BBQ is failing it!

February 1st, 2007

The BBC Trust is carrying out its first Public Value Test (PVT) a new procedure that must be applied when the Trust considers applications from BBC management for the approval of new BBC services. Here are the answers that yours truly gave:

Question 1
Do you agree with the BBC Trust’s proposal to approve the new BBC on-demand services, subject to the modifications outlined in the Trust’s report of its provisional conclusions?

Yes, as long as it caters for everyone equally.

Question 2
In a market in which most broadcasters are expected to be offering on-demand services, would you agree that it is a priority for the BBC to be investing in this area?

Absolutely, and the BBC should be at the forefront of the move to digital services. Since these services are driven by software, and the cost of distributing this software is near zero, the BBC should, as it has done in the past, collected the best engineers (in this case, software engineers) in the UK to work on projects that benefit the world, just as it did in the days of the Wold Service on Shortwave.

Question 3
The BBC Trust has proposed setting a limit of 30 days as the amount of time that programmes can be stored on a computer before being viewed. As this is a nascent market, there is currently no clear standard on the length of the storage window. On balance, the Trust thinks 30 days is the right length of time. How long do you think consumers should be able to store BBC programmes on their computers before viewing them?

They should be able to store them indefinitely. They pay for them since they are license payers, and in any case, they have the right in law to record shows on video tape for personal use, which can be kept forever. There is no reason why an artificial limit should be placed on how long a show can be kept. It must be said also that if the BBC refuses to provide what everyone wants, everyone will simply take what they want, and Auntie will be left out of the loop. The people who proposed these limits are obviously computer illiterates. People are swapping and storing everything they want already, which is protected by the law, so this 30 day limit is simply foolish, ill considered and actually wrong. Just because you can design a system in this way doesnt mean that you should.

Question 4
The BBC Trust concluded that public value would be created by allowing series stacking. This would allow viewers to catch-up with all episodes of a series for the duration of its run. The Trust recognised that although it would provide increased opportunities to view BBC programmes, it could also deter people from buying DVDs or using commercial video-on-demand services. Do you consider series stacking to be a useful feature? What kind of series would you expect to be included? Should there be any limitation on the number of episodes of a series made available for catch-up or the length of time for which they can be viewed?

No there should not. I can now get whatever I want from The Internets. If Auntie allows me to get it from her, in pristine quality, then I will do that. If not, I will go to Mininova. All the programmes of the BBC should be made available in this way. There is no technical reason why this should not be the case. If I can get whatever I want from the BBC, you can get accurate statistics on what is and is not popular. Should you fail to provide what I want, you will be in the dark as to what is really going on. These stats are every valuable.

Question 5
How important is it that the proposed seven-day catch-up service over the internet is available to consumers who are not using Microsoft software?

There is absolutely no reason why BBC content should not be available to every computer user. If you were to consult with the software developers who work at the BBC, you would have been told this. YouTube, Google Video and every other video service, like the cross platform ‘Democracy’ player are examples of how this is done. That you are even asking this question shows that you are computer illiterate, and have not asked the right people about this subject. The BBC should be running its own software development departments, and the results should all be open source. The BBC player would become the defacto standard for the next generation of television delivery. BBC engineering used to be world class and a symbol of innovation and greatness. It should be so again in the digital age. What has to happen to achieve this is that the software engineers need to be put in charge of this, and the computer illiterate removed from the decision making process.

Question 6
Should the BBC be allowed to offer book readings from its radio services as audio downloads over the internet?

Yes, and they should pay a per download royalty to authors.

Question 7
The BBC Trust concluded there was fine balance between public value and market impact in deciding whether to allow the BBC to offer audio downloads of classical music. While such downloads could help introduce new listeners to classical music, they could also deter purchases of commercial recordings. What is your view on whether – and to what extent – the BBC should be allowed to offer radio broadcasts of classical music as audio downloads over the internet?

People can already get whatever classical music they like from the internts. There is no reaso why the BBC should not allow people to download recordings that already belong to them (the license payers) since downloading is no different to streaming. There are already tools for every operating system (the software that manages your computers hardware) that allow you to save streamed content for playback later; offering downloads of programmes simply saves the license payer having to edit the streams manually. You all need to understand the true nature of digital content, and stop trying to manufacture dry water. Water is wet by nature, and digital media is by its nature copyable. Your job is to help the license payer, not hinder her. It is up to commercial operators to adapt to the new reality, rather than holding back the new age; rather like buggy whip manufacturers preventing the combustion engine. The profits of special interest groups should not come before the benefit of the public.

Question 8
How important is it to you that the BBC provides some means for parents to control which of its programmes are accessible on-demand to children? Is such a facility necessary or is it more a matter for parents to exercise controls over how children use the internet?

This is important, and trivial to impliment. Speak to your software developers about how this can be done. They already have the knowledge you seek.

Question 9
What are your views on whether the BBC should offer content from non-BBC providers on the on-demand service on its website?

If the BBC can make money from delivering the content of other companies, then that is a good thing. Those companies should pay for the service of being hosted and distributed by the BBCs new digital distribution service. The money earned could be used to ease the burden of the license payer.

Question 10
What are your views on whether and how the BBC should make available on-demand content on services run by other providers – such as multi-channel services or internet-based audio and video downloading services?

Same answer as 9.

Question 11
Do the revisions proposed to BBC Service Licenses to allow the new services to go ahead seem appropriate?

I have not read them.

Question 12
Are there any other issues you would like the BBC Trust to consider in relation to the proposed services?

You should consider seriously and impliment the points I have made about Open Source software, the pre-eminence of BBC engineering and the ubiquity of service issues. There is absolutely no excuse for getting this wrong. You have the expertise in house, and on tap in the public. Whatever decision you make, we will take what we want from the BBC, and use it in ways that we see fit, whatever decision you make. Your choice now is wether you want to be at the centre of the action or on the periphery.

Now it’s your turn.

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