Yesteray I received a notification my TV license was up for renewal. I must admit had I not opened this particular letter, whilst listening to Ex-BBC director general Mark Thompson defend pay-offs close to £1m, it wouldn’t have left such a bad taste in my mouth.
Although we are supposedly on our way back to an economic recovery it’s yet to trickle down to my pocket. Many people I know could only dream of knowing they had secured their income for the next five years and did not have to face the uncertainty of being made redundant or not finding another contract. Not only does the BBC enjoy this type of privilege on us, it’s a criminal offense if you decide you no longer want to support it and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I have a complicated relationship with Aunty Beeb. On the one hand I love her to bits and the BBC will always have a special place in my heart. I’ve worked on some amazing projects, with some of the most talented individuals and still feel a tinge of excitement as I enter the BBC’s White City’s media centre… hey it’s the small things!
But like many from ‘diverse’ backgrounds I’ve had my fair share frustrations during my career. If I was given a pound for the amount of times I’ve been the only ‘one’ in my team, on a production, a department, or even an entire floor apart of course from the hospitality staff. Or the number of times I’ve been forced to explain the lack of ‘credible’ characters of ‘colour’ on Eastenders, in fact the lack of diverse programming throughout the whole of the schedule. I’d be a rich woman and would have left the industry ages ago.
Instead I’ve witnessed a number of talented individuals get their passion and confidence sucked right out of them. They watch those who are part of the old boy’s network given promotions and as yesterday’s news reveals huge pay-outs up and above their contractual obligations.
Many of us can only dream longingly from the side-lines. Having to face the prospect that unless you’re working for a risk taker or a boss who can ‘relate’, progression is going to very, very slow because you just don’t quite ‘fit in.
What really stuck in my throat as I read my licence renewal notice, was the fact I had to pay for a service that I’m not entirely happy with.
Cultural Diversity, on and off screen and TV, do I have to say any more? This has been an age-old problem that the industry, not just the BBC, has been grappling to resolve.
I remember back in 2011, when the BBC took over the chair of the CDN, there was this fantastic sense of optimism in the air. I was convinced the BBC would really bring about real change. After all they were a public service and we paid a licence fee right? Alas their two-year tender went by quietly and uneventful.
According to a recent Skillset census since 2009 over 2000 people from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) have left the industry reducing ethnic representation to only 5.4% of the total workforce.
To most, this comes as no surprise as it is often predicted that in times of economic downturn, women and those from ethnic minorities usually bear the brunt. But according to the same census women now represent 36% of this total workforce compared to 27% in 2009. Which of course is good news but highlights there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to cultural diversity.
When I first started The TV Collective I had one of those light bulb moments. I had just heard that those from visually impaired communities where entitled to a 50% reduction of the licence fee. This of course inspired what I thought was a brilliant idea – What if those from diverse background also campaigned for a reduction in their licence fee, as the service doesn’t fully reflect their needs – genius!
OK I appreciate that would never work but with the recent going on at the BBC, it has got me thinking about the licence fee again.
The digital revolution has brought with it a new hero – content is now king. Selecting when and what you want to watch is now commonplace. Services like Netflix and Youtube has made subscribing for content an expectation and everyone is getting in on the act. We are witnessing the birth of the subscription economy.
Audiences are voting with their PayPal accounts for what content they like and they have no loyalties in seeking out what they want. This is bringing with it a whole new set of challenges for traditional broadcasters and making it increasingly hard to justify the TV licence fee.
For the moment I sit unsteadily on the fence. I can appreciate the devastating impact the withdrawal of the licence fee would have on the BBC and arguable the quality of British broadcasting. But with the memory of Jimmy Savile still lingering in the air and now the latest payoff scandal – I think it’s time to have a serious debate.
What do you think is the licence fee outdated?
The TV Collective