The EU And Telecoms (Part 2)

Following from part 1 we continue with part 2 where we explore more fully EU telecoms regulations and its current situation especially regarding Flexcit.

As happens in other areas of EU competence, laid down by the treaties, member states must adhere to the telecommunications chapter of the EU acquis and are bound together by network governance and by harmonisation measures as a consequence. These span shared policies and legislation, implementation and regulation, standards and the accreditation of qualifications.

It’s interesting that what is often overlooked is the EU is a project not yet finished. It currently remains a work in progress following the engrenage (gearing) principle the well established method to engineer another leap forward in integration, the slow, salami-slicing approach adopted by Jean Monnet.

This principle has the consequence that while it continues a process of hollowing out member states competences and trying to move them up to EU level that there often occurs a period of absence of any competence at all. In this we are reminded of Booker’s comment on a criticism of evolution:

Years ago…Attenborough himself [claimed] to ‘prove’ Darwin’s theory by showing us a mouse and a bat, explaining how one evolved into the other. He seemed oblivious to the obvious point that, as the mouse’s forelegs evolved by minute variations to wings, there must have been a long period when the creature, no longer with properly functioning legs but as yet unable to fly, was much less ‘adapted to survive’ than it had been before.

For the regulation of network industries there have been delegations of powers by governments of the member states to EU institutions, notably to the European Commission (EC), but also to their own domestic National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs). This was somewhat ad hoc and piecemeal in the 1980s and 1990s, however from the 1999 Electronic Communications Services review (COM(1999) 539 final, 10.11.1999) the intentions and the outcomes increasingly concentrated on a more systematic approach.

Yet there continues to be considerable variations between member states which the European Commission and the European Parliament sought to reduce the disorder and to complete the single market for telecommunications.

As we previously noted the UK regulator Ofcom – determined to breakup BT’s monopoly further – used competition law powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 – itself a result of EU Directives – to come to an agreement with BT over a separate network access division called Openreach which would offer its wholesale products on an equivalent basis to both external customers and itself.

The establishment of Openreach and its relationship to external customers at the time was unique to the UK within the EU and its experience was studied by regulators in other European countries who experienced similar competition problems arising from the presence of a large incumbent telecommunications operator, such as France Telecom.

Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner who in 2006 was in charge of telecommunications regulation, took inspiration from the UK in forcing the “structural separation” of incumbent telecom operators into service and infrastructure divisions across the European Union.

With this in mind Reding unveiled proposals aimed at not only extending competition among telecom operators, but also the the idea of one single EU wide telecom regulator, to act as an umbrella organization for Member States’ national regulators. Reding’s proposals became the “review of EU Telecom rules: Strengthening Competition and Completing the Internal Market” which argued that:

“The most effective way to achieve a real level playing field for telecom operators across the EU would of course be to create an independent European telecom regulator that would work together with national regulators in a system, similar to the European System of Central Banks. In such a system, national regulators would continue to act as direct contact points with operators and could directly analyse the market. At the same time, a light European agency, independent from the Commission and from national governments, could ensure by guidelines and, if necessary, instructions that EU rules are applied consistently in all Member States.”

Here Reding sought to achieve “a real level playing field” by tackling what she called the three issues; Firstly the need for more internal market integration for a more effective use of radio spectrum. Falling back on the traditional EEC/EU arguments of fish, pollution or ‘climate change’ which knows no country boundaries as a reason for extending EU competences Reding relies on this regarding spectrum:

Radio spectrum itself knows no borders, but it is managed at national level, normally in an administrative, bureaucratic way that creates scarcity by prescribing in detail what every part of the spectrum may be used for in that Member State.

I also believe that we need to put the idea of a European spectrum agency on the table…we have to recognise the competitive disadvantage the EU faces because, instead of having one single regime for spectrum management and spectrum licensing, as they do in the US, we have 25 different ones.

Reding also argued that with the “switch from analogue to digital TV there is a one off opportunity to re-use the analogue frequencies for new technologies”. The second issue she addressed was better regulation:

“…a more consistent application of the EU telecom rules”. In the telecom sector, where neither technology nor economic interest nor consumer behaviour know national borders any more, I see a clear, long overdue need to make the internal market a reality also in regulatory terms”.

The third proposal was that there should be no “regulatory holidays” in the face of technological advances and with the liberalisation of the telecoms market should come “structural separation”:

Structural separation means that telecom regulators could require a dominant operator to provide non-discriminatory access to all operators by separating infrastructure provision from service provision to a greater or lesser extent. Today, the EU rules in force do not foresee structural separation as a regulatory remedy on the telecom markets. But I see that the United Kingdom, which has opted for a form of structural separation at national level, has made good experiences with this remedy. 

Her legislative proposal was for a European Electronic Communications Market Authority (EECMA) in which the EC sought a formal cooperation structure to remedy the lack of coherence within the internal market, which included “a fragmentation of European markets” and the absence of mechanisms for authorising cross-border services (e.g., mobile and IP-based services).

This proposal was significantly reshaped by the Parliament (which increased its own influence as a consequence) and the Council and, via Regulation (EC) No 1211/2009, became the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC):

The main objective of this body is to enhance cooperation among national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and to strengthen the internal market in electronic communications networks.

BEREC consists of NRAs members where each is nominated per Member State. (NRAs from the European Economic Area (EEA) States only have observer status and are represented “at an appropriate level”). Thus BEREC consolidated the “official” status of NRAs despite having no democratic credentials.

BEREC itself conducts its business in secret and it attempts to justify this by claiming that there is often a special requirement to avoid public scrutiny and stakeholder involvement. We can see this secrecy, or ‘independence’ officially laid out under Regulation (EC) No 1211/2009 Article 4: Composition and organisation of BEREC:

The members of the Board of Regulators shall neither seek nor accept any instruction from any government, from the Commission, or from any other public or private entity.

In addition, there is a lack of clarity whether its decisions and opinions can be challenged in the EU courts alongside that it is unaccountable before the EU parliament, giving it a democratic and judicial deficit. Even the mechanism for engagement with BEREC is through consultations on terms determined by the organisation itself.

Aside from BEREC, further complications in European telecoms governance arise from earlier attempts at European harmonisation mechanisms via European Regulatory Networks (ERNs).

ERNs were established particularly with network sectors in mind; designed to respond to the multiplication of regulators and their uneven development. ERNs were an attempt to address by the need for greater co-ordination in implementing  regulation by member states. 

However within the institutional design of ERNs lies their genesis. Their design reflects acutely the difficultly of trying to move from national governance to one of supranational governance. Having been given grandiose tasks, the European Commission and national governments still maintained many powers. Here then we see the creation of double delegation, with powers “delegated up” from the NRAs and “delegated” down from the EU with the inevitable result of dissatisfaction:

The EU’s ‘double delegation’ to IRAs and the EU Commission has led to major and as yet unresolved problems of coordination and implementation.

Thus this means that ERNs can be seen as a ‘second best’ method of dealing with implementation of EU regulation; a compromise between EU ‘colleagues’ pressing for greater European integration and those member states, especially national governments, reluctant to endorse it fully. The compromise inevitably means that while more uniform regulation by coordinating approaches and functions was the intention, there has been little evidence of success in harmonisation and no attempts even to measure the effectiveness of the measures.

But within ERNs remains legacy EU regulatory telecoms governance that sits alongside and is distinct from BEREC, and this is apparent in the various EU bodies such as the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC);

The Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) is responsible for specific technical measures required to implement the broader Radio Spectrum Policy. The RSC is composed of Member State representatives and chaired by the European Commission.

Established by the 2002 Radio Spectrum Decision (676/2002/EC), the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) is assisting the Commission for the development of technical implementing decisions to ensure harmonised conditions across Europe for the availability and efficient use of radio spectrum.

…and the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) which enables Member States, the Commission and stakeholders to coordinate the use of radio spectrum.

Here we can see that unlike the secret nature of BEREC, bodies such as the RSC and the RSPG within ERNs involve extensive consultation amongst all stakeholders, which include “regulatory authorities and the ministries having responsibility for radio spectrum related matters in each Member State”, manufacturers, network operators and users.

RSC and RSPG are also part of the comitology process which allows the Commission to discuss its proposals with national administrations before implementation in order to ensure that any measure is optimised to the various national situations. Thus under these rules the following associations are permitted to be consulted:

Consumers:
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) – which brings together 40 European consumer organisations from 31 countries (EU, EEA and applicant countries). 

International Telecommunications Users Group INTUG – an international association of business users of telecommunication.

Operators:
European Communities Trade Mark Association ECTA – which in addition to having close links with the European Commission and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) (OHIM), ECTA is recognised by WIPO as a non-Government Organisation (NGO).

European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association  ETNO – who are pan-European operators and has been the voice of Europe’s telecommunications network operators since 1992

GSM Association GSMA– is an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting the standardising, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system.

Manufacturers:
Digital Europe

We can see therefore that even under EU telecoms governance and the comitology process there is extensive consultation with international associations. A further example can be seen with the European Conference on Posts and Telecoms (CEPT). CEPT extends far beyond the EU, including the countries of the former USSR and currently includes 48 countries in its membership.

And it is with international relationships with the EU we will examine further in part three. But first we will look at the EEA agreement where although there is commitment to adhering to the EU telecommunications acquis there is more flexibility with regard to the implementation as per the EEA agreement.

And it’s with the EEA’s relationship regarding telecoms and the EU where we turn our attention to next.

UKIP: Thanks For Nothing

We’ve noted before on this blog UKIP’s increasingly toxic tendency to blame “everything on immigrants”. Previously it was Farage’s assertion that he was held up on the M4 motorway due to the fact that “open door immigration has meant that the M4 is not as navigable as it used to be'”.

That he was traveling by car early evening on a Friday around a notorious bottleneck on the M4 wasn’t taken into consideration. Thus “bloody immigrants” was dog whistle politics writ large.

With this in mind it therefore comes as no surprise to see that Farage believes that immigrants are to blame for children not playing in the streets:

Britons are so ill at ease with levels of immigration in their towns that their children do not play football with their neighbours in the streets, Nigel Farage has said.

The UK Independence Party leader said people in eastern England felt a “deep level of discomfort” about the millions of immigrants who have settled in the UK in the past decade.
He said: “I want to live in a community where our kids play football in the streets of an evening and live in a society that is at ease with itself.
And I sense over the last decade or more we are not at ease”
It’s not unfair in our view to believe that Nick Griffin would have been proud of these sentiments. That children may not, or cannot, play in the streets is often down to a myriad of factors, not least its illegal, it’s unsafe and that many roads simply have too many cars – ironically Farage’s children couldn’t play outside his own house, in the street, for this reason alone.

In trying to remove ourselves from the EU however Farage’s language is toxic. With what began as a eurosceptic party, has been hijacked by a man who has turned it into a self-promotional vehicle and is prepared as a consequence to condemn the eurosceptic movement in terms which hinder significantly the argument of getting out. So much so that we are set to lose before we even start.

With such language and thus with effectively a self-imposed glass ceiling on support, no wonder the media have begun to catch up with bloggers by noticing belatedly that UKIP’s trend is on a downward trajectory.

With so-called ‘UKIP strategy’ we get a measure of the man when we see this:

“If we went to every town up eastern England and spoke to people about how they felt, their town, their city had changed in the last 15 years, there is a deep level of discomfort, because if you have immigration at these sorts of levels integration doesn’t happen.” 

Note the words “eastern England”. It’s an odd statement to make for a leader of a party named the United Kingdom Independence Party. What about Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales where immigration is not necessarily such a vote winner – immigration has an uneven effect across the country.

But within “eastern England” is the constituency of Thanet South; where Farage is standing to be elected as an MP. It’s also next door to where UKIP held its Spring Conference in Margate which had no mobile signal nor internet access.

A professional party with workable facilities at its conference less important than Farage’s own campaign it seems. So no policies, no strategy, no exit plan just dog-whistle soundbites to get Farage elected.

Perhaps in this sense it will work and this will please the cult, but in getting us out of the EU no chance.

What a waste of 20 odd years…

Why A 2015 EU Referendum Cannot Happen (Update).

Following on from our previous post regarding the impossibility of a 2015 referendum, we contacted the Electoral Commission to try to clarify a number of further potential technical issues.

While, like most quangos, the Electoral Commission displayed a deep reluctance to commit themselves to answering certain questions posed, their first response confirmed our initial points that, contrary to Farage’s assertion, a referendum cannot happen in a few weeks (quoted from the Electoral Commission’s email):

Currently, we cannot say how the designation process will work at any future referendum until Parliament passes the legislation setting out the rules for that referendum. 

Our role is to regulate the referendum and designate campaigners under the rules for each referendum. The rules that applied at previous referendums required the Commission to designate campaigners that sufficiently represented those campaigning for the outcome they support, or, if more than one, represented those campaigning to the greatest extent.

This reiterates precisely our point that it means campaigning groups can’t begin to officially campaign until they submit bids for the official “in” and “out” campaign and have been approved. With Scotland a campaign period of 16 weeks was the recommendation.

However the approval process is likely to take six months as also recommended by the Electoral Commission. This six month process cannot happen until after the referendum bill becomes law which in itself at best will take months.

Thus with the Electoral Commission’s recommendations which considered the experience with Scotland (for recommendations, read demands) it becomes clear that a 2015 referendum is simply out of the question.

Why The Pro-EU Telegraph Uses The Term ‘Norway Model’

A recent Telegraph editorial, which is an unashamedly pro-EU paper, not unsurprisingly includes information from the recently outed pro-EU think tank Open Europe:

At first blush, then, today’s report by the think tank Open Europe on the costs of EU regulations to Britain should push the prime minister to head for the exit. The burden of the costliest 100 regulations to our economy is £33 billion, it says. And while the apparent benefits total more than £58 billion, some £46 billion of this derives from three items “which are vastly over-stated”. Financially, it seems, we are losing out.

By reducing the argument down to cost and economics means that it becomes divisive for the eurosceptic movement to its detriment as Richard North notes:

The trouble is that EU regulation, and how much money we may or may not save from leaving the EU, constitute the type of “biff-bam” arguments that the media love to report. But the two sides getting bogged down in such arcane details is precisely the wholesale turn-off for the general public that we need to avoid. If we are going to make any progress, the economic issues should be neutralised and “parked”, not endlessly chewed over by a bunch of hyperactive think-tank wonks and ill-briefed politicians.

What we are seeing, therefore, is incompetent campaigning from both sides – although the need to overcome the status quo effect imposes greater demands on the “out” campaign. Equal incompetence means we lose. Either way, though, the anti-EU movement is being poorly served. And if we can’t even trash the OE nonsense, we deserve everything we get.

Similarly arguing that the EU can be reformed has the same effect when trying to win a referendum. No wonder the pro-EU Telegraph is so enthusiastic in adopting such tactics.

Interestingly, and far more dangerously, Business for Britain whose Chief Executive is Mathew Elliot who is very keen to be the official out candidate for a referendum uses precisely the same arguments and terminology as pro-EU Open Europe and the Telegraph. Business for Britain’s daily email briefings are virtually identical to Open Europe’s.

No doubt Tory central office will be over the moon if Elliot would be the official candidate for the out campaign in a referendum.

Any genuine euroscepetic knows that the EU hides in plain sight that its raison d’etre is all about political union and has been from the outset. To ignore that as a eurosecptic movement could be described as dishonest. Thus by neutralising the economic arguments it allows us to concentrate on the fundamental principle that the EU is all about political union by its own admission.

Neutralising the economic arguments involves invoking the Norway Option, and more specifically Flexcit, by adopting the off the shelf EEA solution as a temporary measure allows us to negate the inevitable FUD threat in a referendum.

And it is a threat that the pro-EU press such as the Guardian and City AM fully recognise. If they didn’t they wouldn’t spend so much time in trying to undermine the argument.

With this mind, it is interesting that the Telegraph uses the phrase “Norway model” rather than the usual term “Norway Option”;

The so-called “Norway” model – leave the EU but remain part of the European Economic Area.

A quick internet search suggests why; a search for the term ‘Norway Model’ is likely to result in links to copious pretty Norwegian women:

Conversely a search for the ‘Norway Option’ results in this and this:

This is cynicism by the Telegraph of the highest order, and this is an example of the dirty tricks we face. The eurosceptic movement as a whole needs to wise up…otherwise we will lose.

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

There’s no question that an “out” campaign in any referendum faces a significant challenge when it is against a very powerful EU movement which has the means and money to outgun us. There is also no doubt that unfair tactics will be used in abundance. In addition we mustn’t forget that the “in” campaign in terms of argument and narrative only has to draw (to maintain the status quo) while the “out” campaign has to make the case for winning.

In many ways therefore we are disadvantaged – we are fighting against formidable odds yet as I have noted previously we do have advantages on our side. However with a referendum it’s actually our own side, perhaps surprisingly, which is more likely to contribute to our potential defeat.

Earlier this week I had a very fine lunch with passionate anti-EU campaigners White Wednesday and Jason Kent – who is a local Oxfordshire UKIP member and general election agent. Among the many issues discussed there was one which expressed a sense of frustration that the “out” side is less than unified in coming together to adopt a winning strategy to leave. It’s a frustration I fully share.

An intriguing problem is that the “out” side has long consisted of strong-willed individuals. But while the individuality and diversity of the “out” camp in many ways should be celebrated – a trait which is the antithesis of the borg-like EU – it’s that very trait which often means we are usually nothing more than an ‘unorganised rabble’ unable to unify behind a coherent positive message or campaign; each with their own egos, own agendas and petty squabbles. Thus when we face a very formidable enemy such diversity will count against us.

The very informative 1975 referendum book by Butler and Kitzinger documents a little nugget which neatly and vividly illustrates this ‘herding cats’ problem back in 1975:

The main elements in the National Referendum Campaign (the anti-marketeers) were the Common Market Safeguards Campaign and Get Britain Out (GBO)…

There was considerable hostility between these two bodies; following the failure of either the Anti-Common Market League or Safeguards to fulfill an alleged promise to contribute to the cost of a bookstall at Blackpool for the Conservative Conference in 1973.

[GBO’s] Christopher Frere-Smith and Richard Body had withdrawn from Safeguards…and Ron Leighton was recruited as full-time Director bringing with him all his Safeguards experience and contacts…

The 1975 referendum campaign could claim to have excuses for such failings though; they had no experience to draw upon and they had little time to prepare. In contrast we have no such excuses yet in many ways we seem determined to repeat many of the same mistakes that were made in 1975.

The crucial aspect of any campaign is to appeal to the waverers – the ‘soft middle’ – which is mostly decidedly undecided. Thus any “out” campaign which tries to appeal to the likes of Nick Clegg is a waste of time as indeed it would be to the readers of this blog and others. A situation we could consider was aptly summed up by the actress Julia Roberts who played a prostitute in the film Pretty Woman:

I appreciate the whole seduction thing you’ve got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I’m a sure thing.

Yet we get the sense that the eurosceptic movement in general cannot move outside a comfort zone – failing to try to appeal to those who are not a ‘sure thing’. Instead they continually try to seduce those who have already made up their minds.

And this is where Flexcit comes in; by removing the uncertainty of exit, by negating the status quo effect and by circumventing big business self-interest who believe that the EU and the Single Market are the same thing we have a genuine chance of appealing to the soft important middle and winning a referendum.

But sadly we still see that the diversity of the eurosceptic movement means that many arguments have not changed in many years – it is a reflection of the lack of ability to move on; in stark contrast to the EU which has done so with subsequent treaties. Lisbon being the obvious latest one.

Thus it leaves us with old tired canards such as how many laws are made by the EU. This has been an obsession within the eurosceptic movement for as long as it has been about. Does it really matter if 64.6% of laws are made in the EU? And if so is that better than 64.5% or 55.8%. Is 9.8% acceptable? More importantly does it appeal to the public. Since the banking collapse in 2008 and the likes of Starbucks aggressively avoiding tax, the public mood could be said to be in favour of more regulation.

All a ‘Westminster village’ type campaign to try to determine the percentage of EU laws amounts to, quite bluntly, is a penis measuring competition within the eurosceptic movement as to who can come up with the most ‘accurate’ figure. Naturally this then leads to arguments within the movement over the exact figure inhibiting us from turning our fire onto the opposition. No wonder that Europhile campaigners are willing to engage in such a discussion; it helps divide us.

Yet not only does an uncoordinated rabble make for a incoherent message but its inherent weakness means it essentially vacates the territory leaving it vulnerable to be infiltrated by someone else with less than honest intentions.

When a referendum campaign starts, there has to be an official bid to the Electoral Commission to represent the “out” campaign where a very substantial amount of funding will be available. We saw the process of this with Scotland; Better Together whose official Campaign Director was Blair McDougall and Yes Scotland whose chief executive was Blair Jenkins.

It’s here the weakness of the diversity of the “out” campaign can be exploited by the pro-EU establishment which can install and control the opposition general. Already we can see indications of this happening with Business for Britain and in particular Matthew Elliott.

BfB gives a “voice” to Roger Bootle who stitched up the IEA prize, and a platform to other supporters such as Alan Halsall, Neville Baxter and Robert Hiscox to name but three who have supported the recently publicly outed pro-EU think tank Open Europe.

More than a few in the eurosceptic movement are unimpressed with Elliott’s ill-disguised ambitions to further his own career, as a potential MP, on the back of a referendum campaign, nor are they impressed with his sycophantic nature towards Tory politicians…obviously with his career in mind.

With Cameron exerting undue influence over Elliott, his abysmal record with NOtoAV where he had to be bailed out by senior members of the Tory party such was the nature of the poor campaign, nothing should worry the eurosceptics more than for Elliott to win the bid for the official “out”.

By ‘deliberately’ losing the referendum he can be assured of Tory gratitude with rewards to match. If Elliott takes control in an EU referendum we would have lost before we started.

Thus elements of the eurosceptic movement has to grow up, accept the Boolean nature of a referendum and start preparing for a dirty fight if we are to win.

BBC License Tax Bullies

It is well documented that the state broadcaster known as the BBC has an institutional left wing bias, or more accurately perhaps we should describe it as has having a Guardian-based (London centric) bias – which is not necessarily the same thing.

More objectionable, from this blog’s point of view, is BBC bias regarding membership of the EU – this becomes acutely apparent with its EU coverage. Leaving aside the techniques it used in the early ’70s of removing “anti-marketeer” broadcasters at the behest of the then Tory Heath government, subsequent and various internal reports have detailed the fundamental lack of BBC impartiality.

The BBC’s own internal reports acknowledges albeit very reluctantly the problem of EU coverage – this is evident in the infamous Wilson report for example. The BBC’s “we’ve listened but we’ll do nothing” response to the Wilson Report is very familiar to any of us who have complained – as taxpayers our impotency is laid bare by BBC’s stock answers which amount to little.

The Wilson report is not the only accusation of BBC pro-EU bias – further independent analysis of BBC coverage of EU matters has delivered more damning evidence:

Consistent airtime imbalance between advocacy and presentation of the Europhile perspective and the Eurosceptic case in an overall ratio of 2:1.

Consistent presentational bias (in the limited time allocated) through treating Eurosceptic opinion as extreme rather than as an alternative policy approach ñ reflecting and supported by public opinion ñ to membership of the EU.

Poor journalistic standards, including inaccurate reporting of statistics and sources. For example, the BBC Programme Complaints Unit has acknowledged that figures on Irish inward investment were used misleadingly.

The wrong use of these figures influenced the coverage of the second Irish referendum on the Treaty of Nice in October 2002.

Of course it’s not helpful trying to persuade us that the BBC is impartial when it receives millions from the EU itself; funding which it tries to hide. Those of us who have fought for many years know the BBC pro-EU bias, and certainly I experienced it directly as a Parliamentary candidate in the 2010 election on a number of occasions.

Further suspicion of its significant lack of impartiality comes when we consider that the BBC, being a state broadcaster, was immune from EU single market competition rules in 2002:

Finally, part 5 gives Ofcom tough competition powers to act concurrently with the Office of Fair Trading. Ofcom will be able to use general competition powers, but we are also retaining, very importantly, sector-specific competition rules for broadcasting—a vital part of protecting markets that do not deliver key policy objectives purely by leaving them to competition alone. Ofcom will have flexibility to use sector-specific powers, but it will not use them where it would be more appropriate for it to use general competition powers.

Of course we would argue that the BBC can be as bias as it like except for the simple fact that its funding in the main comes from threats to send UK citizens to jail on failure to pay its television tax. Thus it has an inherent principle that it should be bound to be impartial. Failure to do so makes it morally right to withdrawal our funding.

It then clearly fails, and with this in mind it’s odd then to observe that a nation which comprehensively rejected a poll tax under Margaret Thatcher is largely willing to accept what is a poll tax on a widely used item which provides information. A poll tax which is regressive and so affecting the poorest the greatest.

Aside from being regressive it is a television poll tax which enables the BBC to essentially be immune from market forces – no-one has to take responsibility for institutional and systematic failings.

In addition to the lack of accountability, it also means that the BBC has the power to try to bully those who do not conform when it comes to paying the television tax. YouTube has a plethora of examples of bullying when it comes to collecting the television tax.

Nothing can demonstrate this culture better than the BBC’s notorious and sinister ‘Big Brother’ type propaganda; “We know where you live“. Oddly this particular BBC advert for its license fee, which was withdrawn after protests, has proved to be harder to find on the internet than we would reasonably assume for a relatively recent campaign,

And it is for these reasons I no longer pay my license fee and I haven’t for around five years. Using a PlayStation 3 (PS3) or now a PS4 to view television programmes on demand removes me from the need to legally have a license. In addition I have withdrawn TVL’s implied right of access to my property and that so far seems to have done the job in terms of being harassed. I rarely receive reminder notices nor have I ever had a “visit”.

Yet just this week a young single mum, who has three children and lives not far from me, has been on my doorstop in tears. I have known her for over 10 years. Financially restricted she doesn’t pay her tv license.  Yet while she was briefly visiting her neighbours, a TVL Visting Officer (VO) entered her property having been let in by her 11 year eldest child. There where no adults in the property at the time. As a consequence TVL are trying now to use evidence gained as a result against her.

This completely contrary to the guidelines which are perfectly clear:

Entry To Premises.

7.0 When there is admitted or suspected evasion, or where the interviewee claims that there is no television, the VO should ask permission to enter the premises in order to confirm this.

Premises must never be entered when the only person present is a child/minor.

We would view that entering a property with only minors present would not only be a legal problem but also one which a VO would consider puts them in a position of vulnerability regarding accusations of inappropriate behaviour. How revealing that didn’t occur to him in his enthusiasm to fulfill a target.

The requirement to pay for a TV license comes under the Communications Act 2003 and Communications (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004 (as amended). A licence is not needed simply for holding a television set itself, but merely makes it an offence to watch or record television programmes as they are being broadcast including on other platforms such as; satellite and cable channels, mobile phones and the internet.

So how ironical that it’s not the bullying nature of the license fee collectors that will undermine the BBC…but technology, which is embraced by the BBC itself.

Parish Notice

I had intended to have part 2 up of the EU and Telecoms piece up this evening (Tuesday), however time is short this week and I would like to do the so far unfinished piece justice rather than rush it, not least because I have recently come across documentation that shows Norway has more say within its EEA agreement then the UK does over telecommunications; notably its Electronic Communications Act and also its Personal Data Act.

What becomes very obvious when researching the impact of the copious regulations on our country is the ridiculous myriad of EU and international competences which have seemingly no end and it can become quickly rather bewildering trying to follow and make sense of it all. But make sense of it and try to win a referendum we must.

We also note that the more we investigate Norway’s EEA arrangements, the more it becomes apparent that not only does it have a much better deal than us within the Single Market (albeit not perfect) but it exposes further the deception or even ignorance of our own politicians regarding this issue.

And with that in mind, and this maybe harsh, I do rather resent that it’s taking a small number of bloggers who are attempting to address these issues…unpaid…in their own time, in preparation for a possible referendum than a party which has significant funding via its now 23 MEPs yet literally pisses it up against the wall. This is all we get for our money.

We can win a referendum – we have many advantages over 1975 but we’re in danger of needlessly repeating many of the mistakes.

But that said, time is currently short because Mrs TBF and I will be in London for the next few days celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. In a few days we will return to normal service on this blog.