Charles Moore

The Tories should pledge to cut the BBC’s licence fee

The Tories should pledge to cut the BBC’s licence fee
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There has not been much good news out of Greece since the eurozone powers decided to crush the country, but it is heartening that the state broadcasting company, ERT, has been closed down. All such broadcasting systems, including the BBC, are attempts to impose certain political and cultural norms upon the population, and force them to pay for them. ‘This is how fascism works,’ protested one ERT ex-employee, as the riot police evicted her colleagues — who were trying to keep the service running — ‘slyly and in darkness’. She has got it back to front. Fascism (or communism) can prevail only if a state broadcasting system exists.

Now that the conservative dominated Greek government has stopped it and won its parliamentary vote of confidence, I hope that British Conservative politicians will learn the lesson. At present, the more adventurous among them are privately urging that the licence fee be removed from the monopoly control of the BBC and turned into a pot for public service broadcasting for which all could apply. This is an interesting idea, but not political enough. The Tories still fear that the BBC will try to trash them at the next election if they attack the licence fee. It will, but it is time to exploit the widespread dislike of the fee, especially among poorer voters. More than 10 per cent of all court cases in this country are TV licence nonpayments. It is an unbelievable waste of court time and public money and, as I saw when I was convicted for this offence, a Dickensian scene of human misery. Single mothers who cannot scrape together the £145.50 demanded are dragged before the magistrate to pay the six figure salaries of BBC bosses and stars. A cut would be very popular. Go into the next election promising to (say) halve the licence fee. This would immediately please millions and force the BBC to curtail its operations. Once its power starts to decline, it will never recover.

This is a preview from Charles Moore's Spectator's Notes in the forthcoming issue of the Spectator. Click here to read for free with a trial of The Spectator app for iPad and iPhone. You can also subscribe with a free trial on the Kindle Fire.