December 28, 2004

Supporting the BBC.

Look at all the effort the British government goes through to check on citizens who claim they have no TV and therefore do not owe the £121 ($233) fee that TV owners must pay to support the BBC.
Enforcement officers visit homes and businesses about three million times a year. They have a variety of weapons at hand, including a law that requires retailers to notify the government whenever someone buys a television; a database with TV-owning information about 28 million Britons; and specially equipped vans and hand-held devices that can detect unlawful television-watching.

The final step is a home visit, whose purpose, Mr. Reed said, is "to identify genuine non-users of television so that we can minimize future contact with them." Homeowners are not obliged to let the agents in, but the agents can get search warrants if there is sufficient evidence of television viewing. Every day, more than 1,000 people - 380,000 in 2003 - are caught watching television without a license.

That's awfully oppressive. And why deter the poorest people from having TVs? What a terrible system. Why not just support the BBC from general tax funds if you love the BBC so much? You're already operating on the assumption that everyone wants to have a TV. There are a few outliers who actually don't want TV, like the man profiled in the linked story, but it seems as though most people who don't have a TV are just trying to avoid the fee. Those who do pay are partly paying for all the invasive enforcement:
The fee is very much a part of British life. It is a criminal offense for anyone with a television set not to pay it, whether they watch the BBC or not. Fee-evasion cases make up 12 percent of the caseload in magistrates' courts. Although most evaders are fined, 20 people were imprisoned for nonpayment last year.

This enforcement is not just oppressive, it is a complete waste of money. Why do the British people stand for this?

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