Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Public Service Broadcasting

I spent an interesting afternoon with a diverse range of people discussing the role of public service provision in Web 2.0 as part of an industry consultations in the UK.

Present were representatives of major portals, ISPs and search engines, as well as open source advocates and existing public service professionals.

The discussions were wide ranging, but the major consensus was that the role of public service should be in capturing, archiving and providing access.

As an aside, I received a very nice email from Hillary Clinton this afternoon saying how she supported net neutrality (I suspect that a few hundred thousand others in New York state received the same email, but hey ho, at least I got a reply...), and this issue is at the crux of access. The ISPs, and especially BT are likely to follow their colleagues in the US and press for tiered provision.

As someone pointed out, the Government could easily end up subsidising major ISPs and Google alike. Legislation is the only way of ensuring that we do not have haves and have nots.

On the issue of content, there seemed to be a consensus that there are plenty of tools from Democracy to Revver, but that the challenge is in getting people to develop watchable content and in liberating content held by institutions such as museums.

But the bottom line is that in the UK, unlike in France, where the Government has been actively investing in and promoting Francophile competitive products, and has a major archive project underway, very little will happen in a hurry.

It looks like it's going to be down to NGOs like CSV who have been subsidised by Narrowstep to open a network of localised and issues related internet TV services, at the same time training people in how to produce and make content available.

Meanwhile in the US, internet TV bodes badly for PBS, which seems incapable of adopting a medium that should have been made for public service provision and will soon face commercial rivals and a degrading audience share.

Public service broadcasting in the future is what the public make it, not what the government wants it to be.

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