Michael Arrington of Techcrunch.com recently came out with the bold statement that “the BBC should be dissolved“. The BBC’s Backstage Blog has a bit more information. He was taking part in a panel debate, ‘European start-up culture: playing catch-up to the US?’ at the Future of Web Apps conference on 22nd of February in London. He claimed that the BBC’s activities were harmful to the startup culture in the UK, he specifically mentioned a project called ‘CBBC World’. His opinion was that the BBC launching CBBC World was harming the efforts of at least three startup companies trying to get into the virtual world space, that the BBC is basically anti-competitive to the open market due to being funded by the licence fee.
He loves me, he loves me not…
There was an article published on Techcrunch.com by Michael Arrington in January titled ‘BBC Announces?What?‘ which was all about the CBBC World project. Interestingly he opened the article saying “As much as I love the BBC…“, which is a link to the ‘CrunchNotes’ blog discussing the Top 11 sources of referral traffic to Techcrunch.com. The article gives the initial impression that he’s a big fan of the BBC. However, with the BBC being the 5th largest source of referrals I think he’s perhaps more a fan of the BBC due to the high amount of traffic (or ad revenue!) brought in by the BBC! ;) His comments at the Future of Web Apps seem to indicate that he doesn’t love the BBC at all!
The fee keeps it free (of ads!)
I’m definitely a supporter of the BBC, I support the licence fee model, the TV production output and the value I get for it, more specifically I like the commercial free environment it provides. I left a comment on the ‘BBC Announces…What?’ article at the time:
My experience of US / Canadian broadcasting is a huge quantity of channels but dreadful quality, the same is true of what?s available on the Cable and Satellite channels here in the UK. I just yesterday cancelled my full TV package that I have with Telewest primarily due to the poor quality of shows and endless repeats (and they thought it was ok to ?increase? the price for that?!!).
The BBC channels give much better programming than the commercial channels. Speaking as a parent of a 4 year old, the CBeebies channel is excellent as my 4 year old is not barraged with adverts every 10 minutes like it tends to be on the commercial channels.
I hold really strongly to that, the commercial channels just have a whole other feel to them, they may be ‘free’ but the exposure to all the adverts, including all the constant breaks is a bad user experience to put it mildly!
Ok, I know the context Michael Arrington was speaking was more related to online web application development perhaps more than traditional TV programming, however, I still think the whole ethos of the BBC is a positive thing.
Clarifying a few points
The BBC’s Backstage Blog writes that some points of clarification were made to Michael Arrington afterwards, namely:
- CBBC World is actually created by an independent company and not the BBC, so the BBC is actually supporting external developers. (Apparently CBBC World is based on this: ‘KetnetKick‘)
- Everything the BBC does must pass the public value test and is therefore assessed for it’s potential commercial impact.
The BBC’s remit is that at least 25% of production of their New Media (web & online) content has to be provided by external companies. The BBC are actually a great source of opportunity for many external companies rather than being a competitor. Additionally, the remit of working with external companies is something that is spreading through all areas of production, not just New Media. It’s a big cultural change that is spreading through the BBC.
Taking a good look around the BBC Backstage website also shows a great deal of interesting innovation going based around open standards. The ‘More about BBC Backstage‘ page states:
backstage.bbc.co.uk attempts to encourage and support those who have provided most of the innovation on the internet – the passionate, highly-skilled & public-spirited developers and designers many of whom volunteer their time and effort.
In the past the BBC has not always encouraged such “amateur innovators”, however public-spirited their intentions and products. backstage.bbc.co.uk aims to foster a newly constructive and open dialogue with the wider development community using BBC content and tools to deliver public value.
So I think Michael Arrington perhaps needs to do a bit more research!
Pageing Mr Arrington…
The Backstage Blog also writes that they would like to discuss his comments with them:
We would publicly love to invite Michael Arrington to come in, talk with people and for us to talk about some of his comments, as its obvious he has the wrong end of the stick.
In light of the ignorance of the BBC that Michael Arrington has shown with his statement I hope that he’ll take the opportunity to do so, I look forward to reading the TechCrunch article all about it ;)
[Incidentally, where is the TechCrunch article all about the BBC iPlayer plans? I’m surprised there’s not been anything written about this on TechCrunch.]