In Britain, every home with a TV set must pay $US248.63 per year.

We have to pay £131.50 this year. It increases each year. And believe me, it is enforced. If you don’t pay, your possessions can be seized and sold.

Family homes pay one license fee of £131.50 this year however many TVs they have. House/flat sharers must pay the same fee individually. So if 4 friends are sharing a residence, 4 license fees must be paid. There are rules for residential homes, second homes, and so on.

If you are not from the UK - what do you think about this? Do you think it is a weird tax, or justified for public service, plain wrong, what?

When I first heard about a TV license fee, many years ago, I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever heard. Now, after hearing many crazy and stupid things…I still feel that way. To me, it is anti-just about everything. It discriminates against the poor, and restricts information to those with the wherewithall to pay the license. I couldn’t stand such a thing.

Screw “commercial-free.” It isn’t worth it.

That seems quite a bit of money. What’s it for? To fund the BBC?

It certainly seems odd to me. I believe Australia may once have had a similar system. It doesn’t now. And I recall being told something about a TV licence when I lived in New Zealand, but I never actually paid any fees.

Well, coming from the land of TV uber alles, I think it’s ridiculous. I had no idea they did that over there! Although, personally, I watch so little TV and I’d be so incensed I probably wouldn’t have a TV, except to watch movies.

But, wait . . . is this for the box itelf? Meaning, can you have one that you only use to watch DVDs, and the government won’t care? Or do they tax every box, even if you don’t get a signal or cable? If they try to tax every box . . . how would they know if you had one?

Not entirely the case. It depends on your tenancy agreement; if you’re in a house in which you’re renting a room, you need one each. If together all four of you are renting a house, you only need one.

I remember the ads… “Detection vans are in your area!”

Obviously as a kid I didn’t have to worry about paying the telly licence. I guess Mom and Dad took care of it… or we got away it it. When I came to the States I have to admit that the amount of advertising bowled me over. Like you’d turn on “Family Ties,” they’d do the titles… and go to commercial! Before you even knew what the episode was about. Even on ITV they’d play a few minutes of the show so you knew whether to bail or keep watching.

I was going to say that it’s like having cable. Most Americans, I’d imagine have at least a basic package - otherwise, you get ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, maybe UPN/WB and some of the stations that just play reruns. There’s at least four BBC stations, plus ITV, Channel 4 and 5, right? I would compare that to having basic cable - the networks have really stepped up their game regarding programming, but when I think of the quality of the BBC’s programming - it’s like having Discovery and TLC when it comes to science and docu programmes - I think it’s worth it.

If you want to watch shows like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Rescue Me, The 4400 - some of the most original programming over here - you’ve got to have cable. Furthermore, for the first two, you have to have HBO, which is premium cable. I pay about $125/month for the whole enchilada package on satellite, but I’d guess you can get HBO etc. for around $50/month. So about $20/month for high quality commercial-free programming wouldn’t bug most Americans. But is there assistance for poor people? Can you pay it monthly, etc? I think what Americans would protest about is the mandatory nature of the licence fee. Some people would say, “I just want ITV,” and they’d be happy with it I guess.

If you watch sports and/or like the cutting edge dramas you have to have cable here.

Another vote for “Wierd, and just feels wrong.” As far as I know, there’s never been any sort of TV tax in the United States. Any politician who proposed such a tax would be commiting political suicide. Plus, the idea of government-funded television stations strikes me as kinda creepy and Big Brother-ish.

It’s not government-funded. The license money goes right to the BBC. “Tax” is the wrong word, really.

In America, if you own a TV set, you pay no fees. If you want to actually see anything on said TV set, you have to pay a cable company or satellite company fees ranging from $360 to (much more common) $500 per year, with $1000 per year beign a commonplace price for a full cable package with premium channels.

Oh, that’s a huge improvement. But at least we have a choice among cable companies, right? No. Because once a company has laid down cable and obtained subscribers, they have a huge advantage over anyone else, who has to lay down their own cable and then wrestle the existing company’s customers away from them. Your only options are cable or satellite, which are both into tiered packaging and fixed prices.

Of course, you do get anywhere from 30 to several hundred channels for your money, and some of them are pretty good. I dunno what you guys get for your money, but I do know you get BBC News, and I envy the hell out of you for that, because all we get is partisan conservative schlock channels and really feebleminded journalism out of network news. But you may well have reason to envy us in respect to other television fare. Or not. I don’t know.

I guess what I’m saying is, for all practical purposes, we pay a lot more than you for television service, it’s a matter of what you get vs. what we get.

Like Jodi, I’m curious if use comes into play at all. I do own a television, but it is not hooked up to cable or an antenna. We use it strictly to watch things on VHS and DVD. (I do have an antenna, somewhere, that I can pull out if the apocalypse happens to be being shown live on CBS.)

As an utter non-user of the airwaves, would I be required to pay said license fee? Seems a little ridiculous. We do like watching our All Things Bright and Beautiful episodes on DVD from the local library, but I’d be mighty tempted to donate the box to the local Goodwill if I were required to pay $250/year just to have it.

Sounds like a tax to me, just one that’s earmarked for the BBC.

Or just attach an antenna and get it free.

For that to happen, the money would have to go into the government’s overall budget, and then be allocated to the BBC. That’s not the case; you pay the money, it goes to the BBC. There’s not point at which the government has that money.

It’s the same for cable companies over there, and I doubt you’d consider that a tax.

No, because you’re not required to have cable, and the government isn’t running around trying to catch people who haven’t paid their cable bills.

Well … yes, but I’m quite free to just not order cable. It doesn’t sound like it’s the same in Great Britain.

Sorry about the simul-post, Random.

Tax is exactly the right work, really. It is a fee periodically imposed by the government on TV owners, just like other fees imposed on other goods or services. Where it goes after collection is irrelevant. How is that not like a tax?

Eh, I wouldn’t go that far. I grew up without cable. Got ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, Fox, and later WB and UPN. Oh, and some Spanish-language channels like Univision and Telemundo as well as about three religious channels. I spent this last year with nothing but an antenna but the reception’s been getting worse and worse and I finally decided I had enough extra cash available each month to pay for a fairly basic satellite dish. However, if it wasn’t for lousy reception (and the NFL changing everything around this year with NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network), I’d probably still just be using the antenna. Down here in Las Cruces, I get ABC, NBC, CBS, two PBSes (NMSU and UTEP), Fox, several more Spanish-language channels (both American and Mexican), and of course the obligatory local religious stuff. The antenna gets me, in theory, plenty of programming. The fact that I don’t want to watch most of it doesn’t mean anything, because I don’t want to watch half the channels I’m getting with the dish either.

As for stuff like the Sopranos and Deadwood. I can always wait a little bit for the DVDs and then either rent or buy them instead for less than I’d pay for HBO.

If you’re referring to a “franchise fee”, which is collected by our local cable company (Charter) and remitted to the local municipality, it is certainly a tax. It is imposed on all subscribers and is up to 5% of the cable TV bill. Charter collects it and passes it on without taking anything out, just like our County government collects property taxes and passes them on to the towns/villages/cities. No matter how you look at it, it’s a tax.

On the one hand, the BBC rocks. Its news service is invaluable even in America and it’s produced some damn fine television of all genres. There’s something to be said for non-commercial television. American TV has to appease its commercial patrons at every step, not only never questioning their agenda and providing high ratings, but providing the right kind of ratings. More than a few popular shows have been cancelled because the audience was too old and didn’t spend enough for the sponsors.

On the other hand, I can’t justify making people pay for a non-essential service they may never use. I know there’s other channels in the UK other than the Beeb, plus satellite, plus just watching videos and the like. It’s not like cable where one can opt out and still enjoy TV’s other uses, it’s enforcing a single network with the force of law. That’s just not right.