Watch: Russell T Davies’ prophetic warning about Tory plan to scrap BBC licence fee
The Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T Davies issued a prophetic warning about the UK Government’s plan to scrap the licence fee.
The renowned Welsh dramatist gave a powerful speech to a Radio Times audience back in 2019 in which he said that he feared that the “battle has been lost” to stop the public broadcaster from being forced to become a subscription service.
A video of the speech has re-emerged on social media after UK Government’s Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced yesterday that the licence fee will be frozen for the next few years and scrapped in 2027. She said that the next announcement about the BBC licence fee “will be the last”.
In his speech Russell T Davies, who also wrote the hit Channel 4 series, It’s a Sin, branded the move to turn the BBC into a subscription service a “disgrace”.
He also argued that with subscribers to the HBO broadcaster in the USA pay roughly the same as the licence fee but get much less than what the BBC provides in return.
I always think about this video of Russell T Davies talking about the future of the BBC and the licensee fee. pic.twitter.com/N5df0TrNi1
— luke spillane 🚀 (@lukespillane) January 16, 2022
Russell T Davies said: “We are heading towards what the government wants, and what is going to happen because I honestly think this battle has been lost, is we’re heading towards some sort of subscriber service, and where the mistake then is made is that everyone, and this was in the Radio Times letter page, when you started this debate.
“And there were people on that letter’s page saying ‘why don’t we have a subscriber service like HBO? Like HBO one of the finest broadcasters in the world. I will pay my subscription fee. I will join in with HBO. That is what I’ll get’.
“People in this country have no idea what HBO is or what it means, and I’ve spent the past few days going through the website.
“On a week on HBO you’ve got 7 channels, HBO, HBO 2, HBO Signature, HBO Family, HBO Comedy, HBO Zone, HBO Latino. Doesn’t that sound marvellous? You pay for that $15 a month, which is a $180 a year, which equals like a £118, which is cheaper than the licence fee. You think that’s brilliant.
“What you get is no news, no news, no voice, no soap opera, no weather, nothing that, no radio stations, Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 4, nothing like that. All you get are those 7 channels.
‘Not a very good film’
He added: “This is what you’re getting this week, and this is in October so it’s like primetime. You get, on a Saturday, you get a two-hour film, which you might have seen already, called Focus. Not a very good film. Fourteen minutes of boxing. Fourteen minutes of boxing. On a Sunday night, on a Sunday night that’s good, you get two and a half hours of original programmes, including The Leftovers, which is a great drama.
“Monday night, nothing, nothing new at all. On Tuesday night, nothing, nothing new at all. No new programmes, no news broadcasts, no magazine programmes, no Phil and Holly.
“This is what I’m saying. You pay a full subscription fee, which is practically the price of a licence fee. You get nothing. People in this country say ‘we should have a subscriber service like HBO because it’s the finest broadcaster in the world’. It gives you nothing. Alright you get Game of Thrones. You get that for 10 weeks of the year. One hour a week, 10 weeks of the year. That’s what you get.
“We are being led to towards a subscribers service which you are being told is marvellous, and it’s a lie. It gives you a couple of hours of good drama a week and nothing else, and that in 10 years time is what they will demand what the BBC becomes, and it is a disgrace”.
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