No more virtual Auntie Beeb?
August 26, 2003 12:23 PM   Subscribe

The BBC's Website is currently under review, and the public is requested to give their opinion. With the Tories saying they would shut the website down, BSkyB demanding that they sell off their best shows, and rival networks describing their annual report as extremely vague about spending (not to mention the entire David Kelly fiasco...), it seems as though a review of the website might be more or less ignored by the public. (Personal opinion inside...)
posted by Katemonkey (29 comments total)

Why does everyone hate the BBC so much? Is it that they all just want a piece of it?
posted by bshort at 12:29 PM on August 26, 2003

I don't know what I'd do without the BBC website. It's pathetic, but it's true. Not only is their news excellent, I can actually find myself spending hours flipping through the various subsections -- from Health to Cooking to whatever.

I mean, jeez, you can learn Welsh! And listen to Dr. Who webcasts at the same time! While making lemon cream pasta and sending out e-cards for Great Shiva Day!

It's an amazing resource that most people take for granted. And if it disappeared, I would be dismayed that the country I chose to live in would do something so foolish.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:33 PM on August 26, 2003

I use the BBC site myself, but the conservative's point about them funding all the American freeloaders like myself does have some merit. UK folks pay fees that enable me to enjoy their website for free.

I pay extra to get BBC America over here though, and plan to buy The Office DVDs when they come out, so they are making something from me for their service.
posted by mathowie at 12:41 PM on August 26, 2003

Touch Radio 4 and die you Tory bastards!
posted by vbfg at 12:47 PM on August 26, 2003

Why does everyone hate the BBC so much? Is it that they all just want a piece of it?

That two of the UK's biggest selling newspapers are owned and operated by a man who is nothing short of fanatical about the destruction (or at least marginalisation) of the BBC doesn't help. Criticism of the BBC's role in the David Kelly tragedy has been oddly prevalent between the pages of said publications in recent weeks, and from the subtle manner in which Tony Ball (the BSkyB boss Katemonkey mentions) suggested turning the BBC into PBS it seems his boss would very much like a piece of the BBC, and its tasty-looking audience figures. Quelle surprise.

Pleasingly, however, the review is accepting submissions via email; if you use and appreciate BBC News or any other part of the corporation's formidable online presence as Katemonkey, myself and millions across the world do, may I gently suggest an email to this address telling 'em so.

And on preview, what vbfg said, and then some.
posted by zygoticmynci at 12:55 PM on August 26, 2003

Why does everyone hate the BBC so much? Is it that they all just want a piece of it?

Well Murdoch (and thus BSkyB) certainly do. (Same answer to both questions). I'm sure he's be delighted to have less competition, no sports events that have to be tied to terrestial, no News 24 and nothing to cut into his youth audiences.

I'm more pro the website while agreeing with the tories on cutting back on some of the digital side of things. The website seems to fulfil exactly what the BBC is supposed to be about (and I use it much more than I watch BBC 1 & 2) whilst the digital channels just seem like unnecessary expenditure. Whilst I don't mind watching Spooks a week early this doesn't justify a new channel.
posted by biffa at 1:04 PM on August 26, 2003

I love BBC radio.

I drive down the road and in certain areas get it quite clearly. If I miss something because it fades out I will turn online.

To compare say WCBS NewRadio 880 and the BBC which comes in at 860 on who knows what channel, is crazy.

What a relief to NOT here the same stories walloped into one's head, along with marginally different traffic reports. Listening to BBC reports ( whether online or in the car ) gives me a similar feeling to the satisfied feeling I get when listening to say a good section of NPR.
posted by RubberHen at 1:14 PM on August 26, 2003

To listen, watch or click is to love the BBC with a passion. To work for it, or watch the licence fee collection process is to be horribly disillusioned. Yes we really send people to prison in the UK for watching Television. How weird is that?

I suspect that the Government and other interested parties are just waking up to the fact that, in Freeview the BBC has very effectively narrowed the range of options. Before Freeview, which is a subscription-free (indeed subscription impossible) digital system, the possibility existed of migrating the BBCs services to some loose kind of pay-per-view. That now looks impossible, deliberately skewered by the BBC itself, and the other options are not attractive.
posted by grahamwell at 1:16 PM on August 26, 2003

what was said in all the Murdoch-related comments above is perfectly to the point -- in this whole sorry business the Murdochian bad faith is so laughably blatant, it isn't even possible to deny it (and to their credit the BSkyB people are hardly pretending otherwise).

and we also need to remember that the right-wing fanatical attacks on the Beeb have a very specific reason: since the Iraq Attaq thing, -- even more than the Guardian's website -- has become a very convenient way for thoudsands and thousands of Americans to get information (IN ENGLISH!) by good journalists not wrapped in the Stars and Stripes.
That's the Beeb cardinal sin -- it's a good source of quality information in English language not subject to the FoxNewsization of the US media Americans had to endure post 9/11

There's good, reliable news websites out there, but not all of them are English-language (you can't really Babelfish effectively a whole LeMonde editorial or a ElPaìs report). Hence, all the Baghdad Broadcast Company slander omnipresent in the warbloggers rants. They'd like to see the BBC become more "fair and balanced", more like Uncle Rupert's FoxNews.

Fortunately, they'll have to pry the BBC from million of people's cold, dead hands
posted by matteo at 1:38 PM on August 26, 2003

Conservative Party = WMD. Bombs away!
posted by Joeforking at 2:01 PM on August 26, 2003

There are lots of other places to get news on the web in English that doesn't necessarily come from a U.S. viewpoint, some more slanted than others, of course. The shame of losing would be the loss of a specifically British voice with the greater part of a century of tradition and reputation built up behind it.
posted by gimonca at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2003

And I don't buy the "we're serving people outside our area!" complaint. Worldwide visitors are something the vast majority of websites have to factor in, Channel 7 in Boise just as much as the Beeb.
posted by gimonca at 3:00 PM on August 26, 2003

Basically the tories hate it, now labour hates it. Why? Because its public service without being government controlled and is, quite delibrately, puritanical and non-consumerist at its core.

Murdoch hates it because you don't have to pay him £30 per month to watch it.

And if they even thought of getting rid of Just a Minute......
posted by lerrup at 3:25 PM on August 26, 2003

I've been known to stop by to check out the news but today I really gave the site the once over and found some really interesting stuff. I hope some bastards don't kill it.
posted by mcsweetie at 3:50 PM on August 26, 2003

I use the BBC site myself, but the conservative's point about them funding all the American freeloaders like myself does have some merit

Yeah, let's shut down BBC world service radio too while we're at it! All those foreigners have been sponging off us for too long! Let them find out about their own corrupt dictators, rigged elections and corporate exploitation!

Fox News would cover that stuff, wouldn't they?
posted by thedude256 at 5:13 PM on August 26, 2003

"The Conservative party would switch off a swath of the BBC's digital services, including its website and the youth channel BBC3, if it won the next general election."

I'd bet this would include the BBC Creative Archive.

People of the UK - please remember this at voting time!
posted by Stuart_R at 6:28 PM on August 26, 2003

To hack away at any part of the BBC for the benefit of commercial interests would be like eating your own liver on the principle that it's a shame to let all that nourishment go to waste.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:14 PM on August 26, 2003

mathowie: So watcha gonna do 'bout all these MeFreeloaders who have never donated? ;-)

My g/f & I pay £9.62 a month between us for our TV licence and if that means donating some UK culture to the rest of the world then I'm all for it.

The UK has done pretty well off the culture, knowledge & resources of the rest of the world over the years so why not spread the luck with the Beeb.

Little girl: Mummy. What's a Conservative Party?
posted by i_cola at 12:49 AM on August 27, 2003

grahamwell: Yes we really send people to prison in the UK for watching Television. How weird is that?

No we don't. Stop talking bollocks. We send people to prison for not paying a licence fee.

Stuart_R: There are plenty of reasons for not voting Conservative. Their attack on the BBC is almost irrelevent.

Digital TV and the web are exactly the sort of things the BBC should be doing. We can't let one man control digital television in the UK. No wonder he hates the BBC.
posted by salmacis at 2:08 AM on August 27, 2003

Interestingly thedude256, the BBC is surely making at least some money off it's world sevice. At least in Greece (and in Cyprus) it has an agreement with commercial radio stations and provides most of the daily foreign news for them.
I suppose then that this money goes some way in paying for BBC Greek - a great Greek language resource BTW- while similar agreements could possibly be funding scores of other international sites.
Although, had BBCi a tip jar or something of the sort, I'd be more than happy to offer my small material support...
posted by talos at 2:43 AM on August 27, 2003

My g/f & I pay £9.62 a month between us for our TV licence and if that means donating some UK culture to the rest of the world then I'm all for it.
I could not agree more. It's weird, but I get more passionate about the BBC then any other institution I am aware of, my own country included. I guess that's because the BBC represents the inhabitants of the UK and the world an infinite amount better than any politician would even wish to. Every belief is catered for by the BBC, every political opinion, every style of humour, music, every age group. Believe it or not, last week I even watched an hour long tribute to that wonderful family man Rupert Murdoch on BBC television, a programme so gushing in it's praise that I half expected them to proclaim him the son of god. It was preceded by a programme where the likes of Polly Toynbe accused the man of debasing the values of British Society. This is what is called BALANCE, a word that despite what they want you to believe, the rest of the media in this country and beyond have had erased from their vocabulary.
For £100 a year we get 4 television channels that actually show programmes that don't make you want to puke, interactive TV, we get 7 radio stations, we provide the rest of the world with localized news via the world service. Digital TV was struggling before the BBC came along and rescued it, this providing us with an alternative to paying Murdoch hundreds of pounds a year if we wish to experience digital TV. We are soon to have access to the BBC's back catalogue of TV and radio programmes. And we have a vast vast web site that is cheap to run and useful to people around the world. That is incredible value for money, and still allows plenty of scope for commercial channels to operate (and the fact that there are hundreds of commercial channels is clear evidence of that).
And those fucking Tory wankers want to pull the plug. Fuck em. OK, BBC3 sucks but don't just pull the plug, look at why it sucks (it is indistinguishable for Sky One/E4 and forgets that some "Yoofs" actually have brains) and improve upon it.
posted by chill at 4:02 AM on August 27, 2003

The BBC website is a marvellous resource. It's astonishing that the Tories could even consider disposing with it, how out of touch can you get?

The BBC Digital television service I have more issues with. Yes, if it was included within the licence fee and could be received by anyone, but you have to pay £100 for a digibox to be able to do that. It irks me somewhat that I'm forever being subjected to adverts on the BBC terrestial channels for a "service" that I finance through my licence fee but cannot afford to buy the equipment to watch.

Tony Ball's suggestion that the BBC be forced to sell it's best programming each year is so ludicrous to be beyond discussion.
posted by squealy at 4:31 AM on August 27, 2003

Politicians will spout any old waffle which gets them noticed. I'm happy to pay what I pay for the BBC and don't give a stuff who else benefits. However, because of party politics, ordinary voters like me can no longer have any impact whatsoever on the political process. This is not democracy: we are living in an oligarchy. If we could delete the Tory and Labour party websites, I think that would be a better move all round.
posted by walrus at 5:07 AM on August 27, 2003

The BBC Digital television service I have more issues with. Yes, if it was included within the licence fee and could be received by anyone, but you have to pay £100 for a digibox to be able to do that.

I don't see why this argument doesn't hold with the corporation's internet operations: after all, I have to spend a heck of a lot more than £100 to be able to use the BBC website.

There are plenty of people out there without full access to digital TV or the internet. Currently, if they own an analogue TV. they are paying for a range of services which they can't use. Whereas the World Service is joint-funded with the Foreign Office, meaning its ostensibly part of our diplomatic relations with other countries, the BBCi and the digital stations are totally within the licence fee.

Let's be more upfront about this: either the BBC is treated leniently to help increase technology uptake (after all, this is a government which wants to switch off analogue TV in seven years' time), we leave it to commercial operators (which is pretty much what's been happening for the past decade) or we come up with another solution - such as a tiered licence fee (after all, we still respect the difference between colour and B&W TV - why not charge extra for homes with digital or internet access?).

I'm surprised nobody can even see that there's a partial argument in here. Whether or not you love the BBC, it's increasingly branching out to take on commercial organisations. That shouldn't be the corporation's aim.

(And, for what it's worth, even though I agree with it a lot, I don't think the BBC's online news operation *is* as fair and balanced as its TV or radio coverage. But maybe that's just me.)
posted by blastboy at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2003

I would agree in principle to paying extra for digital TV, so long as it wasn't set at a price that some would see as a barrier to getting digital TV. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Sky would complain because it would be effectively hitting their Sky Digital product too with nothing in return for them (which is a fair argument I guess).
Maybe the BBC should be offering set top boxes at cost price or something. I don't know how much they cost to manufacture but I know it won't be £100.
posted by chill at 10:06 AM on August 27, 2003

The BBC is specifically charged by the government to increase take-up of digital services by providing stuff for people using these new platforms to use. The Broadcasting Union is also pretty much in total agreement with this as an approach, and only pay-for television companies like Sky disagree - Union opinion: "We are aware of the opposition to the proposals already made public by commercial broadcasters such as BSkyB, MTV, Telewest and others. This puzzles us. As broadcasters strongly committed to providing digital services and therefore presumably with a strong vested interest in a successful transition to digital, we believe the incentive for increased digital take-up provided by the BBC proposals does not contravene their position but promotes their own long term interests." In the document about the initial rejection of BBC Three and the approval of BBC Four, the government specifically approve it as a good basis for driving digital take up (link) - and here's a specific statement by a BBC spokesperson about the amount of the license fee spent on digital services available to around 50% or more of the UK population, "We don't apologise for incurring these costs. We've been charged by the government with driving digital take-up, which is why we got a generous licence fee settlement. We are spending that extra money on digital services, as intended by the government". (link)
posted by barbelith at 10:36 AM on August 27, 2003

Thanks: there's the point - part of the licence fee settlement is in place to help drive up digital takeup. So nobody should really be able to argue against that aspect, whatever the case. The Beeb were told to help boost digital takeup by the government - and that's what they're doing. And they're succeeding (though let's not forget Freeview is also joint funded by Sky, I believe).

But is there a similar remit for the BBC's online services?

I don't want to sound like I'm anti-BBC (though compared to the flagwaving pro-camp above I probably sound like a fervent Auntie anti) - but I do think there needs to be more clarity to the justification for the amount of spend. If all this debate helps to do is clarify the BBC's position regarding the funding of its operations, then that's fine by me.

As an addendum, I think pretty much all of the UK's media have an eye of suspicion when regarding the Beeb. That's not a bad thing, but I do think undue prominence is given to some of the more rampantly commercial campaigners with vested interests in destroying the corporation (and quality programming), particularly BSkyB apparachiks - across many outlets, not just those owned by Murdoch.
posted by blastboy at 11:10 AM on August 27, 2003

The BBC Digital television service I have more issues with. Yes, if it was included within the licence fee and could be received by anyone, but you have to pay £100 for a digibox to be able to do that.

Count yourself lucky. When Britain went from 405 line TV to 625 you had to buy a whole new TV and all you got was one extra channel, BBC 2. You can now buy a digital, free-to-air set top box for your existing TV for as little as sixty quid or it comes built-in with any decent new TV. How hard is that?

On BBC 3, while I don't think it's quite settled down and figured out the right format yet, there's still good stuff on there. I'm also not sure how people can fail to tell the obvious public service difference between that and E4 - maybe they just don't watch the shows that exemplify it.
posted by kerplunk at 12:11 PM on August 27, 2003

I think it's worth pointing out that the interactive aspects of the BBC's output amount to less than 5% of the license fee. I might be wrong on that figure so check before use, but that's what i've heard. It's something like a fiver each year spent on interactive services. That would be around 45p a month for use of
posted by barbelith at 4:47 AM on August 28, 2003

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