Tom Waters is a Research Intern at the Freedom Association.
Nobody under the age of 80 can remember a world without the BBC. As the world’s first national broadcaster, "Auntie Beeb" became a bit of an unquestioned institution. But over recent years, dissatisfaction with the BBC has loomed, as viewers have heard increasing tales of bias and waste, as well as seeing "trashy" television and exorbitant licence fees.
In the light of all this, we might ask what the purpose of public service broadcasting (PSB) is. As I flick through today’s Radio Times, I see Bargain Hunt, Celebrity MasterChef, Snog, Marry, Avoid and Eggheads. It doesn’t seem immediately obvious that these programmes, paid for by television owners around the country, constitute a "public service". Public services are supposed to deliver those things which the market would under-provide. A huge quantity of BBC output is comprised of programmes which could easily – and indeed are – shown on commercial channels. Forcing anybody who merely owns a broadcast receiving television, irrespective of what they watch, to pay for such programming seems profoundly unfair.