Would you ditch the BBC if all other channels were free? I would
- Credit: BBC / Jonathan Ford
Nick Richards says if we regarded the BBC as just another streaming services, there would be millions of TV viewers who wouldn’t pay for it
When my seven-year-old son broke his ankle earlier in July, one of the first things we did once home from A&E was to get the Disney + Channel on our TV.
After more than three months without school and with a lengthy spell on the sofa ahead of him, we figured it would be good value at just £5.99 a month.
For the price of a pint in posh pub, it unlocked a whole new world of films, TV series and box sets that he’d be able to enjoy while getting back to full fitness.
Along with another free month of Amazon Prime and the various merits and pitfalls of YouTube, there was plenty to keep him and us satisfied over the summer holidays.
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You can cancel it anytime so we agreed to get it for a few months. My wife observed that our TV was good value to have so many programmes on tap for just £6 a month. I agreed, before adding that I paid £12.56 for what amounts to another streaming service - a total of £157.50 a year for a TV licence.
There’s been a graphic doing the rounds online showing what a TV licence would have got you 30 years ago and what it gets you now. The key additions are BBC3 and BBC4, Radio 5 and Radio 6, CBBC and CBeebies plus iPlayer. The only thing we seem to have lost is Ceefax.
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I’m not one for BBC bashing although I’ll admit I hardly watch anything on the BBC anymore. Back in the 80s it was all I watched. I know this as I was raised on David Coleman, Des Lynam, John Motson, Barry Davies, A Question of Sport, Grange Hill, Top of the Pops and Jossy’s Giants. Watching some old football highlights of past FA Cup finals and Euro 96 on ITV this summer felt strange, simply because I, along with millions of others had never heard Brian Moore’s ITV commentary of these big events before. We were all locked in to the BBC.
For me, lockdown has exposed the lack of quality material on the BBC, especially in a year where those big live events that have galvanised the nation in past times are missing. With no Olympics, Euro 2020, Wimbledon, Glastonbury - even Eurovison, the BBC hasn’t had anything to define their summer. Instead of something new and dynamic to fill their place we’ve been given a combination of archive material to enjoy once more while Peter Crouch has attempted to save our Saturday nights.
Of course the one area where the BBC does thrive is radio and I do enjoy listening to football commentaries, although if it’s on TV it’s a no brainer, nobody wants to listen to sport ahead of actually watching it, regardless of which channel it’s on. The BBC were even thrown a couple of scraps of live football when we came out of lockdown, hamming up the fact they would be showing their first ever live Premier League match and the first televised top flight games since 1988, the hardly mouth-watering prospect of Bournemouth v Crystal Palace.
The more cultured among us will celebrate the programmes on Radio 4, but this is 2020 - there are so many interesting podcasts and documentaries available for free online that it no longer stands out as the only option in what is now a busy market. I’m not into BBC bashing but as they make major cuts internally and axe more of their topical and news programmes I get the sense people are starting to see the corporation in a new light. Compared to the wealth of other streaming services available it seems to me that it no longer represents good value to pay what is essentially a subscription of £12.56 a month to legally allow you to watch the BBC content on your television. Even at the age of seven, my son rarely wants to watch anything on the BBC anymore. I’d quite happily do without it altogether, I’d just miss being legally allowed to listen to the radio if that really is a law that I’d be breaking.
Of course the one big issue putting this all into perspective is the fact that from Saturday, TV licences won’t be free to the majority of people over the age of 75. Personally I don’t see why they shouldn’t pay for this as, to me, it has become just another streaming option. The problem is the older generation still treat the BBC as the institution they’ve grown up with and have watched all their lives. If there was a way the rest of us had the option of not having to pay for a TV licence and having all the BBC content blocked, I think we’d all be surprised, given the wealth of other channels that we could still watch, how many of us would agree to it.