Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

UK Takes Huge Step Forward On Open Standards

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the setting-the-example dept.

Government 67

jrepin sends this news from the FSF Europe site: "The UK government is certainly taking a long and winding road towards Free Software and Open Standards. The UK's public sector doesn't use a lot of Free Software, and many smaller Free Software companies have found it comparatively hard to get public sector buyers for their products and services. The main reason is that government agencies at all levels are locked into proprietary, vendor-specific file formats. ... The UK government has released a new Open Standards policy. With this policy (PDF), and in particular with its strong definition of Open Standards, the UK government sets an example that governments elsewhere should aspire to,' says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. Under the new policy, effective immediately, patents that are essential to implementing a standard must be licensed without royalties or restrictions that would prevent their implementation in Free Software."

cancel ×

67 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Expect lawsuits... (2)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#41858463)

...when companies do not wish to give up their proprietary information. After all, they went with a proprietary format specifically give them the advantage with vendor-lockin in the first place.

Re:Expect lawsuits... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860045)

Dangle a billion-£ contract at anyone and they tend to jump. Better to have half the cake than no cake at all, or worse, have that half eaten by your competitors.

Re:Expect lawsuits... (2)

dotbot (2030980) | about 2 years ago | (#41861113)

Expect lawsuits...? How can a company sue a prospective customer because the customer is not asking for what they want to sell?

Re:Expect lawsuits... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41862949)

They will sue the government claiming a taking of their product. this would have more weight in the US where there are constitutional requirements for just compensation.

It also would never happen in the US as certain leaders in the
free software movement decided to take political stands and the opposition parties would claim graft or some other BS and refuse to support it by default.

Re:Expect lawsuits... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863923)

This policy document applies to UK Government IT. Other people can do what they like. They aren't stopping you from trying to sell any format you like to anyone else, but they appear to be adding adherence to open standards as part of procurement.

If you want to to sell to the government, then make sure you comply. Or, carry on selling to anyone else you can find.

What is there to sue over? "Claim a taking of their product?" - that makes no sense. There are a hundred applicable policies that apply to any govenment supplier; this is just another one. A rather good one, I think, with a rationale that is hard to dispute. And nicely, it's non-discriminatory, because anyone can implement an open standard.

And given that a company that asserts that their formats are a lock-in would cause a massive turn-off for any prospective customer, can you honestly see any company stand up and make that assertion in open court? Even MS would have difficulty swallowing that one.

The danger is perhaps in the unhealthy value that this might place on the standards process, and incitement to subvert it.

Re:Expect lawsuits... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41868481)

This policy document applies to UK Government IT. Other people can do what they like. They aren't stopping you from trying to sell any format you like to anyone else, but they appear to be adding adherence to open standards as part of procurement.

If you want to to sell to the government, then make sure you comply. Or, carry on selling to anyone else you can find.

I don't think anyone said it wasn't in the UK. I know I didn't. I said it would never happen in the US though.

What is there to sue over? "Claim a taking of their product?" - that makes no sense. There are a hundred applicable policies that apply to any govenment supplier; this is just another one. A rather good one, I think, with a rationale that is hard to dispute. And nicely, it's non-discriminatory, because anyone can implement an open standard.

Yes, taking their product. There are people who are not self indulged into an ideology who think the proprietary nature of their data formats and their patents embedded with them and so on are part of their products. These same people would also think baring people from doing business with the government as they have for a long time unless they give this product to others without charge would be wrong. Now if the UK decided to create an open standard that did not infringe on the IP of some company and declare every data source has to move to it to do business, it would be a different thing. But the reality is, that is not what is being asked by this nor is it what is represented in the story. You can laugh all you want while those companies lock the implementation of this up in legal battles for the next 10 years where another government would have likely came and gone along with this concept.

And given that a company that asserts that their formats are a lock-in would cause a massive turn-off for any prospective customer, can you honestly see any company stand up and make that assertion in open court? Even MS would have difficulty swallowing that one.

I sure could see that. Except they won't present it the way you just did. They will present it as their exclusive process and data processing techniques is unique enough to give them a vastly superior product therefore a competitive advantage and giving this confidential and proprietary information to the competition would severely disadvantage the position of the products and offerings. And I can see the courts swallowing it up like a kid on chocolate pudding because it is the testament of all the IP laws developed within the country, through international law (treaty) and encouraged by previous practices by the government and the courts at large.

Re:Expect lawsuits... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863357)

It's called "the content Mafia". Guaranteed profits or "sue the bastards". Aka a "protection racket". Look it up.

(And they drive it even further, since they don't even sell you anything. You "license" it, and get a copy. Something that took absolutely *zero* work to create. And even the original is not even made by them! But by a poor sucker who gets ripped off himself. Yeah, that's how far you can apparently go: Get something from somebody else for a rip-off price, do *absolutely zero work*, and sue everyone who doesn't want to pay you for a copy. Even when freely accessible copies are already floating all over the Internet.)

Re:Expect lawsuits... (2)

Smauler (915644) | about 2 years ago | (#41862625)

What? Seriously, the 6th biggest economy in the the world is advocating open standards, and you say expect lawsuits to shut them down......

The point about open standards is that they're... open. They don't infringe upon anyone. That's kind of the point. Open standards don't need companies to give up their proprietary information. Or did you miss that point.... ie. the whole idea behind open standards.

Good luck with the lawsuits...

Re:Expect lawsuits... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863389)

You didn't get what he said at all!

Re:Expect lawsuits... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41868815)

Even if the prospect of billion-pound contracts doesn't help, a lawsuit would be completely pointless. This policy doesn't contravene anything done under the European Communities Act, and it has no bearing on the Human Rights Act, so if it does turn out to be invalid a trivial enabling act can fix that. In any case, the government probably wouldn't consent to being sued.

Not the first time they did it right... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41858501)

Take a look at I.T.I.L. another very good example of the UK Gov doing it right.

Re:Not the first time they did it right... (1)

daveb (4522) | about 2 years ago | (#41863159)

What? ITIL is about as far from Open as you can get. Intellectual property page [itil-officialsite.com]

Oh - it's for sale if you feel like buying it (but you probably aren't eligible) see an article on the "for sale" [itskeptic.org]

Re:Not the first time they did it right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41864563)

ITIL, like ISO 20000 are the worst piece of junk possible

Re:Not the first time they did it right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871285)

ITIL basically just creates a set of rules that enforces making decisions that would be the common sense option.

If you have common sense then, it's just an overly-bureaucratic waste of space where you waste more time on red tape than actually being productive and getting things done.

It's probably useful in public sector where, from my 6 years of experience there, common sense was actually far from common, but in the real world where you actually have to be productive for your business to survive and hence to keep a job it's of little benefit.

Thankfully it's a fad that seems to have passed in this respect too, whereas 3 to 5 years ago everyone was sticking it down on their job adverts in private sector, nowadays it seems absolutely no one is so does largely seem to have been recognised as the waste of space it was whose goals were better implemented by just outright employing competent staff than trying to shoehorn incompetent staff into doing a good job with red tape.

Did you hear that? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41858527)

That liquid splurdge noise you just heard was RMS ejaculating into his pants.

Re:Did you hear that? (1)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#41858651)

Sorry, I don't know Stallman well enough to know what that sort of thing with him sounds like...

Yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41858539)

And then they will back down once the posturing is over and they were given cheaper licenses from their current vendors.

Re:Yeah right (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#41859323)

Either way, the taxpayer wins.

I predict: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41858639)

I predict that a probable line of attack on this measure is to complain about this being an anticompetitive measure that throws out otherwise perfectly valid tenders/bids/proposals "unfairly."

Never underestimate private sector willingness to abuse public policy in its own interest.

And? (1, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41858675)

and many smaller Free Software companies have found it comparatively hard to get public sector buyers for their products and services.

Maybe because some of them have a terrible product and services? Just because your a FOSS company doesn't mean your owed the business of the government. Not everything is a "M$" conspiracy.

Re:And? (3, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about 2 years ago | (#41858765)

Maybe because some of them have a terrible product and services?

Or maybe it's not that at all? But it has to be what you suggest. It can't possibly be anything else.

Just because your a FOSS company doesn't mean your owed the business of the government.

No one is owed that business. But it's hard to get those contracts when the incumbent holds all the secrets to the document format in use.

Not everything is a "M$" conspiracy.

Because Microsoft totally hasn't manipulated standards bodies and harassed politicians who have pressed for open standards.

Re:And? (0)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41858927)

Or maybe it's not that at all? But it has to be what you suggest. It can't possibly be anything else.

Be kind to that straw man. He can't easily defend himself from your whipping.

Also, I never made any such implication that you claim I did. I'm sorry that saying that there could be any other reason than "zOMG ebil Micro$oft!!!" enrages you so much.

No one is owed that business. But it's hard to get those contracts when the incumbent holds all the secrets to the document format in use.

Well, you know, except that the EU demands Microsoft to give out the information for people to interoperate with their formats.

Because Microsoft totally hasn't manipulated standards bodies and harassed politicians who have pressed for open standards.

Just because someone has done something before doesn't mean they are some constant boogeyman in the background. Again, everything is not Microsoft conspiracy. Just like Islamic terrorists are not behind every corner trying to blow you up.

Re:And? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41859099)

Just because someone has done something before doesn't mean they are some constant boogeyman in the background. Again, everything is not Microsoft conspiracy. Just like Islamic terrorists are not behind every corner trying to blow you up.

Would you trust a recidivist drunk driver with the keys to your liquor cabinet and your Porsche?

Re:And? (2)

slowLearner (2498468) | about 2 years ago | (#41859255)

Just because someone has done something before doesn't mean they are some constant boogeyman in the background. Again, everything is not Microsoft conspiracy. Just like Islamic terrorists are not behind every corner trying to blow you up.

Would you trust a recidivist drunk driver with the keys to your liquor cabinet and your Porsche?

I didn't realise I wasn't logged in, oops!

Re:And? (2)

horza (87255) | about 2 years ago | (#41863687)

Microsoft have a long and sordid history of corrupting standards and getting into bed with politicians to ensure their monopoly. In the UK, Microsoft and the Labour party were in bed together ensuring a long and profitable relationship for Microsoft at the expense of the British tax payer. As the government is one of the largest suppliers, all other companies are then obliged to run Microsoft products.

If Microsoft can sell products because they are acceptable quality then good for them, but at least they will start to have to compete on an even playing field.

Phillip.

Re:And? (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41871315)

Whilst the Labour party is to blame for all manner of IT failings and bad technology ideas (ID card systems anyone?) I don't think it's the Labour party per-se if I'm honest.

My experience of public sector was simply that Microsoft basically bribe the right people throughout public sector regardless of the government. In say local government for example, this would normally mean taking the head of IT for a nice meal, sometimes even abroad for a couple of days written off as a "conference". The open source guys of course could never afford to do this.

It's not as if Tony Blair/Gordon Brown was in bed with Microsoft but simply that the Microsoft sales people are effective at targetting the many hundreds of IT decision makers throughout the UK's public sector and buying them over with perks and so forth. The BBC is for example independent of government and yet they too bought into the Microsoft ecosystem for a long time, hence the uproar about the iPlayer originally being restricted to devices that supported Microsoft's DRM (i.e. no open source offerings). They now seem beholden to Apple at the BBC however, so weening them off Microsoft with a public display of distaste over the iPlayer DRM fiasco seemed to do nothing about their susceptibility to single vendor favouritism.

The point is however that I don't think it's that there is some grand conspiracy, but simply that Microsoft have a very strong sales team in the UK with an awful lot of money at their disposal to bring in those big contracts through whatever means necessary.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41871297)

I think it's a bit of both.

There's no doubt that Microsoft (and other proprietary vendors for that matter) has had some shady business practices over the years and still now behaves in an anti-competitive manner.

But the flip side is that a lot of FOSS really is just fucking garbage in comparison to proprietary alternatives.

This news is good overall as it's the way it should be, but I do think if FOSS developers who write garbage think it'll open the door to them getting more contracts then they'll be in for a dissapointment because garbage is still garbage. It should at least open the door to some of the better FOSS offerings out there however at least.

For what it's worth, I'm not being anti-FOSS here (because yes, believe it or not, something being FOSS doesn't inherently make it good I'm afraid), if you look at some of the alternative FOSS tools available for public sector tasks they really are fucking abysmal, which is saying something, because the proprietary offerings they're a poor imitation of are themselves complete and utter wank but they're at least better wank than the alternatives.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41858783)

Or maybe its because of vendor lock-in as outlined in TFS.

Re:And? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41858953)

Sure, but it also might not be.

Re:And? (3, Informative)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#41859075)

And the best way to find out is to level the playing field so those issues are no longer factors.

Re:And? (1)

gomiam (587421) | about 2 years ago | (#41860807)

And the reason might be the invisible teapot orbiting Jupiter. Given the options, I will stay with the one that has real proof backing it up: vendor lock-in.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41862821)

And the playing field is not further tilted in favor of big business when multinationals lavish buyers with gifts, lunches, vacations etc.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41859537)

Maybe because some of them have a terrible product and services?

Having terrible products and services was never an obstacle for the large multinationals which have historically dominated government IT procurement.

Re:And? (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about 2 years ago | (#41863303)

"Maybe because some of them have a terrible product and services?"

You are probably at least partly right. The interesting question is *why*.

Might it be because when you are out of big contracts by default you lack the money to build a proper product/service?

I now most of the big usual contenders have terrible product and services too. With luck, sometimes, their products and services become from terrible to hardly beareable (and utterly expensive and heavily entrenched by lock-in practices) after some iterations. Given this it might pay for the government and taxpayers to allow products/services with better future enter the equation.

"Not everything is a "M$" conspiracy."

Certainly not. You have the Oracle conspiracy, the ESRI conspirancy, the IBM conspiracy... too.

Re:And? (2)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 years ago | (#41863603)

This is more about using open standards rather than FOSS companies. There's nothing to prevent any company, FOSS or proprietary, from using open standards. This way, they can choose the best product (and company) and not be locked in forever due to ridiculous proprietary "standards" that only one company can use.

I'm sceptical (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41858857)

I've worked in local government in London since the early 90s and its been basically Microsoft and proprietary software or nothing. In the pre-NT days, when network file servers were mainly Netware and there was a smattering of big iron Unix for green screen type applications you might have got away with a BSD based firewall or DNS server but that was about it. I've recently left and there was one Linux server in the data center - a lone NTP server.

The people that run these kinds of IT departments are very much of the school of thought that Microsoft = computing. They don't even trust Firefox and Chrome and are more than happy to keep running IE6 if outsourcing companies tell them that terminal server environment upgrades to support newer versions of IE are too expensive.

Re:I'm sceptical (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#41858929)

Government is little different in my part of the world. My company has a contract with a government agency that uses a Siebel-based case management system (if Siebel weren't bad enough, this one is customized), and it runs best in IE6, with increasing issues with the compatibility modes in IE7, IE8 and IE9. Supposedly there is a browser-independent front end coming out some day, but until then we are literally stuck with having to use IE 8 and 9 with low security mode and using Siebel's ActiveX controls (yes folks, it's like 1999 over here).

Re:I'm sceptical (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#41860165)

Siebel is IBM. There's a saying "you won't get sacked for picking IBM", same is true of Microsoft. At the executive level where these things are decided the choice of vendor has little or nothing to do with the quality of the software, they believe quality is something that can be enforced with contractual penalties. Their choice may not turn out to be all rainbows and unicorn farts for "we the code monkeys", but choosing from the market leaders is sound risk management from a business POV.

Governments have been using pen and paper to communicate for millenia, at the end of the day they want the traditional utility of words and numbers on paper delivered with the efficiency of words and numbers on a computer. The real problem is that they allowed the vendors to claim ownership of the new types of "paper" via patents, despite the fact they were already protected via copyright. OTOH, IBM, MSFT, et-al, didn't get where they are just because of patents, they had to fight the existing "vendor locks" put there by the paper based printing and archiving industry (which, apart from typewriters, is still far from dead).

Re:I'm sceptical (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#41861493)

Siebel is owned by Oracle [oracle.com] .

Re:I'm sceptical (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 2 years ago | (#41863639)

Buying a proprietary system from a single supplier is actually terrible risk management, where is your second source? what happens if that supplier goes bankrupt, or discontinues the product etc?
On the other hand, if every supplier has to comply with the same standards then it makes some sense to go with the market leader, as you still have all the other options as second sources.

Re:I'm sceptical (4, Insightful)

trewornan (608722) | about 2 years ago | (#41859969)

Nothing's changed and this policy is meaningless until the Cabinet Office releases the guidelines for applying for an exemption. Every dept purchasing an IT system will trump up some half assed excuse and apply unless there are some serious restrictions imposed by the Cabinet Office.

Re:I'm sceptical (3, Informative)

Smauler (915644) | about 2 years ago | (#41862735)

Local government is notoriously backward and inefficient in the UK. It's one of these institutions which is stuck in the 70's in terms of product decisions in some places. They've updated some practices but not others.

National government has gone the other way. IT projects are almost uniformly outsourced, on a massive scale, and cost billions because of private sector profiteering and inefficiency. The NHS database has cost about 15 billion so far for something no one really wanted. That's a few hundred pound every man, woman, and child of the UK pays each, for that project. No, I'm not bitter.

ps. I'm also a massive fan of local government and the nhs, and am very glad they are there - I just hate the things they get so obviously wrong.

Re:I'm sceptical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863493)

The NHS IT project should have been done first as an open format standard creation. Then each region could work together or separately to get a product that dealt with that format. Then a product to convert the current formats into the new one.

Once everyone is using a standard format THEN you can try making a network for the entire NHS.

They decided to do it all at once centrally because this would make it a job that would be far too big for anything other than their favourite outsourcer, so no need to tender bids and a nice little kickback.

Re:I'm sceptical (1)

Seeteufel (1736784) | about 2 years ago | (#41863541)

Yes, but that is changing quickly. I expect the UK to be less advanced in that respect and catch up soon.

and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (5, Informative)

ZG-Rules (661531) | about 2 years ago | (#41859031)

Hi,

The main UK Government Website is built in the open, using open-source tools where possible:

Code: https://github.com/alphagov [github.com]
Blog Post: http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/govuk-launch-colophon/ [cabinetoffice.gov.uk]

Disclaimer: I work for them ;o)

--
ZG-Rules

Re:and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (1)

twokay (979515) | about 2 years ago | (#41859649)

Thanks, i had no idea, very interesting.

Sparql and RDF are awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860027)

(Hey fellow TWer!)

Sparql and RDF are awesome. For some demos:

http://wiki.musicontology.com/index.php/SPARQL_Examples
http://data.gov.uk/blog/using-sparql-our-education-datasets

It's a very powerful way to answer questions in a generic way.

Re:and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 2 years ago | (#41860357)

Thanks, if I hadn't posted elsewhere I would give you a karma cookie. I particularly like how the introduction makes it clear it's a "work in progress". Your links put the lie to the anti-government hyperbole that flies like monkey turds around the internet, I don't work for government and never have, but the vast majority of government workers I've met over my 35yr working life have been involved in providing essential infrastructure and useful services.

Re:and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41860505)

FWIW, from the metoo dep't., the US uses Drupal left and right, which however you feel about it is exceptionally open.

Re:and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41861989)

As a British citizen, libertarian, and ardent free software advocate, this is a ray of hope that the nation might improve in ways that truly benefit the people in the long term. Comparing my own beliefs and philosophies with current British law makes it clear to me that I am a criminal (certainly in how I handle data; I refuse to live a lie) but, if anything, this makes me more interested in the direction law and regulation takes in response to the radical changes imposed on our society by the dawn of the information age.

Thank you very much. You truly deserve to feel proud of your work.

Re:and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863477)

.. then I built the network you're doing this on .. :)

Re:and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863509)

I really hope that this time there will not be a change of government that screws it all up. After the first integration was complete via the secure intranet (which, incidentally, was actively supported by the party now back in power), there was a change of government and the milking of tax funds began through a veritable invasion of consultants - and every standards effort was simply nuked.

As you may realise, Open Source and Open Standards don't provide the lovely lock-in that consultancies want, which is why it all had to become Microsoft, the most onerous example of that being the Government gateway. Consultants(*) were as thick as flies in Whitehall and surroundings, and many have fed enthusiastically from the trough without any intent on actually delivering (the ID Card project was probably the best example). This is also why Microsoft had absolutely no problem with destroying the ISO voting process to get its OOXML "standard" "ratified", whereas ODF had already been accepted by the EU.

As for "Microsoft" consultants, you only had to keep an eye on job adverts to see what was happening there. They paid little (think £500 or so), but charged them out at sometimes up to £1500, with predictable impact on quality..

So here's to hopefully getting some sense back into the system. The previous lot were only out to fill their pockets as quick as possible, maybe this time it's done right. It would be nice if the UK was in the situation of Estonia: almost green field, and a head of state who has actually studied IT..

Re:and www.gov.uk is developed in the open... (1)

Seeteufel (1736784) | about 2 years ago | (#41863543)

UK is also the leader in the Open Data movement, they could expand thatz to open standards.

informative 7a6orzfagorz (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41859377)

Does this include the BBC? (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#41859963)

Just wondering if this includes the BBC in its mandate?

I, for one, would LOVE all BBC offerings to be using patent-unencumbered codecs, etc. Of course, this could have a negative impact on license deals between the BBC and private media, but the BBC is big enough that I think it would win after the first few skirmishes.

Re:Does this include the BBC? (3, Informative)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#41860557)

I don't think the BBC is technically part of the UK government. It's autonomous in a lot of ways, although it's been a while since the exact nature was explained to me.

Re:Does this include the BBC? (3, Informative)

isorox (205688) | about 2 years ago | (#41862379)

I don't think the BBC is technically part of the UK government. It's autonomous in a lot of ways, although it's been a while since the exact nature was explained to me.

The BBC is funded by a license fee, which is paid for directly by everyone in the UK that watches TV. The BBC's budget is controlled by the government and agreed every 10 years.

It's free of direct government control, so for example released damning material into the Iraq War, and reported an accusation that the government "sexed up" the case for war, and that WMDs did not exist. The BBC was later proven 100% correct.

The event, partly due to a cock-up by a BBC reporter, led to a scientist's death. There was a government inquiry by a government stooge that found in favour of the government over the whole affair. This led to the enforced resignation of the head of the BBC (who had been on holiday at the time of the incident).

Since then, the BBC has kow-towed to the government and lost much of it's teeth where it really mattered.

The license-fee part of the BBC has also been forced to take on funding of the BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring (which were always government funded, although in the former case, editorially independent and trusted to tell the truth around the world by everyone from sheep herders to jihadists).

The BBC Boss since the Hutton affair, Mark Thompson, recently left to become a Murdoch stooge (his reward for damaging the BBC as much as he did). The new DG, George Entwistle, has dropped into position in the middle of the whole Saville controversy in a "don't you dare try to shake anything up" style thing. Amazing timing.

On top of the fear of government (especially when Labour and Peter Mandleson were still in power), the BBC's journalism has suffered recently due to a dumbing down of output. It's the same across the industry. They're trying to produce too much materia, with too little

Leading BBC journalists, speaking privately yesterday, called for radical reform of the BBC's News division, claiming it had become afraid of running difficult stories. "There is a general timidity about broadcasting anything that's controversial," said one senior figure. "We have got to have a sense of devilment and we don't have that at all." [independent.co.uk]

The BBC has amazing correspondents, but the culture at the head is the biggest problem.

Jeremy Bowen, a middle-east expert, was recently criticised for spending too much time in the middle east during the Arab spring. Their knowledge rarely makes it out on mainstream BBC News, you sometimes get some good programs like "Reporters", and the occasional Newsnight and Radio 4 program, but even the 1/6/10 doesn't scratch the in-depth knowledge of the BBC's overseas correspondents.

Re:Does this include the BBC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41863429)

How the hell can you spend too much time in the middle east, when you are the middle-east expert? Isn't the whole point that you are there all the time?

Re:Does this include the BBC? (1)

Smauler (915644) | about 2 years ago | (#41862803)

There was Dirac, a long time ago, that they were planning to use.... but that died a death. Not sure how willing they would be to fund another project of the same kind.

I think you're confusing patent-unencumbered codecs with license deals. The private media don't care how content is delivered, as long as they can control it. The people who control it aren't all that big players, as long as it works.

Re:Does this include the BBC? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#41864917)

There was Dirac, a long time ago, that they were planning to use.... but that died a death. Not sure how willing they would be to fund another project of the same kind.

I think you're confusing patent-unencumbered codecs with license deals. The private media don't care how content is delivered, as long as they can control it. The people who control it aren't all that big players, as long as it works.

Actually, I was referring to the Dirac fiasco -- Dirac died because the private media wanted a controllable codec with DRM bundled in and closed-source players to protect the DRM. Without this, the private media didn't want to provide content to the BBC. Eventually the BBC complied, and Dirac died.

So, with the codec AND the player being legislated to be more open, we'd likely see all of this go around again, but with stronger government support -- IF this legislation applies to the BBC.

I may be reading this incorrectly but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860347)

Would this have any effect on the mp3 and h.264 situations? Both are considered standards but patented and licensed out.

Re:I may be reading this incorrectly but... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#41862773)

The document isn't absolute - it specifies that exceptions may be made where there is a 'clear business need.' I suspect that might include things like 'half the population still uses internet explorer, and it won't play anything except h.264.'

it's a good sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860741)

when you feel like your "cause" deserves improper capitalization, you're probably an overly smug asshole.

Parliament video format? (1)

Air-conditioned cowh (552882) | about 2 years ago | (#41862501)

So I guess this means they will drop H264/Silverlight?

Ironic (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41862919)

Considering they released the policy document in a proprietary postscript-esque format... it uses PDF version 1.5 with Adobe-specific extensions.

Source: the linked PDF, Acrobat X Reader 10.1.4 Document Properties page

This after MS was caught hand in cookie jar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41878559)

The UK made that decision after it turned out that one of the "independent experts" recommending against freely licenseable patents had been conveniently supported by Microsoft.

Looks like the Brits have their own sense of humor, and this sort of shenanigan counts as "not funny" and elicits an "if you want to have it that way" kind of response.

Given the current balance of power, sort of a reverse Boston Tea Party. But then the perpetrators of the original party were not that long removed from Britain. It was named "New England" for a reason.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>