TV Licensing Again


This is a follow up to a previous post about the peculiarly British phenomenon known as TV licensing.  Several readers were decent enough point out answers to questions raised in that post, for which I am grateful.

In the light of ITV’s recent announcement that they will be laying off 600 employees in reaction to falling profits and asset depreciation, I felt I had to comment on another bizarre offshoot of the whole TV licensing situation in the UK.

My understanding is that a TV license is required in order to watch or record any live TV.  That’s any live TV.  So, no matter whether you watch ITV or Channel 4 or Sky or BBC1 on a TV then you must own a TV license.

However, the BBC take all the proceeds from the TV license.  So we have a very unique, anti-competitive situation where if you want to watch only Sky (as many people do), or even only ITV, then legally you must subsidize its principal UK competitor.  Is this fair market competition?

How has this situation remained unchallenged in the law courts for so long?  Perhaps there is something about the British psyche I have yet to fathom.

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2 Comments on “TV Licensing Again

  • When the fee was instigated – 10 zillion years ago – the BBC was the only broadcaster in the UK. The licensing system has remained in a timewarp despite the advent of commercial stations, subscription services and the digital revolution. It’s not fair no, but that’s the ‘unique way’ of funding that the BBC is always bragging about.

    The BBC Trust is currently undertaking a review of the licensing system, but as they’re onto a winner it’s unlikely they’ll recommend any major changes to the Government.

    Some further information for you:
    1. The BBC is the Licensing Authority, responsible for administration and enforcement of the TV licence. The Licensing Authority (ergo BBC) operate under the trading name of TV Licensing. This is to ensure that the Beeb’s squeaky clean image isn’t tarnished by TV Licensing’s ham fisted attempts to alienate every non-TV viewer in the UK.
    2. Not all of the licence revenue goes to the BBC. Some of it goes towards the Welsh language service S4C. None of it goes towards BBC World Service programming.

  • TV licensing may seem strange when seen from the US, it was certainly strange to me at first but it is not peculiarly British. Most European countries have a similar system, as do many Asian countries.

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