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
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
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
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
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
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.
Feedback to gavin [at] dgen.net
v1.0 Gavin Starks, 4th March 2004
v0.5 Gavin Starks, 29th Feb 2004