No, I’m not there, but it looks like there’s some mighty weird stuff going down. On Friday Tony Ball, BSkyB’s Chief Executive, suggested that the BBC should be forced to sell off its six most-popular series each year. Now, on cursory inspection that would appear to be an unworkably daft idea, but on closer examination I reckon it turns out to be utterly stark-staring bonkers. Unless, that is, one’s goal is to render the BBC operationally unviable. And as the BBC themselves pointed out, this is Murdoch we’re talking about.
Next up: Greg Dyke has apparently revealed plans to put the BBC’s back-catalogue online, free for non-commercial use. Which at first glance would appear to be an excellent way of sinking a small fortune on storage, digitising time, and bandwidth, but in practice is exactly the sort of thing the BBC should be doing. Who says Dyke doesn’t understand the term ‘public service broadcasting’? Of course, they’ll probably use some whacko DRM-enabled Windows Media Player codec, but that’s a different kettle of (exceedingly smelly) fish. And what does it mean for the DVD sales of BBC Worldwide? Should I not have bought Blackadder?
Dyke also had some reassuring things to say about the need for a strong ITV. Well, he muttered the phrase, anyway. ITV itself seems so caught up in the ongoing merger mania that one doesn’t often hear such direct drum-beating from them – so it’s kind of Dyke to step in and fill the deafening silence. He specifically raises the subject of broadcasting fees, which as advertising revenue falls are a touchy subject.
The future of ITV is in some ways more interesting than that of the BBC, since the two are theoretically linked. That is, they’re supposed to benchmark each other to similarly high standards; which is increasingly difficult as ITV’s programming budget shrinks. But hey, now we’re back to the subject of the BBC’s competitive/commercial behaviour, which is where we started. And I’m hardly an impartial observer.