Outlook: Post Office can't have it both ways
Wednesday 14 October 1998
One of the nice little monopoly earners that the Post Office has enjoyed since 1922 is the right to collect television licence fees for the BBC. The Post Office earns about pounds 70m a year from this contract. Some months ago the BBC put the contract out to commercial tender, the first time it has done this.
Any day now it is due to announce whether the Post Office has hung on to the business for the next seven years or whether it will go to the private sector. The front runner is a consortium led by US computer giant EDS.
Plainly, the decision is a hot potato for both the BBC board and its political master, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith. Do they keep the business in the public sector, remembering of course, that it is partly the licence fee contract that enables the Post Office to pay the Exchequer such a walloping dividend each year. Or do they opt for what is likely to be a cheaper private sector bid and allow the BBC to use the money it saves to improve the quality of programming?
There is no doubt that the Post Office provides a gold-plated service. The contract keeps close on 2,000 Post Office employees in a job at Bristol and a fleet of gleaming detector vans on the road.
The Post Office would counter that the BBC gets good value for money. Evasion rates have dropped to their lowest levels in years - about 7 per cent - and more money is being raised through the licence than ever. The private sector might do the job more cheaply but could it guarantee deterring as many licence dodgers?
The semaphore signals from Broadcasting House suggest the outcome is too close to call. If the Post Office does lose out, it would be a timely reminder that, in the cold world of commercial freedom, not everything is a one-way bet.
Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence referendum live: Latest news as Scotland decides Yes or No
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: Almost half of No voters have felt 'personally threatened' by the Yes campaign
Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
iJobs Money & Business
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
£70-90,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client a London Market Insurer are seeking a Pro...
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...