BREAKING: 38 DEGREES SIDES WITH MULTI MILLION POUND COMPANY WHO PROSECUTES HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS EACH YEAR
I’ve received a phone call from Robin Priestley, Campaigns Director at 38 Degrees informing me yesterday (11/03/2020 at 13:55) that they can’t keep my petition (which they have been fine with for the last 5 years) because it gets in the way of a campaign ‘Save Our BBC’ that they created 24 days ago. Here is the written confirmation I received last night, and my reply in bold, to each argument they submitted.
Thank you for talking with me earlier, as I mentioned on the phone I’d been trying to talk with you but couldn’t get through on your phone. I’m afraid we’re no longer going to be able to host your petition, and we’d like to work with you to move it to another website.
The reason for this is that it’s now actively working against a campaign that we’re running – and the mission of 38 Degrees to protect our democracy, including scrutiny which is delivered through a public service broadcaster.
38 Degrees is currently running a campaign to save the BBC. The government’s plans to curtail BBC funding would mean the majority of BBC radio stations and TV channels are scrapped, along with the license fee. It’s a thinly veiled attempt to dodge scrutiny and accountability.
Our BBC is a world leading public service. The way that it is funded means that it’s independent of government and corporate pressure. 38 Degrees believes that independent, well funded, publicly owned services are vital to uphold and defend democracy.
At a time when fake news can spread like wildfire on social media and when so much is at stake, this is a dangerous attack on democracy.
Initially we were happy to host your petition as it seemed more focussed on tweaks to the funding model and suggestions for other approaches to consider. However the context has now changed, with the government briefing their intention to “whack” the BBC and “prune its reach” into peoples homes, using funding changes as the vehicle to do so.
I’m afraid as we’ve said above, we can not continue to offer our services to you, as in the current context, in light of government attacks, your campaign could be seen as directly in conflict with our own which seeks to protect an independent public broadcaster and fund it fully.
(I’ve skipped the part where they told me to start a new petition on a different website such as change.org)
My petition is not, as you put it “now actively working against a campaign that we’re running”. It’s the other way around. My petition predates the ‘Save our BBC’ petition and the older ‘Protect Our BBC’ petition. You should be supporting me because this a David against Goliath battle. And yet, your people have been contacting my supporters via email asking them to support these other petitions. How is that acceptable? And at least back in 2015, money had been thrown at it as well: 38 degrees banners and T-shirts had been printed, volunteers had been assigned to collect signatures in public places, etc. I let it slip both times because I both believe in freedom of speech and in the spirit of ‘may the best one win’, even though I’m just a billy no mates with a dodgy grasp of English and no endless source of donations for my cause.
If the mission of 38 Degrees is indeed “to protect our democracy”, you should be thinking long and hard about this. Because you are basically supporting a multimillion-pound company who harass prospective and former customers on a monthly basis with an investigation, threats of a search warrant and a 1,000 pound fine, prosecute hundreds of thousands of customers, real or suspected, (140k last year, but some years it’s closer to 200k), knowingly preying mostly on women because they are more likely to trust/get intimidated by the salesmen posing as ‘TV licence officers’. They also abuse the judicial system because guilt is assumed and a special status is given in court to commission-based salesmen and most people can’t challenge their prosecution (either because they don’t understand the system, or because going to a different county to face a magistrate is just too much for them). I’ve also recently uncovered that TV licensing had even been prosecuting kids as young as 10 or 11 years old. How can you let that fly?? And lastly, people so poor they can’t afford to pay the TV licence fine are sent to jail for fine default. That’s over 1,200 people in the last 10 years. THESE PEOPLE MATTER. All this is done in the name of making TV. All this to gives millions to Gary Lineker and Graham Norton. As much as I like (insert any show title here), the ends never justify the means. And now they want to chase pensioners too! (well they already chase dead people, sending nasty letters to grieving families so it’s just the next natural step I guess).
I’m afraid you have bought into a ‘fake news’, peddled by the BBC itself since the last TV licence review, which is that ‘if the TV licence fee dies, the BBC will die too’. If the BBC is as loved as they say, they will have no problems with a subscription service (and should make much more money too, judging on how Sky is raking it in. For the records, their budget is 6 billion/year). But take it from the horse’s mouth: if the TV licence fee is scrapped, the BBC has already estimated that they would lose 200 million. The collection of the TV licence fee itself is 102 million (sending over 8 million threatograms and conducting 3 million visits a year is not cheap), so the real hole is 98 million. To put this number into perspective, the BBC get 3.7 billion / year from the TV licence fee and a further 1.2 billion from international sales. Millions are poured into Russian, Korean & broadcasts in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Thailand. Cuts can be made without comprising the British output.
If 38 Degrees “believes that independent, well-funded, publicly owned services are vital to uphold and defend democracy” then the TV licence fee must be replaced. It’s an archaic system that creates criminal stigma. Whenever I explain it to foreigners, their jaw drops. It’s not a well-respected institution anymore, they realise, it’s a money grabbing self-serving entity who do not care about those they are supposed to serve.
If “the context has now changed” as you put it, nothing has changed in my petition besides small adjustments to reflect new stats. I always mention to people that there are many ways to fund the BBC that do not stigmatise women and the poor. I’m still backing subscriptions, adverts, general taxation and donations (like for NPD radio in the USA) and I’ve even created a flow chart to help people choosing which system is the best in their opinion.
I’m sorry, but I do not want to transition to another website so close to the end of the TV licence review and so close to reaching 400,000 people. I’m not a computer literate person. I wouldn’t know how to sort it out, how to keep the numbers growing after all the hard work I’ve done single-handedly reaching journalists across the entire United Kingdom for the last 5 years and reaching communities such as the Poles and the British Punjabi. There are only 3 weeks left before the end of the consultation, so pulling my petition now feels like you want to silence me at a critical moment when I need to alert my remaining active subscribers to tell them ASAP about the survey they can complete online.
You know, the support for the BBC in the general population is declining. I think you have noticed it too, as your petition ‘Save Our BBC’ is not doing as well as ‘Protect our BBC’ did. So it looks a lot like someone wants to win by fair means or foul by pulling the rug from under my feet and I won’t put up with it. I hope you will reconsider your position in light of the information I’ve given you today. Otherwise, you will leave me with no other option than contacting an attorney and instruct them to get an injunction.
PS. if you want more information on the mockery of a trial that is a TV licence fee prosecution, or the number of children prosecuted, or anything else of the sort, I’m happy to forward you all the FOI results I’ve collected over the years.
link to my petition while it’s still active: End the BBC Licence Fee
38 degrees has taken my page down today 13/03/2020 at 15:00. They say I didn’t accept their offer to move my petition to a different website, but they gave me less than 3 days to find an alternative and they couldn’t make sure I wouldn’t lose the 393,000 signatures I had already. So that offer wasn’t worth shit.