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Why the BBC's iPlayer is a Multi-Million Pound Disaster 152

Posted by Zonk
from the interweb-kersplosion dept.
AnotherDaveB writes "As part of 'Beeb Week', The Register discusses the 'multi-million pound failure' that is the iPlayer. 'When the iPlayer was commissioned in 2003, it was just one baffling part of an ambitious £130m effort to digitise the Corporation's broadcasting and archive infrastructure. It's an often lamented fact that the BBC wiped hundreds of 1960s episodes of its era-defining music show Top of the Pops, including early Beatles performances, and many other popular programmes ... The iPlayer was envisaged as the flagship internet 'delivery platform'. It would dole out this national treasure to us in a controlled manner, it was promised, and fire a revolution in how Big TV works online. For better or worse it's finally set to be delivered with accompanying marketing blitz this Christmas - more than four years after it was first announced.'"
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Why the BBC's iPlayer is a Multi-Million Pound Disaster

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  • by avronius (689343) * on Friday November 23, 2007 @12:57PM (#21454683) Homepage Journal
    Why would someone choose this device over any other?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Because it's not a device. It's a piece of software.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by avronius (689343) *
        That spoils the joke then, doesn't it?
    • Re:That's heavy... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by James_Duncan8181 (588316) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:04PM (#21454747) Homepage
      Well, the idea was that it would be DRMed and thus in some ways easier to negotiate (even though Freeview is clear text). Since they sold their excellent tech division, let Siemens gut it, then hired half the Windows Media team, it has become some hellish app that is so portable it doesn't even work on Vista but still has all the DRM goodness you might want. Oh, and there is now no Mac or Linux clients as 'no DRM extends across all platforms', even though they previously had a relationship with Real, who have DRM that does.

      Also, I have noticed that the BBC online management is now prepared to lie more - witness them claiming that news.bbc.co.uk has 'about 600' GNU/Linux users. Umm, yeah.

      Nice to see the freedom of information, public service ethos die...
      • Also, I have noticed that the BBC online management is now prepared to lie more - witness them claiming that news.bbc.co.uk has 'about 600' GNU/Linux users. Umm, yeah.

        Do you have *any* proof that this is a lie, or is it just because their claim doesn't jive with what you really, really want to be true? I'll wait here for your evidence...
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by thebagel (650109)
        You, sir, are now deemed Captain of the Failboat. Way to miss the joke.
    • Re:That's heavy... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JonTurner (178845) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:25PM (#21454895) Journal
      Why, indeed?

      It looks as though the BBC is the latest of a very long line of companies to learn an important lesson -- you cannot strong-arm a mob. And that's what the Internet is, it's a mob. And like a mob, it can change direction unpredictably and almost instantly if the self-interests of the individual members is satisfied. (think of how Napster changed the music industry... after 100 years of stagnation, it hit them like a heart attack.) However, you cannot force your standards on a marketplace. Sony has proven this time and time again (nobody, NO-BOD-E, wants to re-encode all their music in Sony's crappy proprietary format) and until the other companies learn from these mistakes, money will be pissed away time and again.

      In other words, if the BBC wants to play, they've got to come up with a BETTER way of presenting video, not just a DIFFERENT way and certainly not a more restrictive PROPRIETARY method.
      • by darthflo (1095225)
        Call me NO-BOD-E, but back when hard drive mp3 players still had limited space (20 Gig in this case), I did willingly and voluntary transcode a big part of my mp3 collection to Sony's atrac3+ even though my mp3 player would've supported mp3. I chose to do so to increase it's battery lifetime and storage capacity (when expressed in a number of minutes of music; not bytes) and of course, kept the original files.
        While I usually tend not to like proprietary formats, in this case the hardware's potential could
        • by Telvin_3d (855514)
          I think that this proves the GPs point more than anything. As long as a format provides tangible benefits it will be accepted to some extent.
      • Re:That's heavy... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Smauler (915644) on Friday November 23, 2007 @02:59PM (#21455651)

        You are missing the point here. The BBC is not a company. The BBC has a guaranteed source of income - the license fee. This is not affected if it puts stuff online, goes and hides in the corner with regards to the internet, or whatever it decides to do outside of certain parameters. The BBC Mandate [bbc.co.uk] is here. If the BBC decided to sit in the corner and ignore the internet, it could.

        What I would be much more pissed off about is the fact that all British people watching television pay directly to the BBC, by law, and some (ie those who run Linux, Macs etc) are excluded from some services because of this DRM. People have _already_ paid for the content with their license fees (nearly $300 a year), that is the problem. The BBC is giving preferential treatment to those who have bought a particular American company's operating system, despite those who fund it all paying the same.

        • Re:That's heavy... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday November 23, 2007 @03:25PM (#21455835) Journal
          The BBC mandate you quote is a heavily abridged version of the BBC Charter. This has a number of requirements, including one stating that the BBC must attempt to get educational and cultural material to as many people as possible in the UK. I would argue that sitting in the corner and ignoring the Internet does not meet this requirement.
          • What gets me is that this is the same BBC that created an entire computing platform in the 80s as part of its educational programming. I, like many others, benefited immensely from this, but didn't know the whole story until fairly recently. It never occurred to me to wonder /why/ it was called the BBC Micro. Reading up on it now blows my mind.

            The best they can manage now is GCSE Bitesize and iPlayer. Not. Good. Enough.
        • by Belial6 (794905)
          "The BBC is giving preferential treatment to those who have bought a particular American company's operating system"

          I have often pondered the idea that Americans might do the world some good by being even bigger jack asses than usual. If the rest of the world abandoned MS, they would not survive here in the states either. That being the case, I how long it would take for, say the British government, to abandon Windows if every time they turned around, Americans were calling them their "Bitch". Consist
        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          The BBC is not a company. The BBC has a guaranteed source of income - the license fee.

          Guaranteed ... for the moment.

          'Auntie' (as the Beeb are often nicknamed here, in memory of innumerable pimps, ponces and back-street abortionists), is very well aware that the license fee is unpopular and may not continue indefinitely.

          is the fact that all British people watching television pay directly to the BBC, by law,

          You do not pay the license fee for watching television. You pay the license fee for possession of equip

  • by Marcus Green (34723) on Friday November 23, 2007 @12:59PM (#21454701) Homepage
    "It's an often lamented fact that the BBC wiped hundreds of 1960s episodes of its era-defining music show Top of the Pops, including early Beatles performances, and many other popular programmes."

    At a time when video tape was very expensive and it made sense to re-use the tape rather than loading a huge amount onto the cost of each apparently ephemeral program. This "lamented fact" seems to be utterly irrelevent to the main "story" that the Register is reporting, but it does add a nice up front negative spin to everything.
    • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:35PM (#21454967)
      At a time when video tape was very expensive and it made sense to re-use the tape rather than loading a huge amount onto the cost of each apparently ephemeral program. This "lamented fact" seems to be utterly irrelevent to the main "story" that the Register is reporting, but it does add a nice up front negative spin to everything.

      There is some truth to this. Even in the USA, similar practices were followed. NBC saw no value in keeping copies of "The Tonight Show". I don't know the numbers, but a large amount of Johnny Carson's early years as host are gone forever because NBC reused the tapes.

      However, it's worth noting that this was not an isolated practice and the BBC is well worth criticizing for its poor judgment at the time. They also routinely wiped audio tapes of BBC radio performances that were recorded uniquely for the BBC. In the 1960s the BBC had limits on how many records it could play on the air, so to get more music on the air, popular artists such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and so on would appear on BBC programs like Top Gear and record special versions of their songs for radio broadcast. This also provided an opportunity for the artists to record cover versions of songs they liked, many of which were never recorded for release by these bands. The Beatles easily recorded over 30 songs for BBC radio that they never recorded anywhere else. Audio tape was fairly cheap at the time, certainly a lot cheaper than video tape, yet the BBC still wiped it. It wasn't until around 1966 that they finally saw some value in keeping tapes of these special recordings. It was only through the work of fans who taped shows on primitive recorders and collectors of BBC radio transcription discs that many performances were preserved (albeit in poor sound quality) that would otherwise have been lost forever. Even into the 1970s, the BBC was routinely still wiping video tapes and several Dr. Who episodes exist only because some fan with access to primitive video recording equipment was able to make a copy of the show at the time it was broadcast. Let's not cut the BBC too much slack as they have shown consistently poor judgment over the years about what to keep and what to get rid of.
      • by Tim Browse (9263)

        Let's not cut the BBC too much slack as they have shown consistently poor judgment over the years about what to keep and what to get rid of.

        Taping over Top Gear? Sounds like fecking excellent judgment to me!

      • In the case of Reality TV shows they would be doing everyone a favour by recording over them
      • by pbhj (607776)
        >>> "It was only through the work of fans who taped shows on primitive recorders and ..."

        Presumably those fans were prosecuted and the recordings destroyed as recording from TV for anything other than "time-shifting" remains copyright infringement in the UK.
    • A load of early filmstock and programs from the bbc in the fifties and sixties was destroyed when the bbc's storage vaults flooded.

      I can't seem to find a web reference, but David Attenborough discusses it, and some of the resultant problems in his autobiography 'life on air'.
    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday November 23, 2007 @02:22PM (#21455335) Homepage Journal

      "It's an often lamented fact that the BBC wiped hundreds of 1960s episodes of its era-defining music show Top of the Pops, including early Beatles performances, and many other popular programmes."

      At a time when video tape was very expensive and it made sense to re-use the tape rather than loading a huge amount onto the cost of each apparently ephemeral program. This "lamented fact" seems to be utterly irrelevent to the main "story" that the Register is reporting, but it does add a nice up front negative spin to everything.
      And they had no problem reintegrating to their collection the bits that were recorded by individuals on these very expensive tapes.
      And now they're doing everything they can to make sure that we can't save the content that they don't bother to archive safely!

      Copying saves content. That was the lesson to learn, and they are selling out rather than applying it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      It wasn't just that tape was expensive (it was cheap compared to the total cost of producing a program). The BBC had no central archives back then. Everything had to be stored by the department responsible for creating it. This is directly relevant to the article, since the iPlayer was part of an effort to digitise both distribution and archiving of material. The fact that the BBC destroyed a lot of (what is now seen as) culturally significant content before they had proper archives is, in part, motivat
  • Warnings? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zelos (1050172) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:00PM (#21454707)
    the iPlayer's Kontiki P2P system is distributing programming on the BBC's behalf - via their bandwidth

    I hope they're going to put very clear warnings that the iPlayer uses your bandwidth (and CPU time and memory) even when you're not watching video, or there are going to be a lot of complaints from people who exceed their bandwidth limits.
    • Indeed, a large number of people in my college have been fined £40-50 for going significantly over bandwidth limits, 20gig uploads etc..
    • Cat got your tongue? (something important seems to be missing from your comment ... like the body or the subject!)
    • It's covered in the iPlayer Terms and Conditions, which you agree to when registering for the iPlayer service. It's also included in the FAQ section.

      You agree:

      * to not download or attempt to download the BBC Content if you are outside the UK;
      * that you are responsible for paying all expenses that you may incur in connection with your access to and use of BBC iPlayer including your internet service provider charges and any excess charges to that provider if you have a cap on downloads and/or up

  • if only (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oliverthered (187439) <oliverthered@hotma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:00PM (#21454709) Journal
    If only they had spent those 4 years getting Dream [google.co.uk] working so that they weren't tied to Windows.
    • by erlehmann (1045500) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:33PM (#21454953)
      ... and there won't ever be.

      consider this: in traditional crypto Andy wants to send Bobby a message. Evey wants to decipher it, therefore she needs some kind of key. now in DRM, Bobby and Evey are the same person. BUSTED.

      yeah, it's copypasta, i know. but it had to be said.
      • ... and there won't ever be.

        consider this: in traditional crypto Andy wants to send Bobby a message. Evey wants to decipher it, therefore she needs some kind of key. now in DRM, Bobby and Evey are the same person. BUSTED.

        yeah, it's copypasta, i know. but it had to be said.

        In traditional Crypto, you're missing persons with names starting in C and D ;-( ...pretty sure you ought to alternate male and female names too... or is that just hurricanes?

      • didn't DVD John reverse engineer Apples DRM [google.co.uk] and offer to sell it, efectivly making it open.

        So there already exists an Open DRM system.
  • I really liked some of the BBC programs that were broadcast here in Germany in the 70th and 80th.

    I would gladly pay for them, If I could get them in some way, but the whole internet distribution seems to be planned UK only, at least it was that way when I investigated a few weeks back.

    • 70th and 80th? Man, you guys have long months.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Hey! Dude'th can't help if they got a lithp. Don't take the pith!
        • by aix tom (902140)
          Hmmmm... Maybe thath why at the end of the monthth there is never any money lefth. I meant seventies / eighties and got mixed up it seems.... eehh.. I mean seemth.
  • by Cheesey (70139) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:11PM (#21454783)
    You can get a TV licence discount if you have a black and white TV, or if you are registered blind.

    How about a discount for everyone who is either unable or unwilling to receive the iPlayer service?

    Since they have deliberately locked the service away from a percentage of the viewers, it seems only fair to offer a discount to those people. (I wonder how many WinXP users would also decide that a discount was preferable to access to the iPlayer service?)
    • by caluml (551744)

      How about a discount for everyone who is either unable or unwilling to receive the iPlayer service?

      No, that's not how taxes* work. Hmm, I've got private health insurance - I'll stop paying NI contributions. I don't approve of the war in Iraq - I'll not pay the proportion of my Income Tax that goes on military spending.
      I'm not going to/won't be able to watch iPlayer stuff - so I'll withhold part of my licence fee.

      *Maybe it's not technically a tax, but it walks like one, and quacks like one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by LingNoi (1066278)
      What are you talking about? You don't need to pay for a TV license if you have only a PC. Only if you can receive TV signals through a device (which includes pc TV cards).
      • by Cheesey (70139)
        That's not my point. My point is that you shouldn't have to pay for iPlayer unless you (a) can use it, and (b) want to use it.

        Perhaps this is a bit like arguing that the BBC shouldn't be wasting the licence money on game shows, digital channels, football matches, the World Service or films, as many people have done during the Corporation's history (without success). But I think it's a bit more like asking for a licence fee discount because you've not got a colour TV. Sure, I could buy Windows XP and get acc
    • We need a new Viewers Charter for lonely virgins.
  • Maybe it would have worked better if they hadn't made it so heavy. I think something that is several million pounds might have problems with cracking the tubes that the internets are made out of.
  • Value for money? (Score:5, Informative)

    by chrb (1083577) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:18PM (#21454835)
    The article lambasts the BBC for spending £4.5m on the iPlayer. While it seems a lot, it should be viewed in the context of other media distribution systems: it will be accessible to 10 million homes with broadband in the UK. Given the popularity of BBC content, I'd expect at least 50% to use it at least weekly. Which would work out to an initial cost per home of £1, or about 35p per user, which seems more reasonable. Remember that YouTube sold for $1.65 billion, and it owns no content.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by LingNoi (1066278)
      Expect no one will use it and still just download from bittorrent, meanwhile that 4.5m could have been used to digitise more rotting historical footage that we'll never get back again.
    • Re:Value for money? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Friday November 23, 2007 @03:05PM (#21455703)
      Given the limitations, you'd be better off buying a DVR (really quite cheap nowadays) and just recording shows on that - at least they don't disappear after some arbitrary time limit, you can move them to your computer, and your bandwidth isn't chewed up by the P2P application. I'm disappointed the BBC has used our money to pay for such a pointless service, and on top of that it's paying a known monopolist for the privilege of serving only a proportion of the population.

      They could have used this opportunity to drive the transition from TV to Internet broadcasting, but instead they're trying to make the Internet into Television. There are already many avenues for selling their content online, and they should be focussing on that, rather than trying to broadcast over the internet.

      PS Re the histrionics in the article - you shouldn't expect better of a rag like the register, it's very close to the tabloids in style - not news but entertainment.
      • by vakuona (788200)
        And if the show you are suddenly interested in is no longer airing, and you hadn't recorded it.

        I love my DVR, it allows me to record and watch my shows at my pleasure, but a real on demand service for stuff that has aired would be even better.
        • And if the show you are suddenly interested in is no longer airing, and you hadn't recorded it.


          Then the BBC's iPlayer will be no use to you, as it only hold shows for a limited time (presently 7 days) after they air. Which makes a mockery of the 'on-demand' part of it.

          Re on-demand as opposed to DVRs, I couldn't agree more, a real on-demand service would be great - I'd be happy to pay for it.
  • It beggars belief... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrXym (126579) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:18PM (#21454837)
    ... how they could screw this up so bad.

    I really don't understand what the hell possessed them to lash together Windows Media Player, IE, ActiveX and some proprietary P2P downloader. It doesn't even work on Windows properly. Just using a different version of Windows, IE or WMP from the ones requires will break the software.

    They could have produced something akin to Azureus 3 - a channel listings and downloader application written in Java that more or less ran anywhere. They could wrap a native control for video playback on Windows and let other systems launch with default system player for the content. Let users decide how long they want to keep content and which player / device to use to watch it on. If the BBC were paranoid about the massive market for bootleg episodes of Eastenders, they could even watermark the content to the user who exported it and prosecute them as appropriate. It means users can do what they like with data for their own personal use and the BBC is not burdened with DRM issues or supporting issues with all the versions of WMP, IE & Windows in existence.

    • ... how they could screw this up so bad.

      I really don't understand what the hell possessed them to lash together Windows Media Player, IE, ActiveX and some proprietary P2P downloader. It doesn't even work on Windows properly. Just using a different version of Windows, IE or WMP from the ones requires will break the software.
      Classic design by committee.
    • Or they could have just made a web page which linked to .ogv episodes of all their stuff.

      Yeah. That's it. No other work required.

      Since it's open for everyone and their mother to code for, anyone can toss together a browser plugin, stand-alone player, combo p2p/video player "for faster downloads", some java atrocity smeared with ads, or even another website which does a better job of organising, taggng, and searching for episodes.

      Let it go. Let everyone play with it, sink their teeth into it, do som
      • by DrXym (126579)
        I think there is merit and worth in providing a listings guide that also acts as a PVR. People do appreciate an app that allows them to subscribe to channels, and to set their disk usage. I don't understand the anal obsession with DRM. Remove the DRM and most of the reasons for using WMP, IE or Windows simply disappear. It doesn't stop the BBC watermarking content to track usage and abusage. It certainly should be be some weird ass OGG format - while I like OGG, the fact is that H264 is the standard going f
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday November 23, 2007 @01:42PM (#21455011) Homepage

    I can watch swathes of (DRMd) content running in Windows Media Player inside my browser, with nothing further to install. Total cost to ITV - the DRM key. Time to market: 0 days.

    Still, I'm sure a lot of consultants got some very nice expenses-lunches out of designing the iPlayer.

    • 0 days to market? Ignoring all the player side stuff, how long do you think it took the BBC to build the system that can ingest multiple channels of real-time video data, encode it to a distributable format, flag it with metadata, etcetera.

      Building a player is only a minority of the work in a content publishing scheme of this scale.
      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Bollocks, mate. In 1997, maybe. In 2007, you can do it with off-the-shelf workflow solutions. OK, weeks, rather than days, but not years like the BBC have taken.
        • Sure, there's off-the-shelf stuff to use as a starting point. But those need to get bought and integrated. This is like saying building a database is easy because SQL Server is cheap and readily available.

          That said, just think of the database behind all this. It needs to store accurate information on all BBC shows. Certainly not trivial, just for that component!
  • ... been spent on digitising all the rotting archive footage that is just sitting in a warehouse down south.
    • by LingNoi (1066278)
      Let me just clarify that I am talking about archive footage from over 60 years ago, not the archive footage that the article talks about which they are trying to desperately make money off before the copyrights run out.
  • While the article covers off the development and infrastructure costs for iPlayer (stated at 4.5 million), it makes no mention of video royalty fees, which I understand to be around 7.8 million mark.
  • ~$260 MILLION?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lobosrul (1001813) on Friday November 23, 2007 @02:07PM (#21455219)
    Can someone explain how this program cost them roughly 260 million USD? Seems like one of the biggest wastes of money in history. All of their recent programming was already digitizes, how else could it have been broadcast on freeview? All they needed were a few "geeks" to re-encode them to a higher compression tech (xvid or x264). Here's how you can make your money back. Sell your back catalog to people not in the UK. I really like a lot of programs on BBC (& ITV and a few Channel 4 shows). I'd gladly pay $1/hour for older programs and $2/hour for anything less than one year old. Heres the catch though. I demand something thats at least nearly DVD quality (720x576 2mbs x264 would be nice), and I demand to be able to play it on any device of my choosing, so no DRM. Or (wink wink nudge nudge) DRM that is easy to strip.
    • Biggest waste of money in history?

      That'd probably be the new Wembely stadium, which cost £778 million pounds, and have a roof that doesn't even close. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and the Stade de France in Paris both cost a fraction of that.

      Actually, I'm wrong. They sunk £779 million pounds into the Millennium Dome, which was open for only a very short time before being demolished. Complete and utter waste of money.

      Both seem like daylight robbery of the British tax payer to me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by laird (2705)
      I'd have to think that the vast majority of the cost is in digitizing and cataloguing all of the content. Imagine paying armies of people to go through vaults of aging films and tapes, often unlabeled. First you have to physically handle it all, so that you can play and digitize it. And playing it is harder than it sounds - a lot of old material is recorded in formats that can't be played by anything manufactured in decades, so you have to track down a compatible wire recorder, 8mm film setup, etc., and fig
  • by Budenny (888916) on Friday November 23, 2007 @03:56PM (#21456143)
    As you know, all media in the world and much shopping right now are funded on the BBC model. This model is that you shall be legally obliged to subscribe to one service, in order to be allowed to buy other competing services. In the UK, if you want to watch any TV you are obliged by law to subscribe to the BBC, or you will go to jail without passing GO.

    This is the standard practice in many areas of life, doubtless in imitation of this great British innovation.

    It is the norm in the US, I hear, for you to be obliged to pay for the New York Times, whether you read it or not, because that is a condition for being able to read Newsweek or the LA Times. And quite right too. One can only legally read novels in Australia if one can prove paid ownership of the complete works of John Barth. This is just as well, since otherwise no-one would buy them. Not to mention the general practice of supermarket management. If you have not visited Belgium recently, you may not be aware that if you are caught in a supermarket without your Delhaize loyalty card you will simply be thrown in jail. I could go on. In France, for example, a man can drive whatever car he pleases, as long as he has a Peugeot in his drive. Not his garage, his drive. And not financed - owned outright.

    So I fully realize that what I am going to propose is a wild revolutionary and radical idea, and fellow slashdotters, I am delighted for you my dear friends to be the first ones to hear it suggested. I do not think anything like this has ever been suggested before on the subject, and while I am aware of the revolutionary implications for the way in which we buy goods in general, we must start small, and start carefully, where the need is most obvious, and that is why I confine the present suggestion to the way we fund the BBC.

    What we need to do is very simple. We need to make this fee voluntary. We need to stop making everyone subscribe to the BBC, and instead let them subscribe if they want to watch it, and not if they do not.

    Now before everyone bursts into howls of anger, or tells me I have taken leave of my senses, which I agree is quite a natural reaction to a proposal to treat the BBC so differently from all other goods and services in the Western World, let me point out that it might solve a couple of the problems the iPlayer reveals.

    The BBC would no longer be drowning in a flood of money, and it would have some slight incentive to offer services which its voluntary subscribers wanted. It might even focus its efforts on giving them what they want, instead of what it chooses to give those who have been forced to pay, and now will take whatever they are given.

    Yes, it is shocking and radical, and it could lead to a shakeup of the whole of Western Society. But, we are only talking about one broadcaster in one small country. I think fellow slashdotters you may agree when you think about it, that this is an experiment worth trying.

    • Voluntary subscription television makers exist. Compared to the Beeb, they suck ass. So no, let's not have the Brits attempt your proposal.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      The BBC would no longer be drowning in a flood of money, and it would have some slight incentive to offer services which its voluntary subscribers wanted. It might even focus its efforts on giving them what they want, instead of what it chooses to give those who have been forced to pay,

      You seem to be under the mistaken assumption that the subscribers would be the customers, when they would in fact be the product. With almost certainty even "premium" programming will have plenty ads. And then if they can't make their Internet presence a money stream, they wouldn't do it either. Call me when any of the major US networks offer a service such as that which is available for viewers outside the US, paid or otherwise. In short, reality disagrees with you.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)
      People often underestimate just how important the BBC is, and the Licence Fee is an essential part of it.

      Take BBC News, for example. Most other major news outlets in the UK are owned by Rupert Murdock: Sky News, The Sun, The Daily (Hate) Mail etc. If it wasn't for BBC News reporting impartially with no commercial interests, those guys would have turned into Fox News by now.

      I'm not saying the BBC is perfect but state funded broadcasters generally have a positive effect when they are separate from the state.
      • by makomk (752139)
        I take it you read the news articles about him saying he wanted Sky News to be more like Fox News [guardian.co.uk], then? (Also, he complained about the competition bodies preventing him from buying up the rest of the media, and IIRC also claimed that he had no editorial control over The Times. *snort*)
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)
          I didn't read that, but it doesn't surprise me. The more serious BBC News sets a standard. The BBC 10 o'clock News is still very popular and I think keeps the others at least a little bit honest. Fox News couldn't survive here because it would be so out of step with what (thanks to the BBC) the British public is used to. Even the Daily Hate Mail has to at least allude to some sort of journalistic integrity and balance.

          Murdock is slowly moving in that direction, but at least this way it will take longer.
  • They have certainly failed miserably with this project; but I think it is worth noting that they are not the only ones. We just don't hear about the way private companies fail because their management is a bunch of narrowminded wankers, not until they go bankrupt at least.

    The BBC isn't a private company, but a public service. Their income comes mainly from the license fee - this is a good thing, really, because it enables them to broadcast programs that are not necessarily commercially viable, like educatio

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