The “Public Service Publisher”

Warning – annoying ‘yes-dammit-I-bleedin’-am-logged-in’ Media Guardian links ahead:

Floated at the Oxford Media Convention last week, an idea sort-of from OFCOM to found a new media-focussed ‘Public Sector Publisher‘ funded via the license fee. Vital statistics include a mooted 2012 launch, circa £300m annual budget, and tentative support from culture secretary Tessa Jowell. There are some interesting comments in the Organ Grinder, notably about Andrew Chitty of Illumina Digital and from Andrew Lilley of Magic Lantern, who’ve apparently put one version of the proposal together for Ofcom Chief Exec. Ed Richards.

Interesting stuff, but frustratingly – and I guess inevitably – short on detail. This is exactly the sort of thing for which I’m hoping SciCast (caution: unfinished prototype site) will provide a practical example, and I’m itching to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in. Not just on the practicalities of SciCast itself, but on questions like:

  • Would projects like this be easier or harder if there was a pre-existing delivery system? Is platform flexibility more or less important than existing infrastructure? (current guess: it depends who you are. Blech.)
  • How important is the asymmetry with broadcast, where additional viewers cost nothing to serve, vs. offering up web media, with all the scaling issues that entails? (current guess: if you’ve found a way of making dosh, deal with it – but with pure education projects that sort of economics isn’t valid. Discuss, 20 marks.)
  • How do you measure ‘value for money’? Value to whom? (current guess: ah, the £300m question. SciCast is getting lots of people excited, but so far few of them have any money. The same could have been said about Johnny Ball.)
  • Video costs scale downwards to a few hundred quid a minute, but below that you’re into seriously diminishing economies. How do you keep cost-per-viewer down, without exploiting people and/or building an unsustainable industry. (current guess: Hah! Got you! It’s a trick question: you can’t.)

It’s going to be an interesting year, not least as I find out if I have a contribution to make, or merely think I do. Scary and exciting.

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