If you live in the UK and are old enough to be living alone then you will be familiar with a TV licence. This annual tax is what funds the BBC or British Broadcasting Company. But with the rise of services like Netflix more and more MP’s and members of the public are starting to question its relevance.
Why do we have a license?
The licence has been around in the UK for a long time. It was established when TV was a newly emerging technology. At the time it was a terrific idea. People who wanted to use the technology all paid into a kitty and that was used to provide quality content. However just because it was a great system 70 years ago, doesn’t mean it ‘s right for contemporary Britain.
Streaming killed the TV Star
In this day and age, there are a lot of alternatives to terrestrial television. Amazon Prime and Netflix are leading the way in a streaming revolution. The two services offer a wealth of high-quality content and in recent years an increased focus on producing their own original content. And unlike the BBC’s original channels you have a massive choice in what you watch. Of course, the BBC’s Iplayer fills this gap to some extent but Netflix and Amazon Prime are in an entirely different league.
A subscription to both streaming services will probably cost around the same as a TV licence and you get a lot of BBC content anyway. The office, Extras, Gavin and Stacey, Doctor Who all feature on streaming sites. The only problem is you have to wait for the most recent episodes.
Why do people even bother with a license?
Netflix and Amazon Prime are amazing for TV and film but if you are a fan of sports they are not the place for you to watch content. That isn’t to say that the BBC is a sports fans mecca. Far from it. For example, they only have highlights from the Premier League. In fact, the rights for most sports are owned by people like Sky and Virgin.
So can’t we just subscribe to them?
Of course, you can, and sports fans do. But the way it works is if you have access to these services you also have access to the BBC and then you have to pay a license fee. So not only are you paying a massive premium for the right to watch sporting events you are also paying for a TV license as well.
So what is the potential cost if you wanted the freedom to ingest whatever content you wanted? Well, Virgin offers a service that allows you to access Sky Sports and BT Sports as well as their own TV service. That beauty will set you back just £79 per month! (Rising to £129 after a year) Plus you have to pay your £14 license fee taking it up £143. If you then wanted the two big streaming services you are looking at £158 a month. If you were on minimum wage you would have to work 19 hours just to pay for your TV subscriptions!
It is clear the current model doesn’t work for everyone. The evidence of this is that suspected license evading has risen dramatically in the past few years. The issue is that the BBC probably needs to stick around in some form. It employs rather a lot of people! But perhaps there are better ways to fund it going forward? A subscription service may be better so people can opt into their content? Or perhaps if they became a commercial service? Either way, it would appear the system doesn’t work in the current world.