Common User

Me rambling on.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Building a Digital Britain

Mark Thompson gave a remarkable speech to the RTS last month in which he talked about the BBC's response to "what is often referred to as Web 2.0." He argued that
"an engagement with user-generated content, user-recommendation and personalisation which goes beyond anything [the details of the mybbcplayer] I've touched upon this evening."

However he spent most of the speech outlining how the forthcoming BBC On demand products and their development might work alongside the new BBC regulatory regime confirmed in the White Paper. A new world of a BBC Trust, service licences and (for new products) tests for public value and market impact. Key to the thinking was that for on demand...
We believe that our Player – and, more broadly, our commitment to ensure that is at the leading edge of Web 2.0 – will drive broadband
It will encourage those who are not on line to go on line. It will encourage those who are not on broadband to adopt it.And within broadband it will encourage users to consider higher and higher speeds."

This "Driving Digital Britain" role is in stark contrast however to some of the the reams of articles in response to the Carphone Warehouse announcement. (what Ben Metcalfe is calling the "Trojan Horse of the Free Internet"). The starkest is a cheeky polemic from The Guardian's
Simon Waldman called "Freeconomics" (ho ho) in which he lays to rest this prevailing wisdom that content (from the BBC or otherwise) drives digital take up and whether the BBC's role in encouraging users to go online still exists.

I remember sitting in various sessions around Whitehall years ago, where the general consensus was that the government needed to invest in great broadband content to get people to sign up. This was, of course, twaddle. Tesco, Amazon, eBay, easyjet, Ryanair, Napster and iTunes have done more to help the spread of fat pipes throughout the nation than state-subsidised computer games ever could.

And, for that matter, the days when the BBC could claim it is encouraging the country to get online have long since passed as well.