Posts Tagged ‘Nathan Barley Quango’

Nathan Barleys mourn Great Lost Quango

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Soho’s Nathan Barleys were in mourning yesterday after Ofcom chief Ed Richards abandoned his shape-shifting flagship, the “Public Service Publisher” quango.

Richards said in a speech to the Royal Television Society on Tuesday night that the “the PSP as a concept has served its purpose and we can move on to the relevant questions for today”.

Translated from PR-speak, that means the game is up for the much-derided idea. (It’s been called “Welfare For Wankers”.) So what is the PSP and why did it create such a passionate response from Reg readers?

When the idea was first floated in 2004, it was as a TV commissioning agency for worthy “public service” programming, with a budget of about £300m a year. It was needed, Ofcom explained, “to ensure that the necessary level of competition for quality in public service broadcasting continues through the transition to digital”.

The BBC helped shoot that down, but Richards couldn’t let the idea drop. The PSP was revived, only this time encumbered with Web 2.0 buzzwords – and in one of the most spectacularly naff policy proposals ever made, emerged as a quango for New Media types, with an annual budget of £100m mooted.

“It’s a new media answer to a new media question,” is how Ofcom described it, tautologically.

The argument was that the “market” for worthy new media projects had failed, and that British internet users were too stupid to find it for themselves on Google.

A year ago, we invited readers to tell Ofcom what it thought as part of its consultation process – with hilarious results:

“As a self-actualising media node, I welcome this redistribution of government funds from provincial luddites to new media ‘creative’ Sohoites…

“Cool Britannia lives! The creative industries initiative was good but didn’t radically empower young creatives and their 360-degree thinking. Unleash the collective wisdom of new media and see us swarm!”

“Let’s use those redundant factories to turn out polyphonic ringtones.”

Ofcom coolly ignored the hostile responses, claiming the public supported the concept. Senior BBC web luvvie Tom Loosemore was hired to strategise on what he described as a “visionary and transformative” project.

But after MPs savaged the idea last autumn, Richards had little option but to find a graceful exit.

“Geoff Metzger, managing director of the History Channel, perhaps summed it up best when he said that the public service publisher was a ‘cure with no known disease’,” the Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport concluded.

Yet even then, so many of New Labour’s new media types found the idea of a cash trough so irresistable, that the corpse of the PSP was still being given electric shocks.

“To really move on, the creative industries need to get past special pleading and on to a sound intellectual basis regarding the encouragement of, and support, for risk and how to measure results,” pleaded Lord Lilley of Webquango, one of the authors of the P2P 2.0 proposal, in The Guardian.

Having staked so much of his personal capital on the project, Richards now calls it a “rock thrown into a pool”.

MPs reject Ofcom's Nathan Barley quango

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

In a victory for Register readers, MPs have rejected Ofcom’s proposal for a publicly-funded new media quango.

The Commons’ select committee for Culture, Media and Sport rejects the idea that the creation of a “Public Service Publisher” gatekeeper would help the market.

The report is here, while the Ofcomwatch blog broke the news here. The PSP would have cost taxpayers £300m a year, with the cash going to production houses to create interactive Web 2.0-style concepts.

Readers savaged the idea during Ofcom’s consultation process. One submission to OFCOM urged:

“As a self-actualising media node, I welcome this redistribution of government funds from provincial luddites to new media ‘creative’ Sohoites… Ed Richards’s initiative ‘gets’ new media on so many levels. Let’s flashmob this bitch up to escape velocity.”

(This, and other responses are on the Ofcom site.)

MPs go beyond saying that there’s no sign of market failure, which is a precondition for the regulator to intervene. The committee concludes that the new quango would distort the market. The committee writes:

“Geoff Metzger, managing director of the History Channel, perhaps summed it up best when he said that the public service publisher was a ‘cure with no known disease’.”

The “Public Service Publisher” is a quintessentially New Labour backscratching exercise, backed by friends of Ofcom chief Ed Richards, who calls it his “personal crusade”.

The quango would be “a new media answer to a new media question”, an Ofcom spokesman told us back in March.

Unfortunately, the hastily-scribbled concepts looked less like the future of media, and more like Look Around You updated with Web 2.0 buzzwords.

The regulator gave the job of studying the idea to executives at two media companies Andrew Chitty of Illumina Digital, and Anthony Lilley of Magic Lantern Productions, a tiny TV production house. The pair recommended it start life with a budget of £100m a year, although this may need to rise.

So Ofcom’s quango looks dead – but new media luvvies are getting the taste for hand-outs. Lilley continues to campaign for new media subsidies (aka “give me the money”) in his self-aggrandising Grauniad column, for example here. Only he calls them “investments”.

Don’t expect him to stop.

Public jeers at Ofcom's Nathan Barley quango

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Ofcom has published the public consultation responses to its PSP concept. And they don’t make comfortable reading for the regulator.

The PSP, or Public Service Publisher, is a new quango that would cost taxpayers between £100m than £150m a year – handing out money to new media types for interactive websites, and other “user generated content” gimmicks. Ofcom loves the idea – and gave the task of investigating it two new media production houses who would stand to gain handsomely from the new gravy train.

Unsurprisingly, they thought a Nathan Barley Quango, or NBQ, was a splendid idea.

The public responses should be sobering, however. Most are skeptical of the need for the new quango, while many more are completely indifferent. And some are very scathing. Step forward, W Jackson:

As a self-actualizing media node, I welcome this redistribution of government funds from provincial luddites to new media ‘creative’ Sohoites.

Cool Britannia lives! The creative industries initiative was good but didn’t radically empower young creatives and their 360-degree thinking. Unleash the collective wisdom of new media and see us swarm!

If Tony had done this when he first got in (and I know how hard you tried, Ed) then thousands of people could already be employed – let’s use those redundant factories to turn out polyphonic ringtones.

Critics – like Orlowski at The Register – will complain that this is pork-barrel politics for tech. utopians. That this has no relevance to’ ‘ordinary’ people and their lives.

Well, I’ve had enough of that patronising rubbish. I’ve launched a post-ironic web brand – nar.ciss.us – that was created using the competitively-priced labour of redundant industrial workers. It shows that anyone can ‘get’ asynchronous java – even people from the North.

If anyone wants to brainstorm this – then twitter/IM/SMS/Skype/email me. I’m up for an ’emergent conference’.

Ed Richards’s initiative ‘gets’ new media on so many levels. Let’s flashmob this bitch up to escape velocity.

(more…)

Web 2.0 firms lobby for £100m gravy train

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

If the Web 2.0 hype is running out of steam, a healthy injection of public funds should kick it back into life. New media companies in the UK are lobbying for the establishment of an institution which could spend what critics call a £100m “jackpot” of public money each year.

The new agency, which Ofcom calls a “Public Service Publisher” or PSP, would play a “gatekeeper” role in commissioning new media concepts. These range from interactive websites to participatory games involving different kinds of digital media, such as text messaging.

And without Parliament so much as examining the idea, it already looks like a shoo-in.

The idea has the powerful backing of UK Telecoms regulator Ofcom, and the personal imprimatur of its CEO Ed Richards, who describes it as the centerpiece of his “personal crusade”.

“It’s a new media answer to a new media question”, Ofcom spokesman Simon Bates told us.
(more…)