The Licence Fee & Boris’s Fake Fight with the BBC

The Tories love to pretend the media is against them, but they both serve the same agenda

On Wednesday, it was reported that Boris Johnson’s government is considering scrapping the licence fee.

[For non-UK readers, the licence fee is a mandated payment all citizens are required to make if they own a television, it is how the BBC is funded. Non-payment can result in imprisonment. We have Orwellian posters about it]

Scrapping the licence fee is not a new idea, thinktanks have been suggesting it for years, but the way it was brought up this time positively reeked of an agenda.

We tweeted about it at the time:

Right on cue, the next day, a twitter hashtag appeared in the UK “trending” category: #FiveThingsILoveAbouttheBBC.

It didn’t really go anywhere and was an obvious contrivance, but the point was clear.

At the same time a couple of editorials materialised defending the BBC too, whilst some of the voices calling for its scrapping, are actually covertly suggesting increasing it further and/or making it voluntary.

Now there’s talk of making it a “subscription-style” service, like Netflix and other streaming companies.

The certain reality is that the licence fee is going to increase, starting in April. Along with now being compulsory for the over 75s. Despite the increased revenue, the BBC is apparently making cuts (I imagine everyone will be too busy defending its existence to mind about that, now).

Where will it eventually end? Is it an issue even worth talking about? I don’t know, that’s not the point.

Really, I’m just putting this little piece out there, not because it’s a very important issue (the, “we love the BBC” kickback never really got off the ground, mercifully), but rather because it’s a perfect, encapsulated example of how the government and the media actually work together.

Sure, they will largely agree. The state will talk, and the media will echo without question. It happens all the time.

But just as often, and just as insidious, are moments like this, where a pretence of “opposition” actually serves to simply frame a false debate and boost the apparent bona fides of both sides.

For example, this an extension of the fake Tory vs the media narrative that recently played out through reporters boycotting a Downing Street press conference.

When Boris Johnson cracks down on the BBC’s (totally pretend) “anti-Tory bias”, his base cheer on as the liberal media get a bloody nose, and the stenographic typing pool that is the mainstream media get to paint themselves as rebellious types who aren’t afraid of speaking truth to power.

Meanwhile, those on the left (who the BBC truly are biased against) are gaslighted into defending an institution that demonised Jeremy Corbyn and his movement unrelentingly for years, and will do the same to any true-left wing politician in the future.

Whatever eventually happens to the BBC, never make the mistake of thinking that it and Boris aren’t on the same side.


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