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BBC Signs 'Memo of Understanding' With Microsoft

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the buddies-from-across-the-pond dept.

190

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has signed a memorandum of understanding with the BBC for 'strategic partnerships' in the development of next-generation digital broadcasting techniques. They are also speaking to other companies such as Real and Linden Labs. Windows Media Centre platform, Windows Live Messenger application and the Xbox 360 console have all been suggested as potential gateways for BBC content. It is unclear how this impacts on existing BBC research projects such as Dirac, although it is understood that the BBC would face heavy criticism if its content was only available via Microsoft products."

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190 comments

I wonder what the BBC will get from this (2, Insightful)

chrisbtoo (41029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16246933)

It seems to me that Microsoft are the big winner here. Their attempts to enter the TV market have failed several times, whereas the BBC has been at the forefront of digital TV R&D for years.

Dirac... (3, Funny)

jginspace (678908) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247033)

It is unclear how this impacts on existing BBC research projects such as Dirac...

Is this the Dirac project that's being run by the Duke Nukem team?

Re:Dirac... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247305)

Is this the Dirac project that's being run by the Duke Nukem team?

I fail to see the relevance of this comment. Dirac is out there and has been for a long time, though the speed isn't quite there yet. You can download version 0.6 from the official web site [sourceforge.net]. Hell, it's even available in the Ubuntu repositories.

I'd welcome WMA (2, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247037)

The sooner the BBC move to a format that isn't RealVideo the better; even WMA would be preferable to RA.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (4, Informative)

mallardtheduck (760315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247129)

Most BBC content is available in both Real and Windows Media formats.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248029)

I understand why people have always bashed WMV and RV... but these days, the codecs are very good at high bitrates.

The first time you watch an avi --> real media variable bitrate reencode (at half the size) you might be in for a surprise.

Go find a torrent & do your own comparison.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248617)

What about xvid asd (standard xvid using asd parameters) tv shows which are normally ~350mb per 43 minutes become more like 120mb with practically no loss in quality.
Watch out for those on your bittorrent searches.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (2, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248423)

Most BBC content is available in both Real and Windows Media formats.
Oh great. So either I install a crappy Real player or a crappy Microsoft player. Or a crappy CODEC for Quicktime that screws up every other app and/or freezes my machine for 30 seconds every time I open a real/windows media file.

Screw all this, the BBC should simply use the real current standard: H.264 with AAC audio. And don't tell me "that's an Apple-only thing" just because Apple happens to like H.264/AAC.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (2, Informative)

BiggyP (466507) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247271)

This is horrible news, how exactly is Microsoft DRM a better option than cross platform Real formats? At least Real provide a linux compatible player.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247725)

(In my best Kayne West voice) "The BBC doesn't care about Linux people"

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1)

BiggyP (466507) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248779)

Kayne west? sorry, that one missed me completely, care to explain?

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248893)

http://www.thesuperficial.com/videos/kanye_katrina .wmv [thesuperficial.com]

A video is worth several thousand words...

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1)

ewl1217 (922107) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249819)

(In my best Kayne West voice) "The BBC doesn't care about Linux people"
http://www.thesuperficial.com/videos/kanye_katri na .wmv [thesuperficial.com]
Obviously you don't either... stupid Windows Media...

Re:I'd welcome WMA (2, Insightful)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248291)

He didn't say DRM. The BBC would have no interest in DRM anyway.

We're closer to having FOSS wmv3 support than we are RM support. Either way, it doesn't matter, RM sucks.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247891)

I suppose you're right..... even WMA is better than RA, but that's really like saying the frying pan is better than the fire.

The BBC need to get off their asses and get their video content moved over to a format that is properly cross platform- at the very least Flash video; I know there is trouble with Linux at the moment, but Linux Flash Player v9 should be ready soon.

Re:I'd welcome WMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16249789)

Flash is a proprietry container format, it's a useless requirement. I'm sure if the BBC flung 10% of the director general's £620,000 a year salary at the vlc or mplayer developers they'd create a custom cross-platform version of their players. Also if chatshow host would surrender 1% of his £18,000,000 contract to mplayer or vlc projects...

Which provides the better value for money to the licence payer?

Re:I'd welcome WMA (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247967)

The sooner the BBC move to a format that isn't RealVideo the better; even WMA would be preferable to RA.
It'd be quite preferable to them too - AIUI the amount of money the BBC has to pay RealMedia has become quite a concern to people in the organisation (AIUI it's a rate per stream, so as the streams have become more popular the payout to Real has gone up significantly).

memo contents (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247079)

"We, the BBC, understand that all Microsoft products--past, present, and future--are and always shall be 100% bug free. Any problems anyone encounters with them will be attributed to faulty hardware and/or third party software."

Firefox Ad (1)

bfree (113420) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247117)

So sitting here with an un-extended freefox (well it's still called firefox for now) Debian-1.5.dfsg+1.5.0.7-1 the zdnet article is blocked out by a "click here to get this plugin" box. Thankfully I get some gifs instead in konqueror where I can read the story just fine. And they coplain when people block ads? Muppets!

Re:Firefox Ad (1)

mackyrae (999347) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248229)

That's weird. I'm using Firefox on Ubuntu and it works just fine for me. Given that Ubuntu is Debian-based, this doesn't make much sense.

Re:Firefox Ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248527)

Unextended firefox on arch linux, here. Works fine. Maybe you should stop trying to look cool and geeky and instead shut the hell up?

Re:Firefox Ad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248575)

What's the plugin required? No Flash on this Slackware PC, Firefox 1.0.4 running, Adblock is blocking half a dozen or so turds from doubleclick, and the page is displaying fine. What the hell is the media your machine is trying to view?

Issues of access? (5, Interesting)

6031769 (829845) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247157)

From the BBC's own coverage of this story [bbc.co.uk], there is a quote from Mr. Gates himself:

Bill Gates said: "Microsoft's strength is in driving digital innovation, and our vision is to open up rich, new consumer experiences that allow people to enjoy digital content anytime, anywhere and on any device.

"This vision fits squarely with the BBC's charter to lead the industry in delivering content that is compelling and accessible."

It's the last word there which is giving me qualms. Just how does signing agreements with the most proprietary business on earth qualify as extending access?

Re:Issues of access? (1)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247447)

Most proprietary business on Earth? Most businesses have proprietary information, and it's USUALLY in their best interest (read: their stockholders best interest) to maintain that. At least they're not suing everyone who uses the word 'podcast'.

Re:Issues of access? (2, Insightful)

cepayne (998850) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247909)

However pressure may be placed on the BBC to make it difficult,
or downright impossible for Non-MS software/OS users to partake
in their media experience. Hasn't history repeated itself enough
for our generation to catch on to this?

Microsoft has a bad habit of making other companies proprietary
to suit their own portfolio.

This may be all that MS has to grasp on to, once they are out of the
PC O.S. business. ....except for all those vague U.S. patents.

Becoming their new business model for the next decade or 3.

Re:Issues of access? (2, Funny)

GotenXiao (863190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247453)

OK, I'll agree with that. Microsoft's strength is driving innovation.

Because everyone's sick and fucking tired of all the crashes, BSODs, virii and spyware. The privacy invasions help, too.

Re:Issues of access? (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247809)

Agreed. That's why I switched to Mac. Now I am sick and fucking tired of the spinning beach ball, lack of any software, and getting sued when I accidentally said "Peapod" out loud last week.

Explanation (3, Informative)

mallardtheduck (760315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247185)

All this means is that BBC content will be available through Microsoft's distribution channels, in addition to the current distribution channels. Hardly newsworthy.

It's a trap! (1)

One Louder (595430) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247191)

There are graveyards of companies that have signed "memos of understanding" with Microsoft.

Whenever Microsoft gets whatever it signed this agreement to get, probably to stop something potentially competitive, then *something* will go awry that will allow Microsoft to get out of the deal without having giving anything in return.

Just ask Stac, Burst, Pointcast, Intuit, Apple.....

graveyards? (2, Funny)

Lactoso (853587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247631)

"There are graveyards of companies that have signed "memos of understanding" with Microsoft."

Is this anything like Stephen King's pet cemetary, cause that would be really cool.

{in creepy, fresh from the grave voice} I'm cooomming to geeettt youuuu Billll Gatteesss...

Re:It's a trap! (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248013)

There are graveyards of companies that have signed "memos of understanding" with Microsoft.
Given that the BBC is a publically funded content provider (and not a technology selling business) it would be pretty tough for MS to damage their business model! It appears more akin to the deals Microsoft strikes with universities and governments than to the deals Microsoft strikes with other businesses.

how annoying, (4, Insightful)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247213)

I pay a hell of a lot of money to the BBC every year*, all I want in return is that all of their digital content to be available through open source technology... this is a step in the wrong direction, or at best a side step. Why can't they also make it work with something like Helix player?

*which they largely squander on stupidly high pay for the executives whilst sacking many of the people responsible for content - Damn them.

Re:how annoying, (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247489)

Then stop sending them your money!!!

Not really an option (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247817)

The BBC is funded by the "TV Tax" ... if you own a television and live in the U.K., you don't really have a choice.

Although I suppose you could put it in a faraday cage in your basement and just evade the tax -- I heard once that they used to drive around in detection vans, listening for the RF signals of TVs, and then compare that to the list of people who paid. Rather creepy, if you ask me.

I wonder how they would deal with a computer that had a TV tuner card installed? You could definitely 'watch TV' without owning a TV these days ... a HTPC with a tuner card, and then just use a suitably big monitor, or a DLP projector. No TV, just a computer, but you'd have all the capabilities.

I enjoy the programming created by the BBC, but I also don't live there or pay into the system. If I did, I might feel differently about the whole scheme.

Re:Not really an option (3, Interesting)

celardore (844933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247957)

I wonder how they would deal with a computer that had a TV tuner card installed? You could definitely 'watch TV' without owning a TV these days ... a HTPC with a tuner card, and then just use a suitably big monitor, or a DLP projector. No TV, just a computer, but you'd have all the capabilities.


If you have a TV tuner card, that counts. If you don't have a licence then you can be prosecuted. The TV licencing folk are like pitbulls, and they have some similar rights as baliffs the way I understand it.

I hate the TV licence. When I first moved out from home, I did not own a TV but the licence people still sent me letters saying "You don't appear to have a TV licence, please get one." I phoned them and said I don't have a TV, they still sent letters. I replied to these letters, but there is no convincing them you don't own a TV. A few more letters and they were threatening to send the inspectors round. I found this link [marmalade.net] which has some various experiences of the TV Licencing strategies.

Re:Not really an option (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248333)

I agree with the TV license - its the private companies that are now being used to enforce it that are a nightmare - they *do not* have the right to "search" your house for a TV or make you pay any fine unless you have been convicted of an ofence (i.e. court).

Re:Not really an option (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248071)

Your right on a few things, but I'll clear up the TV tuner thing. A licence costs about £130 a year.

You need to have a TV Licence to watch TV, or I think to own any equiptment which can be used to watch tv. For a TV tuner for a PC you need to fill out a form to say that you have a licence before you can buy one (or at least I did when I bought one). They do have vans which go round and look for people without licences who are watching TV, although in the first instance they just send threats through the post (I got a few last year dispite having a TV licence - they use them like mail drops really, especially in student housing).

If you are found without a tv licence watching tv you will be given £1000 fine or you could try and fight it in court (you wouldn't win) and if you lose then I'd imagine that the fine would increase.

Note that this is still true even if you never watch the BBC channels (I pretty much exclusively watch 4 and 5)... which sounds shit, but our terrible culture, media and sport minister (who is married to an "alleged" con man) said that the only way we could get rid of the licence is to replace it with a tax on computers... still, that'll be no earlier than about 2015 by which time David Cameron will be PM, and we can only hope that he's more sensible.

Bingo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247845)

We all petition for BBC channels to be removed from Sky/Cable and stop paying the license fee, that'll get their attention. There will be no Microsoft anything in my house, that's my choice and choice is a good thing(tm).

tell them (1)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247913)

Have you told them? The BBC is full of technogeeks, but without some evidence to take to the boss, it's pretty hard to support these 'weird' systems that aren't Windows. Write them a nice letter, 'Dear Mr. BBC, I use XXX becauses it's good, but can't view your video streams. Have you considered supporting YYY video format, which is supported on MS, Apple, most Unix and XXX?'

Re:how annoying, (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248149)

I pay a hell of a lot of money to the BBC every year*, all I want in return is that all of their digital content to be available through open source technology... this is a step in the wrong direction, or at best a side step. Why can't they also make it work with something like Helix player?

One reason is that if the BBC does anything that damages commercial interests, it gets into trouble. It is part of the 10-yearly charter review process that the BBC needs to avoid damaging the marketplace. It nearly got into trouble because newspaper publishers complained the free provision of http://news.bbc.co.uk/ [bbc.co.uk] was hurting newspaper sales in the UK. If Helix were to become particularly successful and drove Real out of the market, Real would be complaining to the UK government rather quickly about public interference in the marketplace.

As it stands the BBC is pretty much required by parliament not to provide you with too good value for money. Dumb, but the person to bring it up with is your MP, not the BBC. Especially the Conservatives, since they are the ones who keep threatening to dismantle the BBC so commercial rivals can do a bit better.

Re:how annoying, (1)

headshrinker (37311) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248577)

If Helix were to become particularly successful and drove Real out of the market, Real would be complaining to the UK government rather quickly about public interference in the marketplace.

Did you actually mean this? Helix is a player created and maintained by Real. They'd only have themselves to blame if Helix put them out of business...

Re:how annoying, (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249663)

Did you actually mean this? Helix is a player created and maintained by Real. They'd only have themselves to blame if Helix put them out of business...
No I meant Dirac and the free streaming codecs the BBC has been working on (I got the names mixed up for a mo)

yuo faiL it?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247243)

Daaren RRed, which standards should

You can't be pervasive without Windows support (1)

SlOrbA (957553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247247)

Most of the problems with Microsoft compatibility comes from Microsoft insisting on "invented here" frame of mind. If this ends up as a non-Microsoft owned, but Microsoft backed video content management framework, it will most likely be better than the alternative of Microsoft pushing solely on with it's own ideas and goals.

The BBC has taken pretty mature way on establishing it's view on being a internet content provider. There are many examples where the notion of the net is been seen as a desktop extension. This means that the only thing being asked by the wannabe internet broadcaster's decision-maker's is "Will it play well on my laptop?".

Re:You can't be pervasive without Windows support (1)

cepayne (998850) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248467)

Don't be so sure. The new kids in University (some work part
time for me) have a focus on Linux and Apple. Side-stepping
MS. Microsoft products aren't part of their vocabulary anymore.

Todays business management(/managers)are the reason for Microsofts
infiltration and persistance in todays businesses. The new kids are
heading up a different direction, focussing on OPEN SOURCE and also
viable ALTERNATIVES to Windoze.

If the technological society doesn't notice it, start looking harder.
It all goes along with the MP3 generation who don't believe that
downloading music is considered theft.

"If" Microsoft becomes the minority, the BBC would simply release their
extensions and players for the next wave platform; just watch.
It is foolish for any business to make devoted alliances in the
technology bubble. It isn't the 90's anymore.

The dot-com bust should have dirtied enough pairs of shorts
to last a lifetime.

Heck the BBC have toyed with OGG encoding as well. But I guess
they want heterogenus video solution which mates up with the
audio solution.

wait and see....

Windows Media Player 11 (2, Interesting)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247249)

I can't wait until television companies start requiring people to install WMP11 to watch their content. WMP11 has a horrendous licensing agreement when it comes to DRM infected downloads and your inability to back them up.

DRM (1)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247301)

If it weren't for the DRM that so many people complain about, the BBC would not even be able to make alot of its content available on the internet. They would almost certainly have to break contracts to release this content without DRM.

So what'll it be slashdot? Still think DRM only limits the availability of content? Is Microsoft still evil for making DRM tools available?

Re:DRM (1)

crush (19364) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247527)

Young man, back in the day when all you got from the BBC was a crackly reception on the rabbit ears people were busy copying tapes of shows and giving them to each other because they couldn't get the content any other way. The BBC was slow to move into selling what we called "audio cassettes" and "video cassettes" because they were funded directly by the government and everyone in the kingdom had to pay a "license fee". The BBC used this money to create their own content and let anyone that wanted do their own thing with it as long as it wasn't obvious commercial reselling. And why not? After all everyone had paid for it, so if you wanted to build up an extensive library of 30 minute cassette tapes of Woman's Hour then that was your problem. In fact, getting the BBC to sell you official merchandise of e.g. Hornblower By the Way or RadioActive proved to be mighty fucking difficult and as far as anyone knows the tapes of decades of superb radio comedy are slowly turning to dust in the bowels of some archive location. In fact if you go to the BBC's main "shop" (and I use the word very generously) in London you'll find a pathetic small store with nothing to sate the appetite of a consumer waiting to be spurred into a feeding frenzy. The BBC could and should make a handsome profit selling original editions of back-archives and current content, produced, directed and funded solely by the license-fee payers and not show anything else. Fans like boxed sets and official paraphernalia. If someone wants to not buy them then they'll find a way around DRM anyway. DRM is not appropriate or useful to BBC content.

Re:DRM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248223)

Why are they making DRM content availiable? I for one have no intention of ever installing anything capable of playing such media. Neither am I ever paying a Microsoft tax on top of my licence fee, come to think of it, I wont be paying any licence fee to an institution that is actively promoting DRM.

Re:DRM (1)

headshrinker (37311) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248649)

They would almost certainly have to break contracts to release this content without DRM.

The BBC have two types of content:

  • Bought-in content
  • Home-grown content

You might be right for the bought-in content, but for the home-grown content, the contracts they'd be breaching would be with BBC Worldwide, who, if I'm not mistaken, get the distribution rights to all BBC-produced shows a few days after broadcast. This was the main reason for the BBC's iMP destroying downloaded content after 7 days.

It seems ironic that the BBC couldn't distribute media because of an agreement with its sister corporation.

Who the BBC is (2, Informative)

Budenny (888916) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247319)

You need to understand who the BBC is and how it is funded. In the UK it is illegal (it is actually a criminal offense) to watch TV unless you, in effect, subscribe to the UK State Broadcaster. This is done by means of the so called 'license fee' - a license to watch TV, all of the receipts from which go to the BBC.

As a result, one of the main activities of magistrates courts in the UK is to jail single mothers for not subscribing to the BBC. One conjectures that neither these ladies nor their children have the slightest interest in watching the BBC, but they will pay for it anyway, and if not, go to jail.

The fee is not small. It is well north of $150 a year. It rises every year, faster than inflation. It is probably one of the most regressive taxes ever devised, and falls most heavily on those who can least afford it.

The BBC then spends substantial amounts of this money to go into new businesses which are already perfectly well covered by the private sector, and it usually succeeds owing to its ability to do cross marketing - magazines linked to shows. So the UK State Broadcaster is also the UK State Magazine Publisher, and is the largest magazine publisher in the UK.

Now we read that the BBC is to strike a strategic agreement with Microsoft. Will anyone be in the least surprised when this turns out to be a vehicle for further attempts to raise the license fee still further, and to extend the BBC's activities still further?

What we in the UK need more than anything is to make subscription to the State Broadcaster optional, and to stop jailing poor people for the crime of wanting to watch some other TV channels, while not subscribing to it.

It is as if, in the US, you were obliged to buy a copy of the NY Times, or commit a criminal offense every time you read a newspaper. It is as if you could only buy a PC with Windows on it. These are the same people, with the same basic attitudes: compulsion is good.

Re:Who the BBC is (5, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247639)

You need to understand who the BBC is and how it is funded. In the UK it is illegal (it is actually a criminal offense) to watch TV unless you, in effect, subscribe to the UK State Broadcaster. This is done by means of the so called 'license fee' - a license to watch TV, all of the receipts from which go to the BBC.

Actually, it's only illegal to own a receiver on which you receive public broadcasts without paying a license.

The fee is not small. It is well north of $150 a year. It rises every year, faster than inflation. It is probably one of the most regressive taxes ever devised, and falls most heavily on those who can least afford it.

You could say the same about road tax. Much like road tax, it is only paid by people who own and use cars on the public roads. However, most of us realise that the roads are a sufficiently useful public service that this is necessary. Many of us also realise that the same applies both to the TV and the radio.

The BBC also does a very good job of keeping down the number of adverts on commercial TV, too. If you don't believe me, come spend some time over here (the US) and watch some cable (which costs more anually than the license fee). A whole heck of a lot more ads than Channel 5, that's for sure.

What we in the UK need more than anything is to make subscription to the State Broadcaster optional, and to stop jailing poor people for the crime of wanting to watch some other TV channels, while not subscribing to it.

It is. Don't pick up broadcasts, and you won't have to pay the tax. Of course you'll be a bit of a hipocrite if you ever listen to one of the BBCs many radio stations, or ever use its website, but it isn't illegal to be a hipocrite without a license.

And you're also forgetting the final thing. The BBC seems to have the ability to
piss off the Government more than any other organisation in England. That is a public service which would be cheap at twice the price.

Re:Who the BBC is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247831)

Comparing the BBC to road tax is delusional, there are plenty of private sector alternatives to the BBC - it is not a necessity. Rather than claiming people should just refuse to have a TV why not stop forcing your views on the rest of the population and let people exercise their free will or are you afraid of the public voting with their wallets, and refusing to put up with a clearly unjust situation ?

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

MoogMan (442253) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248063)

The BBC also does a very good job of keeping down the number of adverts on commercial TV, too.

What you really meant to say is "The BBC do not have commercial advertising on their channels".

Re:Who the BBC is (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248297)

No he said what he meant. The fact that the BBC has no commercial ads helps to discourage our other TV channels/networks going down the American route of 5 minutes of ads every 10 minutes of TV programme. Though Channel 4/E4 are getting pretty close these days.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248503)

You could say the same about road tax. Much like road tax, it is only paid by people who own and use cars on the public roads. However, most of us realise that the roads are a sufficiently useful public service that this is necessary. Many of us also realise that the same applies both to the TV and the radio.

Yes, under the current system, most people want to help fund the BBC. However, tv licences are a very bad way of doing it.

If taxes are indeed essential, is there any reason not to use means testing on them?

When you're on minimum wage (£5.35 when over 22), the licence fee (£131.50) is nearly 25 hours work, which is nearly 3 days work. If you're retired, but under 75, you still have to pay in full, and on a fixed income, again, it's very expensive.

Even if you think the BBC is a good thing to fund publicly, it's important to note that the licence is very very badly worked. It badly needs to scale with income, so the lower-paid are more able to afford it.

Re:Who the BBC is (3, Insightful)

Burz (138833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249579)

Its amazing how many people just don't get it:

Since an organization's revenue stream will ultimately determine its biases, the BBC is funded independantly of the tax system. Charging a license fee in a "one-viewer-one-vote" fashion avoids conflicts of interest in covering both the private sector and state affairs. This helps dispell greed and political interference in how it goes about its job.

If the BBC received significant funds from tax revenue, then it would be a state-controlled broadcaster.

If they scaled the fee according to an individual's means, then their bias would slant toward serving the interests of the wealthy (which is what many anti-licensing activists very badly want).

A flat fee may not be a good model for many services. But for an organization that is supposed to serve the entire public without bias, to reflec that society which it serves, and to serve as a watchdog, IMO you cannot do better.

By just being in the wider broadcasting market, they change it for the better.

Re:Who the BBC is (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248733)

Nice rant.

Have you seen what TV is like in other countries ? It's just awful. Low quality & full of advertising.
Having been outside the UK for 1 year, I dearly miss the BBC and it's programming and would gladly pay the licence free if I were allowed to receive broadcasts overseas.
I think that everyone that complains about the licence fee would soon complain bitterly if the BBC stopped running.
Although I would agree that some kind of lower rate (or free) for pensioners would be good.
That's my rant :-)

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

aedan (196243) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249075)

I was right with you until this "The BBC seems to have the ability to
piss off the Government more than any other organisation in England. "

The BBC piss off the government here in Scotland too.

Watching Newsnight on my iPod right now.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

crush (19364) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247647)

t is actually a criminal offense) to watch TV unless you

It's actually stronger than that AFAIK: you need to pay a license fee if you own equipment for receiving television signals. Doesn't matter if you swear blind that you never switch it on or that it's for research purposes etc.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

BeShaMo (996745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247971)

It's not. I had one of those license guys coming around to my house, and I thought shit, since I have TV for my PS2 so I started the usual rant about only just bought it, I'm foreign (English, not very good, no?) and so on, well, he was friendly enough and said no problem, I'll just sign you up now and no worries, so he came in, and just asked to see it turned on. Well, I did and when there was no signal I explained how I only used it for my Playstation and then he said that they only charged if I actually watched TV, if I only used it for DVDs or game consoles there was no need, and then he left again.

Re:Who the BBC is (3, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247731)

The fee is not small. It is well north of $150 a year. It rises every year, faster than inflation. It is probably one of the most regressive taxes ever devised, and falls most heavily on those who can least afford it.

Dude. That's *12* dollars a month... 12 dollars! And it's on a f'ing luxury (yes, TV is a luxury... if you're a single mother who can't spare $12/month, you've got other problems and should probably just sacrifice the damn TV). In exchange, you have world-class media coverage on multiple formats, and online content that's only just being seen in other countries, and most of it without commercials! Seriously, you don't understand how great you have it.

If the alternative is that I have to pay more money for crappier content *and* have to watch 20 minutes of commercials per hour... I'll pay the damn $12, thank you very much.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

crush (19364) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247777)

I'm with you. Having seen the difference between BBC content and the crap available here I think the results are in: state-funded broadcasting works better and costs less.

Re:Who the BBC is (2, Interesting)

Burz (138833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249667)

I'm with you. Having seen the difference between BBC content and the crap available here I think the results are in: state-funded broadcasting works better and costs less.

The BBC isn't state-funded. It's a public corporation funded by a flat amount that each viewer pays in the form of a license fee.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

AlzaF (963971) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249569)

Apart from comedy and news, the content of BBC is mediocre. Its fame outside of the UK is to shows of the past like Monty python, Fawlty towers, only fools & horses, Allo Allo etc. Would the BBC have the B@lls to commission shows like The Shield, The Saprono's or Crime story I think not. The other british TV channel, Channel 4, known out of UK for it's film arm, Film four is far superior in terms of drama, entertainment and documentaries. You might have heard of Junkyard Wars which was based on the C4 series Scrapheap challanges. As to $12 dollars a month, that is a lot of money to a single mother or a pensioner. TV is the only form of entertainment for a lot of people and they can't go without it. As to the the point of payment. You Americans have a saying 'No taxation without representation'. Although publicly funded, the BBC is not representative to the millions of people in the UK who pay for it. It's programming is biased towards people in the south east of England and in London particular. Another point is that I watch very little TV. When I do I one watch BBC for the news and the occasional movie. I use my TV mainly to watch DVD's. Why should I pay money for a service I rarely use?

Re:Who the BBC is (2, Insightful)

Ma8thew (861741) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247765)

Parent comment is at best, biased, bordering on lies. For a start, you cannot go to prison for evading the license fee, the punishment is a £1000 fine. Secondly, although growing slightly above inflation, it has only gained £11.50 since 1968, which is fair enough IMO, considering the Internet content and 4 extra TV channels added since then, as well as several Radio channels (the fee pays for radio programming on the BBC as well). Thirdly the BBC is actually the Third largest magazine publisher in the UK, and the magazines are published by BBC Magazines, a subsidary of BBC Worldwide, which is not funded by the license fee in any way shape or form.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248109)

excuse me... you go to prison for not paying the fine which you got for not paying the fee... so in effect, you can be sent to prison for not paying the fee... [spiderbomb.com]

A report on the imprisonment of fine defaulters claimed that:
defaulters on low incomes are often imprisoned on the grounds of 'culpable neglect', as the court judges that they have spent money on other priorities than the fine. Many such defaulters are in practice imprisoned because of an inability to manage on a low income. (Penal Affairs Consortium 1995:3)

A number of studies have pointed out the material difficulties faced by defaulters of fines. One study based on 35 case studies of defaulters (including television licence evaders) showed most of the defaulters to be out of work, often for more than twelve months (National Association of Probation Officers 1994). Most were living on State benefits and had multiple debts. Most offenders end up defaulting on their fines because they need the money for things such as shoes and clothing, food and housekeeping, rent, rates, unspecified bills, light and heating, and public transport (Softley 1978). The crucial problem appears to be that offenders are given fines that they simply cannot afford to pay. This is in spite of the fact that courts are required to take into account the offender's means in the setting of fines.
Table I shows the number of people imprisoned for defaulting on fines for television licence evasion by gender between 1991 and 1995. Over the 1990s there has been a sharp increase in the number of persons imprisoned for defaulting on fines for television licence evasion, from 394 to 749. There were 235 females and 493 males imprisoned for fine defaulting on television licence evasion offences in 1995.

Re:Who the BBC is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248343)

Don't forget all the non-programming stuff the BBC does.

The BBC is responsible for much R&D in the broadcasting world.

NICAM stereo, Teletext, the saving of DTT (Freeview) after ITV digital's bankruptcy. Even those nice, spangly HDTV sets (and the broadcast HD cameras) people are now buying wouldn't be around without the BBC funding much of the research into those technologies.

These are some of the things that the people constantly bleating about how unfair the TV Licence is conveniently forget. Without the BBC TV technologies would probably be 20 years behind where we are now, and we'd have only a few channels filled with low quality programming and tons of ads.

The BBC is remarkable value for money and, IMO, a national treasure. The day the Licence fee is abolished will be a dark day for quality TV.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

garyok (218493) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248089)

Nice libertarian rant - I'm sure you could make the case that every tax is unjust. You shouldn't be charged with a criminal offence for not paying your income tax because you didn't get a heart transplant on the NHS this year, should you? Why should you pay for schools when you're in full-time employment and have no kids? Or pay for the police when you didn't commit any crimes? Or... well, the list goes on. The problem with that way of thinking is it's bollocks. What you're paying for is the safety net, the insurance that when things are bad there be a minimum standard in place. If you're sick there's hospital treatment, if you have kids then you can afford to send them to school rather than up a chimney, if you get attacked in the street then there's someone there to take your name and address and send you a nice victim support letter. Or if your government lies to you and takes you to war under false pretenses then there's a broadcaster that'll basically tell the entire world that it happened.

Two things:

1. TV ownership's not mandatory in the UK, libraries are free, and the license fee would come out of regular income tax anyway.

2. If you don't like paying tax, feel free to buy a one-way plane ticket to some anarchist buttfuck 'republic' (still plenty to choose from) where you get to live in a cave with your automatic rifle, constantly on guard for the next asshole in line wanting to rape, kill, and eat you then play with your toys. Seriously.

Re:Who the BBC is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248123)

As a UK expat, I would love to pay the Beeb 150 quid a year for everything that you get for it.

I pay somewhere around 500 quid a year for around 100 channels of mostly commercial-laden crap - and that doesn't include any of the movie channels. My only options over Basic Digital contain BBC America and Fox Sports World (which shows premiership games and rugby). For that alone I pay about the 150 quid that you pay - and I don't get the Beeb shows in the same season that you do, and I don't get access to the broadband feed either. I cannot get those channels without paying the other 350 quid for Basic Digital. I would estimate that 70% of the shows on my replaytvs come from BBC America.

You really are onto a good thing. The existence of commerical free programming in the UK prevents any of the commercial channels from becoming too commerical heavy. Typical prime-time shows over here are 66% show and 33% commercicals. Really. A '1 hour' show takes me 40 minutes to watch when I skip commercials (gotta love replaytv for that). It get's worse with late-night TV. Start watching a movie at 11pm, and a movie that was 90 minutes in the cinema that has been edited "for content and to fit in the time allotted won't finish until 2 or 3am.

Be grateful. Without the Beeb, UK television would become exactly the same.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248235)

Mod the above flame bait.

As a result, one of the main activities of magistrates courts in the UK is to jail single mothers for not subscribing to the BBC. One conjectures that neither these ladies nor their children have the slightest interest in watching the BBC, but they will pay for it anyway, and if not, go to jail.


That paragraph is laughable, if you own a TV you must pay for a TV license, its a bit like a tax, but only applied to people who can afford a TV and want to make use of that "luxury", you can choose not to have a TV after all. - You pay your council tax and other taxes for services that you may make no use of but that others do - i.e. just because you pay for private insurance you still have to pay your national insurance - the general jist is that it is good or society that the service is provided, and therefore it is good that everyone pays. I'm going to disregard the argument that everyone has a right to choose what they want and therefore what they pay, and shouldn't subsidize the rest, because that generally means that people without the means to access certain services end up going without - whether that is healthcare, dental care, transport or housing, its no different here.

As far as enforcement is concerned, I would love to find where you got your information from. As far as I am aware - firstly if you have a TV and no license, you will be warned to get one - no one can enter your house - or even demand to be let in to see if you have one unless they have notified the police, and have a court order to do so - that will only happen if you have been told that you need a license and still have not bothered to get one. As for jail time - you can only be fined for failure to have a TV license, - you can be jailed however if you are given a fine - sent to court and then defy the court, so on that logic I suppose they could be throwing single mothers into jail, - but I doubt it. Just a note if you are fined - you will only have to pay it if you can - or pay it off over times in amounts you can afford - and if you cant afford to pay the fine then you should really either buy the license, or save some money and don't buy a TV in the first place.

I assume you would like a rebate of your council tax on the amount spent on policing* if you don't make use of them, - same with the fire service? It doesn't work like that.

*(I pay about £400 a year on policing according to the breakdown of my council tax bill)

The BBC is funded by a TV license, and it is about £150 a year. Most people however support that. As
far as competition is concerned, the BBC provides public broadcasting content, the kind of content that other providers simply would not provide. The argument in the UK media industry is that the BBC takes up a large market share of the media market, and as such competes directly with private industry and therefore is bad, what isn't mentioned is that (on top of the general support for the license fee) is that the BBC is pushing innovation in both programming and technical fields and feeds that back into the industry, and also the BBC can put on television and radio program that are not commercially viable to commercial stations, which is in turn a service to the British media sector and also to British culture.

What people seem to miss is that the BBC is an asset that is almost unique to the UK, it is a non partisan and independent media organisation *without* corporate OR government pressures to perform its task in any particular way. It provides radio, internet and television services in the UK and also to English speaking people around the world. It is often responsible for finding and investing in programming that no other company will touch and bringing it into the mainstream - often with that programming then ending being taken over by the private broadcasters once the hard work is done. In short it can take risks that private companies cannot. It also provides educational programming (both for broadcast and for schools) which would normally be either very expensive (and thus a drain on taxes by another avenue) or simply not available, and makes sure it is available to everyone. Oh and on top of all that it is directly accountable to its viewers.

Recently there was a review as to how the BBC should be funded, the general idea was that it could be funded by any of the following:

The licence fee (as it is now)
Advertising (There is currently NO advertising on the BBC so you can watch everything without the 15 minute breaks :))
Subscription (Getting people who want it to pay for it)
Direct government grant
Different broadcasters competing for licence fee funding (top-slicing the license)

And basically the result is simple, if you want a service that is independent from both commercial and government interests you can't go with Advertising or a government grant, if you want to offer universal access then subscription is out (remember there is only a TV license Radio and Internet access is free.). If you want to ensure that your subscription fee is used for programming and managing the content then passing it to commercial interests (with all their existing commercial interests) is going to find you paying the cash directly to share holders. In short if you want an independent media outlet that is not commercial and doesn't push an agenda then subscription is the way to go.

By the by, the commercial broadcasters also don't want the BBC to stop being funded by a license fee, sure they want the license reduced, and they want to prevent the BBC from competing with their programming, but they are even more worried about the BBC competing with them for advertising. After all everyone knows the BBC and it has Massive brand power - far more than itv or C4.

But hey, if you want an exclusively corporate controlled media, and no British programming (lots of The Simpson's, and Friends though - after all they are tried and tested) then get rid of the BBC. I'm not saying that license fee funding is the best possible solution, but I don't see an alternative that would be as good, or better.

Re:Who the BBC is (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16248397)

Most people in the UK like the BBC - It does a good job of providing independant news to a global audience, many of them in the US. Comments like parent aren't representative of the general feeling in the UK, and are most often put forward by those with a hidden agenda. I think the 'jail' coments show an agenda less hidden than most.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

tomythius (930180) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248599)

The fee is not small. It is well north of $150 a year.

Actually it's £131.50 [bbc.co.uk] . Or £44 for a black and white set.
It works out at £0.36 per household per day. Not a great deal.

Other than that I'd agree with you.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

raidient (751898) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248913)

"This is done by means of the so called 'license fee' - a license to watch TV, all of the receipts from which go to the BBC."

Whilst I agree with most of your points, I feel I must point out that the licence is actually to allow you to *use equipment* to receive TV broadcasts.

Re:Who the BBC is (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249219)

Whilst I agree it is ridiculous that the UK courts hand out severe sentences for non-payment of the license fee, I disagree with you on just about every point you raise.

As a British citizen, I consider the BBC to be one British thing we can be very proud of. From a TV-only perspective, about 10% of what the BBC broadcast is of interest to me personally (I'm a Dr Who/sci-fi/documentary/drama fan with no interests in sport) but I also listen to a lot of BBC radio, especially Radio 4 for comedy and drama shows, and as someone who is learning Spanish, the BBC website is truly outstanding for language learning (and other) materials.

If they do some partenering with Microsoft, then good luck to them, as long as they don't pour too much of my license fee money into the Microsoft coffers. So far, as a mainly Linux user, I've found the BBC to be pretty biased towards cross-platform audio and video streaming and if they make their programme archive available in similar open formats, what do I care?

I don't have cable/satellite TV because I refuse to pay to be advertised at and if the license fee has to double to keep the BBC's broadcastig fee advert free, I'd pay it and still consider it excellent value for money.

And, no, I don't work for the BBC and never have done.

What is a "Memo of Understanding"? (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247373)

I've read the article (pretty short actually) and this "memo" kind of reminds me of "No Technical Objection" letters I've written and received from time to time. They authorize nothing and they imply no committment. In the end, it's just a way to go back to our customer with, "yea, we discussed this with {company} and they seem OK with it. See? they ever signed a memo."

Almost doesn't seem like news.

Spreading the Licence Fee, More Like (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247397)

The BBC knows that the Internet can erode their viewing figures (read licence revenue) so they've had a long term plan to "infect" it with their content. They know that this will enable them to link the licence fee to Internet usage in the future. Currently any simulcast (live video) BBC content delivery on any viewing device incurs payment of the licence fee, which is why the BBC is pushing for simulcast/multicast streaming with UK ISPs ...

Re:Spreading the Licence Fee, More Like (1)

AlzaF (963971) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249803)

This isn't troll. The BBC advertises this extensively on its TV stations so that it doesn't get marginalised when analogue TV is phased out. It is in effect abusing it's monolopy status as a publicy funded body.

Management probably greasing palms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16247575)

It has to be said that the BBC management that arses about and signs such stuff is very much divorced from the people actually developing use of technology within the corporation *. As such, they are ("he is") very likely to sign such ridiculous (and in this case, apparantly meaningless) things without consultation. Whether this amounts to anything at all basically comes down to random chance. Hopefully, it'll end up like so many things: a series of statements by management to support the spirit of the agreement while carrying on doing things properly. Of course, it could all go horribly wrong :/

* certainly "Technology Group" - those that are supposed to be thinking about how the BBC uses technology - didn't hear anything about this before the press release.

Where have I seen this before? (0, Troll)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247663)

An agreement between the UK and the forces of Evil (M$)? Oh yeah, "Peace for our time." [wikipedia.org] That should keep everyone happy.

All jokes aside, I don't see a need for co-operation with M$ on this one. The goal from the FA is:

The BBC is working on several digital broadcasting projects, including a scheme to make its programming archive available online.

Why don't they just allow and encourage libraries to mirror the content as is? That's the direction publications should be moving. Hopefully, they are not going for some kind of M$ DRM snake oil. Their current lack of such nonsense is why it's the most read English language news in the world. Mirrors would ensure their continued influence now and into the future. With mirrors everywhere, the historians can cross check and trust what they see. The natural partner for that kind of effort is Google.

Re:Where have I seen this before? (1)

jb.hl.com (782137) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249863)

An agreement between the UK

No. Between the BBC and Microsoft. Not the UK.

the forces of Evil (M$)

Fucking hell, you've reached a whole new low.

I don't see a need for co-operation with M$ on this one

Um...most people have the ability to play Windows Media files at some level (yes, even on Linux, try VideoLAN). That might be why. Maybe Microsoft will help with Dirac? Long shot, but stranger things have happened. We know nothing about what's in the memo, so speculation on this front is more or less unfounded anyway.

Their current lack of such nonsense [DRM] is why it's the most read English language news in the world.

I would have thought it would be the "impartiality decreed and enforced by law" thing which people around the world seem to value.

You want the BBC to partner with Google rather than Microsoft...to what end? Other than distribution, Google has nothing to bring to the table, and the BBC already has perfectly good distribution channels, Internet and otherwise. And if they just wanted more bandwidth, load balancing etc, they might as well just use Akamai.

Microsoft will hopefully discover ... (1)

quiberon2 (986274) | more than 7 years ago | (#16247951)

Hopefully, Microsoft will discover that some of the BBC's licence payers have Playstations, and they need to be included in whatever scheme is come up with.

Just like the ones with XBoxes need to be included.

Linden Labs (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248187)

Linden Labs means Second Life [secondlife.com], which could mean some VERY interesting things in the near-future of broadcasts. I know a number of events organised by news studios and bands have already taken place inworld, but this sounds a lot more solid than the minor contracts before. Screw Microsoft, I wanna see the BBC go virtual.

Everyone Jockeying For Position For Trillion $$$$ (1)

cannuck (859025) | more than 7 years ago | (#16248387)

According to Mark Cuban - video on/over the web will be a 7 trillion dollar a year industry once it gets rolling. So no wonder everyone and his uncle is jockeying for position and/or trying to create a monopoly (Gate$+Job$). Right now looks like Job$ is a couple of light years ahead of Gate$ and everyone else (according to Cringley).

But of course some "fat little girl" could come out of a garage somehwere and dominate the whole scene. Be intertesting to see what happens over next 5 years.

FOSS Based BBC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16249033)

Ok, now there is going to be news channel which is going to be *more popular* than BBC itself more because of it underneath philosophy of software usage than its fundamental goal of providing *news* to people. And then its going to realize that it has to provide *news* first, then it would evolve to achieve a balance between right choice of software usage and news. How do I care if down the lane if the community/society is served with the right intention.

"only available via Microsoft products" (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249151)

Unless you want to infect your system with realplayer, it already is. I think you still need windows DLLs to listen to their internet radio on linux. So much for "public service".

Should BBC be allowed to be in such a position? (1)

AlzaF (963971) | more than 7 years ago | (#16249691)

The BBC can be described as a monolopy as it does not have any competition. I say this as it is pubicly funded and does not rely on advertising incomes. It can therefore marginalise other competitors who are fighthing each other to get shrinking advertising revenues as a lot of internet traffic goes to the BBC. Why should it then be in the position to form partnerships like this that can have a profound affect to online content in the years to come?
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