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TV to go… but go where?

Moving image is getting quite exciting isn’t it.  I mean we are told it’s bad for us but we keep watching more of it via smaller chunks off of smaller devices.
The fragmentation of media demand and supply supposedly putting the
consumer in charge – though I’m still not sure about this when interoperability is still a huge issue and when revenue models are still not proven.

Anyway, we got to some corporate tipping point now as IBM put forward six recommendations for dealing with this ‘regime change’ in media. If a ‘regime change’ is in the offing then Get Democracy is one of the things like youtube, forcing the old guard to shit themselves. Get Democracy is a means through which to make getting moving
image content from a variety of sources using different codecs and such
like bittorrent all so-easy. It’s quite cool. Rather than trying to
resolve the technical issues – Get Democracy seems to just present them
within a shell so the end user is unaware of the ‘messiness’. Their name
suggests these guys have an ulterior motive than just allowing the
likes of my mum to get her slice of Coronation Street when she wants to.

But
ultimately is their drive actually undermining a sensible revenue model
from emerging…? What’s this going to do the content creators? How are
they gonna get their share of that slice that’s flying around the
tubes? Quality may win out, people may find the stuff they like and be
willing to pay for it.  But maybe not. One of the acid tests is Ricky Gervais’ move to subscription for his forthcoming podcasts, after wetting our appetites with the first
12 ‘episodes’ free. I won’t be buying; at 95p each for 30 mins it’s quite steep. It makes
the BBC’s annual ‘subscription’ seem incredibly good value.

If we are moving to a micro subscription model for media out at the edges – then this can only become more prevelant in mainstream media.  Like pay-as-you go models on mobile phone.  But what then
of the BBC – the ‘contract’ phone? Can they charge you for all its annual content when you’re
used to paying for bits and pieces?  And what happens when you’re accessing that
content on mobiles and other devices?  Steve Hewlett in the Guardian starts to map the issues for a multi-medium landscape :

the Television Licensing Authority (TLA) – responsible for
collecting BBC licence fees – last week scotched any notion that mobile
phone and computer-based TV viewers might be exempt. It points you to a
piece of government business called "Statutory Instrument 2004 No 692.
The Communications Act (Television Licensing) Regulations 2004", part
three sections 9, 10 and 11. Which amended existing regulations arising
from The Wireless Telegraphy Acts 1926, 1949 etc and the Communications
Act of 2003. To cut a very long story short, any device that can
receive live TV pictures, whether or not originally designed or
intended to do so, must be covered by a licence if you use it for that
purpose. What is more, the TLA will stress that 98% of households have
a TV so they already need a licence.

and…

while the regulations extend beyond traditional
broadcasting to cover internet and mobile live streaming, receiving TV
programmes on-demand, or say as part of an internet-based catch-up
service, appears not to be covered.

If correct, this would mean if you only watched programmes on
demand via new services – such as the BBC’s emerging seven-day catch-up
facility, or in any way other than via a live broadcast stream, however
delivered, you would not be liable to pay the licence fee even if you
used your old-fashioned TV.
[my emphasis]

It seems it is not just hapless producers and broadcasters who have
under-estimated the true potential significance of new media delivery
systems – witness the growing rumble over programme rights – but the
government departments who drafted the new regulations may have missed
it too. It may be that the statutory underpinning of the BBC’s
licence-fee funding, rooted in legislation dealing with "wireless
telegraphy" from the early part of the last century, could be about to
come undone.

Hey, this is serious! Short of a major change in the basis of the BBC’s
definition in law it’s not going to be necessary to pay them for some
[all!] of the content you may receive.

And even if it was how could they police
payment?  With extreme difficulty and not only because of the technological issues – they would surely lose the Public’s ‘hearts and minds’.  And that makes me quite sad. Not only because a Public Service Broadcaster like the BBC is truly a Fourth Estate  – that I would contend doesn’t exist in the US because of the small PBS system and the ‘distributed’ and corporatised network broadcasters.  Of course the BBC has to adapt but it would seem that a Public Service Broadcasting service cannot continue to
exist on the scale it does in the UK. Like those rather
over-enthusiastic neo-cons who went into Iraq, we see a LOT of enthusiasm from people enbracing the massively distributed media landscape as the White Heat of technology that truly offers something useful [lots of cheap or even free content].  But we risk moving forward
without a plan for post-Regime Change leading to a fractured and fragmented
media mess which could affect the very basis of democracy and Public Service ideals in this country.  Of course we could promote and move to the sort of ‘everyday democracy‘ that Demos have argued for.  But I’m not convinced that bottom up ‘guerilla’ style political systems work… their are many such initiatives in North America that work well for their ‘members’ but such a system comes at the cost of a coherent sense of community that covers the nation as a whole.

So,what…?  what are the scenarios we see for a future media landscape….?