While most broadcasters are busy wondering how they can make more money out of us viewers, the BBC has decided to freeze the cost of our TV licence. Proposals, made today by BBC Trust, mean that for the next two years they'll be no price rise in licences. This sounds great, but the truth is; it only saves each household an average of £3 a year and will cut a significant chunk from Britain's real programming budget. Frankly, we'd rather pay.
We've got used to the rise in production values, particularly from BBC shows, over the years. Sherlock, Luther and the new series of Doctor Who have all been praised for their sleeker feel and--though not the lone reason for this change--more money was a factor in this. A real-terms loss of £144million, expected by the Beeb as a result of the planned pay freeze, can't be a good thing for our programming progress then. Can it?
Admittedly, UK writers don't rely on money; they've always had less funding than their American counterparts and this has forced them to get creative in other ways. However, it's also helped encourage some of them abroad--Torchwood's Russell T. Davies for instance.
Common sense tells us that a shortfall in cash will make a company's work harder, as cuts will have to come from somewhere. Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the Trust, agreed in the proposal that it would "not be pain-free". He did promise, however, that "the BBC can manage the impact while continuing to deliver the range of programmes and services that the public loves."
It's great to see that the BBC is trying to be responsible during this time of economic hardship. They should be commended for that. However, we'd be happy if, the option was available, to opt in and pay more for the sake of improved, not just "continuing" standards of television. In return all we'd ask is that Sherlock's second season be longer than three parts. Pretty please....