Douglas Carswell

15 MAR 2016

Scrap the licence fee, embrace the market

Isn't Netflix great? For £6 a month you get access to high quality programmes from all over the world. Netflix has changed television for the better – and all without the aid of a licence fee.

The rise of Netflix is a victory for consumer choice. People who can't afford extortionate cable TV can now access cable programmes online. It competes as a programme maker too. With shows like House of Cards, Netflix has demonstrated it can make the finest dramas around.

Netflix has shown up the conceit that the BBC makes the best programmes in the world. We're told we need the licence fee to get high quality television. But what brilliant shows is the BBC actually making with its extorted money? Bargain Hunt? Barely Legal Drivers?

Today, the best detective shows are made in Scandinavia. The best dramas in America. Even the presenters behind the BBC's most successful show, Top Gear, have moved to Amazon Prime.

If the BBC's output is really so good, why do people need to be forced to pay for it? Netflix shows that if you make programmes people want to watch, they will pay for it. Why should the people who don't want to watch the BBC subsidise those who do?

The fact that people can face criminal prosecution for not having a licence for a television isn't just absurd, it's draconian. The licence fee is regressive – just like the poll tax. It gives the BBC an unfair advantage against its competitors. But it doesn't produce better programmes.

Consumer choice, not compulsory charges, is improving television. Let's scrap the licence fee, and unleash the market.

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