What America Could Learn From The BBC

From PC Advisor:The BBC’s plans to offer TV on demand have approved by the BBC Trust subject to certain conditions. It's expected that many BBC TV shows will be available for download by the end of the year, although the full approval of the plans will follow a two-month consultation period.
Written by Alan Graham, Contributor

From PC Advisor:

The BBC’s plans to offer TV on demand have approved by the BBC Trust subject to certain conditions.

It's expected that many BBC TV shows will be available for download by the end of the year, although the full approval of the plans will follow a two-month consultation period. If it goes ahead, viewers will be able to watch popular shows online or download them directly to their computers. Shows will remain playable for up to 30 days after being downloaded or a week after the first time they’re viewed. 
The four services the BBC is proposing includes
  • Seven-day TV catch-up over the internet
  • Seven-day TV catch up over cable
  • Simulcast TV over the internet (streaming of live television networks)
  • Non-digital rights management audio downloads over the internet (podcasting)
 One of the provisional conclusions that is VERY interesting is:
Platform-agnostic approach: As proposed, the TV catch-up service on the internet relies on Microsoft technology for the digital rights management (DRM) framework. The Trust will require the BBC Executive to adopt a platform-agnostic approach within a reasonable timeframe.  This requires the BBC to develop an alternative DRM framework to enable users of other technology, for example, Apple and Linux, to access the on-demand services.
Syndication of BBC content to third-parties: The Trust considers that BBC content should be available to all significant players on a non-discriminatory basis. It will develop and publish a syndication policy and consider on each occasion where syndication is proposed whether a PVT or other action is necessary. 

Please bear with me while I break into a glorious rendition of God Save The Queen.


The biggest Web 2.0 explosion in the next two years will be the advent of video on demand. Whatever you want, whenever you want it. Cable television adoption will slow and start to recede, as more and more content becomes available online. The BBC recognizes this is what people want and is thinking of the audience first and foremost.

While the prospect of that is exciting, in this country we'll no doubt see another battle heating up over here with the MPAA and RIAA on one side, and the cable and satellite companies on the other. Piracy and unfair competition will be the battle cries and ultimately we will be the big losers.

We like to believe we live in one of the most innovative nations in the world...and yet our own free markets have a tendency to make us less free. With constant battles over copyright, we find our rights being challenged every day by over-zealous DRM, lawsuits against grandmothers and children, and crippled hardware and software.

We are told what we can do with the very media we buy, by a small group of people who are only looking out for their own personal fortunes.

Across the pond, the BBC has a different way of operating

The BBC is financed by a TV licence paid by households. It does not have to serve the interests of advertisers, or produce a return for shareholders. This means it can concentrate on providing high quality programmes and services for everyone, many of which would not otherwise be supported by subscription or advertising.

The BBC has signed up to these values:

  • Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest
  • Audiences are at the heart of everything we do
  • We take pride in delivering quality and value for money
  • Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation
  • We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best
  • We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together


How refreshing! 

Now I know that our media industries aren't fully funded by tax revenue, but I will bet that their "values" don't come anywhere near the BBC's...unless of course you replace "audience" with "shareholder." Corporations here don't have to serve their audience, and judging by most of what is on TV, creativity is certainly not their lifeblood.

I applaud the BBC's grand experiment and I respect their bold initiative to try something new. However in this country, trying something new is often difficult because we're viewed as children, or worse yet...thieves, unworthy of trust. The problem is that the people who don't trust us are actually the one's that can't be trusted. 

Three years ago I put together this timeline of how the RIAA had been trying to stifle innovation: 

1997 - Tries to kill off personal CD duplication.

1998 - Sued Diamond Multimedia over the Rio 300 MP3 Player, claiming it was in fact a recording device. This device was the bane of the music industry. According to the RIAA, combined with the Internet, it actually encouraged consumers to “infringe the rights of artists by trafficking in unlicensed music recordings on the Internet.”

1999 - RIAA loses it’s appeal in the case and says “We're obviously disappointed we lost in the Appeals Court. The court appears to have concluded that, despite Congressional intent, the Audio Home Recording Act has limited application in a world of convergent technologies. We filed this lawsuit because unchecked piracy on the Internet threatens the development of a legitimate marketplace for online music, a marketplace that consumers want. ”

“Diamond declined our request to work together … to adhere to the law,” said Hilary Rosen, RIAA’s president. “We believe [the Rio PMP300] is destined to damage the market for digitally downloaded music before it has a chance to begin.”

Well it is 2006. Over 88 million iPods have been sold since 2002. CD duplication has been around for quite some time. How did that turn out? Did the music industry implode? Turns out they were actually wrong. Hmmm...in fact, if you trace their predictions over the past 10 years, they weren't right about one single thing. So am I to believe now that the movie/TV business is about to collapse because of the Internet and uh...YouTube?

So kudos to you BBC for showing the world what's possible and for putting trust in your viewers. We could certainly learn something from your example.
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