David Elstein on BBC staff

 by Martin Belam, 1 March 2004
"Every BBC employee should ask themselves every day what is so special about what they do that it justifies threatening the poorest people in society with hefty fines or jail if they fail to pick up their equal share of wages that are at least five times their own meagre income."

Unchartered waters - David Elstein hits back at criticism of his proposals to reform the BBC - Monday March 1, 2004 - The Guardian


What he should really ask is... If his proposals are implemented, will the poorest people be able to have access to quality TV, Radio and online content without having to cough up over £360 per year like most average sky subscribers?

He almost makes it sound like the BBC staff actually control the way it's funded...

It's odd. I used to do (part of) what Elstein suggests. My salary and my wifes was 'the licence fees of our road and the road next to it' and I used to actively consider what I'd say I did for them if they came round to ask where it had gone. Almost acting like an MP.

However, there are some who think that the licence fee is their personal arts grant, and those people should think very hard about their position.

Barry Cox has a interesting/radical answer to this in his Demos paper: 'Free for all: Public Service Broadcasting in the Digital Age' published at the same time at Elstein but pretty much overlooked. One idea he suggests is the idea that the licence fee could become a voluntary payment. Although this initially sounds ridiculous he cites Japan where an effectively voluntary licence fee funded NHK has "90% rural take up and 60% urban take up".

He also mentions the Creative Archive and then uses the principles that underpin that project to to float the idea of an Open Source BBC as a feasible 'digital future'.

You don't get sent to prison for not paying your TV licence. How reliable is the rest of his article, if this rather important fact is wrong?

True enough, but I think if you refuse to pay the fine eventually you can end up in old clinky for contempt of court, which whilst technically isn't being sent down for TV Licence evasion, effectively amounts to the same thing.

I am a foreigner living in Japaan and I can't believe that David Elstein and others are going along with the Japanese propaganda that the NHK fee is 'voluntary'. Barry Cox's viewpoint is notable for its sheer ignorance. Get your facts straight or don't comment on it.

Sure, there are no legal penalties for not paying it but in my home country of the USA harassment is harassment - NHK collectors harass and strong-arm their way into getting money from people who pay up for a quiet life.

Don't you dare hold up NHK as an example to follow - I know people who have been rung all hours of the day and night, followed around on a motor scooter and had NHK collectors turning up early in the morning and late at night to harass them for the fee. It is NOT treated as a voluntary payment - everytime you move house there is another rat-faced little man jabbering at you and saying you have to pay it. If you put him off, you get the aforementioned treatment til you pay it.

Given NHK's programmes are so implicitly racist against the world outside Japan I believe no foreigners should pay the fee.

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