I had cause to reply to a correspondent today who complained that, unlike satellite subscriptions, the television license was compulsory.
You only have to pay the license fee if you operate a television receiver. So it's not compulsory.
You have the choice to either pay the license fee, or to watch a television receiver operated by someone else, or in premises already covered by a license, or even not watch broadcast television at all.
I sense I may be wasting my time in this discussion, because I passionately believe that there should be publicly funded broadcasting in the UK, and that it should be funded by means-related non-government taxation. The license fee is a close enough approximation to do the job - it's paid for by the breadwinner in a household that can afford the luxury of a television set, so that household dependents do not have to contribute.
I don't have any sympathy at all with the argument that individuals who claim not to use public broadcasting should be exempt from contributing to its upkeep. I seldom listen to Radio 1, 2 or 3, or watch BBC3, for example, but I understand that they are worthwhile and unique endeavours and I'm happy to help fund them. It's rather like as the NHS - I don't pay for the provision of its services (many of which I hope I'll never use) as an insurance policy, but because it's the civilised, decent thing to do.
I observe that the BBC makes the UK more thoughtful, and better informed. It can do this because it follows a mandate that isn't driven by sponsors and advertisers. It isn't funded by business or by government, so it can be uniquely independent and impartial.
If the BBC had to resort to the same kind of funding as independent broadcasters, then it would lose most of what makes it so valuable.
Monday, October 04, 2010
At 0745 we were summoned to our starting pens, and I learned that there were 2500 runners taking part, although possibly not all in the same race. Earlier this year I had run 13.1 miles in 01:39, so when entering this race had done my sums and put 02:00 for my expected time to cover 16 or so. We’ll also be revisiting this decision later. To my surprise on the day, I saw my forecast had put me in the elite field - the front pen, right behind the start line and the car with the big digital clock and the police escort. How exciting! I didn’t feel like an elite runner. I’d been harbouring a bit of a fever, and hadn’t completely recovered from the Half Marathon. It was very odd. It seemed a million miles from the big civic runs I normally do starting in the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh. I could have just walked back a few pens to be with the runners who thought they’d manage it in a 02:15 or even 02:30, but for some reason, mesmerized by the empty road ahead perhaps, stayed where I was. This is yet another of the many decisions we’ll be revisiting later.