How the BBC should provide a digital public service.

Nick Reynolds has asked some questions – directly and indirectly – in a post entitled: Freedom? Open Source? Show me how!.

Indirectly, he refers to a myCBBC post on the BBC Internet blog which asks:

– should broadcasters like the BBC allow users to collate other material alongside BBC assets?
– and if so, how do we technically guarantee that content is appropriate for younger users and doesn’t cross the line with third party rights agreements?

which I addressed previously with this idea:

Ultimately though, in my opinion, the BBC should be seeking to get content from the public and then act as a “store and forward” publisher, along with contributing some of its own content into a Digital Commons. Imagine if the BBC gave you the tools to publish your data/content wherever you wanted to from a central location. You could upload your images/video/text/audio to a space the BBC provided for you as part of your “digital licence” fee and once there you could have a suite of tools available which would allow you to publish that content to any other platform. Part of the job of the tool would be to pass the content through a BBC stamping procedure – which would allow for the content to be tracked across the Internet. This would let the BBC maintain quality control and manage any legal issues. Maintaining an area as a Digital Commons would mean that anyone wishing to play with BBC content could do so quite easily with the full knowledge that any content the BBC placed in a Digital Commons was public domain – a digital public service!

Directly, in his post he asks two questions deriving from two meetings he had. I’ve posted a comment on his site answering these:

“Why should the BBC let anyone use its brands or assets for nothing?”
Once content goes digital then people using your assets for “nothing” is an issue you have to confront. Your content is beyond your control when it is in a digital state – but if the purpose of broadcasting that content, in the first place, is to build a relationship with your audience and provide a public service, then these functions are still within your control – you just have to see people using your assets as being a good thing and a way of building relationships with your audience and a public service. The key thing to focus on is that this is about your content going digital. It’s not about being on the Internet – the Internet is just another distribution channel. On the brand issue – anyone using your brand without permission is seeking to subvert your efforts to build relationships and is “poisoning the well” – your brand is important and to be defended.

“He wants people to be able to come to the BBC and know instantly what assets they can take away and how they can play with them.”
It’s digital content – that’s how it works. The Internet is just the part of the broadcast chain with the lowest barrier to entry for production and distribution i.e. very few teenagers have their own broadcast studio with editing suite and terrestrial/satellite transmitter but quite a lot have a PC with a webcam and an Internet connection. Now if your content is being distributed digitally then it becomes part of the lingua franca of the Internet. The questions now are 1) How you maintain a link between the content and its source as it flows around this global network and 2) How do you build a relationship with this global audience?

Which leads us to your questions.

How are you going to do it?
The key is to maintain a link with the digital content and through that link build a relationship with the audience. Which is exactly the opportunity GlobalDMX.com seeks to exploit. I left the BBC to start up this company as there is a win-win scenario here for content producer and distributor if they can be facilitated in working together. The alternative is the music industry!

And how are you going to persuade the people with the power that it should be done?
This concept is something UK plc must adopt – strategically it’s the digital equivalent of the Silk Road and the nation state that adapts by taking over the trade from the pirates and legalising (taxing) the goods that flow along the distribution chain reaps the reward.

Ps Andy Burnham’s pronouncements are to be seen in the same light as French governments in terms of a three-strike policy. No one believes such a localised law would survive a European Court challenge – but it makes for good headlines!

So there you go – get out there and build relationships by digitizing your content with a view to maintaining a link with it as it travels across the network – and where you are building a community around this content put tools and processes in place which allow the provenance of it to be traceable.

My work is done here!

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