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A Vision of the Dystopian BBC-less Future

17/07/2015 15:48 BST | Updated 16/07/2016 10:59 BST

You sit back in your armchair, pick up the television remote control and click the screen on. After a moment of warming up, the picture displays itself into your house, with the volume slightly too loud from the last time you were watching telly, and you hurriedly press the minus key to try and get the sound to pipe down a bit. It only works after you smack the batteries on the back and jab a little bit of life into them.

You should get around to changing them at some point.

The display starts on channel one. You watch for a moment while you work out what's going on, though it doesn't keep your attention for long. Two J-list celebrities are trying to eat a cake made of rat's arses, cockroaches and cow shit without gagging in a bid to win a Ford Focus for one of the contestants. That one's not for you.

On channel two, a really ugly woman - who you instantly hate just because she looks like she fell out of a whale's nose - is standing in front of a panel of judges about to belt out a tune. You wait for a second because she's going to be awful; but wait! She can sing! That would have been a turn up for the books if it wasn't the same narrative used in the last 300,000 series of that particular talent show. Who knew ugly people could be successful?

Over to channel three you flick, but you only stay for a second because you can't stand Ant and Dec. Even if their new show, Celebrity Deathmatch Duels, where household names battle to stay alive in head-to-head fights with various sets of weapons and in challenging conditions, has had rave reviews from the critics.

Channel four is showing live pictures from a random member of the public's colonoscopy, while channel five has that new panel show where comedians try to tell jokes while being showered in all sorts of unpleasant substances like the contents of the latrines at Glastonbury or concentrated hydrochloric acid.

Worse, channel six is showing a repeat of a documentary about people who are made of Rice Krispies.

Your turn the TV off and close your eyes, briefly considering turning on the laptop and surfing over to YouTube - until you remember that everybody on that particular website is now an insufferable teen, talking rubbish while taking a sponsored bungee jump off a bridge to promote a type of cereal bar, paid for by the manufacturer. Low budget TV had been replaced by sponsored advertisements under the guise of vlogging by people who look far better than you could possibly dream of.

Instead, you wonder how we ended up here, in a reality where we systematically dismantled the best public service broadcaster in the world that was the envy of every other country, who'd wondered why they'd never set up something like it when everybody had more money.

It happened when the country decided it didn't want to pay £145.50 each year for the right to watch television. They decided that the fee was too high to guarantee a diverse range of programming across both radio and TV, which was obliged to cover entertainment, the arts, history, sport, religion, current affairs, news and politics - among others - that wasn't solely concerned by ratings. Of course, ratings were a convenient way to bin off a programme, but they didn't really matter.

Equally, it wasn't worth the money for a decent website that kept the world up to date while providing an ad-free service to watch or listen back to nearly everything that it had produced for the last week or so. It wasn't worth paying for live text commentary of formula one, test match cricket, grand slam tennis tournaments, the Olympics and football across all divisions in the country.

Those who had defended the licence fee didn't do it vociferously enough, frequently choosing to just list all the shows that they liked. Shows that were a distant memory now, like Sherlock or Luther or Doctor Who. The retort had been so easy: "I don't watch any of them; I don't use the BBC at all," is what the naysayers would respond with, before signing another petition into a review of how television is funded.

As the days go by now, though, and with the quality of its news output plummeting, the reliability of its on demand services decreasing and the increase in celebrity news splashed across the front page of the website - combined with advert after advert after advert popping up as you were trying to read about David Beckham's surgery to have bionic legs installed or Kim Kardashian's arse transplant - they begin to wonder if they actually value what the BBC used to produce on some level. Still, too late now.

Saving that £145.50 a year seemed worth it, when they were promised a scheme to pick and choose which bits they wanted. In reality, it had never worked out like that and now - in a bid to secure the biggest ratings over its competitors - it was producing lowest common denominator programming. Who cares about the 5,000 people who'd watch a documentary on butterflies, when three hours of fart noises played over archive footage of Match of the Day will get an audience of millions?

As soon as the BBC was forced to care about ratings instead of being forced to care about its consumers, it had to forget about fringe programming and trying something new and spending lots of money on investigations into X, Y and Z around the world. And it left the UK's television services in one of the biggest nosedives it would ever find itself in and one that it'd probably never escape from.

You turn the television off and pop in a Blu Ray disc from back when TV was worth watching. At least you can put that £145.50 to good use somewhere else in your finances.