13 December 2008

The power of Facebook

I gave away my TV set three years ago, mainly because I rarely watched it, but also because many of the programmes offended me. In my innocence I wrote to TV Licensing to tell them that I would no longer be sending them the annual licence fee due in the UK from anyone who watches television. The money funds the BBC, whose shameless output of government propaganda was a further disincentive for me to keep the thing.

TVL’s reply, in so many words, called me a liar and a cheat. They said they would be sending someone to inspect my home to check up on me.

As you may imagine, I did not take kindly to this, nor did I take kindly to the stream of subsequent letters from TVL, all more or less bullying and intimidating. My Member of Parliament was of no help whatever, but facts gleaned from the internet provided me with the necessary defence. I was finally compelled to write a suitably insulting letter to the BBC itself, since when TVL have left me in peace.

The Corporation has made of me an abiding enemy. I look forward to the day when it is destroyed or broken up. For a rehearsal of some of its faults, see this post by Jonathan Miller.

Recently, anti-BBC sentiment has been spreading more widely, catalysed by a scandal. Two radio presenters left obscene messages on the answerphone of Andrew Sachs, an elderly, respected, and much loved British actor. One of the presenters, Russell Brand, informed Mr Sachs in graphic terms of what he had got up to with his granddaughter, while the other, Jonathan Ross, who is paid £6 million a year by the BBC, sniggered and egged him on. Brand has since resigned from that show, and Ross was suspended for three months without pay.

The resulting furore, initially handled with dismissive arrogance, revealed just how far the BBC has fallen in the national esteem. It has given rise to a Facebook group whose members have pledged to stop paying the licence fee.

The group has grown with astonishing speed. Currently it numbers 221,637, representing, if all the members do indeed withhold payment, an annual loss to the BBC of about £30 million. Now, this is only about 1% of the sum raised by the licence fee, but it is still a fair chunk of change. Without it the BBC will have to make some major readjustments in its spending plans. If the group ever reaches its stated goal of 10 million members, the BBC’s licence-fee income will be halved and the organization will in all likelihood collapse.

I have been following the development of this group with interest. It gives a hint of things to come.

In Britain, as in most developed countries, we are sitting on what newspapers usually call a “demographic timebomb”. There are too many old people. Increasingly, younger workers will be paying more and more tax to support them. This is likely to give rise to much resentment, since not a few of the elderly have made little provision for their own support, having swallowed the cruel lie that the state would look after them.

There will come a point when this resentment crystallizes into a political movement; when overworked and penurious young people decide to stage a tax strike. The television licence fee is officially classified as a tax, and a strike is exactly what is happening right now on Facebook.

If you are 50 years of age or over, living in a developed country, and have no savings, this may be a very good time to reassess what your future holds.


Anonymous said...

The facebook group unfortunately was started by a guy who just uses it to try and get people to join his forum which has hardly anything to do with the cause of abolishing the BBC TV Licence. You'll find sites like http://www.tvlicenceresistance.info are the real threat to the BBC because they help and inform people. You'll find that site has people who have gone 20/30yrs without paying them so they know whats what ;)

Richard Herley said...

Yes, I've been a member of the BBC Resistance Forum since 2005.

I believe the site you mention is a breakaway established by a former member of BBC Resistance who saw a troll under every bed!

The Facebook group is useful in that it helps spread the arcane knowledge of the early refuseniks into the wider domain. They quote from and link to MatthewD's site.