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The BBC’s defence of the indefensible


THE BBC has issued a robust defence of the licence fee as virtually perfect, and argues that it should continue indefinitely or be replaced by a universal tax on broadband services.

The document responding to the government’s consultation on decriminalising the licence fee states that the BBC is massively loved, that its output is exactly what viewers and listeners want and completely impartial, that change would cripple the media economy, and that any other system of paying for it would cause misery, especially for the poor. 

In another age, a little-known ancestor of the current Director General, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, framed a similarly historic intervention. TCW, taking advantage of the as yet untaxed internet, has brought this dramatic document to light. 

Missive to my fellow peers from Lord Hall of Knotty Ash 

April 30, anno domini 1833


My chum, the exceedingly honourable – but seriously deluded – Lord Stanley, aided and abetted by that parvenu William Wilberforce, is soon presenting to Parliament the Slavery Abolition Bill. For two decades now we have had to put up with the massive inconvenience of not being able to trade in slaves, but this new measure will be the last straw.  

Said Wilberforce, as everyone knows, has been a troublemaker and agitator for more than a decade since he set up his wretched Abolition Society. The people of my realm in Liverpool are deeply apprehensive that he wants free trade and freed labour because without it, their jobs will be at risk and Things Will Never Be The Same Again.

I have every sympathy with his desire for a different system but has he no sense? Everybody knows that the sugar trade is vital to the national economy and that if slavery is ended the whole system of transatlantic trade will collapse. Penury will ensue.

Further, my Lords, abolition will mean that the poor will be deprived of sugar, a product which they love, which keeps them exceedingly happy and nourished.  Much wailing and gnashing of teeth will be caused. 

Some foolish members say that it will be possible to continue production in our Colonies, and that the molasses on which it will in future will be based will be every bit as wholesome as that we have now. This is first-grade Atlantic bilge water.

Without slaves in the Caribbean, without the current plantation labour system – which actually benefits the workforce by giving them secure accommodation and access to food and water (they even have some recreation time, I am told) – sugar prices will rocket, standards will plummet  and the End of the World will soon follow. The British people will be deprived of a vital service and bodily nutrition which could never be replicated. 

I am, my Lords, your obedient servant

Knotty Ash

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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