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BBC, You're Fired! (from The Apprentice) · Monday May 19, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

The BBC is one of the few organisations on this planet easily able to embrace the future non-copyright based revenue model of letting its audience directly fund its works, but unfortunately it is failing miserably – in the same way that an alcoholic might fail miserably in figuring out how to get drunk having been accidentally locked inside a whisky distillery.

So, the BBC takes my money and makes me a programme called The Apprentice.

Unfortunately, I miss its broadcast slot. No matter, today we have the instantaneous diffusion device known as the Internet to provide a relatively inexpensive means of distributing recordings of such TV programmes.

Perversely, in its infinite wisdom, the BBC believes that whilst it should facilitate the delivery of its customers’ TV programmes to them via broadcast, it should not do so via the Internet except via a highly constrained means (only generally permitting previews and excerpts via its crippled iPlayer, and the entire programme only at certain times and even then with a self-destruct expiry). Instead, it remains up to the customers to provide an unconstrained distribution facility themselves via BitTorrent.

Is this petty behaviour by the BBC like a child holding its hands over its eyes in the hope it becomes invisible?

The programmes that the BBC’s customers funded are being ‘re-broadcast’ on the Internet by some of the customers themselves (who have already received them), and are gladly being re-received by other customers who’ve also paid for them.

Why is the BBC trying to pretend this isn’t happening?

It can’t be financial, because:

  • The producers have been paid, and have supplied the programmes they’ve been paid for.
  • The commissioning audience has paid up, and has received the programmes it has paid for.

So why on earth isn’t the BBC embracing BitTorrent as a means of enabling the commissioners of the programmes to receive what they’ve paid for?

The reasons for the BBC’s perverse behaviour remain as yet unknown, but what we do know about the use of BitTorrent is:

  1. It is already happening
  2. It doesn’t incur any additional expense on the part of the BBC

If the BBC was a candidate on The Apprentice and challenged with the task of delivering the programmes that their customers had paid for to those same customers in a timely and convenient fashion, Sir Alan Sugar would probably ask them why the heck they didn’t utilise the free and efficient distribution technology known as BitTorrent, instead wasting £6,000,000 creating a semi-functional monstrosity called iPlayer and then having the gall to use it to supply only fragments of the customers’ programmes or versions that would self-destruct (perhaps to encourage them to continue to use their TVs instead of their PCs).

BBC, sorry. You’ve done great work on previous occasions, but this time you really lost sight of the ball. You had your chance. You’re fired! I don’t need lunatics or Luddites like you in my organisation who would waste six million pounds of my money trying to prevent my customers getting what they paid for.”

isaac said 4121 days ago :

Good points here, but I think the real reason why the BBC ignores BitTorrent is still a financial one: They’re afraid of losing the revenue from international licensing & DVD sales. The iPlayer at least lets them keep the content inside Britain.

Crosbie Fitch said 4121 days ago :

Ah, so the BBC is selling the suspension of its citizens’ liberty to foreign nations? What happened to “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves”?

The BBC is denying its viewers the liberty to exchange and build upon the programmes they’ve paid for, in order that such suspended liberty can be sold for the exploitation of corporations in other countries.

Not only does this make the BBC complicit in cultural repression, it also demonstrates its ignorance of the consequence that Britain would become far more culturally richer (in both senses of the word) if the BBC instead culturally emancipated its more important customers – the British public.

After all, what is the point of the BBC? To maximise profit or to culturally enrich the nation with news, education and entertainment?

As for the idea that the iPlayer is a fence or other mechanism of containment, this is preposterous. Not only because it is plainly incapable of such a function (even as a line in the sand), but because the very idea of wanting to ‘keep the content inside Britain’ is crazy.

Thanks for the comment Isaac. :)

isaac said 4121 days ago :

Hey, I’m not saying I agree with what the BBC is doing or that the iPlayer works as a border to keep the rest of the world out (I’m from Australia and bittorrent Doctor Who every week). The ABC here in Australia releases a good chunk of their original programming as free podcasts, so I guess being sensible isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility for large broadcasters (though the ABC doesn’t produce much of interest to the outside world).

Crosbie Fitch said 4121 days ago :

I’m not surprised you don’t agree.

The important thing is to stop public corporations kidding themselves that what they are doing is agreeable to their public commissioners.

A simple first step would be for the BBC to have a channel that was broadcast and distributed completely unencumbered to the British public. It would then be much cheaper given it could be re-distributed free of charge by the public themselves (via BitTorrent). Unfortunately, I think the BBC will wait until everyone else has been doing that sort of thing for five years before they’ll even think about doing it themselves. It’ll then be too late and the BBC will be out-competed in the market of publicly funded producers of publicly owned IP.

NB That’s ‘publicly owned’ as in the public get their grubby hands on their own property, not as in ‘Owned by a public corporation and reserved for exploitation by multinational media conglomerates’.

As for ABC being of interest to the outside world, there’s at least Skippy and Paul Hogan that I’d cite as my favourites, though they don’t quite match the BitTorrent-worthy unmissability of The Apprentice.



 

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