A while ago, Mike Arrington from TechCrunch called for the dissolution of the BBC at the FOWA conference. Today the BBC announces it is pulling the plug on the ‘BBC Jam‘ project – an online learning resource for school kids.
He has some regrets about what he said and asks today what people in the UK think about this and the boundaries that the BBC can go to or cross regarding all this.
I have a few things to say – some on top – some off – but just to give some more perspective to this conversation (I used to work for BBC News Interactive) :
BBC (especially in R&D) are always looking push the boundaries – without offending the license payer. And they have really done amazing things – especially in the past.
Back when radio started, the BBC created content and transmitted it : it sold many radios.
Same thing happened with television. The BBC helped to create the industry and helped (indirectly) sell loads of TVs through huge amounts of technical research and achievements. A ‘bit’ like Steve Jobs helped push portable audio and its formats by selling an iPod.
Arguably, without the BBC, the media industry it is part of wouldn’t be where it is today.
The BBC were recently told by the Director of Future Media and Technology (Ashley Highfield) that it must “Get web savvy or we die..”. There are going to be ALOT of changes coming in how the BBC manages and responds to its online strategies and goals set for the future.
‘Some’ people at the BBC look at you like you just produced fire from your hands if you mention ‘Web2.0’ and ‘social networks’ — “oooooh! prettyyy!.. must have some”
So, when the idea of a site for children’s education and learning comes up, all replete with tasty doses of ‘Web 2.0’, ‘ social networking’, ‘collaboration’, ‘virtual world’ etc. – which companies fall over themselves for these days (sometimes justifiably/worthwhile) – then you have to see what an easy sell it was to whatever board of people gave it the OK. (quite possibly, many of which didn’t have the slightest idea what it was – but it sounded ‘hip’ – so yay! let’s pwn it d00d)
I learned SO MUCH from the television as a child in the UK (as I am sure the teachers did too!). I learned alot of early computer skills on a BBC-A, BBC Micro, etc.. which OK, wasn’t strictly BBC, but I didn’t see Clive Sinclair or Research Machines claiming unfairness then – it was GOOD for the industry in the long run. Easy.
The BBC also has an obligation to outsource the production of a large percentage of content to outside companies/contractors. That’s where they give something back. Small companies can see their logo/credits role by and BBC1. What a feeling! Think of all the new leads and opportunities it creates for them.
Alas, not for those who are not chosen by the BBC. And I think you’ll find it’s those people who protest the most – and rightly so, in some cases – as here – possibly. I’m undecided about BBC Jam. I just wanted to add a bit more perspective.
The big thing that sets up the BBC as a huge target in all this is naturally the TV License. For those of you out there who still don’t know : Everyone in the UK who owns a TV set or a Radio is required by law to pay an annual TV License. A colour TV Licence costs £131.50 and it’s cheaper for a black and white set (lol).
So, it’s very much like a subscription model – but one you are forced into paying for, if you simply own a TV set.
As a child I used to ask “Then why doesn’t someone build a telly which can’t be tuned in to BBC1 or BBC2?” (we only had two BBC tv channels back then) – “Then we don’t need to pay the TV License” (which probably meant I could have more candy or something)
By removing those content channels from the device, surely we don’t have to pay for it.
What I’m getting at is, the BBC are forging forward into technology – sometimes forgetting the content itself (but that’s another rant) – in an area and network (the internet) where choice is endless. Also we have more and more digital tv channels cropping up all the time (mostly useless) – the choice is growing. Every second my eyes are watching YouTube or other video online, they’re not looking at the TV set (we already, forcibly paid for)
So, the more they develop online and digitally, I think the BBC will have to change to a subscription model eventually – because I can assure you, there’s a hell of alot more non-BBC content out there that I can put on my TV screen – and it’s growing by the day.
The TV License is likely doomed, but long live the BBC!!!