This is the slightly edited text of a communication sent to my MP, Vicky Ford, on the status of the BBC.
"I wish to express my extreme concern regarding the government’s apparent attitude to the BBC. News reports say: “Downing Street has told the BBC the licence fee will be scrapped.” I have no idea whether this is Conservative Party policy, I don’t think it is, but it is clear from the anti-BBC rhetoric in the right wing press – particularly the Daily Telegraph – that the BBC is in the firing line, and I wish to lobby you to represent my views on the subject.
I will say that the practice of sending people to prison who have defaulted on their licence payment should end forthwith. We abolished debtors’ prisons in this country in 1869, and it is a scandal that people are still being sent to gaol for debt – and this applies equally to defaulters on council tax. Also, I believe that the possession of a TV set should not be the determining factor in whether a licence is needed. Some sort of login system with a password ought to be perfectly possible to be implemented with the minimum of inconvenience - this could be easily automated as is the login to Netflix.
However to abolish the licence fee for the BBC and replace it with a subscription service would be an act of cultural vandalism.
The benefits that the BBC TV, radio, local radio, world service and website bring to the country – and the world – are incalculable; make it a subscription service, and the BBC’s revenue would nosedive, turning it into the sort of lowest-common-denominator broadcasting familiar to anyone who travels abroad. The BBC is the envy of the world and a lifeline too for many countries with totalitarian regimes. Most people – with the exception of some readers of the above mentioned daily newspaper – know that what is heard on BBC news and current affairs programmes is fair, balanced and unbiased, sometimes almost to a fault. The BBC speaks truth to power.
I suspect that there is a politically motivated move to punish the BBC for its probing, mildly anti-establishment stance during the debate on Europe, spearheaded by the Today programme. Anyone whose memory is capable of winding back 20 years, would know that it was equally probing and questioning towards the Labour Government of Blair before, during and after the Iraq invasion. That position cost the BBC their chairman and managing director.
We need a sensible and grownup public debate on the future of the BBC, not policy made on the hoof to garner instant approval from a minor section of the electorate."
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