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”?