Irish State Broadcaster RTÉ is apparently losing TV Licence revenue because some people have no actual TV, and the Government believe that they are watching programmes though their computers instead. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is therefore introducing the Public Service Broadcasting Charge, payable by all households, saying “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country. I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television and don’t access content on their iPad or iPhone.”…..
There was a knock at the front of the cave, followed by the strangled curse of someone who has just unthinkingly rapped on a stone wall with their bare hand. Ugg went to the entrance and was surprised to see Patrabid, one of the Village Elders, standing there sucking his knuckles.
“I’m here about your television,” said Patrabid, eventually.
“What’s that?” asked Ugg.
Patrabid indicated a large box on the cart behind him. “It’s a device that provides entertainment, information and opinion,” he said.
“Don’t need one so,” said Ugg. “I’ve got a wife for all that.”
As if on cue, and not at all because she’d been eavesdropping, Ogga came to the front of the cave to join them. “Are you trying to sell us one?” she said.
“Of course not,” said Patrabid, “because you already have one.”
“No, we don’t,” said Ugg.
“Of course you do,” said Patrabid. “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country-” here he stopped and looked at the cave in which Ugg and Ogga so obviously lived, “-well ok, we do,” he admitted, “but I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television.”
“Well, we don’t,” said Ugg.
“But you should,” said Patrabid. “It’s great, look, I’ll show you.” He lifted the box off the cart and carried it into the cave. The three of them watched it for a while.
“It’s not doing anything,” said Ogga eventually.
“Well, no, it doesn’t yet,” admitted Patrabid. “Yeddi’s son in the village is working on something he calls electricity that he says will power it, but until he gets it right the box does nothing. When it does, though, it’ll be great – weather forecasting -”
“Snow tomorrow, snow the next day, bright spells with snow spreading from the west later the day after would be my guess,” said Ogga. “This isn’t called the Ice Age for nothing.”
“There’ll be nature programmes, like ‘When Mammoths Attack’ -”
“I already know when they attack,” said Ugg. “Every bloody time they see a human, that’s when. I’m a hunter, trust me on this.”
“Well,” said Patrabid desperately, “there’ll be fascinating little programmes about fur-skin making, or arrow-head crafting, or why the square wheel industry is dying out.”
“But we know why,” said Ugg. “It’s because the round wheel is all the rage now. Dunno why, at least you never had to chase a runaway square wheel down a steep hill.”
“Listen” said Ogga, “come back when it works, and we might buy one.”
“I told you, I not here to sell you one,” said Patrabid. “I’m here to collect the charge for you having one.”
“But we don’t have one,” said Ugg.
“Not my problem,” said Patrabid. “You have to pay for having one anyway.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” said Ogga. “It’d be like having to pay off bank losses that you weren‘t responsible for.” The other two stared at her. “Don’t ask me what that means,” she said. “The phrase just popped into my head.”
“Why does anyone have to pay anyway?” asked Ugg. “Why not make it pay for itself by charging for advertising?”
“Advertising?” said Ogga.
“Yes,” said Ugg. “A man could appear and tell you to keep your skin soft by washing more than once a month. He could say it’s because you’re worth it.”
“Excellent idea,” said Patrabid. “We’ll do that too.”
“Then why would we still have to pay the charge?” asked Ugg.
“It’s to fund Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.
“What’s that?” asked Ogga.
Just then a loud shouting started up outside. “Here is the news,” yelled a voice. “Mammoths attacked some hunters. Snow is forecast for later -”
“That’s Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.
“That’s just The Old Yeller,” said Ogga.
“He’s providing a public service,” said Patrabid, “and we have to massively overpay him in case he decides to leave and join another network.”
“Is that something to do with spiders?” asked Ugg.
Patrabid was about to witheringly reply when Ogga said “we don’t listen to him.”
“You can’t possibly not,” said Patrabid. “You can hear him from half a mile away.”
Ogga picked up a bucket of slops, walked to the front of the cave and hurled it out. The shouting abruptly stopped, there was a brief shocked silence, a lot of hawking and coughing and then something that sounded very like a man blocking one nostril and blowing hard, in an attempt to clear the other one of poo.
“As I was saying,” said Ogga calmly, “we don’t listen to him.”
“Well, you’ll still owe -”
Ogga looked into her bucket. “There are still some slops left in this,” she said matter-of-factly.
Patrabid decided to chicken out, or at least to whatever-the-prehistoric-equivalent-of-a-chicken-was out. “Er, there are of course certain caveholds that will be exempt,” he said.
“I thought there might,” said Ogga, swinging her bucket gently.
Patrabid left. Ogga was about to go back to the kitchen area when she noticed that Ugg was looking at a small flat slab of stone. There was writing on it which said “Village Elder For Communications And Snide Remarks Patrabid has today introduced a charge which you will have to pay even if you aren’t using the service that you’re being charged for.”
“What’s that?” said Ogga.
“It’s the news,” said Ugg. “Soothsaya in the village will chip it out for you each evening for two flints.”
“But what are you reading it on?” asked Ogga.
Ugg held up the slab proudly. “This is my Tablet,” he said.