Wednesday, 2 September 2009

What The Papers Don’t Say

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taken the most recent list of UK newspaper prices we could find (from January this year, so they might be a little out of date – we’re willing to update the figures accordingly if someone can point at a more up-to-date list).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.”


15 .:

Matthew said...

So the only thing cheaper is the Daily Star. Which deserves to be. In fact they shouldn't be charging for that shit, they should be compensating us.

I said it on Twitter: 7 television stations, 51 radio stations, a massive internet presence, the best sports coverage in the country (including the best Olympics coverage on the planet), the Proms, ...the country's best news service (just), and essentially a cultural hub for an entire nation, for 38p a day? Only a gigantic selfish douchebag could have a problem with that, and he doesn't deserve it in the first place.

Applemask said...


Mark X said...

I have effectively unmasked 'Applemask'. There's probably a hugely funny and memorable pun somewhere within this very specific set of circumstances, but I'm way too tired to work out what it is right now.

John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith, KT, GCVO, GBE, CB, TD, PC said...

Nice graph, pretty colours. Where are the other ones? You missed a couple out.

Do the plot for penalty should you freely choose not to subscribe to any of the offerings. See if you can spot which of the services is not like the others, make sure you scale the x-axis appropriately to leave room for imprisonment of the poor.

With that done, you'll now want to make sure you are properly comparing like with like; recalculate the newspaper cover prices and Sky subscriptions based on same levels of expenditure/content, but ammortized in accordance with a competition-free, state-guaranteed 23million customers, instead of their current respective circulation/subscriber base. What does that do to the numbers and the value propostition?

I don't know what's worse, the obvious table-tilting of your painfully skewed facile miscomparison, or the self-satisifed expectation that none of your readers would know or care about the distortion.

Applemask said...

I have no idea what you're saying but I'm pretty sure you're retarded.

Anonymous said...

Even better news for non-TV owners: you DON'T necessarily need a telly licence to use iPlayer!

"You do not need a television licence to catch-up on television programmes in BBC iPlayer, only when you watch or record at the same time (or virtually the same time) as it is being broadcast or otherwise distributed to the public. In BBC iPlayer, this is through the Watch Live simulcast option."


Mark X said...

John Charles (etc): Do you really, honestly believe that British television becoming a completely free market will result in an improvement in overall quality in broadcasting and a general betterment of society? It's generally regarded that The Golden Age Of British Television was the 1970s, when it was a duopoly. Now the advertising money is spread thinly across dozens of main broadcasters, overall quality is only likely to move in one direction, whether the BBC exists or not.

If you want to see what a completely free market does to the media, just look at British newspapers, where the market leaders are The Sun and the Daily Mail, the main proponents of deionising groups of people without a right of reply (be it Muslims, lefties, footballer supporters, or even Jews fleeing Poland to the UK, if you want to go back that far back in the history of the Mail). Hardly a ringing endorsement of a free market, is it?

Mark X said...

Not 'footballer supporters', of course, 'football supporters'. Boh.

Applemask said...

ITV in the nineties is the best argument against deregulation for its own sake that could ever be made.

"Imprisonment for the poor." Like the BBC's a fucking police state. If you don't pay your TV licence - the most expensive of which, incidentally, costs slightly more per year than an unemployed fat man on benefits would get a fortnight - you get a fine of up to (but rarely as much as) a grand. If you don't pay that, then you might go to prison - for being a belligerent prick, not for being poor.

Point is, there is no cost-money based issue with the TV licence. You don't get to whine "OMG THEY CHARGE US SOOOOOO MUCH" unless you're eating beans out of a can, and in that case something's very wrong with society itself and the BBC is the least of the things you should be complaining about. You DEFINITELY don't get to say it on the Internet.

Which leaves you complaining about being charged AT ALL for an organisation that works for the benefit of the entire nation, and beyond. Which would make you a selfish douchebag who doesn't deserve the BBC in the first place yet still gets it because THAT'S HOW IT WORKS.

tl;dr: YOU ARE A CUNT.

John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith, KT, GCVO, GBE, CB, TD, PC said...

Doesn't take long for the mask to slip, anyone disagreeing with the archaic premise of a state-broadcaster, is denounced as both a 'retard' and a 'cunt'. Thus simultaneously showing both the paucity of your argument, and your vile intolerance for diversity of opinion.

Are you disagreeing with the bald facts that magistrate courts set-aside weeks at a time for fining, criminalising and in some cases imprisoning the most vulnerable members of our society, this criminalisation production-line acting as both subsidy for the courts, and cash-cow for repulsive private debt collection agencies. I didn't realise you were quite such intimate fans of the database state.
(and unless you have actually been poor enough for a license fee threatening letter to be a legitimate concern, you should probably shut your fuckin mouth ... but nice stereotyping smear of those on benefit - I guess it's not just the Daily Mail that indulges in crass insulting collectivist generalisation).

So my access to all broadcast television and news is proscribed by a compulsory requirement to fund one of the providers, no matter that i have no intention of using their service or agreeing with their broad editorial position or practises.
Imagine if one was not allowed access to any newspapers unless you were first compelled to purchase the Daily Mail or Express. how would that be in anyway acceptable? defend that infringement of basic liberty, go on i dare you.
As television continues to die, and the medium becomes packet-based, and we now hear the inevitable early inane mumblings towards an 'Internet License', what then. Am I to be disconnected from the net unless I pay for BBC services? That sounds like something out of China.

There was no golden age, despite what this "spangles and white dogshite" misty-eyed childhood nostalgia site would have you believe, it was all largely substandard and barely fit for purpose. Even the good stuff isn't as good as you would choose to misremember it.
But if i read you correctly, monopolies are good, so if Murdoch or Microsoft took a massively distorting stranglehold of all UK broadcast media, you would rejoice at a return to the good old days, naw, i didn't think so.
Monopolies are repellent and against the best interests of the consumer no matter what their flavour or stripe.
The fact you wish to ignore a predatory, monopolistic provider, whose presence restricts and bankrupts competition, because it currently, largely suits your naturally meek statist ideological agenda is both selfish and short-sighted, and in no way to be commended.

So, how come all your favorite TV shows from the last twenty years are all American? i don't care whether your favorite is Larry Sanders or The West Wing, The Wire or Arrested Development (HBO,NBC,FOX).
Whatever it was (and i'm guessing it wasn't Three Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crips), the point is it was a product of the diversity and the democracy of a free-market.
Consumers (that means you and me) at liberty to make their own choices, a balanced system that you contemptuously deride in favour of an entirely unfounded assertion that the BBC governors act benevolently in your interest. Why don't you stand-up for yourself, make your own choices, don't be an infant all your life.

That is kinda the point, a basic freedom of choice between Fox News to MSNBC and all points in between.
That is what diversity, real diversity, actually looks like.
The fact that some people may choose to exercise those freedoms to make choices you may not neccessarily agree with is not your concern, do you understand? What newspaper they purchase, what television they watch, what radio they listen to, it's not yours to decide. If nothing else here, let me at least disavow you of that particular totalitarian notion, mmkay.

I'll now let you resume the schoolyard namecalling now. Proceed.

Applemask said...

You are a cunt. A selfish, obtuse cunt who puts his own minor convenience above the betterment of an entire nation. Besides, it's not as if "cunt" was my sole argument. Nothing wrong with juvenile namecalling as long as it's tethered to a reasoned argument, you gigantic whey-faced poltroon.

Like I said, there can't be that many people literally too poor to afford a TV licence. Jobseeker's Allowance - that is, the Dole - comes to slightly less a fortnight than a licence would cost for an entire year. It's 38p a day. £2.67 a month. If you can't afford that, you probably can't afford a television in the first place, and you probably wouldn't worry about it, being more interested in such things as food and shelter than luxury items like a television. The kind of people who get prosecuted for it are usually far from vulnerable - the sort of people who could afford it perfectly well but just resent anyone but themselves profiting even a tiny bit from their earnings. Those people who genuinely can't afford it - and I submit, I hope to God, such people are rare these days - usually don't try. Because they're sleeping in doorways. You can afford a house, you can afford a TV licence.

So your whole argument is that all British TV has always been shit, especially in the 70s? Hmm. My favourite show is and has always been Doctor Who, which only the BBC could ever have made.

There is no monopoly. There's a little thing called ITV that keeps the BBC on its toes in that department. It's only 55 years old, so I don't blame you for missing it. (Sarcasm is good too)

Your argument that all television is superior in America is - well, it's not flawed, it's practically one big flaw. For every West Wing there's two or three Fastlanes or Birds of Preys or Point Pleasants that we've never even heard of in this country. Or a Firefly, which is good but fucked about with by its network - in the name of the free market, naturally - so it never finds an audience and dies before its time. The free market as friend to creativity? That's such obvious bollocks. The free market leads to things like demographics and targeted programming and, ultimately, homogenised blandness. It stifles creativity. The West Wing was a success DESPITE it. Fox AXED Arrested Development. And Larry Sanders and the Wire are made by HBO, which is much more like the BBC - it doesn't run adverts and is funded by the viewer.

Am I to be disconnected from the net unless I pay for BBC services? No, you stupid bellend, just the iPlayer. And even then only live broadcasts.

And as for your last couple of paragraphs, get your fucking head out of your fucking arse. This is not a "freedom" issue. The BBC is not a state broadcaster. You - just as with the NHS - are asked to contribute a little of your own earnings - a very little in the BBC's case - for a large reward, for yourself and for everyone else in the entire country and beyond, assuming you give a fuck about anyone but yourself. Your staggering ingratitude about this is your own choice, just don't annoy other people with it.

No, I'm not saying the BBC is perfect or that its Trustees are infallible overlords watching over us like the Gods of Olympus. I'm talking about the principle - a national multi-platform broadcaster and essentially cultural hub, funded by, working for, and accountable to, everyone in the country that uses it. If there are flaws, and there are, you deal with them. You don't knock the entire house down because the boiler's broken. Unless you're a gigantic spiteful prick.

tl;dr: twirl it up your dick eye, you canker on the prick of despair.

Lord Reith said...

See, that's where you go wrong right from the outset, no wonder you are so confused. No-one is "asked to contribute", that's a blatant falsehood on your part, we are coerced and threatened, not asked.
The full violence of the state is brought to bear on those that would like to exercise a free-choice. Your selfish and myopic misunderstanding of this basic question of individual human liberty informs much of your retrograde and reactionary thinking in this thread.

However you have no choice but to betray yourself, no matter how many bargraphs are produced, your explicit refusal to allow the populace the liberty to make their own choice with regard to the state-broadcaster, shows that you already subconsciously know that you are lost. No amount of insults or tapdancing in any reply can salvage that.

If the BBC represents such exqusite value, such a unique contribution, then test that assertion in the marketplace. If you have nothing to fear from free-choice, why are you sounding so scared? Your intolerant moral-cowardice in this regard speaks volumes, and is damning.

ITV is bankrupt, five is sold from pillar to post, C4 is now begging to be given some license fee to survive, excellent, now we're gonna pay for two broadcasters. This is the real-world excoriating effect of a massive predatory anti-competitve monopolistic black-hole sitting at the heart of UK media.

That is why there is no UK HBO, no UK Showtime, no UK AMC ... and online, that is why there is no UK Google/Yahoo, no UK YouTube, no serious professional blogging ... all we have is a trail of broken down bankrupt lowest common denominator networks scrabbling for survival wherever they can find it, all the while the BBC consumes billions and billions of pounds every year, distorting and destabalising the market, and relentlessly acting to eliminate consumer choice.

Explain why the laws of basic monopolistic economics and ethics that exist everywhere else in the world, apparently are waived and do not exist for London W12?

Neither of these two questions were rhetorical. If you can't explain why you require illiberal coercion, and why a monopoly doesn't in fact run counter to the best interest of the consumer, and you can't do it without being abusive, then you should probably reconsider the lazy assumptions that have led you to be so badly exposed in this discourse.

It is now plain for us all to see that this is the first time you have even considered these questions, your thuggish attempts at reply show your lack of serious thought.
You are so far inside the box, you didn't even realise there was a box.

Look at you, spending your time obsequiously shilling for a 1940s style state broadcaster, the client-media of a corrupt political establishment, it's a swindle, they've got you sewn-up, you're carrying water for an organisation that treats you with barely-concealed contempt.
An outmoded anachronstic late 19th century collectivist idea of the uniform lumpen masses and "your betters knowing what's Good for you".
Wet-nursed by Auntie Beeb, perhaps time for you to leave the nursery, put the tit down, and start to demand responsiblity for your own free choices.

If you enjoy BBC product, you are free to continue purchasing it, that is your choice. All I ask is to be given the courtesy of that same free choice.

If you can't handle that fair and modest proposal without flying off the handle, you want to ask what has went so badly wrong in your thinking on this matter.

Applemask said...

You are not coerced and threatened, you fucking baby. You can opt out. In fact, you have the Internet and live in the UK - you don't need a television or a licence, just the iPlayer and the patience to wait until after original transmission. Jesus, some people - you ask them to contribute to anything that'll benefit people other than themselves and it's like you asked them to slice off both their legs and feed it into a sausage machine.

I have plenty to fear from what you term, with studied disngenuousness, "free choice", and what I and any unbiased commentator would term privatisation and deragulation, and most of it is personified in what ITV has become - the direct result of the Broadcasting Act 1990, which effectively privatised ITV. We tried it, it didn't work.

And stop trying to paint the BBC as Pravda. It's not state-sponsored and you know it. We pay for it, not the Government, and it has a charter which sets out its independence.

Ultimately, you're whining like a little bitch because a national institution is asking - ASKING - you AND EVERYONE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY WHO USES IT to contribute directly to its upkeep with a very small amount of money in return for the gigantic array of services it provides. You're a pathetic, selfish bitch who'd rather have a substandard media (which would be much more likely than the BBC to be in the pocket of business and government: cf the American media) than be asked to do your share.

You'd still be paying for it of course. Just not directly. Which makes all the difference because you can convince yourself you're making a "free choice", even though that's basically meaningless in this context. At least you don't have to pretend like you're living in a society, that's the main thing.

Applemask said...

"ITV is bankrupt, five is sold from pillar to post, C4 is now begging to be given some license fee to survive, excellent, now we're gonna pay for two broadcasters. This is the real-world excoriating effect of a massive predatory anti-competitve monopolistic black-hole sitting at the heart of UK media."

No, it isn't. You know it isn't. It's the real-world effect of the free market as king. ITV is bankrupt because it was privatised, deregulated, homogenised and ultimately thrown to the lions. You know this. You know it.

Mark X said...

Fourteen comments? What the bloody hell?

Anyway, I'd planned to go into some detail here, but I've spent so long going on about how good Land Girls is (well, and trying to find the names of some well-regarded 1970s children's drama scriptwriters from TV Cream) it's a bit late. I vow to keep things civil.

So, John Etc, thanks for all the commendably verbose, if sadly wrong, comments. As Anonymous helpfully pointed out, much of the argument over the licence fee has now been rendered obsolete by scientific progress. If you don't want to pay for the BBC, but want to watch output from ITV, Channel Four and Five, you can do so utterly legally. A PC connected to a moderately sized monitor is a perfectly acceptable way to watch your TV programmes and DVDs, and if that doesn't provide a workable solution for family viewing, you can buy LCD and plasma TV sets that come without tuners. As such, you don't need a TV licence for them - they aren't as easy to find as 'regular' television sets, but that's the invisible hand of free-market capitalism for you.

I do hope you're not going to pay devil's advocate here and whinny about how the impoverished can't be expected to afford broadband. It's television, after all, which is a luxury. A luxury enjoyed by the vastest of proportions, but a luxury nonetheless. If the BBC sent out stormtroopers kicking in the doors of hospices demanding £139.50 per annum for the right to own a dialysis machine, I promise you, this blog would probably complain as bitterly as the next Internet Berk, but they aren't. No-one complains about having to pay car tax which the government will spend on roads they personally aren't even going to drive on, after all (well, no-one does on here, anyway), the same applies with TV. Can't afford a telly? Boo-hoo. Read a book.

Next argument? Why can't the BBC (or similar broadcaster) become publicly owned and use the HBO model? After all, US television is the Best In The World, and so on? There are plenty of reasons why the US TV market is hugely different to ours. Due to the bias towards local output throughout the day (meaning until 7pm, most shows are either local news or syndicated fare), the main networks concentrate all of their efforts into filling the peak hours. That's good news for us foreign types, as we get to enjoy their best shows, but take a look at any US TV listings website (or live via TVUPlayer). It's not very impressive. "12pm-3pm Local Programming. 3pm-6pm America's Verbiest Nouns (rpt). 7pm News." And that's with up to 300million pairs of eyeballs to be advertised at.

Where HBO (and Showtime, FX, and the others) are able to step in is to take the risks the big networks can't. On NBC, Fox or ABC, you literally can't say shit. That inspires enough people for it to be profitable towards the subscription channels, but there are two reasons why that can't really work here. Firstly (and most obviously), the 240 million people America have got that we haven't. Secondly, 'normal' television isn't as sedate (and I know 'sedate' isn't the right word for a medium that spawned '24', but you know what I mean) over here. E4 was originally envisioned as a HBO for the UK market, but was (as we all know) changed to being part of the Sky Family Pack at first, and free-to-view later on. After all, in the USA, programmes such as Our Friends In The North, GBH, The Cops or Cracker would have had to be (at least partly) sanitised before going to air on a US network (actually, the latter actually was). Over here, while there might arguably be another level of visceral programming could move to, there certainly wouldn't be a worthwhile audience for it.

There are further things I'd wanted to mention, but it's 2am. I may add to my non-proof-read meanderings (or I might just try and move on with my life).

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