In my mind the clock has started ticking ever so quietly for the end of TV Licensing. A review of the TV License fee by the BBC Trust looks at the issues associated with collecting TV License revenues for the BBC.
The report says “The licence fee collection is currently heavily reliant on the fact that almost 98% of households still use television sets (although this number has declined very slightly in the last year from 97.61% to 97.37%) and that viewing on new technologies tends to be supplementary to viewing on television.”
However “research for the BBC Executive shows that 40% of students in halls of residence use a laptop as their main way to watch TV”. iPlayer.
With almost half of all children leaving school now attending an University of some description this suggests that in time a large proportion of the population will move to watching TV online.
This will present huge issues in collection of the license fee and will almost certainly join the regulatory debate that includes how to police illegal P2P music and video downloading. Business models in the media industries are bound to have to evolve.
The report covers the problems with collecting the License Fee and specifically mentions the difficulties of proving whether a household has a TV or not. The Davies household, after 20 or so blissful years of isolation, got a TV for the first time ever 4 years ago following demands from our increasingly vociferous daughter.
Around 6 years ago we did a house swap with some Californian friends who, horrified at the lack of a TV in the house (how do you keep the kids quiet?) borrowed one and took out a license. They went home and cancelled the bank payment standing order which triggered a stream of increasingly threatening letters demanding money.
Initially we ignored these but eventually complained to our MP, Gillian Merron, who got tough with the TV License Authority (or whatever their name is) and sorted it. My issue was that I was offered two means to tell them I didn’t have a license, either by paying for a premium rate phone call or for a stamp. As a fascist anti TV type this was objectionable to me.
Imagine how I felt when I eventually bought a TV and had to ring the same premium rate number to pay for a License. I could feel the surprise, nay contempt, at the other end of the phone of the call centre agent who could clearly see my record of complaint on this subject.
One of the many side benefits of when the kids eventually leave home is that I will be able to get rid of the TV again and, no doubt, renew my battle with the TV Licensing Authority. Unless, that is, they introduce draconian measures that say if you own a computer you have to pay for a license!