Thursday, 27 July 2017

Why do I have to pay for you to watch Mrs Brown's Boys? My Coalville Times column

I don’t know about you but I don’t care that Alex Jones, presenter of the One Show and rival with DIY SOS’ door frames for the ‘most wooden thing on TV’ award, gets paid £450,000 for reading an autocue.

I’m not bothered that Steve Wright, one of the few of his generation of disc jockeys not to have been beset by scandal of one form or another, takes home half a million quid each year. Do we still call them ‘disc jockeys’? Does he still have a posse?

And I must be frank I admire that local boy done good, Gary Lineker, has the cajones to think he’s worth £1.8 million, in addition to his crisp fortune, for basically staying up late on a Saturday night to tell us about football matches we already know the results of and many have already watched through various nefarious streaming methods. Well played, sir.

The point is that Ms Jones or Mr Wright or Gary, as I like to call him, have clearly got decent agents who will negotiate for them passionately and, I am told authoritatively, that these three stars and virtually every other on the recently published BBC Rich List could have earned significantly more with private sector broadcasters.

The simple truth is that it is doesn’t bother me too much how much Derek Thompson earns, I don’t think I had ever even heard of Derek Thompson until I read the list and someone told me he’s been in Casualty for more than 70 years, because I simply don’t watch the BBC.

Let me qualify that slightly. I will usually put the news on in the morning in one shape or another, it could be BBC Breakfast or it could be the Today programme, but aside from that: nothing. In fact I would go as far as saying I virtually never watch terrestrial TV.

I pay for Netflix and Amazon Prime; I love audiobooks from Audible and stream music from Spotify; I even still take digital newspapers and magazines and I pay for the lot.

So why when there is nothing for me and my family do I have to pay, or be prosecuted and even go to prison, for entertainment which I simply don’t use or want?

If people want Football Focus or Mrs Brown’s Boys or even the interminable Graham Norton then fine. But surely I shouldn’t stump up for their enjoyment?

It’s like a Leicester City season ticket holder being told they are legally obligated to pay towards Derby County because ‘well, you know, we need a government owned football club’.

No. We have a hugely competitive market in this country trying to entice us in with streaming and quality content; seriously have you seen The Crown on Netflix? it’s amazing; and for the most part I and countless others think they do it far better than a monolithic establishment broadcaster fit for purpose thirty years ago but now with a funding model fit for nothing more than the scrapheap.

I do get that there is an argument for an impartial news organisation, I even get that having one should be funded through taxation. If there was a subscription model just for news I would probably even be one of the first to sign up for it.

But Bargain Hunt? Escape to the Country? Pitch Battle (whatever that is)? Flog It!? Do me a favour!
Of course there is a serious point to all of this. Your annual licence fee is now £147. That’s way more per year than any of the streaming services, with Amazon Prime for considerably less than that you even get your shopping delivered next day free of charge. Just imagine Vanessa Feltz turning up with you groceries?

Given the choice many, many families on lower incomes would choose an option other than our state broadcaster.

In fact there’s a strong argument that the poorest people in our society are subsidising the wealthiest. How on earth can Alan Yentob be on the rich list, and just what does he do? I’ve no idea but I’ll venture there’s not many residents of North West Leicestershire and South Derbyshire who have him down on Series Link.

Crucially though there isn’t a choice. If you own a television you must pay.

Now I don’t have any problem at all with government providing services that we need, you know, a health service and schools and roads, they are essential, that is what government is there for. But just like the world has moved on from a state owned telecoms companies in 2017 we don’t need a barely adequate state broadcaster.

It really is time to end this stunning anachronism.

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