04 September 2007

The Man from the BBC Speaketh

I've been pretty critical of many aspects of the BBC's online activities, not least its dratted Windows-only, DRM'd iPlayer. But in the interests of fairness I think I should point out this very good interview with the man responsible, Ashley Highfield, in the new UK version of PaidContent.

I still don't agree with the man, but he gives reasonable answers to the main questions, which are hard but fair. Kudos, too, to PaidContent for making both the interview recording and transcript available, and releasing the latter under a CC licence. This shows that it, at least, understands the new dynamics of the online content world. Good luck with the launch.


test said...

Given the rights situation wrt the overall TV market, what would you do different, Glyn?

Glyn Moody said...

I'd do two things.

First, I'd make sure that from now on, the BBC had all the digital rights it needed to make its programmes available without DRM, and without time limit. After all, it's the BBC that's paying, so it has the right to set the terms.

Secondly, I would point out to all those owning digital rights in older material that Microsoft's DRM is already broken (as covered in this blog), so the only people such DRM affects are the law-abiding - the scofflaws will distribute stuff anyway. I would invite those rights holders to allow the BBC to distribute material without DRM, and without time limit. Oh, and I'd make it known that I'd be pointing out prominently on the download site that any favourite material missing is because the holders of digital rights regards law-abiding citizens as untrustworthy, and probably criminals (and maybe provide a few emails for people to complain).

If that seems too confrontational, so be it: I think the BBC has been far too wimpy over digital rights. Sure, it's a difficult area, but that's no reason to throw up one's hands in despair. Once upon a time, the BBC led the world in broadcast technologies; no more. It has lost its technological (and probably moral) compass, and for reasons best known to its management, just tags along with Microsoft's solutions. I'd like to see a strong BBC again, and the way to do that is to fight for its audience, not against them.

Caving in over DRM is particularly regrettable now since the latter is on its last legs: EMI has dropped it, Wal-Mart has dropped it, Amazon is about to drop it. If the BBC made a stand, I believe it could be the coup de grace that finishes DRM off. Instead, the current approach merely keeps the zombie alive for a few more years - and bolsters Microsoft's position in the content market.