Saturday, 1 March 2014

Licence to mug?

Following in the same spirit as the last post, Paul Stott, a Hackney libertarian I briefly corresponded with a few years back, suggests that where laws are being routinely broken then this is evidence of bad law, not bad behaviour.
He made this observation recently on his excellent blog (see and by example notes that: “If you fail to pay your subscription to Virgin or Sky, Richard Branson or Rupert Murdoch will cut you off. Fail to pay your subscription to the BBC, and you can be fined up to £1,000, and ultimately go to prison.”
And it gets worse, because 107 people have been jailed for non-payment in the last two years. In fact, this nonsense takes up an astonishing ONE IN TEN UK court cases, and is responsible for 12% of all court prosecutions.
As a recently closed petition to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport argues, the TV Licence Fee hits poorer people disproportionately, and makes all of us pay for 'free' services already funded by advertising. The petition (see ) suggests replacing TV licences with a voluntary subscription. The commercial element of the BBC could then be scrambled for non-subscribers, leaving public service content free to air.
As of yet, this has not spread to the island, but mostly because threats by the local agents were enough to make us pay up, and certainly not because any of our spineless politicos have pointed out that the whole mugging exercise is a disgrace or even that the money could be better spent locally instead of being meekly handed over to the Brits. A few half-hearted mutterings have been heard to the effect that Manx residents pay for UK services which anyone in the Irish Republic can also receive for free, also that when less and less people watch TV directly via traditional means the whole thing is a bit of a joke.
From my time in Northern Ireland, I remember that during the 'troubles' absolutely nobody in nationalist areas paid what they regarded as a tax imposed by an occupying government. I also remember that while the armoured cars were everywhere available for the job, not one TV was seized and not one person went to court. In the face of refusal to pay by some 40-50% of the population, a quasi-governmental broadcasting organisation simply stopped making an unreasonable demand.
So, will we sign up for an all-island boycott of the 'TV tax'? Will we lobby our political unrepresentatives to tell Westminster the deal is off? Or will we continue to put up with bad law from another country?
Hmm, thought so.

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