But I had no idea just how big an impact the BBC's licence fee collection army has on the entire legal system until, that is, I started following Charles Moore's protest of disobedience at the handling of the Ross-Brand outrage in 2008. Today, he's written what I imagine will be his last piece on the now-resolved case (which he lost, naturally) in which he reveals some truly chilling facts, especially towards the end, about just how massive a drain on the nation's resources the BBC has become, in every sense:
The BBC is a parasitical organism, draining life out of our culture, our society, our politics and our economy with its PC anti-intellectualism, its decadence, its political bias and its greed.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing I have discovered over the past 20 months is the vast tide of small-scale human misery which the licence fee causes. In 2008-09, there were 168,800 prosecutions for licence-fee evasion. That is nearly 15 per cent of all prosecutions. Almost all the people charged are poor. The telly is one of their few pleasures, and they tend not to watch the BBC on it. And yet, for want of £142.50, tens of thousands clog up the courts every year.
Yesterday in Hastings, a young single mother was tried for the same offence as mine. She had a baby in a pushchair, and I agreed with the clerk to let her case go first, so that she could get out in time to fetch her other children out of school. I can see no justice and no humour in a situation where people like her are punished, so that people like Ross can get his £6 million.
It's time this particular disease of the body politic was cured.