Play Away

February 7th, 2009

I’ve been bothered by the recent decision by the Competition Commission to stop the so called Project Kangaroo. My irritation with the decision is odd as I don’t generally use the existing video on demand services provided by BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Though I do like marsupial based technological developments.

BBC iPlayer seems to work fine and Channel 4 OD  requires too much software  running in the background. I spend a fair mount of my time trying to avoid ITV so the prospect of watching it on the Internet fills me with a bit of dread.

I think the thing that has annoyed me about the decision is the element of condescension within it. They believe the public (us) will benefit from having to visit three different sites to watch UK TV. The market will, apparently, provide us with a better service through making the whole process more difficult.

An analogy would be to say that manufacturers are restricting competition through allowing us to watch more than one channel on our TVs. The decision appears to fly in the face of all moves towards convergence.

I think there is an interesting parallel with the decision to restrict the BBC from developing local news services. The decision was apparently taken in order to prevent local news providers being subject to unfair competition from a state funded organisation. This ignores the fact that the majority of local news providers are a little bit crap. Maybe the injection of competition would force them to raise their game.

We frequently forget that the BBC is ours. We pay for it. We should use it to provide services that improve the quality of our lives. It should not be considered a publicly funded private organisation. We can use it to make developments that raise the bar for other organisations.

The iPlayer itself has set a standard that other organisations are trying to meet. This standard has been set both nationally and internationally and I think we should be proud of that.

In the judgement the Competition Commission seem to have ignored one vital factor to the video on demand market (well they did in the press release, I didn’t read the whole report). The current market is made up of more than the established media providers. Both Sky and Virgin prompted this investigation and to be honest you’d expect them to moan about it.

The competition for providing media services is really coming from the likes of Bittorrent. It is a simple process to find TV you’ve missed for free and download it. Usually with the adverts removed.

It is this problem that mainstream media providers need to address rather than their own protectionism. Kangaroo would have provided a platform with a revenue stream whilst giving us something that we want.

It’s a short sighted decision and one I’m convinced will be overturned.


Posted in Media, Politics | Comments (0)

Leave a Reply