After 25 years of watching the Murdoch TV empire unfold, the battle plan to beat him should be fairly obvious. You buy the best content – the most popular sport and movies – and raise lots of capital, and make watching it easy. Then you dig in for a very long fight.
In other words, this is the entertainment-business-as-usual. Wannabe telly and radio empires have failed because they bought the wrong stuff, were inconvenient to use or because they were under-capitalised in the long run – and typically it’s a mixture of all three. Entertainment isn’t an essential utility. It’s a discretionary purchase for households, and the market doesn’t tolerate inconvenience or rubbish for long.
But when the tale involves Rupert Murdoch, people will always look for diabolical reasons for his success. The myth demands it. A fascinating BBC Panorama researched by Guardian reporter David Leigh may give supporters of this view plenty of ammunition. It was enthralling TV about the TV biz, and must have been an eye-opening for anyone not familiar with the decade-old telly crypto saga. But for those of us familiar with the details and the context, the smoking gun just isn’t there. Murdoch’s telly rivals would have gone down even if nobody had ever watched a single one of their programmes for free.
Continue reading “Who killed ITV Digital?”
What happens when competition watchdogs lose their teeth – and roll over to have their tummies tickled? Via the influential chair of the Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, John Whittingdale MP, comes a very interesting story today. Whittingdale relates a conversation with John Fingleton, the head of the Office of Fair Trading. The MP asked if the agency had looked at the question of Google’s power in the marketplace.
Google has a dominant market share of paid search advertising, effectively setting the price of doing business on the internet for small companies. The conversation took place at around the time it became known that the European Commission began to probe the company, and its customers, in response to a series of complaints. The FTC opened its own investigation this summer.
“The head of the OFT told me that Google was a fantastic organisation, a fast developing company, and should be applauded,” the MP said.
The job of a business regulator, we hardly need point out, is not to swoon like a gushing schoolgirl delighted that a boy band star has swept into town. Fingleton had also offered his views – although a little more circumspectly – to The Guardian newspaper, in November 2009.
Continue reading “‘Google is fantastic and should be applauded’ – competition regulator”
Obama’s “regulation czar” Professor Cass Sunstein wants animals to be able to sue.
Animals can’t reason or express themselves, naturally, so the litigation would be handled by human lawyers, acting as ventriloquists on behalf of the animal kingdom. Think Mister Ed the talking horse, crossed with Eliot Spitzer.
“Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian-like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf,” according to Sunstein. The Harvard legal scholar first proposed the argument in 2002.
“This doesn’t look good for hunters, ranchers, restaurateurs, biomedical researchers, or ordinary pet owners,” says the food industry lobby group The Center for Consumer Freedom, which raised Sunstein’s radical “rights” agenda. In Spain, activists have already proposed that apes be granted human rights.
Continue reading “Why animals shouldn't be able to sue you”
Sometimes Ofcom, Britain’s media and telecomms uber-regulator, likes to agonise in public whether Britain needs a media and telecomms uber-regulator.
It must feel like a stag night in SE1, as the executives fly in expensive blue-sky wonks and consultants, and Ofcom gets quite giddy with itself at the prospect of a world without Ofcom. Then sobriety returns, of course, and it wakes up and finds itself knickerless and handcuffed to a lampost.
So Ofcom gets back to what it loves doing best: Making Very Big Decisions about What’s Good for Us.
Yesterday Ofcom published its second Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) review in five years, and while this one extends itself to encompass new media – such as the very intarweb you’re reading now – it doesn’t do much more than hem and haw, and fret about the status quo. This PSB review doesn’t dare answer the questions it raises, while leaving the biggest issues untouched.
So here’s a modest proposal.
Continue reading “Earth to Ofcom: They're our airwaves. Give us them back”
Europe’s most powerful quango, the European Commission, says it wants to accelerate a “single market” for online music, film, and games – and is threatening legislation to bring it about. Although the EU’s Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding sees the market for digital entertainment quadrupling (to €8.3bn by 2010), she feels the bureaucrats need to get involved anyway.
In a statement issued yesterday, the EC identified four areas for action – with the most ominous being a good behaviour pledge for online service providers.
Continue reading “EU plans to regulate online niceness (and ISPs)”