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The Right Thing

Annabel Shorter
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Whizzing around yesterday I caught snippets of the news and I gather that the Government is considering decriminalising the non-payment of the BBC’s licence fee. If I understand correctly the fee will now apply to all households including the previously exempt over-75s. 

However, by removing the sanction attached to non-payment do they effectively make it optional? The question is what percentage of households given the choice would pay the fee?

I heard one expert estimate that it would result in a £350m drop in revenue.

So, are the government labouring under the view that people will do the ‘right thing’?

My niece and nephew visited me after school recently. They were horrified as they told me that they had been sent around the school during parents afternoon to offer home-baked cakes in return for donations for the Macmillan coffee morning campaign.

A ‘gentleman’ that they knew to be comfortably well-off (and generally not afraid to tell you that!) had asked them…

‘How much?’.

‘Whatever you think’, they replied and held out the collection box.

Apparently, with great relish, they told me how he took a napkin and theatrically piled it with as many cakes as he could hold, and went on to grin at them as he put a 10p coin in the box!

Of course, he is a special breed of (insert expletive) but we have to recognise that given the chance to do the ‘right thing’ many people just won’t, and for lots of reasons. They might pay the licence fee for the first year, and maybe the second. But who is to say that by the time they have listened to the same voices bragging that they haven’t paid, they won’t reconsider?

The moral high ground may eventually lose its lustre.

We tell people to be specific about what they want. In the case of the BBC, £154.50 for a colour licence (worth it for David Attenborough alone?)

But if you have no sanction to play for non-agreement in negotiation then it may be no more effective than saying ‘Whatever you think’!

Annabel Shorter
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