some themes emerging

August 2, 2015 by
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Updated archives

May 8, 2014 by

Well, it’s been a while since I posted here (Twitter still winning), but here’s a long overdue synopsis of some of the things my first startup, Tornado, created. I’ll be adding to this from time-to-time as I get in touch with some of the old team.

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Webcasting radio = innovation

October 16, 2010 by

A big shout out to RinseFM who just got their FM license .

This is the second station I’ve helped with streaming that’s ended up with an FM license (the first was Resonance FM).

Having put Virgin Radio, Kiss FM and Classic FM streams online in the mid-90s, and then all of the regional Emap “Big City” stations online, it’s good to see webcasting acting as the catalyst for incubating, innovating,  and enabling new talent and embryonic stations to grow.

The great folks at Emap gave me this brilliant quote after we launched their stations: “I would recommend them to anyone undertaking a project involving streaming media of any size�?. The fun stuff is to flex at the small end, not the large, and see if you can flip the dial (Rinse get a substantial online audience, not that far off what Virgin Radio got in its early days of streaming – and at that time, Virgin was the most listened-to station on the web).

It’s a process that takes many, many years and doesn’t fit with any kind of funding or related creative support structure that we have. There’s definitely a need (I’ve helped dozens of community-led projects get going), but very little in the way of useful infrastructure that works without getting in the way.

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Invited speaker – “Broadcast Assassins” an internal BBC workshop for key managers

Quite nice to be invited to, albiet by this time most people should have “got it”.

Of course, walked straight into the room and met John Ousby…. should’ve known.

(apparently I have two brains: “a word of thanks to … Gavin Starks, a man with two brains and the real driving force behind Virgin Radio streaming” – thanks John!)

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In response to

Westminster Media Forum “BBC 2016 Charter Renewal” meeting 2004-02-25 at Millbank Tower.

Inverting the Model

Working at the junction between the macrocosms of broadcasting (TV and Radio) and the internet (everything) is always stimulating. You always have to assume that you know nothing about either. Both have such different language and thought processes it’s often a leap of faith even to communicate. The only thing shared is ego size.

If Web content creators ever felt 2nd-rate to newspapers, TV or print, they are not alone. I’ve been to many “broadcasting” meetings where you can hear the radio guys explode because the TV folks just don’t acknowledge them. TV sits in its Empire with its own eyes and voice.

A lot of people have actively and tangibly been recreating the TV and Radio “distribution” over the last decade. There isn’t a good word to describe it – Broadcasting over the Internet is just a thing you can do. Webcasting, Streaming, Downloading, etc. fall into the same trap as Broadcasting (Terrestrial, Cable, Web) in describing distribution technology – none describe the medium. Unfortunately the Internet does all of them.

We are, today, at a new junction point and our BBC could be its champion.

It has built one of the most formidable and difficult to achieve reputations in the emergent globalised world: that of a trust-network.

It is the “most popular content website” precisely because of its perceived impartiality. The existence of BBC online has helped people discover the “Digital World” – to look at Britain is starting in the wrong place.

Our “unique service” captures the eyes and ears of the world. It is “owned” by the people. There is no capitalist-agenda at its core: it exudes egalitarianism, fights governments, loses, wins, but cares. Of those I’ve met who work for or with our BBC have a sense they are protecting our culture. There are notable exceptions to this, but this is not my aim here – the global public perception is of quality and “moral purpose”.

So, we are faced with change. The BBC publishes vast quantities online, and is consumed fervently worldwide. This year will see significant change – placing live on-air and archive content from both TV and Radio online, in some cases with a 7-day rolling archive.

You can visualise a day, not very far from now, where all of BBC output from all sources is available online, including the entirety of BBC archives – to a global audience, for free. However, its competition and critics are diverse and growing.

So, let’s turn the model on its head. Phase out the license fee and charge an optional online subscription fee for BBC Online. 10m people paying 33p a day recoups £1.2bn per annum. For an online service, this fee is tiny. For the BBC it has considerable worth. Some lucky subscribers also get “normal” TV and Radio transmission thrown in for free by virtue of their geographic location, and its public-access remit is upheld.

Our BBC doesn’t need to change what it makes, or why – people already come to use its archives, to watch news, trust in the communities it builds, its transparency and who it links to. It forces greater accountability and could change “how” content is made. Also, the sticky problem of UK taxpayers subsidising the rest of the world for online content goes away, or rather, turns through 180 degrees.

It can be transparent about the money raised in ways that profit-organisations cannot: publish its revenue hourly, online. Give viewers a sense of what is being made, and what their money makes achievable in real-time.

Take it further and let people influence what is funded after the base financial targets are hit – publish budgets for uncommissioned programmes and let individuals “donate until the budget is hit”. Then make the programme and release it on air, online and on DVD.

If we want a Digital Britain. If we want to catalyse the world’s thinking on globalised media and its responsibilities: use the BBC’s scale and experience, and put its direction in the hands of its global audience.

Gavin Starks
European Chairman, International Webcasting Association

Entrepreneur and Webcasting innovator, Gavin has pioneered streaming
media since 1995. He is a founder and European Chairman of the International
Webcasting Association. After helping to build Virgin Net in 1995
he created award-winning webcasting company, Tornado Productions,
selling it in 2003. He has worked at Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory,
had his music performed, and his research published, internationally.

v1.0 Gavin Starks, 4th March 2004
v0.5 Gavin Starks, 29th Feb 2004

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