Online TV Gateways

Published on 4 October 2005 in , , , ,

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Emily Bell’s weekly column in the Media Guardian.

One week I nod in agreement as she says something sensible, the next I’m ready to put my foot through my monitor as she presents something as fact that’s ill-researched and complete rubbish.

So her article on the BBC’s iMP (interactive media player) trial was one I was a bit cautious about reading.

It’s at this point that I’ll wave you towards the standard disclaimer at the bottom of this page that says that everything in this site is my own views and opinions, and not necessarily those of anyone else. I’ll also mention that I’ve no involvement with the iMP, and am not involved with any other similar, related areas.

So anyway, back to the plot. Emily seems to suggest that that the iMP is the bold new world for the BBC, and that the BBC backed service could be opened up to ‘host’ services from Channel 4 and ITV. The suggestion is a sort of TV programme version of Google News – do a search and find legal-to-download programmes.

Now here we reach an interesting question. Why should the BBC be the gatekeeper? Why should it fund the service that offers all UK broadcasters a gateway into a legal world?

There’s three reasons for this question – the first is, why one gatekeeper? Why is Emily Bell advocating the BBC taking on this role, rather than a Freeview/Freesat style consortium? Wouldn’t a group of broadcasters coming together to create the service be far superior, even if it does build on software foundations built for just the BBC?

Secondly, how are companies like Yahoo and Google, who are already striving into the video search, going to react to a large, publicly funded competitor? We already see commercial entities involved in the web complain (including the Guardian itself) every time the BBC dares do anything other than programme support, so how would they react to the BBC being the gatekeeper to world of online downloads? Or would it have to outsource 25% of it? And would it not – to use that well worn phrase – be doing exactly what certain parties – including Emily Bell of the Guardian – don’t want the BBC to be doing… i.e. doing something for free that someone else could do for profit.

But perhaps the biggest question is, who else will want to play with the BBC? We’ll take Channel 4 – a publicly owned corporation with some commonality with the BBC – taken as read, but would ITV really want to suddenly throw in its towel with a system completely controlled by the BBC, as Emily seems to be suggesting?

Well maybe, so lets look further afield to another large broadcaster. The one named Sky… Would Sky the gatekeeper of satellite TV, throw in its towel and not try to control the online on demand world as much as it would like to control the satellite TV world?

Nice idea Emily, it’s just a shame about the reality.