Auntie gets Digital

Yesterday I watched the news about Lord Hall’s digital strategy for the BBC with interest.  After some scandalous months for the BBC and a rogue digital project already canned (which Fleur Parker looked at in her blog Can Anyone Spare £100m?), Lord Hall announced that the BBC was going to make its offering more bespoke to viewers.

He said, “People should not be saying ‘the BBC’, but ‘my BBC’, ‘our BBC’.”

Some of the highlights of his speech include details about the next generation iPlayer which will broadcast certain shows before the mainstream channels, and at times to suit the viewer.

Lord Hall also spoke about a brand new digital service, BBC Playlister, which would allow listeners to pick and tag any piece of music they hear on the BBC and listen to it later on.

So far, so good.  In this ‘any time, anywhere’ world I think it’s great that people can personalise their content and watch it when they want.  I also heard a rumour that you will be able to pause a programme on one device, and start watching it again on another – a really key feature for the modern day ecosystem of multiple devices.

I was a bit confused then, to read this Guardian article which suggests that if people are putting together their own ‘My BBC’ and therefore getting rid of certain programmes that they’re not interested in, then surely the licence fee should be reduced.  The argument was basically fewer programmes should = fewer costs.

Thing is, the issue of paying for stuff you’re not interested in or don’t particularly need isn’t anything new, nor is it a particularly valid argument.  I’ve got Sky Sports, but I don’t watch every single type of sports on it 24/7 to make the most of the subscription.

In the IT world, making something bespoke (where customised coding is used to tailor a standard business application to the specific requirements of a customer) tends to be more rather than less expensive. 

That’s exactly why TSG’s R & D department are working hard to develop products that provide amazing functionality for specific markets and users but without the massive set up costs traditionally associated, and at the same time applying knowledge around best practice that we’ve acquired working with thousands of customers. (Critical mass is vitally important in both TSG and the BBC!)

True, it’s not quite the same thing as paying for your TV licence, but it all comes down to value.  A user made a comment on the Guardian article which disagreed with the journalist, and suggested that because the proposed service made it easier to watch stuff they want, then that makes the annual licence fee all the more valuable.

Additionally, how many of us actually use all of the capability of the standard software that sits on our PCs?  In fact, how many of us actually use everything that’s available in Microsoft Word?  If all you want to do was to type documents, surely an open source word processing package would do? 

Well, it would probably cost less, but then you’ve got to bear in mind that you will be working outside of the ecosystem of a lot of the working population.  Also, I’m not sure that’s the best attitude to have – as Simon said in his most recent Leap Of Faith post, when you dive in and take a look at what’s possible, a whole new world opens up to you. 

The BBC offers a very wide range of programming, and we’re not going to like everything they produce or broadcast.  But of all things about the BBC we should question, making content easier to watch when we want, shouldn’t be one of them.