TV licence fee evasion rates, according to the BBC Trust, are predicted to increase slightly in the current economic climate. Maybe they're right but it's also possible that evasion rates will get much worse. So how should the Corporation respond?
Things have changed a great deal since the Review of TV Licence Fee Collection began last autumn. Back then, there were concerns about the harsh tone of advertising - a few sensitive people had been offended by the 'we know where you are' campaign and decided to boycott the fee. But now there are millions of people worried about losing their jobs and their savings.
The BBC needs to demonstrate that it deserves our money. And that means using the licence fee responsibly. So let's look at some examples from Newsround last week.
Monday 6th April - Was it really necessary for a Newsround reporter to travel to Italy to cover the earthquake story? That was already being done perfectly well by Louisa Baldini ... a few thousand pounds saved without really trying. Unlike Louisa, Newsround's reporter wasn't seen speaking a word of Italian and just seemed to vanish from the disaster area after a couple of days. Her web report of the trip has, at the time of writing this blog, a final entry mistakenly dated Tuesday 7th April at 3pm.
Thursday 9th April - Newsround at 5.05pm began with a report about children being locked up in detention centres. 15 year old Meltem had to spend three months in one of the centres. Meltem said it was depressing being locked up without seeing friends and family. She said people in government should think what it would feel like if their children were in the same situation. Newsround's report also included a short interview with Lyn Homer of the UK Border Agency, who put the government's side, and an interview with Caroline Slocock of Refugee and Migrant Justice, who said that refugee children shouldn't be locked up and treated like criminals. For once Newsround dealt with a controversial issue relevant to the rights of children. This is the kind of thing Newsround should be prepared to do much more often.
The fifth item on Newsround last Thursday was a report about buying and downloading music. Ricky said that downloading tunes off the internet is more popular than ever before and that you can now download songs for as little as 29p. He spoke to a music expert who said because prices were lower, more kids would be buying online. Ricky ended his report by saying that "for many of you, the only option you have is to buy a CD." He failed to mention that you can listen to, although not download, music tracks legally for free with a programme like Spotify. In the context of Newsround's report this was a significant omission.
The last report was about seven year old agony aunt Elaina (see my previous blog)