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Originally posted February 13 2006 at 17:02 under General. 0 Comments. 1 Trackback (now closed). Last modified: 24 March 2006 at 01:01

PC Licence

Annoyed at the idea

Prompted by a Slashdot article I got to thinking about the idea of the BBC (and government—their attempts to divorce state sanctioned television from the state has never been entirely convincing to me but that’s another matter) taxing computers. This isn’t particularly new news; this stupid idea has been floating around for quite a while now. But then I realised that maybe the BBC haven’t realised what they’re dealing with.

No longer are we the “isolated little island” we were when the tax (and just because the government doesn’t collect doesn’t mean it isn’t) was introduced. Already there are hundreds of channels available (hell, there are even quite a large number available without subscription). But the internet is much, much, much bigger than that. The people they propose suddenly taxing no longer think in local, national terms. The web is global. And powerful (think being caught out by a prominent blog now is bad? Try facing an up swell of people who just want to watch streamed content subscribed to from abroad, or people who simply have no interest in this out dated “TV” nonsense at all). It’s also a community very used to subscription business models which is bound to ask the obvious. If the BBC is so good why not offer it online as a subscription service? As a note here it seems very unlikely that the BBC would ever consider offering just certain parts. It would be all or nothing. Which is a shame. They have a pretty decent news service and Dr Who, but other than that…) The answer to why not is of course the answer to why they’ve always been scared to be a true subscription service (rather than an enforced one), or an advertising supported service, in the more traditional media—they wouldn’t know how to survive in harsh economic realities without a huge, ready made cash cow.

Of course there are always arguments for enforced payment to a service you may never use; unique programming seems to be the favourite. Like what exactly? Other than the occasional historical costume drama I can’t think of much. The aforementioned Dr Who would probably have been resurrected much earlier by a commercial platform, given it’s insanely huge fan base. Hell, ever watched Horizon lately? Notice they seem to repeat themselves all the time these day—that’s where the adverts go, largely thanks to the close relationship with the Discovery Channel). Tomorrow’s World? Nah, that’s unpopular, they won’t make that any more. Wasn’t that the point of the BBC though. The BBC wants to be a commercial station (with quite an eye on selling their products on to the foreign markets, DVD markets, etc) whilst maintaining their cushy little cash flow.

Oh and don’t give me that commercial free crap. Other than the increasing carefully disguised product placement there’s all the BBC advertising itself. Basically channels have to run that crap every now and then or the schedule quickly becomes hopelessly messed up. And how often have you actually wished there was a break? Want to watch a movie uninterrupted—if you care that much you’ve already seen it on Box Office, or the cinema, or have the DVD or even grabbed a torrent.

The real problem with the BBC is that it has to large extents become outdated and is desperately clinging on to anything it can think of for survival. The answer is don’t let it survive; or only let it do so as a fully fledged commercial proposition (after all they have a massive starting consumer base who are, in a way, used to subscribing to it).

I’m not particularly happy with this post. I wrote most of it last night after reading the /. article and touched it up a bit just now. I think part of it is I can’t believe we’re still having to point out these things, and that the government still puts us in a position where we have to. Maybe part of the problem is that as usual those making these “decisions” don’t really have a full grasp of what they talk about. I think my main point gets lost somewhere though. The change from TV to online isn’t the same as radio to TV. A quick Google around the web tells you that the diversity the BBC is meant to provide is already there—if there’s a demand it will appear. The BBC used to be leaders, now in many ways their not so much behind the curve as struggling to work out where it is. It’s time for them to either find out, or be dropped off altogether

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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