Earlier today I was at BBC Broadcasting House in Bedford Street and enjoyed a 90 minute chat with Carrie Matchett, head of Governance and Accountability with the BBC Trust. I was there really to accompany two of the Digital Circle steering group, Davy Sims (Davy is a stalwart of the BBC and unbelievably well respected in the media world by everyone I’ve met. Possibly the only person I know who everyone describes as “really great”) and Martin Neill (wise beyond his tender years with experience of the music and online media world and contacts to match).
The meeting was about Project Canvas:
“The BBC Executive has asked the BBC Trust for permission to develop a joint venture to promote a standards based open environment for internet connected television devices, otherwise known as â€˜Project Canvasâ€™. For consumers this would enable subscription-free access to on-demand television services and other internet-based content, through a broadband connected digital device.”
The points made were varied and covered the gamut of discussions from RQIV (Reach, Quality, Impact, Value) to who would Project Canvas be competing against?
I made the point more than once that Canvas has to be a useful and attractive alternative to online bootlegging (I’m sworn off calling it “piracy”). The most recent Dr WHO episode was available to download on the ‘illegal’ networks a mere 25 minutes after it was broadcast and in much better quality than what was offered by iPlayer. Downloaded “illegal” copies remove the credit, remove any metrics gained and make it impossible to gauge any of the RQIV parameters.
It has to attempt to avoid DRM where possible (because it only punishes the honest. While those of us who pay for DVDs and pay to go to the cinema are forced into watching anti-“piracy” commercials and threatened with “unlimited fines”, the folk who download movies often get them at 720p or better with the threats and cajoling missing. And the crap they spew about how the quality is bad on downloaded movies – obviously the author of those threats has never been to a Northern Irish cinema – downloads are much crisper than anything I’ve seen in a NI cinema.
And stop demonising those who do download. One thing the RIAA has managed to do in the Internet age is cement it’s position as an organisation comprised of dickheads. What sort of organisation sues 13 year old kids. And corpses.
As a license fee payer, BBC Content is MY content and I want to be able to watch it wherever I want. This means relying on unencrypted streams or downloads. This means NOT tying yourself to proprietary software – I don’t care if you choose between DRM’ed Windows Media (which I can’t play) or DRM’ed Adobe AIR (which I can’t play).
Take a hint here – the record labels railed against Apple and others about DRM and now we have DRM-free tracks being sold everywhere. It took a couple of years but we got there.
Take a hint here – the most annoying thing about DVDs is the region encoding. Skip ahead, get rid of it.
Take a hint here – what will people be watching their media on “tomorrow”? If you don’t know, keep the data in an open standard format rather than one company’s licenced crown jewels.
I’ll be surprised if Project Canvas is anything other than Adobe AIR, DRM’ed out the back side, designed to self-destruct in 30 days and all the rest of the nonsense forced on us by media moghuls who don’t “get” the Internet. Folk who don’t realise that the competition is free and open. It may be illegal, but it’s free and open and often in better quality. The alternative is to start sueing kids for wanting to watch Dr Who without the low quality iPlayer interface and the dreadful buffering.
To defeat online bootlegging, all you have to do is provide folk with a reasonable alternative. It’s a bold step but then my expectation is that the BBC can take bold steps. And take them confidently.