TV Licensing

I won’t pay to be abused by the BBC

I want to save myself the price of a stamp or a phone call today by writing an open letter to Mr Richard Goodbody, the regional manager of the Swindon enforcement division of the TV Licensing Authority. I have no reason to doubt that Mr Goodbody is a perfectly pleasant man in private life, but in his public capacity he is, in my view, a blithering nincompoop; and if my language is intemperate it is because Goodbody has just sent me one of the rudest and stupidest letters I have ever received.


“Mr Johnson,” he begins, without any of the conventional civilities, and then tells me that he has obtained authority to visit my premises in Oxfordshire. Indeed, he says, he can come at any time during the day, the evening or at weekends. He can use any technology he chooses. He can caution me, take a statement, and file a report which may be used in proceedings before a local magistrates’ court culminating in a £1,000 fine.

All this, of course, because he suspects that I have a television in the house. As it happens, we do not have a television in the house, and nor do we want one. I have decided that everyone is calmer and happier and more productive without the constant mind-sapping burble of the television, and the temptation to slide from the table and watch Nip/Tuck or Celebrity Sex Paradise or whatever the latest offering may be. We have, in fact, written to the TV Licensing Authority to say that we do not have a television at this address, and yet this little tin god Goodbody is so drunk on power, and so crazed with the assumption that all human beings in Britain must want a TV, that he has obtained authority to surround my premises with electronic snooping devices until he obtains proof that a signal is being received.

Is this Britain, my friends, or is this some Central American dictatorship, circa 1970? I can think of only one reason for having a television in Oxfordshire, and that is so that I can refuse to pay Goodbody his confounded £126, and thereby show the BBC what I think of the licence fee. We imagine we are living in an advanced free market economy. Yet here is Goodbody, an emanation of the state, threatening me with surveillance and fines, so that I can continue to fund 10,000 state-sector journalists; an idea that seems increasingly peculiar and anomalous in 2005, but which is made more offensive to me by the BBC’s continuing habit of ever so subtly sneering at my party (the Conservatives) and anyone who votes for it.

Do you remember Today’s James Naughtie, who gave the game away in the run-up to the general election by referring to Labour as “us”? Do you remember on election night how Andrew Marr said that things were going “worse” than expected, when what he meant to say was “worse for Labour”. You have only to imagine Marr saying that things were going “better”, meaning “better for the Conservatives” to see how unthinkable that is, and how the mental default position of the BBC journalists is essentially Left of centre.

All their instinct and culture is to support state funding over the private sector – which is not surprising, since they are state-funded themselves. They are all located on a political spectrum running from Ken Clarke, via Menzies Campbell, towards Robin Cook and Clare Short. They are instinctively anti-American, though they of course make much of how they “love” American culture. It is an axiom that Bush is a dangerous lunatic, the war in Iraq about oil, and so on. They are anti-Israel, but also find Christianity – or any strong expression of Christian faith – deeply embarrassing. In any argument, they will instinctively gravitate to what they think is the most civilised and liberal option, irrespective of the merits of the case; so they tend to be completely caught out by events such as the re-election of George Bush (all the fault of loony Christians, says the Beeb) or the total failure of the British economy to suffer in any way for the rejection of the euro.

Have the BBC journalists had the decency to congratulate the Tory Euro-sceptics on their prescience? No chance. The corporation is a cultural and political anachronism, locked in a pre-1997 mindset. It is also, of course, rather wonderful. The reason that it is so immensely politically powerful is that its Leftist message is subconsciously legitimated by association with things that we love and cherish and make us proud to be British: the Archers, the Shipping Forecast, “Lillibulero”, Doctor Who, the Proms – the list is endless. How could anyone possibly attack such a thing? BBC political bias is like the arms dump once hidden in the Parthenon. You could blow it up, but it would be an act of cultural vandalism for which future generations might not forgive you.

So what is the alternative? All I can say is that BBC hierarchs had better accept that one day, sooner rather than later, there will be a Tory government, and that they can no longer afford to treat the 8,100,000 people in England who voted Tory (as opposed to the 8,045,000 who voted Labour) as halfwits or nutcases, or to introduce any Tory spokesman or idea with their habitual smile of supercilious condescension.

Look at what happened the other night, when there wasn’t any Marr or Mardell on the news to make fun of the Tories and their troubles. There was a very nice scab newsreader, with some excellent stories, simply told – and he achieved higher ratings! If they can’t find anyone to read the news next week, I now volunteer to do the job myself. It’s true the BBC did once axe me for having the wrong kind of voice, but I’d love another go. Or if they don’t want me, might I volunteer Norman Tebbit or Charles Moore? What’s the difference between that and Jim Naughtie calling the Labour Party “us”?

83 thoughts on “TV Licensing”

  1. The Anti-Conservative bent of the BBC is not confined to the television This morning , that self appointed Welsh Rottweiler , Humphreys, was almost lyrical in his condemnation of the way Michael Howard wants to alter the Conservative party’s method to choose a leader. What on earth does he know about the reasons behind MH’S thought processes, and whether they are perceived as right or wrong? He went on to say that the public perception of The Party was one of a group of Colonel Blimps. This may , in the dim distant past , have been the case, but we are living in AD 2005, not 1830. I have always been of the opinion that a reporter is someone who reports FACTS first( writ large) , followed ,at a distance, by opinions( writ small). In my opinion , the BBC is past its sell-by date , and should be replaced by something much smaller: something which would fit into its own boots

  2. I agree that it seems a bit silly to have the license fee. Surely if somebody totted up the amount of money it costs to take people to court or imprison them, it would be better to fund it through taxation. But I don’t buy into the idea that the BBC is particularly biased; it provided pretty hard, incisive reporting into the Iraq war for an organisation supposed to be so Blairite. My main opposition to the license fee is that, as somebody who has two sets in the house wired up to cable, I’m paying a lot of money for a rather minimal section of my viewing. I don’t like too much political criticism of the BBC, as I think they provide a good service, and if you venture down the road of micromanaging their news coverage because of every imagined slight you end up with that strange Tory policy of the eighties where Gerry Adams had to be voiced by an actor. Now what was that about?!! Oh, if you don’t like the BBC, Boris, you won’t be accepting any lucrative appearances on HIGNFY, then?

  3. Now that the door is open I assume that a fully fledged campaign to ‘reform’ the BBC will follow. There is no place in a modern democracy for a ‘state’ broadcaster.

  4. I like the BBC, I agree with Boris that it does some fantastic stuff and always has. But I also agree with Mac that, beneath the shield of that fantastic stuff, it has got too big for it’s boots and should be revised. (for revised read given a good slap)

    But Boris, I want to know how the hell your wife survives with four children in the house and no TV?! Where on earth do you park them when you want a bath without fear of them killing themselves or each other? Ah, that would be the nanny again huh?!

    Roll on Dora the explorer – I’m going to have a bath!

  5. “And now the News at 10, with Boris Johnson.” I’d watch!

    Seriously, though, I think that the BBC is a unique organisation (unique in a good way), in that the licence fee *should* free the Beeb from the commercial constraints of the other channels, enabling it to show *proper* television, as opposed to just what the lowest common denominator wants to watch. But there lies the problem – if they show quality TV that doesn’t appeal to enough people, they are accused of being elitist, and thus unworty of my

  6. Dear Boris

    I think you began well but then you started referring to all the individuals of the BBC as ‘they’ which made you sound a bit like a loony.

    I’m not sure I support your stance on the BBC but would be able to agree if your criticism paralleled with criticism of other non-free market journalism. If we are to replace the BBC, or at least severely curtail its power and activities then please make sure it is not replaced by the cartel of blandness of American news corporations, with there iron grip on television and radio.

    Further more if you truly are a believer in the free market of not just money but also ideas then perhaps you should investigate the great work the BBC is pioneering in Creative Commons Licences in the country. The broad casting debate is moving away from just the Television and Radio 4 news, please inform yourself if you intend to continue this debate in a meaning full way.

    Thanks

    Len

  7. Personally I do not think the BBC is simply anti-tory/pro-labour, its more complicated, news is understood through a particular prism, and shown as such. At times this might be to the benefit of any party, other times it might clash with labour which is more ussualy the beneficiary. Its not that the BBC is saying ‘vote x’ merely that the BBC ‘world view’ ties in more fittingly with certain parties.

  8. I remember the 1980s, and near-continuous stream of complaints from the Conservative governments of the time about alleged BBC bias against them. So nothing’s changed: the Conservatives still hate the BBC, because they don’t control it. Plus ca meme chose, eh wot?

  9. Leaving alone the news on the BBC, I’ve always had the feeling that the BBC tends to abuse parts of the audience through its own scheduling pattern. Most of it’s imports, mostly american are put on either in the six pm slot or after midnite. Programmes are put on fro a few weeks then are moved to other times and every stops watching and then goes out and buys the DVDs.

    To be honest though the BBC has changed over the past few years. A little for the better Heimat is being shown on BBC Four starting on friday which jhas to be good thing in my book any way. After all watching the BBC One on a tuesdays night was like watching hell:

    http://www.plymouthblog.freewebpages.org/plymouth_blog%20-%2014%20May%202003.htm

    But I still think that the fee should stay in place.

  10. An excellent idea, dear fellow, to not have a television. I think I will follow your lead. Last time I watched, there was some blonde buffoon on Question Time, burbling in an anachronistic fashion about something or the other. Mrs S. and I can well do without that sort of image in our living room.

  11. It’s tone is not entirely unlike the latter part of this offering from Boris Johnson…

    Steve

  12. Hang in there Boris! After a few weeks they stop sending threatening letters (although it may start again if you move house).
    In all my eighteen years I’ve never had a TV and I’m sure I’m a better person for it although definitely in a minority.
    I still managed to catch your appearance on Question Time via the Interweb and I do pop over the road each Friday to check whether you’re on Have I Got News For You.
    Keep up the good work!

  13. I sympathise with Boris’s views on this issue. I don’t watch TV either although I do have one which I use to watch DVDs. You tell people this and they look at you like you’re mad. Me? The one who DOESN’T watch Celebrity Enema Challenge and Chav Families From Hell?

    I don’t mind paying some sort of license to keep a quality, state-funded service providing news and public interest programmes, as BBC2, Radio 4 and the World Service do. However, it is a liberty to expect the public to cough up to fund purely commercial radio and TV channels like BBC 1, Radio 1 and Radio 2 which get the highest ratings in the country and could easily support themselves. I also object to the amount of money being pumped into their barely watched satellite and cable channels. My solution? Split the BBC into commercial and public interest entities and let us pay for the public interest ones. This might as well be done through regular tax.

    The attitudes of Capita and its licensing people are another issue. It’s appalling that these people are able to behave like government agents when they’re employees of a private debt collection company. They rely heavily on misleading the public about the extent of their powers and intimidating homeowners through letters like the one Boris received and through agents turning up and harassing people on their doorsteps. I’m fed up of their Orwellian poster campaigns too. Perhaps a future Conservative government will get rid of this vile little company and cancel all its contracts.

  14. What an excellent article in the Telegraph about not having a T.V. I do not have one either and am fed up with the threatening letters. How stupid can you get?!!
    I agree about the B.B.C. Should they be called the Biased Broadcasting Corporation?
    Keep up the good work.
    Best wishes,
    M.Colwill

  15. The logic starts so well and then it all goes horribly wrong. I agree that the way the licence fee is collected is stupid. It clearly needs to be reformed.

    But as for “BBC Bias”, I prefer my news delivered by an organisation without commercial interests. Anyone remember Dasani, the filtered tap water? It’s still on sale in the USA if you want some.

    I still wish I could use languange like Boris does though.
    Don’t spend time as a news reader, you should be the Tory leader.

  16. A pleasure to see a sound piece (for a change?) by Boris, the more so because it’s on the BBC.

    I also entirely agree with him on the extradition matter. I got bit disenchanted with this site pre-election because it was IMO a bit wet. With this and Boris’s (I assume it was his) bit in the Speccie about poodles it looks like he may be returning to sounder form, I do hope so. I may even renew my Speccie subscription. I guess we shall have to wait and see.

  17. Boris makes some very good points, but it would be even better if he would follow up on it as he has the power to do so.

    Why not introduce a private members bill calling for the privatisation of the BBC? Or at the very least ordering the BBC under the regulation of Ofcom instead of having the farcical situation of self regulation where the BBC Governors never uphold any complaints made against them. Actions speak louder than words, so Boris, make some action!

  18. The essential point here is that whoever pays the piper calls the tune. The BBC depended on Labour to get another blank check of extorted public money for the next ten years. And before anyone accuses me of being over-the-top, the dictionary definition of extortion is ‘Payment of money exacted by means of intimidation; also, extortion of money from a person by threats of public accusation, exposure, or censure’. Which is exactly what the ‘license’ fee involves.

  19. Oh dear, how on earth can you argue that they are left wing when their output is entirely pro-capitalist? And you support the savage cuts to BBC staff? This is a terrible injustice, as the BBC has stood alone as a beacon of sanity in the hysterical post-911 world.

    We’ve had to put up with a barrage of unsavoury right wing propaganda from various outfits, such as the Spectator, playing upon peoples prejudices and fears.

    The BBC provides an alternative from the populist ‘money talks’ media, where journalists do not have the freedom to express themselves, and feeling compelled to push a particular line because of expectations from their outfits proprietor and readership.

    The BBC does a great job. Their budget should be increased tenfold and funded by increased liscenses for the super rich. You and your buddy Boris should pay your fair share.

    I don’t want Britain to be like the United States where the population is brainwashed by a completely one sided right wing corporate media. Clearly you do.

    http://www.world-socialism.blogspot.com

  20. Corporate media is a plague, your party is a joke and you should think before talking if you want to avoid leading it.

  21. Those using an Arabic nom de guerre should at least use the name properly rendered in Anglicized form. Hasshashin would be much nearer to the original .

  22. Dear Melissa and Boris,

    This is a separate issue to the licence fee (which I happen to be in favour of!), but is anyone else on here displeased by the horrible new BBC weather graphics?

    If you are, then please help me start a new Google bombing campaign! I’d like to Google bomb the BBC Weather page at http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather with the phrase “ugly graphics”.

    I remember you lot once discussing Google bombing Boris, so I thought maybe you could help!

    Anyone who has a blog or website, please help us voice the nation’s displeasure at the new weather!

    Full explanation and instructions are on my site here:
    http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/googlebombbbcweather/weather.html

    Melissa, perhaps, if you are sympathetic to this idea you could even post about it, to draw it to as many people’s attention as possible?

    Anyway, just thought I’d try! Thanks for reading, and great blogging Boris and Melissa!

  23. For years “they” have been threatening to search our house to find the TV but they never come. We’ve been hoping to sue.
    Note for jaq: parents without telly talk to and do things with their kids. Kids learn to concentrate better and find their own learning and creative outlets. We did not have a nanny; outside our class!

  24. We have two tory parties in the yUK, its called freemarket choice, and they are called the Conservative tories for fine gentlemen like Mr. Boris, and the Labour tories for Beasts from Bolsover. Now if we could just have some political parties……….then the BBC would have a chance to get down and dirty for one side or another!

  25. boris on the bbc

    Boris Johnson, Conservative MP and mid-ranking celeb has a go at the Beeb:Is this Britain, my friends, or is this some Central American dictatorship, circa 1970? I can think of only one reason for having a television in Oxfordshire, and…

  26. In the name of balancing this article, I draw the author’s attention to the 20 March 2005 edition of Panorama, a programme entitled “Iraq, Tony and the Truth”.

    Bearing in mind this went out six weeks before a general election, this was a most skilful demolition of the Labour party’s foreign policy which could only have swayed opinion to the opposition.

    Was not Hutton a toe-to-toe fight between New Labour and the BBC on issues far more serious than a few journalistic slips of the tongue? Boris, you’re being rather selective with your evidence here, just as I have been with mine.

    Also: If you’re not paying a TV licence, then you’re getting all that radio and web juice for nothing. And you’re complaining?

  27. Actually Boris, despite its many faults the BBC is the best broadcaster in the world (I thought of saying ‘least worst’). It is also one of the most popular and well-known global brands.

    We can certainly improve the BBC (eg with regard to “impartiality”), but please let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Tony Blair also wants to weaken the BBC and reduce its licence fee. For me that’s almost enough reason to say: let’s subsidise it more, maybe that’s the way to improve it.

  28. I’m in complete sympathy with Boris’s first four paragraphs. As we have no TV, we’ve been continually targetted by the TV Licensing Authority with a series of letters of increasing obnoxiousness.

    One Val Smith has just written to me “Your details are being passed to our enforcement officers. Despite being sent two previous reminders, you still have not purchased a new TV licence. . . .”

    At my last address, I tried to write to them and even telephone to say that we had no TV, didn’t want a TV, thought British TV was lousy, regarded the small screen as outdated, saw the BBC as a 1980s-style, visually and technologically illiterate, over-influential arrogant cheerleader of mainsteam media etc. but it made no difference . . . the TV Licensing Authority kept on sending the letters.

    Regarding computer access to the BBC, it’s essential that the internet remains open. It would do an immense amount of damage if the BBC or the government tried to impose a licence system on computers. The BBC have, after all, the option of making their web services subscriber-based if they choose to. (Regarding radio – which is still quite good here – I suppose licences might be possible but fees would have to be proportionate.)

  29. Simon:That’s the price one pays when the government chooses to featherbed the dinosaur which is the BBC. If the various departments were , for once , to get their acts together, a great deal of money could be saved, to everyone’e mutual benefit. My solution would be to follow the modern trend: specialise.For instance: split the current affairs and other news related programmes from the main body of the BBC’s sometimes marvellous, entertainment programmes. Tbere could be a limited amount of select advertising: allowing short natural commercial breaks at relevant times, in comedy and drama programmes, in which the Beeb excels. The theatre has always operated so. As for the more serious elements: there are, elsewhere, so many other reliable sources of news , without the burden of ego, that the prima donna types , such as Humphreys and Paxman could be dispensed with, and indeed, would not be missed, as indeed they weren’t , just recently. (Where else can one demand a grade ‘A’ salary, merely for having a badgering repetetive question mechanism implant). To digress:Alva Liddell and John Snagg would spin in their graves if they were to hear such bully boy tactics. We are already aware, without labouring the point , that the majority of politicians will not answer a question without getting at least one party point across.. Those who unwittingly give a clue, or a straightforward answer, are liable to be sacked: it’s the nature of the beast.
    The TV licence is outdated, and should be overhauled, to the viewers,(and general taxpayer’s),benefit. It is no longer infra dig to deal with tradesman , Mr Governer.

  30. Quote from a Radiohead T-Shirt about television:
    “Most people gaze neither into the past nor the future; they explore neither truth nor lies. They gaze at the television.”

  31. Auntie

    Boris Johnson has been slagging off the BBC. Is this Britain, my friends, or is this some Central American dictatorship, circa 1970? I can think of only one reason for having a television in Oxfordshire, and that is so that I can refuse to pay Goodbod…

  32. I got the letters when they detected me as not having a license – despite the complete lack of a TV in the house. They never followed up on it.

    Aside that though, I love the BBC, especially it’s web content.

  33. Mararnie: “My solution would be to follow the modern trend: specialise. For instance: split the current affairs and other news related programmes from the main body of the BBC’s sometimes marvellous, entertainment programmes. . . .”

    Yes, I am strongly in favour of splitting the BBC up by function and geography. The BBC is involved in too many different areas: news gathering, TV broadcasting, radio broadcasting, overseas and local services and new media etc. This limits its efficiency, while encouraging its pretensions.

    The corporation is financially insecure and vulnerable to political manipulation, and yet seeks to play a major role in influencing national values. If the BBC were to be split up, we would not have that problem. The news gatherers would gather news, the entertainers would entertain, the radio people would broadcast radio etc. etc. and they would all do it better.

    At present the BBC acts as an un-appointed representative of church and monarchy, parliament and union – in other words the status quo – on behalf of an assumed nation of incapacitated couch potatoes incapable of any form of mental activity unstimulated by the supply of electricity into their TV sets.

    Of course, the BBC are not propagandistic, on the contrary they constantly challenge the institutions they are backing, and yet they support traditional institutions by allocating disproportionate amounts of time to programmes about them (for example the monarchy).

    The BBC ignore much of what is happening in European politics and avoid programmes that objectively compare standards in Britain with those in other countries. They steer clear of constitutional reform issues (Scottish independence, the Campaign for an English Parliament, reform of the House of Lords etc.). Programmes allowing humanists and scientists to criticize the influence of churches and cults over education and social policies (and broadcasting) are taboo etc. etc. etc.

  34. Does anyone think Boris is beginning to sound a bit like a swivel-eyed old-school Tory zealot? Most of the country regard Boris as one of the more progressive Conservatives, but this almost paranoid outpouring of bile on an organisation that has been pretty much constantly at loggerheads with the government for the last four years seems out of character.

    It is somehow extraordinary that a lumbering, state-funded enterprise should be pretty much leading the world in terms of experimentation with new methods of content creation etc. funding some of the most brilliant comedy, providing (in my opinion at least) better news service than any competitor I can think of. All my basic free market economics teaches me that privatisation = innovation. However, in the case of broadcasters, the exact opposite seems to be true. Let’s not get too hung up on free market zealotry, peculiar as it is, the BBC works…

  35. ‘Look at what happened the other night, when there wasn’t any Marr or Mardell on the news..’

    I don’t want to be picky but how did you see this if you don’t have a tv or avoid watching the BBC?

  36. O.K.The BBC works; but at what cost in apparently superfluous manpower? One used the various cumbersome engines of war back in the early days; these, in their time, were regarded as the ultimate weapons, but something better able to do the job was evolved.The later models were cheaper and easier to manufacture and maintain ; and these, in due course, were also superseded, by even better models.Time marches on. If the powers that be, at the BBC, are able to envisage equal qality and quantity of output with a lesser workforce, at no extra burden to those remaining; surely it makes sense; in modern parlance, to ‘slim down and become fitter’. The BBC has become unwieldly , due to its monolithic structure. Given, like the curate’s egg,that it’s good in parts, the better parts should be protected, whilst other parts, not quite so outstanding, should be privatised .

  37. aka Mr Goodbody – he is referring to his home in the constituency as opposed to his London home.

    >my premises in Oxfordshire.

  38. I’ve noted over the past few years that several of my singleton chums have ditched the telly like Boris and family. What I do not understand, being the father of an energetic five-year old boy who needs occasional sedation by CeeBeebies/DVD/video, is how the Johnson clan manage without the infernal device. What’s your secret, Boris and Melissa? That old standby, gin in the Ribena?

  39. Oh dear. Dreadfully sorry, Marina, a slip of the trigger finger when I typed ‘Melissa’ above.

  40. With apologies to all for posting yet again so soon, has Boris lost the plot, sub-plot and backstory completely when he alleges that BBC hacks support New Labour because their default position is left of centre?

    Since when has New Labour under PM Tony Blair (near-anagram: Tory Plan B) been left of centre?

  41. Keep posting Kevin !!

    You are right, though I think the feeling is more that the approach of the BBC could be improved – away from so much sensationalist drama and fatuous comment

  42. Why thank you, Melissa, you’re too kind.

    Having witnessed first hand from the Back Office the horror of working in ITV’s alleged ‘factual entertainment'(factertainment?), I’m amazed that the Beeb hasn’t blundered even further into the mire of reality/cheapo telly in chasing commercial broadcasters downmarket. I do agree with the comments above about Boris being spectacularly bonkers on this topic. Lord Tebbit would be proud of him. (And Mr Tony.)

    I would again concur with the foregoing comments concerning Boris’s stellar career on the BBC – notably his finest hour on Have I Got News For You, Trapped in Autocue Hell. I laughed my breasts off, retrieved them, and lost them again when reading bloggers who took his finely-calculated shambolic performance seriously as the Worst Presenter Ever of HIGNFY. Give that man a Sweetheart Contract!

    [N.B. Melissa: spot of bother with losing paragraphing in Preview. Could this be my steam-powered 1GB PC playing silly buggers? Help!]

  43. Dear Sir,

    Your article has given a ray of hope to those of us who are fairly desperate to get the BBC off our backs and have done with it.

    Thank You.

  44. Kevin B:

    here is the answer to your question from Simon, who understands the technology:

    >Unfortunately, HTML (the thing that formats paragraphs etc) isn’t allowed in preview, due to security concerns. So, while the preview won’t show the correct formatting, the result is shown correctly. Not ideal, I’ll grant you – I’ll have a look at a resolution.

  45. Thanks, Melissa, not a problem.

    What’s this about getting the BBC off our backs? Getting ITV1 off our backs might make some deranged sense but this right-wing obsession with caning the Beeb is extremely tiresome. Just stop it.

  46. What is particularly right wing about wanting the servant , whose wages one pays,to do those things which it is supposed to do: inform and entertain, without bias and favour? It is supposed to be a non-political observer of the human condition; at home and abroad. I repeat what has already been said , that the BBC has outgrown its remit, through the sheer clumsiness of its size, and has lost its credibility by the overuse of certain super egos in its flagship broadcasts. Bring back Muffin the Mule and Watch with mother., and btw , whatever happened top the potter’s wheel?

  47. Mac

    Come, come. Only High Court judges (or Mr Tony when he wants to serve the People’s People) can talk these days without irony about master & servant – or slave, if they’re particularly pervy. (Er, you’re not a High Court judge by any chance? Oh-oh.)

    As for Muffin the Mule, this now attracts a stiff prison sentence.

  48. Sorry, all, dreadful breach of etiquette to post a third time (I’m a serial poster, stop mebefore I post again…). But I missed a goal a mile wide with Macarnie. Luckily, staircase wit can get a second chance on the Net so, Mac – did it entirely escape your attention that Pound and Keruoac ended their days as rabid right-wingers (Fasacist in Pound’s case)? Aha!

    The defense rests. OTY.

    How on earth did we get from BBC to haiku? Oh yes, culture. As Raymond Williams said, Culture Is Ordinary, but it can be challenging too. Thank goodness then for BBC2,3,4 and Radio 3, 4, etc.

  49. Kevin , I don’t know what it is that you are so gallantly defending. If there is no accuser, it follows that there is is no accused : no prosecution = no defence necessary. (We have not yet taken all the US spellings , I presume.) For me , the political leanings of either of the two persons discussed is of no consequence. Their egotistical approach in trying to shape the future or even , in Pounds case, the past, of world literature, regardless of shift of political spectrum is irrelevant. As for my being a member of the judiciary : si j’avais su l’importance.( The muffin thing was one chestnut which I didn’t pull out of the fire). I mentioned previously that Pound was charged with treason: this was during his Italian era, when he had , a la Lord Haw Haw, broadcast anti-American ( rather than anti-British)propaganda, whilst he was experiencing a fascist rebirth. More right wing than that would be hard to imagine. However , he was declared mentally unfit for trial, otherwise , in true wartime mode , he would have been executed. since his guilt was not in question. The other guy, Kerouac , if my memory does not fail, was a fellow traveller of mystics, poets and a variety of hobos and eccentrics: hardly the stuff from which right wing politice is made, nicht wahr? For the record , in a recent test of political tendency, undertaken by many on this site, I showed up as slightly left of centre,
    (surprisingly).

  50. (To quote the late great Cookie) Bloody Hell!

    Sorry about confusing the 3 people and a dog reading this and posting the Pound/Keruoac thingie on the wrong board, mixed my meds up yesterday. Nurse!

  51. Without getting political about the BBC I would like to add to the debate regarding non use of TV. I would like to know where I can find out what the law says about using a TV for video’s etc but not receiving programmes by any means. After a long battle which concluded with a refund of advance direct debit payments, and an appology with a £10 goodwill gesture, I am now frightened to have a set for other uses. If someone could point me to an official site where I can find this information I will be forever grateful. I still have a TV aerial which I use for my aged radio. Yes I listen to BBC while gardening, walking, pottering etc, but the thought of having to waste time sitting in front of the goggle box does not appeal to me at all. I would just like to be able to watch the occasional DVD or video
    Regards Ian

  52. Ian

    An agony uncle writes: so many people seem to have this problem. A chum of mine went through a protracted tussle with the Telly Licensing people for exactly the same reason as you. The trouble is of course that the tussle escalates into a full-on war of attrition (deliberately of course) so they just wait for you to give up and either pay the bloody thing or lob the set out the window (you then get fined for illegal dumping and – Mrs Badcrumble from next door unfortunately being directly positioned at the end of its trajectory – an ASBO ).

    I’d try the following for starters (if you haven’t already):

    http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/index.jsp

    It would be naive to expect this site to address the issue of tellies that cannot receive a TV signal (it’s not included in the rib-tickling Excuses, Excuses, Excuses section. The following extract highlights that physical detection is concerned simply with a telly’s magnetic field; its reception capability is not a matter for exemption and you would probably have the burden of proving non-detection by going thro’ the hassle of an appeal against a fine:

    “There are a number of ways we can find out.

    At the heart of our operation is the TV Licensing database of over 28 million home and business addresses, telling us which of these have TV Licences.

    All of our enforcement officers have access to this database and will check whether or not you have a licence. If you are using a TV and are unlicensed, you could face prosecution and a hefty fine.

    We have a fleet of detector vans, plus, our enforcement officers have access to hand-held detection devices capable of detecting a magnetic field when a TV is switched on.”

    All the best with your struggle against Big Brother. Bear in mind that this is a picnic compared to the nuclear warfare that will be unleashed if New Labour ram the ID Card Bill through parliament and fines for non-compliance start pouring through our letterboxes.

  53. Ian

    Paydirt. Try this site:

    http://www.jifvik.org/tv/

    The key bit is:

    “On 1 April 2004, most of the television licensing provisions in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (as amended), the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the Wireless Telegraphy (Television Licence Fees) Regulations were repealed and replaced by similar provisions in Part 4 of the Communications Act 2003 and The Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004.

    The relevant legislation is at

    http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2003/30021–l.htm#363
    http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/si/si2004/20040692.htm

    ——————————————————————————–

    The short answer:

    If your TV and VCR/DVD player are only used to watch pre-recorded material (videos or DVDs) and never used to receive broadcasts, then you do not need a TV Licence. Keeping the broadcast receivers in the TV and the VCR de-tuned (DVD players don’t normally contain receivers) is sufficient to prove to them that you do not use the equipment to receive broadcasts – but you must make sure that no picture, no matter how poor quality, is viewable on the screen. There is absolutely no need to physically modify, damage or remove the tuner or any other circuitry in the TV or VCR.
    ——————————————————————————–

    The long answer:

    The TV Licensing Authority (TVLA) recently removed this helpful paragraph from the FAQ part of their site:

    Q What if I only watch videos?

    If a television or video recorder (VCR) can receive signals, then you need a licence. However, you don’t need a licence if the equipment is not connected to an aerial, satellite receiver or cable and you only use it to watch pre-recorded tapes. This sometimes happens in schools and colleges.

    The information on their site now (as of 8th Dec 2000 when I am writing this page) is not clear about this setup, for example under “Licence Evaders” it says:

    Using a TV without the correct licence is a criminal offence. If you use a television or other equipment capable of receiving broadcast television programmes – such as a TV-enabled computer – without a licence you could face prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000.

    – which says that it is unlicensed use of the device, not ownership, that is illegal, whereas on the front page it says:

    If you install or use a television receiver then you are required by law to have a TV licence.

    – which implies that installing a TV, but never using it, still requires a licence.

    Both of the “uses” in the above imply that any use without a licence is illegal – which is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. It is ONLY the use FOR RECEIVING BROADCASTS that requires a licence.

    Under “Businesses”, they clearly state:

    If your business installs or uses any equipment, such as a TV set or TV-enabled computer, which is capable of receiving broadcast television programmes (and it is ever used for that purpose), you’ll need a TV licence.

    (note the “and it is ever used for that purpose”), and further down the same page:

    Your business doesn’t need a licence if the TV set cannot receive television programmes and is only used:
    for closed circuit monitoring.
    for watching pre-recorded videos.
    as a monitor for computers.

    – but they never actually categorically state that this is the case for residential users as well!

    To clear this up I wrote to them in March 1998 asking them to confirm in writing that I did not need a TV Licence with my setup, which consists of a TV, a VCR, and a DVD player which are connected together using SCART leads and are only used for watching pre-recorded videos and DVDs. I had this reply stating that I did not need a licence as long as the equipment was not used for receiving broadcasts. I wrote back asking them to confirm how I could prove that I was in the clear if a Licensing Inspector were to call. They sent me this reply stating that de-tuning the equipment is sufficient.”

    Happy to discuss…

  54. Just to stir ; a little bit; if we are all in this together, and there are no sides, surely someone will fall out.( open the box)

  55. Honestly, Boris and Melissa …

    I watch the Beeb. From Dublin. And I also watch Jon Snow on Channel 4. Your rant about the Beeb seems downright silly from here. Maybe “with their habitual smile of supercilious condescension” refers to Jeremy Paxman (?) who does push things a trifle far, but he uses that style with Blairites consistently too. And I do like the quote where he said he persists in asking the question until it’s clear the interviewee is refusing to answer. Wouldn’t anyone like to see that kind of journalism in the US?? I believe Democrats.com were offering anyone in the White House ‘pack’ $1,000 if they asked Bush about the Downing St. memo and got a “yes” or “no” answer. And a $100 consolation prize if they didn’t get an answer, but asked it anyway (and then presumably got blacklisted.)

    The truth is, I’d find it hard to ask questions of any party with Howard as a “leader” without a pitying expression on my face. Which reminds me, I’m thoroughly fed up with people referring to “leaders” in democracies like ours. We elect people to REPRESENT us, not to be our “leaders”!

    But many thanks to those who posted info about using the box for DVDs etc and not paying a license fee. I’m off to find out the situation here in Ireland. 90% of the time that’s all I want the TV for too.

  56. Nora: a breath of fresh air: a razor cutting through the excess hair which has obscured the original proposition.I salute you .Dia duit !

  57. Dia’s Muire duit, Mac.
    My first time here. I hope I wasn’t rude. 🙂
    I meant to say that I enjoy Boris. From a distance, naturellement. He makes me grin when I’m watching an avalanche of bad news.

  58. Nora: Welcome on board. I’m a stranger here myself.

    I would imagine that Irish law will be pretty close to its UK counterpart on this (as with many other matters) but you should of course check out the Dublin legislation.

    How are things in the capital of the Green Tiger economy? You know that Guiness are closing down their London plant? I’m looking forward to the import of the Original Liffey firewater. (We had an old Jesuit priest as Deputy at school who had pure white hair and a solid black cassock nicknamed…you guessed it.)

    Mac: Nice to see you Thinking Outside the Box, old bean.

  59. My thoughts are never at any real altitude above the box Kevin.
    On a erious note: has anyone any ideas how to get rid of a fox? One came into my house late last evening as I was letting the dog out . I couldn’t believe my eyes, and , being unsuccessful in finding the thing, even using the dog to sniff the thing out;she must have an affinity with the pests, since she didn’t get excited or anything. I began to have serous doubts as to the accuracy of my eyes, and even doubted my sanity for that brief second. Eventually , after closing all downstairs doors, I went to bed. Early this morning I heard a crashing noise, coming from my downstairs utility room: upon opening the door, chaos, stuff all over the floor, and fox poo in the middle of the floor. I was out of there , double quick. I am now waiting for the RSPCA to open so I can ask their advice.

  60. I’d guess that the poor fox is terrified. I had a bad bout of insomnia 10 years ago and used to drive up to Howth Head and watch them scampering around at night. Beautiful creatures. Would it be possible to create an “avenue” with some furniture, from the utility room to the nearest outside door, and then just scare it in the right direction? Maybe it’s gone by now.

    Kevin: Things are fine in Dublin if you discount the shootings, the banks, and the imminent introduction of ASBOs. Can they not think outside the UK box? Ok, not fair. They did introduce the smoking ban first. My nights out have changed. I miss the fag with my after-dinner coffee. But one meets very interesting people outside in the rain.

    The Green Tiger is doing well by all accounts, but the EU shenanigans confuse the hell out of me to be honest. I’m not good on economics. It seems that increased affluence = decreased service and manners. We live now in a “customer is always wrong” society. Sad!

  61. I need to edit myself.
    New paragraph here:

    [But] it seems that increased affluence = decreased service and manners. We live now in a “customer is always wrong” society. Sad!

  62. Nora; I wondered where you were living as you described what has become an everyday story of Manchester, until you said it was Dublin;The Irish Blackpool of the East coast. to misuse one of Boris’s oxymorons , we are again united (in suffering) whilst divided (by the St George’s Channel),especially in the customer is always wrong field.

  63. I find the above comment from the poster who rejoiced in not having a TV, nor a licence – “I still managed to catch your appearance on Question Time via the Interweb…” somewhat amusing.

    Are you not still receiving programmes from the BBC even if you watch them on your PC? Should you not then be paying a licence fee to watch those programmes?

  64. Mac:

    What happened about the fox?

    And what is Boris’s oxymoron?

    I’m not putting up with the “customer care” any longer. I’m not normally very extrovert or aggressive, but I threatened a sit-in in a computer shop last year. Moi? A sit-in? But I got what was (legally) owed to me.

  65. Nora,
    The fox is gone, and not a sign of a pink coat ; a stirrup cup or Tally-Ho. With great perseverance, and a bit of patience, the poor scared creature , a mere cub really, was given its freedom with the help of a device used by disabled people for picking objects up without stooping. I borrowed it from a Charity shop, and it did me proud. The little mite had bitten through a reed blind in its attempt to escape , and must really have thought its end was nigh. It was a relief to see it scoot out of the front door and into the neighbouring woodland area. Boris, in the last day or two, made a remark in one of his blogs: he said something was an oxymoron and then said words to the effect that one was stating the flaming obvious, as I was .

  66. Good try Kevin:but no Teddy Bear! An oxy moron,(sic), as you described just previously, is probably better described as a half wit with low blood gas measurements.

  67. That would be GW. Not sure about the ‘gas’ measurement though.
    I like:
    ‘political science’
    and ‘airline food’.

    (Good news about little fox.)

  68. Thinking about the Emerald Isle and the Famine and all that unpleasantness, don’t you think Boris is a bit of an absentee landlord on this blog when it comes to engaging with the peasantry?

    Chip, nay Beam, on Shoulder

  69. I forego chips for the sake of my cholesterol, Kevin, but I must agree. I mean … I’m waving at him all the way from Howth Head and he’s ignoring me. Would that happen if I were in Liverpool I ask you?

Comments are closed.