Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I pay my taxes, so let me watch YouTube in peace

About five years ago I stopped watching public and commercial television. We still had our cable connection but I just could no longer stand the garbage it delivered to our home. Either the quality of television had become worse or my tastes had changed, either way I stopped watching. Less than a year later we cut the cord completely and cancelled our cable subscription. We switched to Internet content completely. A Mac mini was bought, connected to our television and the mouse and keyboard became our remote. The bliss of self chosen TV content was ours.

Over the years the content became better and better. Video podcasts became more professionally produced - thanks to the efforts of such people as Leo Laporte and the guys and gals at Revision 3 - and YouTube came of age with better video quality and better content.

Much of the content on YouTube these days is contested as being illegal. Many a BBC programme or other public television content has been 'archived' at YouTube much to the chagrin of those that originally aired them.

However I feel justified to watch these programmes. Why? Because I pay my taxes. In the old days the situation in the Netherlands was such that one paid a fee as soon as one had a TV or radio in the house. This fee was used to finance public television and radio. In 2000 this fee was abolished and incorporated into the income tax. Income tax was raised by one point something percent and thus everyone pays that fee. Whether you watch public television or not. This used to be a fine system because everyone has a TV and/or radio and everyone used to watch public TV or listened to public radio.

But the situation has changed and our household is an example of the forerunners of that change (I'm tempted to shout 'Viva la revolucion!' but it is 4 AM so I'd better not...). We no longer watch public TV or listen to public radio. We can't because there is no longer a cable in our house delivering that content and picking up the stuff out of the ether is ancient history. So we watch public content - and yes BBC programmes were syndicated to our public broadcast channels - through YouTube and I feel no guilt doing so as I pay my taxes and thus pay into the public broadcast system of which I make no use.

I think this system should be more widely implemented. Instead of fighting illegal downloads, would it be an idea to embrace them. Charge a nominal fee for instance - either through taxes or otherwise - that reflects the content public television airs, i.e. feature films, syndicated programmes and bilge like the bloody X-factor and let people choose their own poison through channels such as YouTube or other Internet tubes (like Bittorrent or Usenet). In effect: illegal downloading would no longer exist, it'd be paid for. Those that do not watch Internet TV or do not listen to Internet audio content can go cry in a corner: I paid for all the filth they watched ever since I cut the cord with public broadcasting, now let them suffer for a while.

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