What The Papers Don’t Say

  • 9/02/2009 07:07:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

What with it being, well, easier than reporting any actual news, much of the press are complaining about the BBC. Again.


The latest excuse for complaining about Auntie is that diminutive digger James Murdoch has been complaining about the fact the BBC gets money from everyone, which they then use to make actual programmes. Clearly, he’d much rather it’s all given to Sky, where you can see the half dozen US imports Sky One have blown all of their programming budget on.


Naturally, all of this is lapped up by the hacks in certain quarters of Fleet Street (mainly the parts that like to frequently use the words ‘political’, ‘correctness’ and ‘mad’ in the same sentence), meaning the non-story is getting more attention that it really deserves. After all, it’s not as if Pa Murdoch hasn’t spent much of the last few decades complaining about the same thing.


After all, come on! We have to pay a fortune for the BBC each year. Well, unless you’re over 75, in which case it’s free, or don’t own a TV (a prospect more likely than you might imagine, given the wealth of content pumped out of the ‘web instead), in which case you’re still legally permitted to listen to BBC Radio and use the non-iPlayery parts of But still, £139.50 a year? That’s loads! Frigging hell!


But, how much of a bargain is the BBC, especially when compared to other forms of media? We’re going to take a quick look. Will we be able to do so without going “waaah, stealth tax! Stealth tax!” in a high pitched tone? We shall see.


We’ve taken a look at the annual prices for Sky’s pay TV offering, currently run by one James Murdoch, but also looked at the costs involved in buying a daily newspaper over the course of a year (260 weekday editions, 52 Saturday editions and 52 Sunday editions, no papers on Christmas Day, of course). Here are the prices we’ve used for our calculations:


We’ve taken the most recent list of UK newspaper prices we could find (from January this year, so they might be a little out of date – we’re willing to update the figures accordingly if someone can point at a more up-to-date list). We’ve also taken into account three different SkyTV packages (basic, family, and full-monty Sports, Movies and HD packs). This results in the following chart:


So, a full Sky package will cost you nearly £700 per year, and that’s not taking into account the forthcoming price rises. Even the most basic of Sky packages (Sky1, Sky2, Living, Gold, Watch, Comedy Central, SciFi, Challenge, FX, DMax, Movies 24, and E!, if you’re not including channels that are free on Freeview, timeshifted channels or channels designed purely to lure you into gambling), will cost you £82.50 more than the BBC. Were you to tot up the total hours of original, homegrown programming put out by the channels of either package over twelve months, the Beeb would be streets ahead. Meanwhile, a full Sky package, including HD channels at £10/month, will cost you 4.95 times the price of the licence fee. And that’s if you don’t take ESPN. For the record, were you to add ESPN to your channel mix in order to watch all live televised Premier League football matches, it’d be £786 per annum, 5.63 times the licence fee. Oh, it’s worth pointing out that the price of BBC HD is included in the licence fee.

As for the papers (and note we’ve included the liberal press as well, for the sake of completeness), only The Daily Star works out as being more reasonably priced than the BBC. And be honest, you’d have to really like tits and racism to think a years worth of the Daily Star is preferable to a year of having the Beeb.

So, in summary, the BBC is a genuine bargain (seriously, we’d happily pay £139.50 per year for BBC Four alone. We’ll even forgive it for BBC Three), and to our mind, nearly as great a British institution as the NHS. So, the press, what do you have to say about that?


“Waah, they’re not spending enough of the taxpayer’s money.”

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