“I haven’t felt so good having spoken to a businessman for ten minutes in about 25 years. That’s not normally how I feel! So thanks very much!”
And thanks to you, BBC presenter Fi Glover, for sharing the feel-good factor with us.
Glover was bringing the miracle of Shoreditch’s internet companies into the nation’s living rooms as part of a mission for Radio 4’s One to One slot. She had vowed to find out, in her words, “what do these tech-enabled business zoomers do”.
We learned that “while the rest of this country hangs onto the cliff face of economic prosperity by its fingernails, it seems that many of these internet-savvy people are right on top of the cliff, planting a flag”.
We need more flags on cliffs.
Continue reading “Shoreditch’s sparkle leaves BBC presenter ‘tech-struck’”
The writer Toby Young tells a story about how the modern 100m race is run in primary schools. At the starting pistol, everyone runs like mad. At the 50m point, the fastest children stop and wait for the fatties to catch up. Then all the youngsters walk across the finishing line together, holding hands.
I have no idea if this is true – it may well be an urban myth. But the media class’s newly acquired enthusiasm for teaching all children computer programming is very similar.
Speaking as a former professional programmer myself, someone who twenty years ago was at the hairy arse end of the business working with C and Unix, I can say this sudden burst of interest is staggeringly ignorant and misplaced. It’s like wearing a charity ribbon to show how much you care. And it could actually end up doing far more harm than good. Continue reading “Compulsory coding in schools: The new Nerd Tourism”
How to fund a great BBC … without creating 142,000 new criminals a year
Not one Hollywood studio or record label company has ever incarcerated anyone merely for not paying for media consumption. A few years ago the entertainment industry filed civil suits against individuals, but received so much criticism it stopped. Now they target industrial-scale pirates, or push for milder sanctions such as speed slowdowns and contract termination.
To any reasonable person, prison is a harsh and unjust punishment for the action of not paying for media. This may be antisocial behaviour, but arguably less so than many crimes that receive a small fine or caution. A criminal conviction affects the individual’s job prospects and credit rating.
However, there’s a unique exception.
3,000 Britons a week, mostly in the lower income brackets, are being given criminal records for refusing to pay big media licensing fees. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 165,000 have been prosecuted in the past twelve months, with 142,375 convicted and sentenced. This amounts to ten per cent of all court cases heard by magistrates. 74 individuals have even gone to prison for non-payment of the compulsory per-household fee, which sees all funds raised going to just one large media company: the UK broadcaster, the BBC.
Magistrates say they have pushed for a fairer subscription system for twenty years, and wanted it introduced with the switchover to digital TV. But it hasn’t happened.
In the internet era, refusing to pay for movies news and music – being a ‘paytard’ – is advocated by some. But this is minority fringe view; generally as a society we consider not paying for what we use to be unfair. So how unfair is being asked to pay for something you don’t use, but somebody better off than you really likes? It’s this socially regressive aspect of the fee that poses all kinds of problems.
Continue reading “Are you a Nouveau-Reithian?”
The BBC has a real problem with social media. It’s delighted when something new appears. It slips into the patrician role that comes naturally to broadcasters – and especially the BBC. It can express childlike wonderment – Wow! – at something new and amazing. Getting beyond that though, is where the trouble starts.
Perhaps the BBC is haunted by the idea that people simply get on and use new communication tools without “Auntie’s” assistance. The viewers typically also have much more realistic expectations of the technology than, say, pundits. So we keep hearing wonderment, and advice on how get online, a bit like a slightly mad primary school teacher.
The gears really grind when something more critical is required. This week the corporation’s news flagship Newsnight – one of the last remaining TV programmes for grown-ups – asked if there was a “tech bubble”. Investment is pouring into social media startups. Would it all end in tears?
Yet having the posed the question, the report and discussion that followed were designed to dispel understanding and analysis. Before long it had turned into a gathering of the Unicorn Preservation Society. We were even told that only people who might want to describe the web investments a “bubble” were self-serving opportunists.
Bad people, in other words, thinking bad thoughts.
Continue reading “The BBC struggles with the concept of ‘tech bubble’”
Calder invites us to have a giggle, but really it’s not a bad list at all, and compared with the (cough) ‘futurists’ who have come and gone since, Calder and the participants did a good job. Alvin Toffler was repackaging these ideas, particularly mass amateurisation, many years later. As are thousands of Web 2.0 consultants today.
Read more at The Register
Richard Madeley told the nation how the Government was going to whisk away his computer last week. The BBC has promised to investigate.
The segment on Monday’s Simon Mayo drive time heard Madeley, who is filling in for Mayo, say:
“What a pain! I only got computer literate three years ago, just as I get wised up to it, they take it away.”
We don’t yet know how many car accidents were caused by the news of mass confiscations.
Madeley was following a segment of the show about the Digital Economy Bill (now Act). The sole ‘expert’ was Professor Lilian Edwards. Edwards was simply billed as “a Professor of Law” at Sheffield University.
Continue reading “BBC investigates Richard Madeley’s PC panic attack”
Big publishers and the BBC have come out to lobby for the controversial Clause 43, that part of the Mandybill that strips photographers of their historical rights.
Is that surprising? It should be, because Clause 43 is the section that deals with ‘orphan works’ – and according to the Business department BIS, the only people who are supposed to benefit from the unique powers it confers are special parties: copyright libraries, such as the British Library. These are non-commercial operations. Clause 43 was never intended act as a leg-up for tight-fisted publishers.
But here they are.
As we noted recently, Clause 43 gives new powers to use an image for which the owner can’t be found. And the prospective user doesn’t really have to try too hard. Effectively the state “nationalises” orphans and gives a free collective licence to anyone who asks.
Continue reading “BBC, big business leer creepily at orphan works”
BBC1’s flagship current affairs program was devoted to file sharing last night, and contained something to piss off a range of lobbyists.
Usually when this happens, BBC producers often conclude “they’re doing something right”, and pour themselves a large, congratulatory drink. They shouldn’t, because while the program succeeded in trying to be “fair”, it failed in its larger mission to present the issue properly – something we already understand.
Continue reading “Panorama on the Digital Economy Bill”
Conservative culture front bencher Jeremy Hunt is asking what’s the point of BBC3 and BBC4? It’s a good time to ask the question. In an interview with the Independent, Hunt queried why £100m was being spent, merely to attract “very, very small” audiences.
This is some way short of calling for the channels to be scrapped, as reported today. In fact, Hunt said exactly the same thing last September. It’s also less than the £172m the BBC overspent on three building projects (one of which is the £1bn – that really is billion – makeover of Broadcasting House), the National Audit Office reported last week. But it is a slow week for news.
Last week the BBC tried to pre-empt Tory cuts with a strategy review that committed to Reithian goals (ie quality programming) but which left as little as possible unchanged. 6Music was a token sacrificial lamb – and quite a badly chosen one. So Hunt is simply pointing out the obvious. The two channels are an expensive administrative overhead, if the goal is simply to have more quality.
Both channels broadcast only in the evenings, and only on digital. BBC4 is the corporation’s arts ghetto, set up to take the traditional highbrow programming away from BBC2, leaving it clear for cookery and makeover shows. While BBC3 is supposed to be … well, what exactly? The remit is to be ‘populist’ and attract young viewers, but since BBC staff rarely venture further north than Muswell Hill, it’s a strange mix of somebody’s idea of what ordinary people might like who has been away a long time, with the emphasis on the demotic. For example the ‘comedy’ has lots of swearing, to cover up the lack of wit.
There’s a funny echo from history here. North London BBC execs have great difficulty trying to imagine who a Daily Express reader might be. Churchill had the same problem.
In his memoirs, Anthony Burgess (who was raised in a Moss Side pub) describes how during World War 2, Churchill would try and engage with the working class. Having no idea who they were, or what they liked, the Prime Minister imagined that they swore a lot, so he’d steam into a crowd effing and blinding. The result was near riots.
Bureaucracy is the one sure winner in the BBC’s strategic review – the suits and wonks. It’s sort of like natural selection turned upside: in a changing environment, the most useless survive.
Mark Thompson’s review, leaked to the Times today, was supposed to review the Corporation’s output, and it could have helped made inroads into this culture, but it hasn’t. And although the “cuts” are trumpeted to fall on digital operations such as web and DAB, you know what will happen next.
Of course bureaucracy has been the winner of the past ten years – the public sector middle manager on private sector wages and perks is as much a symbol of the era as was the Victorian mill owner. The BBC is no exception. Whether it’s a ‘crisis’ (Ross/Brand) or an opportunity (Web 2.0), layers of process are added at the corporation.
Continue reading “Suits 2.0 at the BBC”