and fresh today as they were when we first saw them. I feel immensely sad that we have lost this talent – and I look forward to watching some of his material again in good time.I would like to extend my sympathy to his family, and let Ronnie have the last words:

The search for the man who terrorizes nudist camps with a bacon slicer goes on. Inspector Lemuel Jones had a tip-off this morning, but hopes to be back on duty tomorrow