Stephen Fry comments on the future of the BBC and broadcasting:
And as for broadcasting, well after a mad diversion of believing that it was all about distribution, every media boss now repeats the mantra Content is King.
â€˜We repent,â€™ they seem to be saying, â€˜being a media boss is no longer about owning as many stations, networks, nodes, outlets and ports as possible â€“ itâ€™s about production, about making things. I see that now.â€™
â€˜Hurray,â€™ shout the programme makers, â€˜finally youâ€™ve understood. So, give us the money then.â€™
â€˜What money?â€™ say the media executives, â€˜there is no money. We spent it all buying up companies and their back catalogues. We needed content in a hurry, because â€“ in case you werenâ€™t aware â€¦ content is king, you know.â€™
â€˜Doh. Hang on â€¦ but what about new content?â€™
â€˜Good lord no. Are you mad? Far too expensive.â€™
I wholly recommend the whole article if only for the reminiscence it brings from memories of the TARDIS and those filthy Carry On crew.
On the main subject of the future of the BBC, I think that if there is to be a TV license and there is to be a BBC then the content should start to flow both ways. We already receive the funded BBC content as well as the syndicated content they have bought from outside and yet I believe there are a legion of amateur film makers out there who could likely fill a dozen digital channels – look at Youtube for example – there may be a load of crap out there but on the most simple level I can get entertainment out of the laughing baby every time I watch it and you have to witness what it does to the kids when I play it via the web browser on the Wii. It’s an instant success with the under eight market and with the rest of the world as the copy I linked there has been viewed 52 MILLION times.
As a parent, I’m often not able to get out as much as I would like without a rigmarole of scheduling, finding babysitters and confirming whether people are ‘in the mood’ so an excursion, despite being an uphill battle, has to be something special. This means I can’t get out to every burgeoning film festival or arts event as much as I would like to and some nights I just have to content myself with living vicariously through the tweets of others. I would suggest that a percentage of my license fee therefore go towards providing an on screen broad-casted presence for these shorts and require that the film makers accept it for what it is – pure exposure.
In addition, apart from the television, there’s an increasing number of people who have devices which can play video. In my household there’s around nine of the buggers and eight of those are portable and of those eight, five would be considered ‘mobile’. This is just going to increase as people get wind that you can watch videos and television on these devices as you get the train, as you hover around the changing rooms in Marks and Spencer (waiting for your partner, not just…hanging…around…) or as you stand in line at the post office on a Tuesday morning to get one-pound-eighty-eight in stamps for the letter which “must go today” while half of Bangor’s octogenarians waddle towards the counter in front of you.
It frustrates me. Why doesn’t the BBC run at this new market? The content is out there and yes, it’s annoying that they’re using IP geo-location to guess whether you’re in the UK or not and not something a little more sophisticated (like whether or not you’ve actually paid the TV license). We still have the half-effort of iPlayer which just gives you a weeks grace on some TV programming you might have missed otherwise (and which still favours Windows PCs so that everyone else has to have a persistent net connection).
That’s the daft thing. BBC content is syndicated over-the-air via the analog and digital transmission network and over-the-net via iPlayer based on the geo-tag of your IP address (and therefore can be cheated with VPNs and proxies).
The BBC has to realise, much as Apple did, that the competition here is free media via BitTorrent. iPlayer just makes it inconvenient for people – and why would you choose iPlayer when you can get content for free via a torrent? I still labour on, watching Dr Who a few days later when I remember via iPlayer.
There’s a disconnect here. Millions of viewers, billions of potential viewers, millions of content makers and a BBC which has to cut costs to make it in the 21st Century. I guess it’s up to the controllers of the BBC to attempt to make inroads here. But you have to ask the question: which short film maker in the UK wouldn’t ransom a body part for a 5 minute spot on BBC1?
[Please note this isn’t an impassioned argument for the BBC to start recruiting from Youtube but rather for them to jump further than their pre-digital mindset.]