Cutting the TV Tax is a better idea

Cutting the TV Tax is a better idea

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Saturday 25, February, 2017

THE PLANNED launch of a Scottish 9 by the BBC as a new channel dedicated to Scotland has been welcomed by every MSP in Holyrood as an unprecedented investment. It is of course that Brownite kind of investment which really means a government institution spending £30m our money as it sees fit. No one has stopped to ask that burning question: Do we want this? 

Scotland has become one of the most politicised parts of the UK following two major referenda and criticism of the BBC and other media outlets has been fierce from all angles. 

There will be yet another fight over who has influence on how the BBC spends our money and we can be sure the licence fee payer will not be at the centre of this debate. It really shows just how out of date this model has become and it begs the question what drove the BBC to this decision? It's not as if it has any real sense of what the market demands beyond setting up shop as a competitor to existing and successful commercial services. 

This hurts everyone. Advertisers suffer from having less audience for the money they pay and STV receives less revenue as a result of having its audience split with a subsidised BBC service. 

The last thing Scotland needs is another layer of tax-funded intelligentsia luvvies swelling the ranks of the media establishment. When so many journalists praise this "investment" I can't help but think of that crude apposite remark by Frank Underwood in House of Cards,

"SanCorp helps me purchase loyalty and in return, they expect mine. It’s degrading, I know. But when the tit’s that big, everybody gets in line."

Every journalist is going to want a slice. An appearance fee, a walk through, a plug for a new book which creates a conflict of interest in the first instance. Then the MSPs roll up and doff their cap and express delight over how sensible the whole idea is and how much service they can be if only they... well we know the rest.

The BBC is SanCorp. That makes it neither good nor evil per se but its influence over our politicians who can influence directly and indirectly how much the rest of us have to pay is no good thing. There are as always very good alternatives.

STV is dedicated to Scotland and raises revenue privately to fund its output and is very popular. The National remains quite popular though its circulation has fallen dramatically in the last two years. This is the free market in action, people watch and read what they like given the choice.

In a world where we read our news from so many competing sources and in real time through social media there seems an obvious and progressive alternative to Scottish 9 and that is a Scottish 15. That is, each of the two million TV licence fee payers have £15 taken off their licence fee (£30million divided by 2 million).

A 10% discount for Scots to spend, be it on a newspaper subscription, online new channel or however they wish.

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