Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Boris is Wrong on BBC Licence Fee

I've read some emotional twaddle in my time (indeed, I have written some of it!) but Boris Johnson's Telegraph column today really does take the biscuit. He seriously argues that the BBC licence fee should be retained because if it were abolished there would be no Last Night of the Proms. No, really. Utter codswallop.
I speak with all the vehemence of one who spent last Friday evening in a state of ecstatic rapture at the Proms. Take away the licence fee and you take away the Beeb's ability to spend £6 million on the world's greatest festival of classical music.

Get rid of the licence fee and you lose the vast red velvet drapes in the Albert Hall saying BBC Proms; and without the BBC Proms there would have been no frenzied Italian conductor, his spasms barely contained by the polished brass of the stand. There would have been no white-jacketed trombonists, no bare-armed female violinists.

There would have been no choir, their silvery hair like magnesium balls of fire in the TV lights, belting out Beethoven's Ninth, the Ode to Joy, with so much crumping explosive power that it made my neck tingle. The more I rhapsodise, of course, and the more I expand on my love of the BBC Proms, the louder I can imagine the protests.

But why do we have to pay for this, I hear you say. Why can't it be funded by Coca-Cola, or Sky, or private subscription of some kind? To which I can only say that yes, I suppose it might be so funded. But then again it might not be.

There are some strong arguments for retaining the current licence fee, but this is hardly the strongest. What Boris is saying is that classical music concerts cannot take place without the benevolence of the BBC. Rubbish. Why not go the whole hog? Why not nationalise our entire cultural heritage on the basis that it MIGHT not be funded by anyone else? This is lazy and muddled thinking and Boris ought to know better.


Anonymous said...

Tories split over the future of BBC funding!

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly Noel Edmonds has the right idea.

In this time of rising bills such a move could prove quite popular and spread like wildfire.

Why should we be forced to pay for the BBC when they waste so much money?

Anonymous said...

I don't like the way that the BBC thinks it has to set up stages all over the Union and set up satellite links for the last night of the Proms. They are obviously following Brown's call to Britishness.

Incidentally I pressed the red (stage) button during Jerusalem to see if the Scots were singing along and they were broadcasting some strange dirge from the Scottish stage.

Panopticon Britain said...

Can't we just get rid of the damn thing already? Sell of the BBC, and to hell with the consequences. A damn news channel isn't a public service!

Anonymous said...

wtf. He should concentrate on getting London moving, not blethering on about concerts he happens to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Why is anyone taking either Boris Johnson or Noel 'I'm the new David Icke' Edmonds seriously?

Edmonds should just be fined, imprisoned and/or forgotten about.

As for selling the BBC, great idea, let's ruin the only internationally recognised national asset. Let's sell it off and then wonder why it has become such crap.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase:

Piffle, utter piffle, dreadful piffle, and, worst of all, patronising piffle.

Newmania said...

Wrong Iain

The BBC ‘should’ act where the market will not ( and it is unreliable )as a guardian of cultural continuity and heritage. Many of us would support taxation for such a purpose.
It has to produce popular national programming as well so as to be inclusive which seems a pretty good argument to me .What you take to be an endorsement of the BBC as it is, however, nothing of the sort
This does not justify the BBC killing of web news with subsidised unfair competition or involving itself with any number of non core activities. It does not justify its persistent bias or patrician ways and umpteen channels
In effect Boris is justifying a much smaller BBC doing exactly what we want it for. I would fund it out of general taxation so as to make the progressive tax system spread the cost more fairly.

Did you notice the wide range of social classes were involved in the Proms .This is one great advantage of settled culture.It is easy to join. In the fragmented world of pickled cows being genius this week and unmade beds the next the comedy of manners is doing what it was always designed for , excluding people .The BBC should be shoring up inclusiveness and common reference , coherence and never denigrating the culture of the country which pays for it and is its only raison d`etre.

Boris is right and Iain is wrong but Boris has not justified the BBC as it is today at all.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

"Piffle, utter piffle, dreadful piffle, and, worst of all, patronising piffle."

Shouldn't that read, "Pfeffel"?

Anonymous said...

Newmania said...

"Did you notice the wide range of social classes were involved in the Proms?"..

Nice irony Newmania since they were all white, probably professional, certainly middle class.

Another snippet to add to Boris's mountain of piffle.

James said...

"Nice irony Newmania since they were all white" -
Anonymous thing, Newmania is proud to have left the multicultural nonsense behind and join those of his own kind in his "new" white-flight kind of way.

No irony there.

Anonymous said...

It's not twaddle Iain.

Look at ITV, that's what you'll get.

Newmania said...

Nice irony Newmania since they were all white, probably professional, certainly middle class.

It is not true that ‘classical’ music is the exclusive preserve of the middle classes although, for all I know, recent immigrant communities may be less represented presumably being less attuned to Western music in some cases. It is not expensive either to participate or listen and a wide variety do. I don’t think the colour of your skin has anything to do with it. It is not elitist and on the last night of the Proms a good part of the music would have known to almost everyone. 45,000 people were in Hyde Park and the tradition is well comprehensible to everyone via film music if by no other route

Margaret Hodge thinks it is elitist but then Margaret Hodge was quick to complain about darkies sneaking up the housing list in Barking to save her stupid job after a career in which she exposed children in Islington to the predations of paedophiles drug dealers and pimps before going on to be Minister fro Children. What the sour bitch Margaret Hodge thinks is always wrong on each and every occasion

(Do you mean inverted Pyramid of piffle ?)

James - What would you do when you cannot afford private schools for your children and you live in Islington ? Emily Thornberry got her kids into a Potters Bar Grammar, Ruth Kelly got hers into private school and so did Dianne Abbot next door in Hackney. These are not options open to me

Comrade Johnson said...

Ha Ha! Red Boris strikes again!

R4 listener said...

there are many arguments to be made against the BBC, and they certainly should not be allowed to spend a single penny on adverts threatening the public (since that is our own money that they're spending) The problem is that every time I try and argue against the BBC it comes back to the fact that things like radio 4 and bits of BBC1 & 2 are the only way in which things that people like me like (and many others don't) get anything back from the people that we subsidise. There are some things (healthcare / roads / the police) that we all subsidise and all get some benefit from. But there are many others (read the jobs section in the grauniad for a quick look at some of them) that I couldn't give a tiny toss about but get charged for anyway.

So it is nice to feel that someone else is paying towards my quality of life. And I appreciate that that's unfair. And it can end. When I get to opt out of paying for all the services that I don't use and don't want to.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

This is such a fatuous argument, based upon a premise more slender than Dita Von Tees's bra and like its content, is a load of tits.

I cannot help wondering if Boris is trying to curry favour with the BBC or worse, being mildly blackmailed by the threat of a hitherto unrevealed Ugandan story.

Worse, far worse, it is a plagiarised (not very well plagiarised )version of a Mark Thompson piece who bleated that, "The Albert Hall in August would be in darkness - there would be no BBC Proms, broadcast across television and radio".

Boris, (with his usual knack of shooting himself in the foot with examples, however "ironic" they are intended to be)


"Get rid of the licence fee and you lose the vast red velvet drapes in the Albert Hall saying BBC Proms"

By the way, let's not forget that the Proms, under the BBC, has now become an outlet for utter pish and drivel, written by "exciting new composers". The rest is a burlesque. It's also in London, where most of us do not live. So bugger you, Boris, I do not care if the Proms goes under or gets sponsored by child-eating multinationals - it must pay its way and not rely on me to subsidise your jollies.

Anonymous said...

Could be worse, they could have played Abba not Elgar!

Anonymous said...

Er, no. The Mighty Boosh won't stop existing. Neither will Have I got News for You.
The reason ITV sucks is not because it's privately funded, but because the programs it runs are made by talentless hacks.

cherami said...

'This is lazy and muddled thinking and Boris ought to know better.'

Bit unkind, no? Bit hyperbolic, yes but surely a metaphor.

If philistine private money (with certain notable exceptions) won't pay for high art, then it is up to state institutions like the BBC to do so.

Personally, I think the Proms show the BBC at its absolutist best - and no poppycock about elitism, please.

Look how the Sun packed the Royal Opera House.

More power to the elbow of anyone prepared to pay for the arts.

golden rose said...

The Proms are very good fun. They are increasingly geared towards a very diverse audience.

I know a group of asian pensioners who thoroughly enjoyed a concert they went to in July. Apparently there was some kind of pre-concert literary talk to attend as a bonus. I understand there was a lively and informed discussion of various texts associated with English Romanticism.

Also, the Prom Family Programme has vastly expanded in recent years with a Dr Who Prom featured recently. Perfect!

Dave said...

But thanks to the BBC the Proms is so much more than just a concert series. The Doctor Who Prom harnessed the popular power of the show to get kids listening to avant guarde modern music (The Torino Scale).
The great thing about the BBC (that it supports stuff you might like) is also it's biggest apparent weakness (it supports stuff you might not like).
But if you think SKY or Lehman Brothers (hmmmm) might chip in and support something of the breadth and scale of the Proms then you are pretty deluded.

True Brit said...

Anonymoron at 12:56: "I pressed the red (stage) button during Jerusalem to see if the Scots were singing along and they were broadcasting some strange dirge from the Scottish stage"

The fact that you felt the need to check (and then whinge about a "dirge") says a lot about you and your attitudes. Do the Scots, whose parents and grandparents etc. have long fought and died for all of us in Britain have to pass your idea of some special test of Britishness?

Jerusalem is a beautiful song, but you're no more going to get a random crowd of Scots singing Jerusalem in public than you're going to get a similar random crowd of English singing "O Flower of Scotland" in Trafalgar Square - none of which makes any of us more or less British...

Word verification: infoogls - sounds like a good description of you...

Anonymous said...

"the BBC licence fee should be retained because if it were abolished there would be no Last Night of the Proms."

That would be the glorious 'Last Night' which features a strong showing of patriotic songs? The ones Al-beeb have largely banished and will soon dispose of completely? Perhaps that's why Pasha Bojo likes it.

Martin Day said...

What the Hell is Boris still writing columns for?

Boris needs to make his mind up as to whether he is a jurno or a politician. You would not expect a minister of state, Cabinet Minister, PM or Leader of the opposition to behave like this.

I can appreciate he needs time to adjust but he should never of chosen this course if he thought he could do both.

Anonymous said...

Resignation Alert! Resignation Alert! Resignation Alert!

Minister going to quit immentintly!

Ann said...

They played abba in hyde park before the proms proper. Why can't the proms fund its self. I was in hyde park, travelled there from belfast and entry to the park cost £25! If, as quoted, and it looked like it there was 40,000 people there then that is quite an amount of cash? Question is, why did they charge us at all, if it is funded by the beeb?

It is really great though, the proms :)

Alex said...

Boris understands a lot of things but he doesn't understand business.

The Last Night of the Proms or the whole Proms would be an adman's wet dream. Look at the success of Classic FM and then think what could be done with an institution like the Proms. Commercial classical radio stations in the US also show that it is a formula that works.

Pension funds and other city institutions pandering to the well heeled middle classes would pay a small fortune for that visibility.

Anonymous said...

Purnell to challange Brown?


That is a bit like the John Redwood line in 1995!

Colin said...

For me the jury is out on the license fee.

One thing I'm sure of though, is that I'm with Noel Edmonds when he complains about the bullying tactics used in relation to license fee collection.

I'm in the process of renovating a house in Yorkshire. The place is a building site and has been since I bought it 9 months ago. The last thing I would have in the house right now is a TV. However, that hasn't stopped the agents of the BBC from bombarding me with some of the most vicious, legal sounding correspondence I have ever, personally seen.

What really f*%ks me off, is that nowhere in any of the poison hate mail they've sent does it bother to ask if I even have a TV. They, like all sinister, authoritarian organisations just assume that if I haven't coughed up, I'm a criminal. The content of these letters is very, very intimidating. I even had some muppet, bitch at the door, trying to threaten the builder, to gain entry to my building site of a home, by pretending to have a warrant.

They only backed off after I paid £255 to have my solicitor threaten them with litigation in relation to harassment.

This needs to be looked at urgently and Noel is spot on.

Anonymous said...

Bloody 'ell Tories are fighting amongs each other, and they're not even in government yet!

james said...

newmania- did you know that coleridge was black?

Anonymous said...

"The BBC ‘should’ act where the market will not ( and it is unreliable )as a guardian of cultural continuity and heritage."

What a load of complete and unctuous cr-p.
The bloody BBC has been getting away with this sort of defense for years ( it is in fact no guardian of our culture and heritage whartsoever) so it can pursue its highly political programme.

Just kill the disgusting thing.

TDK said...

Boris is absolutely right. The Proms would never have been created in 1895 if it hadn't been for the BBC funding it. Err!

I presume they were waiting for Marconi.

David Lindsay said...

Let the license fee be made voluntary, with those who chose to pay it enrolled as members of the BBC Trust.

The Trustees would be elected by and from among the members in each of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the nine English regions (with their boundaries adjusted to reflect those of the historic counties). Members would vote for one candidate by means of an X, and the top two would be declared elected at the end. A Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State with the approval of the relevant Select Committee.

All would hold office for a fixed term of four years, and would have to be sufficiently independent that they could, in principle, serve on local authority remuneration committees.

The National Trust and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution not only survive, but thrive. So would the BBC.

John Moss said...

The BBC can live off its archive on pay-per-view. Most of it is a damn sight better than current output.

As for providing what the market will not, has Newmedia scrolled thorugh the hundreds of channels available on sky/virgin?

I guess there could be a furious tussle over who gets the rights to the world bog-snorkelling championships - oh no, wait, the organisers filmed that themselves and stuck it on You Tube for free!

Axe the TV tax - £180 tax cut for every household!

Anonymous said...

Boris is right. And most people love last night of the proms. It was lovely this year, with Maestro shown just before it. We tuned over briefly to X-factor and it seemed like a zoo.
X-factor, big brother and other forms of human debris on the box is the reason the BBC must remain.

neil craig said...

"choir, their silvery hair like magnesium balls of fire in the TV lights"

I feel an attack of diabetes coming on.

The argument for getting rid of the BBC is that it is the propaganda arm of the civil service. I don't say it is left or right wing but that it is certainly biased towards bureaucracy & big state solutions to everything & that this is not a matter of individuals, else it could be changed, but is inherent in its position as a state funded institution.

One can see this in its enthusiasm for catastrophic warming, its support for an ever larger EU, for bans on smoking, being fat & eating salt & for its willingness to lie to support attacking Yugoslavia, Iraq & Russia.

Its domination of British media is a serious, not overwhelming but serious, attack on our freedom.

Anonymous said...

"emotional twaddle...rubbish...utter codswallop...rubbish...lazy and muddled thinking...

Iain (sigh), Boris was writing a light-hearted piece about the Proms and how we should think that at least it's one thing the BBC gets right.
Why don't you ask him to do a piece on that other venerable institution, Cliff Richard?
Ah, now you're talkin!

Anonymous said...

BoJo (BoZo?) is just trying to make some cash. He doesn't know or care about the answer one way or the other.

judith said...

I sampled the Last Night of the Proms, and turned it off. Anyone who thinks Lesley Garratt is a serious singer needs their ears syringed, and the director who thought it was a good idea to do close-ups of Terfel sweating (and uncharacteristically bellowing) should be shot.

MB said...

The Scots might be too narrow minded to enjoy Jerusalem but at least the audience in the Royal Albert Hall managed to sing a Scottish song at the end without any objections that it was not English.

Newmania said...

David Lindsay has a good idea but the more I tinker with it the more it seems to me a range of subscription services is a far better one.England is of course, not "regions" ,it is a country.

Auntie Flo' said...

I'm a 100% behind Boris on this. Good old Boz!

Well said, newmania too.

nick said...

"Why not nationalise our entire cultural heritage on the basis that it MIGHT not be funded by anyone else?"
Would that cultural heritage include all those museums, galleries, theatres, opera houses, orchestras, historic buildings and local arts projects that already depend on taxpayer or lottery subsidy?

True Brit said...

mb: "The Scots might be too narrow minded to enjoy Jerusalem but at least the audience in the Royal Albert Hall managed to sing a Scottish song at the end without any objections that it was not English."

Pathetic. Pathetic that you should try to make such a tenuous point. Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish song, but not in the way that, say, Flower of Scotland is a Scottish song or Jerusalem is an English song! It's nothing to do with narrowmindedness (other than your own). As pointed out above, you won't get an English crowd in England singing Flower of Scotland, nor should any aspersions be cast upon them for that, so take your anti-Scots prejudice and stick it up your proverbial. You (and Anonymoron at 12.56 if you're not one and the same) are quite pathetic.

Twig said...

The BBC's political agenda directly contravenes the terms of the Trust under which it is supposed to be governed. Who are the Trustees accountable to?
I don't see any evidence of public accountability.
Apart from that, there is no justification for a heavy handed licence fee system in the digital age. As Jeremy Paxman said, "should Persil charge a licence fee to all washing machine owners?"

TV Licensing takes £300m out of the £3.6bn and employs thugs to enforce the system.

I think we could find a better way to pay for the Proms. I can't think of a worse way.
Get a grip Boris.

Dave said...

@Twig. Go on then. Name a better way to finance The Proms.

Twig said...

Dave 17/9/08 7:51 AM
@Twig. Go on then. Name a better way to finance The Proms.

The lottery
The Arts Council
Ticket sales
TV Broadcasting rights
take your pick.

Justifying a £3.6 billion tax on the basis of a £6m festival is clutching at straws.

tired and emotional said...

It's difficult to express how profoundly disappointing Boris has been as Mayor.

I didn't canvass, leaflet and tell outside polling stations in order to help a lefty become Mayor.

It seems to me that Boris' desire to be liked vastly outweighs any vague conservative principles he might once have had.

All we've seen from him is left wing populism and the rapid disappearance of flagship policies on TFL,especially bendy buses, half price travel for shirkers, and the departure of Tim Parker.

He's had a pop at the central theme of the Tory renewal - the broken society and continues not only to write his columns but to use them to defend bastions of the left.

At least I could despise Ken Livingstone with a clear conscience.

David Lindsay said...

You'd really want England to have only as many governors as Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, Newmania?

Of course, when Tories say "England", they only ever mean the South East.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Let me get this straight.

We have to have the execrable tripe the BBC puts on the television because that pays for the good stuff.

Does anyone remember that there was a time when the BBC was just the radio? Did it occur to Boris that the Proms are, well, music. And that music lends itself particularly well to radio? And that the Radio 3 carried the entire Proms lineup all summer? And that the BBC radio is, to put it mildly, a great deal less expensive than is the crap-machine that is nearly the entire output of BBC television?

Did they teach logic at the very expensive schools Boris attended?

Here's a proposal.

Reduce the license fee to, say, 50 pounds a year and use it to pay only for Radio 3 and the Proms. Then make the BBC produce television programmes the way the rest of the world does; on the basis of the market demand.

In other words, let them compete.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

...and of course, there was absolutely no music in this country before the BBC.