Thursday, 25 January 2007

The socialist approach to broadcasting


Lurking in the margins of The Times I saw this brief but depressing story:

YouTube rival call

A publicly funded rival to YouTube should be set up to
make up for a shortfall in quality television, the communications regulator has
said. Ofcom suggested that the organisation, called the public service
publisher, should have an annual budget for digital content of up to £100
million so it can rival the BBC.

Clearly socialism is alive and well in Ofcom!

The presence of YouTube is itself evidence that the market is responding to people’s desire for more copious and more varied content. YouTube reduces the barriers to entry into broadcasting to nearly nothing, enabling millions to make and broadcast material. Yahoo, MSN and other search engines are bound to launch rivals now that Google runs YouTube. Other providers will rise from outside the search engine world. The low cost of setting up an internet provider make competition inevitable. Furthermore, anybody may now post a video on their own website or blog. The market in broadcasting already provides. Indeed, it thrives.

The suggestion that a “public service publisher” is required to further diversify the market or increase supply is nonsense. So too is the suggestion that the BBC needs a rival: the BBC’s pre-eminence comes from the fact that government established it as a tax-funded public service broadcaster; the solution is to make it compete with commercial providers, rather than create further public service behemoths to encourage a clash of the tax-funded titans.

Indeed, with the proliferation of choice and the benign anarchy of the internet, it is the role of Ofcom that should be questioned. With the market making such a wide range and diversity of television available, the days when we needed a regulator have passed.

--

Meanwhile, for those fascinated by the recent rows about the licence fee and/or involved in some of the spirited blogging on the subject, journalist and author Richard D. North is due to publish a book with the provocative title Scrap the BBC!: Ten Years to Set Broadcasters Free. It is bound to be a very strong attack on tax-funded and strongly regulated broadcasting.

This blog does not endorse it (Hell! I haven’t even read it!) but I can get hold of cheap and possibly signed copies if anybody is interested (watch out Amazon!). Just email tom.papworth-at-bromleylibdems.org.uk, substituting @ for -at- of course (this is probably a vain attempt to avoid spam!), and I’ll see what I can do.

3 comments:

Norfolk Blogger said...

commercial TV is free. I didn't realise that I wasn't paying for commercial TV through a levy imposed by manufacturers on the price of their products advertised on TV.

Anone who thinks we are not paying for commercial TV through price increases on products that are advertised on TV is living in cloud cuckoo land.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I should have added a question mark at the end of the first sentence in my previous posting.

Tom Papworth said...

Google should make it possible for you to edit your comments.

You have made a very good argument for for subscription-funding of broadcasting, with which I totally agree.

However, whether or not manufacturers advertise on televison, they will advertise, and those costs will be defrayed through the price of the goods they sell.

If we don't want to pay for it, however, we can avoid purchasing the goods of companies that advertise and only buy from those who do not. A similar offer is not available with regards the BBC.