Why the BBC should be subjected to serious reform?

According to various official bodies, 204,003 people were prosecuted or fined in 2014 for TV licence offence (4,905 people in Northern Ireland, 12,536 in Wales and 173,044 in England, 13,486 cases disposed of via an out of court fine in Scotland and 32 prosecuted via the courts.) Putting these numbers in perspective, it would appear Wales is the country with the most prosecution per capita. It’s also worth noting that 9 out of 10 areas with the most suspected TV licence evaders are in England, whereas 9 out of 10 areas with the least prosecution are in Scotland.

One thing is clear: over 70% of caught TV licence evaders are female. The BBC assures us that women are not deliberately targeted. But as TV Licence officers will take a statement from any responsible person living at an address without a valid TV licence, therefore, the logical explanation for the gender disparity is quite simple: women are a) more likely to be at home, taking care of children for example b) more trusting and willing to open the door when a cold caller comes and c) more willing to correct their situation when prompted.

Even if the majority of convictions are pronounced in the absence of any defendant, an astonishing number of the prosecutions that are commenced by the BBC do not result in conviction. Freedom of Information Requests show that 1,188 people were wrongly prosecuted of committing a TV licence offence in Wales last year. This means a failure rate of 9.4%. In England, 12.4% of cases were either dropped or withdrawn by the BBC, or people were not found guilty. More worryingly, over 1 in 4 cases failed in Northern Ireland last year. These numbers of ‘unsuccessful’ prosecutions lends weight to the view that cases are initiated on a speculative basis where it is hoped by the BBC that people will plead guilty or won’t contest the prosecution. This surely is a scandalous abuse of the courts’ process by the BBC.

The maximum fine for TV licence offence is £1,000. The actual amount awarded should represent between 25% and 125% of the evader’s weekly income. I guess one needs to be a premier league player to be fined £1,000.

The average fine is therefore relatively low, hovering between £70 (Jersey) and £170 (England and Wales). But, considering that less than 35% of TV licence fines are actually recovered, it would appear that prosecuting people is a long way away from being a profitable business.

TV licence evasion is not punishable by a period of imprisonment per se. It’s only when convicted evaders refuse to pay the fine they were ordered to pay, or are incapable of paying it, that a period of imprisonment may be imposed as a “last resort”. This, however, is an all-round lose/lose situation: the BBC gains nothing in the way of monies and it costs the tax payer an average of £95 per day to keep one person behind bars. This estimate is based on a disclosure from the Ministry of Justice that it costs £34,766 per annum to house a UK prisoner. The length of stay is decided by the amount owed. For example, a debt not exceeding £200 could secure a 7 day stint in prison, whereas a debt not exceeding £1,000 secure up to a 28 days stay.

Considering that 39 people were given an average of 20 days for fine default in relation to TV licence offences in England and Wales in 2014, each stay is likely to have cost tax payers close to £2,000, bringing the combined total to an eye watering £74,000. The situation in Northern Ireland, at least up to 2012, was even more appalling with over 200 imprisonments each year. A Judicial Review led to a temporary suspension of fine defaulters being sent to prison, putting a stop to the unsustainable practice of giving jail time for non-payment of outstanding fines of as little as £5. Now, fine default warrants are apparently only being issued if the defendant is already in prison serving a sentence or if he or she lives outside the jurisdiction. Only one person was sent to jail, for 7 days, in 2014. Thankfully, there were no custodial sentences imposed during the last five years in Scotland and Jersey, which shows a great dose of common sense and progressive thinking.

The British parliament proposed decriminalising the offence once and for all, but unfortunately the proposition was turned down by a House of Lords vote by 178 to 175 in February 2015. This is curious because the Lords actually recommended the offence be decriminalised in their 2005/2006 BBC Charter renewal paper.

Studies have shown that the perceived likelihood of being caught, rather than the formulation of the law itself has the best deterrent effect. Therefore, the act of changing the TV licence offence from a criminal one to a civil infraction should not increase the evasion rate by itself. Behavioural research conducted for the BBC found that if the TV licence was decriminalized and the £1,000 fine was replaced by a a civil penalty of over £300 was set, evasion rates would stay at the current 5%. This is amazing news, but what the BBC and the current government want is a 0% evasion, as, deep down, they firmly believe that everyone saying they don’t tune in to the BBC each week is a liar. And this is why they believe a household levy, (i.e. a flat tax forcing everyone to pay for the BBC regardless if they own a TV) would be fairer than the current flat tax that only applies to those who watch live TV. But what they forget, is, short of being a totalitarian state, TV licence evasion is unavoidable.

A large portion or Europe, Asia and Africa fund their public broadcasters with a TV licence, in one form or another. Prices in Europe go from £40 per year (Poland) and £255 (Norway). But funding a public broadcaster doesn’t have to be through a TV licence as many countries such as Canada and the United States never enforced a TV licence. Also, a substantial amount of countries abolished their TV licence. To name only few: Australia (1974), New Zealand (1999), Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2001), Iceland (2007) and Finland (2013).

The UK appears to be the only country, with Ireland, who thinks that non-payment of the licence fee should be a criminal matter. I think the question “How is this coercive funding method perceived by the rest of the world and how does it reflect on the BBC and the British society?” should be dwelled upon.

Other questions burning my lips includes “Has the BBC become a dogma where people should not be allowed to opt out of it?” and “Can’t we make good television using only money freely given?”

Since “making moving pictures” is clearly not a case justifying a coercive system, a petition, called “End the BBC Licence Fee”, has been created to give the public a voice on the future of the licence fee. It has already been signed by over 165,000 people and it was translated into Polish and in Malayalam. It was recently mentioned in the Daily Mail, as well as over 20 different local newspapers in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The petition can be signed here https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/end-the-bbc-licence-fee

It’s important to raise awareness on this and to get the TV licence payers involved in the process, for the first time ever.

Caroline Levesque-Bartlett is a legal editor who summarises civil judgements for a Reuters owned publisher. She also teaches French part-time. Originally from Quebec, she now lives in the UK.


Naomi Klein, whales and me….?

A couple of months ago, I was invited to give some lectures on a cruise ship going up the St. Lawrence River and around Newfoundland. Apparently, we were also supposed to meet some whales along the way.

This pending encounter with raw nature immediately reminded me of a book I had just finished reading: Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’, come to think of it, her ‘The Shock Doctrine’ is also worth a whirl if you really want to know all about international corporate skulduggery.

Now, I’m not and never have been an eco-warrior, but the whales and Klein’s book, which explores the most urgent question of our times ie the destruction of our environment, has made me think and seriously consider what we are doing to our planet and indeed to ourselves.

It has also made me observe that none of our political parties, including the Greens, appear to be highlighting the most urgent and deadly threat of all to humanity: Global warming.

If world governments do not do something comprehensively radical now, and I mean now, then global warming by 2100 will result in wholesale ecological disaster and if you think the Somerset floods caused an environmental problem or two, believe me they are not even an hors d’oeuvre. You can say goodbye to London for starters – mind you, this might not be a bad thing, it would give all these property speculators a kick in the arse if nothing else!

And my personal take on all this?

Mankind has been hell bent on destroying itself ever since Adam and Eve – and yes I know before all you secularists start, but frankly we don’t deserve the beauty of this planet, so bye bye and good riddance to the lot of us I say. The world will be a much better place without our toxic footprints.

Let’s face it, we are nothing more than a virulent disease.

Julian Ruck – Editor

‘Majestic rant about BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour claiming Cinderella is sexist!’

TelegraghMen picked up my column (previously published SWW Media and below) thus their strapline above.

Can’t have the tyrannical Feminista getting their own way all the time now, can we?

See: https://twitter.com/MartinDaubney

Julian Ruck – Editor

The Taffy Taliban are arsoning aound again!

Fire lighters in their arse pockets, jerry cans of petrol strapped to their sturdy backs and dreams of arsonist Sauders Lewis’ resurrection, yes the Welsh language Taffy Taliban are up to their silly old tricks again!

Phone calls to my editor to advise that they are on their way to burn my house down –  that’s if they don’t set themselves alight before they ever get near it!

Silly Billies.

Julian Ruck – Editor

Dylan Thomas was a right, royal bastard!

The drums have been beating and the cymbals crashing, yes its 100 years since Dylan Thomas was born.

What we don’t hear much of, is the fact that in South Wales he was largely ignored at the time, as being too ‘English for the Welsh’. His voice didn’t explode with valley’s lilts, neither did it ooze the dulcet whines of inferiority complex.*

He threw whisky bottles and fags at Welsh Chapel hypocrisy, not to mention dropping his pants without as much as a by your leave, at any woman who just happened to be passing by, Bible thumper or not.

All good stuff in my book, the man lived and thus his ability to knock out a tidy poem or two.

A fan of the 1920’s writer Caradoc Evans, who believed that the foundations of the ‘Welsh way of life’, were prejudice, philistinism and sexual guilt*, Thomas even today, is still ignored by those ivory towered Welsh literary creationists in Welsh academia.

And why?

This sorry lot, prefer to excuse the extreme Welsh nationalist antics of those grand old arsonists and bombers, Saunders Lewis and John Jenkins.

Dylan? Don’t be silly, he wasn’t a Welsh speaker for starters, how much more do you need to know?

Thomas was a master of the written word and like any fine writer, he ignored the bleats of conventional tedium. A career sexist to his core Heaven forbid (feminists will be trying to erase Henry VIII from the history books next!), a drunk, an exploiter of friendship, but what the hell, he’s in good company when it comes to literary genius.

And as for the highbrow, self-serving neuroses of bookish Welsh academia.

Those who can’t, teach.

*I know how he felt!

Julian Ruck – Editor

BBC Wales’ political commentary is bowel shakingly inept!

BBC Wales appears to be hell bent on giving the rest of the UK an impression that the Welsh are nothing but a load of Welsh speaking nincompoops!

Its political commentary and commentators are unsophisticated, unpolished and blindingly undynamic.

It is no wonder that Wales is seen as an irrelevance by the rest of the UK, when one has this bias, profoundly fatuous and slapstick delivery of public broadcasting


Julian Ruck talks with Will Hutton about the Welsh economy.

Julian Ruck: “No one would argue against the fact that the Welsh economy is in a pretty parlous state, would they?”

Will Hutton: “Yes, yes. That’s true.

“Basically, the Welsh economy is not in wonderful shape but there are pockets that are doing rather well. The University of Warwick has produced an innovation map, it’s very interesting. Starting at Cambridge arching through Oxford and finishing in Gloucester, this arc of innovation goes right down to Bristol but stops at the Welsh border. The thing is, South West Wales has almost no innovative firms.

“It has all the problems of the English rural economy, but this is multiplied because much of the land area, Mid Wales and North Wales, is not great agricultural land. You also have the hangover of industrialisation and the collapse of the old coal and iron industries. I actually think that whether its business starts ups or hotspots of inward investment, there are some good things going on in Wales, particularly with Cardiff University eg the Cardiff Bay development and so on, although I don’t know whether they’ve done it completely right.”

JR: “Do you think that the post-devolution ‘Welshification’ process and promotion of the Welsh language is having a negative impact on the Welsh economy, particularly where the recruitment of outside talent is concerned?”

WH: “My great concern, as an outsider looking in, is that the Welsh government is continuing to try and hold on to what you’ve got. This is not unreasonable, focusing on equality, social justice etc but it seems to me that you are really missing out here, because unless you have some dynamism in the private sector what sort of renewal are you going to have in say, the next twenty years?

“I’m not a nationalist or even an English nationalist for that matter, but if you want to play the nationalist card then I think it’s really important to have imaginative ideas but I’m not sure I see that coming out from Wales.

“The Welsh Labour Party are not recruiting people whose first thought is: How do you create a dynamic private sector? Again, I’m sympathetic to social justice, inequality and so on but you’ve got to think about the economic architecture and framework; you don’t have to be a Thatcherite Tory to recognise that, at best Wales has an economy based on small and medium sized businesses.

“Wales needs excellence in innovation, just as you see in Cardiff. Actually, one does really worry about the future of Wales.”

JR: “Wales is a grant junky Will, no-one farts in Wales unless there is a grant behind it (this got a laugh or two, if you ask LFW, economists are not as dour as one is led to believe!). Just take Cardiff Airport, or Pinewood studios, not to mention all the small business hairdressers and false nail emporiums. It’s in our blood, our business culture.”

WH: “I’m not against trying to trigger activity through grants, it’s whether they trigger any activity and this is the question that must be asked. Then one has to ask, are they well designed and will they create a culture in which the first thought is: Not how do I create a viable business model to start with, but how do I impress the grant giver with my case for getting a grant?”

JR: “The trouble here, is that once the company has had the grant, tax breaks and all the rest, when these run out its bye bye. At least this seems to be the situation in Wales, there are countless examples.”

WH: “Wales has got to think through what its offering. Like I say, this arc of innovation going on in England; the area is going to be extremely prosperous, it’s unbelievable what is going on there. It’s absolutely essential for Wales that it goes along the M4 corridor to Cardiff.

“It’s fundamental and anything that obstructs this has just got to be scrapped, otherwise Cardiff will lose out.

“Where Wales is concerned generally, the first thing you have to do is recognise the problem. You must have a national conversation about it, you have to do something. There will be arguments on the left and arguments on the right about it, but it must be argued about and I don’t think this happening in Wales.”

JR: “Now you mention it, you are right. One rarely hears these matters being properly explored let alone debated in Wales, certainly where the Welsh media and political oversight are concerned, but frankly that’s nothing new.”

WH: “ I’m not saying that good things are not talked about, for example skills, improving the health service, education and all that but the economy doesn’t appear to be located in any bigger narrative, it seems that if you can get health and education right then the rest will follow, well it won’t.”

JR: “Do you think that Welsh nationalism is damaging Wales?”

WH: “Yes. It may also be damaging Scotland too. Investors will be thinking: “Why get stuck into peripheral economies, why bother when you have all this stuff going on in England?

“I’ve lots of Scottish and Welsh friends but because they were born in Aberystwyth or Edinburgh, they think they have something special or distinctive that I haven’t got.”

JR: And hear hear to that! That’s nationalism for you. Are you a left winger Will, truth now?”

WH: “Look, the whole conversation in the UK has become so right wing that actually someone like me seems a man of the left. I’m a child of the European enlightenment and when I see things in capitalism that are not just not working then I will say so. I believe in liberty and equity and looking after other people.”

And on that note, the interview with LFW came to an end. Left or right, Mr Hutton raised some interesting and important points where the economy of Wales is concerned. He also raised them with sincerity and frankness.

For want of writing that most awful of political clichés:

Wake up Wales! ‘Lessons need to be learnt’!

Will Hutton is a political economist, writer, weekly newspaper columnist and former editor-in-chief for The Observer.

Julian Ruck – Editor

Woman’s Hour and the Guardianista really have lost it!

In recent years the BBC has undoubtedly become more and more detached from the man on the street and the real world.

If you want to hear smug liberal, left wing middle class tripe being exploited on a grand scale, listen to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and the sugar coated tongue of its empathyholic presenter Jenni Murray.

The other day our Jenni was exploring the question:

Is a new Walt Disney Cinderella film relevant to a modern audience?

Pardon me? It’s a fairy tale NOT a treatise on societal maturity or equality between the sexes as Murray suggested!

Woman’s Hour mystifies me at the best of times, but consider this: She was joined by two down to earth, Hampstead Heath smart set out-riders, one a fashion editor and the other, a chief reporter with the Observer (as if one would expect anything less!).

Is Cinderella still a fantasy romantic ideal or is it simply a lesson on how to marry into money, this gloriously insightful trio mused? Oh and not forgetting that the film dares to resist being an “anthem for feminism” and that the mention of a “dowry was unnecessary”.

The all-knowing child psychologist and infant malaise expert from the Observer advised, that should any post- traumatic stress disorder result from a viewing of the film then “parents should have a bit of chat with their children and talk them through the themes”.

Themes? Cinderella is a FAIRY STORY for God’s sake!

What world are these people living in? It sure as hell isn’t Bradford!

The BBC has become nothing less than a taxpayer funded conduit for elitist, liberal arrogance and a nauseating detachment from real people.

And its journos had better not turn up at my house with cold food either, otherwise I’ll do a Clarkson on ‘em!

Julian Ruck – Editor

Women Can’t Park! The Feminista demanded my head for this one, humourless lot!!

A recent incident reminded me of a column I wrote a short while back. Here it is, uncut this time:

Now according to all the motoring organisations, women are safer drivers than men and have less accidents etc etc, so far be it for me to argue with such authority. They are less aggressive than men to be sure and one rarely sees a woman jumping out of a 4×4 snarling and wielding a baseball bat. But here’s the thing, they may well be better drivers but they sure as hell can’t park.

Only the other day, whilst sauntering passed a lap dancing club (and no I didn’t go in, there was a Feminista demo going on outside the place, something to do with women getting stuck to poles?), I encountered one female of the species trying to park a small Fiat in a space big enough for a Combine Harvester.

I couldn’t help but stop and observe the lady’s determination as she tried to park her car. It really was something to behold. Having re-arranged the curb and pavement slabs a couple of times, she sensibly decided that it was just not going to happen, gave up and drove off – nearly splattering an unsuspecting cyclist in the process.

Every man out there is aware of the undeniable fact that women simply cannot park a car – although in the interests of fairness and in order to keep Guardian readers happy and those inclined to wail ‘sexist!’ at any man who just happens to challenge female might in all things, there are of course exceptions. My own missus not being one of them it must be said, to date, she has managed to mutilate a parking meter, demolish a pillar or two and had more bumpers replaced than a Formula 1 racing car unable to pass a pit stop.

No doubt, this particular column will raise the odd feminist yelp of outrage – I’m hardly renowned for being a people pleaser after all – but the fact remains, and from a man who has had considerable ‘ ladies behind the wheel’ experience, women can’t park a car and that’s that!

Julian Ruck – Editor

A JUDGE AND NOTHING BUT…..in defence of ‘sexist’ slurs?

In the past I have been accused by the humourless Feminista of being a sexist – mainly for writing a column: Women Can’t Park -which I will re-publish in due course just to rub salt into their extremely silly wounds.

The above, a political thriller, will be published September 30th.


Following the assassination of the Home Secretary and a number of terrorist outrages, Great Britain lapses into chaos and martial law.

Extreme political parties see an opportunity to fill the vacuum and exploit the breakdown of law and order.

Following attempts on her own life, can the formidable Supreme Court Justice, Lady Charlotte Treharne and her veteran ex-SAS husband Joel Samson, stop Britain tearing itself apart?

Liz Lutgendorff of the New Statesman had just written a piece about sexism in the sci-fi novel. Now admittedly, A JUDGE AND NOTHING BUT does not fit into this particular genre, but I believe her anti-sexist ‘tests’ have valid application whether the  work of fiction is sci-fi or a political thriller.

Her three tests of whether a novel is scurrilously sexist or not are:

1 Does the book have at least two female characters?

2 Is one of them a main character?

3 Do they have an interesting profession/skill like male characters?

Well now, many of the characters in a AJNB are tough females eg a Supreme Court Justice, a Home Secretary and a young ex-Israel Defense Force soldier. There are more than three in fact.

The main character is a female and a Supreme Court Justice at that, one of only two women ever to have been appointed to the UK’s Supreme Court – in reality, Brenda Hale is the only female Justice at present who sits.

All of them are highly intelligent, educated and strong, but God help them they love men!

So, Ruck IS NOT GUILTY as charged. Indeed all my novels have capable and main female characters in them eg Lise Treharne of the RAGGED CLIFFS TRILOGY to name but one.

Julian Ruck – Editor