Tory MP ANDREA JENKYNS: Not wanting to pay for Mrs Brown at Christmas shouldn't be a crime 

2 months ago 20

Back in the days when we only had terrestrial television, the BBC was considered one of our great national institutions.

Whether for happy events, such as a great sporting fixtures, or sad commemorations, such as a state funeral, the BBC was a fulcrum around which the nation gathered.

Never was this more true than during the Christmas period.

That is why it is so dispiriting, albeit not unsurprising, to see the BBC’s dismal Christmas selection this year.

For me, and I’m sure for many others, the reasons for disappointment are endless. There's Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special (pictured) – a sitcom that deeply divides opinion

For me, and I’m sure for many others, the reasons for disappointment are endless.

First, the shortage of classic Christmas films. No longer are Elf, or Home Alone, for example, on our screens.

Instead, there is Kung Fu Panda 3 and Coco on offer – a movie about a boy trapped in the land of the living dead. 

While these examples may well be enjoyable to watch, by any reasonable estimation they are not Christmas films.

And among those programmes with a Christmas theme, I fear it’s no longer a guarantee of quality. 

There’s The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Christmas Special, and Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special – a sitcom that deeply divides opinion.

The BBC’s failure is all the more disturbing in view of its powerful competition. Netflix, for example, has a string of new commissions (stock image)

If BBC bosses had bothered to put together any sort of meaningful original programming, rather than resting on their Strictly Come Dancing laurels, I might feel a little more charitable about their overall effort. 

But the schedule is littered with repeats and cheap game shows. 

The dearth of any new Christmas specials, in the vein of past favourites that united the nation around our television sets – such as Wallace and Gromit, Blackadder or Only Fools And Horses – is all too obvious.

The BBC’s failure is all the more disturbing in view of its powerful competition.

Netflix, for example, has a string of new commissions. Of course, we don’t yet know their quality but the streaming giant has certainly tried to inspire viewers’ attention.

And then there is the issue of funding. Via the licence fee, the BBC charges viewers £157.50 a year – and it’s a criminal offence not to pay.

For that, we should get in return some quality programming.

But unless the BBC ups its game, and rapidly, its right to keep charging an annual fee would, I believe, be impossible to justify.

With the challenge from subscription channels such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney+, there is mounting pressure on the BBC to justify its compulsory tax.

At a minimum, I believe that non-payment of the licence fee should be de-criminalised.

Although the wealth of channels now on offer on all platforms and changing viewing habits mean the BBC will never match the 28 million viewers it got in 1977 for The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, that doesn’t mean it should stop producing shows with the magic and quality to grab the nation’s imagination.

With its resources and heritage, this should not be impossible.

But, crucially, it will require the panjandrums at the top of the BBC to break out of their subsidised sloth and make an effort to embrace once again Lord Reith’s founding principles: to inform, educate and entertain.

Axe the BBC licence fee for Sky-style subscriptions service, 40 per cent of viewers tell poll as Tory backbenchers call for Boris Johnson to re-examine funding 

The BBC licence fee should be replaced by a Sky-style subscription, a new poll has found.

Forty per cent of those polled backed subscriptions, compared with 37 per cent who favour the present £157.50 annual charge.

The survey, commissioned by the Defund The BBC pressure group, also found 15 per cent of viewers say they will not watch any BBC programmes during Christmas, while a third plan to watch a maximum of five hours.

Boris Johnson is coming under growing pressure from Tory backbenchers to re-examine the way the broadcaster is funded. 

More than 25 MPs wrote to the Prime Minister last month to urge him to decriminalise licence fee evasion to 'defend British traditions and values… to stand against the senseless woke whingers and the soulless militants who despise the best of Britain'.

It's a criminal offence to watch live TV or use BBC iPlayer unless you have a licence. Without one, you risk prosecution and can be fined up to £1,000.

But Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns writes below that she objects to having to pay the fee because of the lack of original programmes this Christmas. 

She says it is 'dispiriting' to see the Corporation's 'dismal schedule' for this festive season.

Ms Jenkyns adds: 'Among those programmes with a Christmas theme, I fear it's no longer a guarantee of quality. 

'There's The Great British Sewing Bee: Celebrity Christmas Special, and Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special – a sitcom that deeply divides opinion.'

She says the schedule 'is littered with endless repeats and cheap game shows'.

The poll found that only 36 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the BBC's schedule for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, rising to 44 per cent among those aged over 55.

The findings come as the BBC faces mounting criticism for neglecting its older viewers and pursuing a 'woke' Left-wing agenda. Last week, this newspaper reported on research by the Campaign For Common Sense that found of 364 comedy slots broadcast by the BBC over the past month, just four featured comedians with explicitly Conservative or pro-Brexit views, with 268 slots filled by comedians with publicly pronounced Left-leaning views, such as Nish Kumar, Adam Hills and Shappi Khorsandi.

The BBC also came under fire from viewers last week for a scene in the Vicar Of Dibley in which the lead character, played by Dawn French, 'took the knee' for Black Lives Matter.

Rebecca Ryan, campaign director of Defund The BBC, said: 'The British public want the licence fee to move to a subscription model that would mean people have the right to decide if they want to access BBC content or not.

'It is clear from this poll that there is a huge swathe of the population who do not feel the BBC's Christmas schedule is on a par with what it should be and many will be watching far less BBC content than they did last year. 

A major factor of this is undoubtedly the subscription choices in the form of Sky, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video which have a raft of on-demand content. 

The BBC licence fee is outdated and unwanted.'

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