Hat tip to the TV Licensing blog
Speaking on BBC1′s the Andrew Marr Show, Lord Hall also said a “household tax” – as proposed by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee – is a “very interesting idea”.
He added there is broad agreement for the licence fee to be reformed to ensure “everyone is paying equally for it and I would go along with that”.
Some will find Lord Hall’s admission that there is no long-term future for the UK’s antiquated “Telly Tax” a refreshing volte-face from the BBC Chief, but the reality is that he needs to protect BBC revenues as well as addressing growing criticism of how TV Licensing operates, specifically:
- The regressive nature of the TV License which, at an annual cost of £145.50 ($230 USD, $300 AUD) disproportionately affects the poor as it relates to households rather than income.
- For non-compliant households (both scoff-laws and “TV Refuseniks” who genuinely don’t require a license), sending out threatening letters and visits by Capita goons generates endless bad PR.
- Approximately 10% of all UK court cases are related to TV License evasion.
- Those jailed for non-payment of court imposed fines for TV License evasion are primarily poor women (a staggering 73% of all TV License related convictions)
So it is for these reasons, as well as a desire to silence those proposing a mixed public-service/subscription only model, that Lord Hall is suddenly open and honest about the need for change. In fact I suspect that “revenue neutrality” will be the foundation stone, but that will be revenue neutral from the BBC’s perspective – not the “hard-working families” who have to pay for the BBC’s largess.
The model that Lord Hall is proposing is a “Household Tax” and he is suggesting that it be simply added as a line item on Council Tax bills across the nation. Councils would then remit the money to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – which then sends the bulk of that money directly to the BBC (less some smaller scale payments to other media companies for their public service commitments)
On the face of it, since the “Telly Tax” is essentially a household tax anyway (save for those ½ million-or-so “TV Refuseniks”), so bundling it as a £145.50 line item within the Council Tax would mean:
- All costs associated with TV License collection would be eliminated (about £100 million per annum) along with the bad PR associated with threatening letters, visiting Capita goons and those poor women jailed for non-payment of court imposed fines for TV License evasion.
- Collection would revert to local councils, so any refusal to pay would be classified as Council Tax rather than TV License related evasion.
- The ½ million or so “TV Refuseniks” would be forced to pay regardless as I suspect ”not watching TV as it is broadcast” would cease to be a valid reason to refuse payment. This is a growing problem for the BBC and would “Send the right message” (as in “Fuck you – pay me.”)
However, the one thing which this approach would not deal with (or at least not on the surface), is the accusation that “a fixed fee of £145.50 disproportionately affects the poor”. Here I expect that the provisions covering Council Tax Reduction (previously known as Council Tax Benefit), will be extended to include the TV License component.
So if those in receipt of a Council Tax Reduction are no longer actually paying the cost of their TV License then who will? If your answer to that particular rhetorical question was “Muggins ‘ere”, then I suspect you are correct.
Given a “Revenue Neutral” approach (from the BBC’s perspective), any shortfall would have to be made up from an increase in either general taxation (income tax, etc.) or Council Tax.
Given that the OECD classifies the TV License as “a hypothecated tax for the purpose of funding public broadcasting“, neither approach would increase the overall tax versus GDP (one of Chancellor George “Gideon” Osborne favourite metrics), but I expect the new legislation preventing increases in general taxation to be used to add it onto the Council Tax bill.
Thus those eponymous “hard working families” who actually pay their Council Tax bills in full will be paying a hidden and unknown element to cover those who can’t pay / won’t pay.
Now you can see why Lord “Marxist” Hall is in favour of a “Household Tax” as it has the potential to solve all his current problems…Except BBC profligacy and left-wing bias obviously.