Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

This column and its readers have just won our first battle in our long war. The BBC Trust has announced that it will investigate the way in which the television licence fee is collected. It wants to know, for example, whether the public think that the methods of enforcement are 'reasonable and appropriate'. This column has been highlighting the predicament of those (including myself, in my London flat) who do not possess a television. We receive unreasonable and inappropriate letters from TV Licensing, often by the dozen, which assume our guilt for evasion without any evidence and threaten us with inspection and a criminal record. I notice that televisionless households -- there are more than half a million of us -- are not mentioned in the BBC Trust's introduction to its consultation, but it is we who are the worst victims of the BBC's insulting and intrusive methods. On Monday I appeared on the Jeremy Vine Show with a spokesman for the Trust, and another interesting point came up. When you get the threatening letters now, they say that 'Authorisation has been granted [under what law it does not say] for Enforcement Officers to visit your property' not only to search for a television, but for anything else on which television might be watched, e. g. a DVD, a digital box, a computer or laptop, or a mobile phone. This is almost a blanket permission to search private property for any form of transmitting equipment. Please google the BBC Trust website or write to TV Licence Collection Review, Inspection Review, BBC Trust, 35 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4AA, and express your righteous anger.

As a member of the admirable Wine Society, I receive its newsletter. The latest edition devotes most of its front page to climate change ('the defining issue of our times'). It says that climate change is 'all bad news for the wine industry', but then has to admit that a huge study by a scientist from the University of Southern Oregon has found that, while growing-season temperatures have risen by an average of two degrees in 50 years, 'the quality of vintages has improved'. As for the future, the Gulf Stream might get weaker, which would be bad but, on the other hand, it might not, in which case warmer temperatures could make the UK 'a serious force in wine'. The paper then talks to winemakers in different places.

A man from Burgundy says that it's got a bit drier. One from South Africa says it's got wetter. One from Spain says it's hotter. But it is the Burgundian, whose region has a longer memory of viticulture than the others, who adds that, over the centuries, 'we have seen cycles of colder and warmer periods'. To use a tired but vinous metaphor, mightn't the glass be half-full, rather than half-empty?

In our parish, there is a move to have our church floodlit. It is a well-intentioned campaign, which people wish generously to support with their own money, and it shows pride in the church. But I cannot help being against it. The Church of England has issued a guide, Don't Stop at the Lights, which discourages flood-lighting every night because of the carbon footprint, but it is not the possible effect on the planet that motivates me (though I do worry that birds get confused by light when it should be dark and sing when they should be asleep). …

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