back to article Earth to Ofcom: They're our airwaves. Give them back

Sometimes Ofcom, Britain's media and telecomms uber-regulator, likes to agonise in public whether Britain needs a media and telecomms uber-regulator. It must feel like a stag night in SE1, as the executives fly in expensive blue-sky wonks and consultants, and Ofcom gets quite giddy with itself at the prospect of a world …


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  1. 4a$$Monkey
    Paris Hilton

    £25,000 Chucks

    The idea of giving out chunks of the licence fee to anyone wanting to make a decent show is a great one. Unfortunately I would worry that it would be presided over in the same farcical way the national lottery hands out its good causes cash.

    Paris icon because she knows how to make a good show!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    How many BBC staff does it take to change a light bulb?


    99 to implement the strategic review which after two years will declare the ladder a platform.

    Then 1 man can climb up the ladder, and change the lightbulb.

  3. Luther Blissett

    Quangos and their (li)quiddity

    > what Ofcom loves most, because the bureaucratic carve up that results gives it "tax and spend" powers.

    Adam Smith pointed out, you could do two things with money (aka capital). One was to risk it in a commercial enterprise which would hopefully make you a profit. The other was to take control of a resource (e.g. land) which you could lease to others in exchange for an income. The attraction of rents as opposed to profits is pretty obvious. There is much less attrition of capital, only war and Acts of God to worry about, and you control the T&Cs rather than "the market" imposing them on you (yesterday).

    The apparent innate revulsion some have at the sight of the squiggles "Adam Smith" (and its auditory equivalent), or a disdain for dead thinkers, only serves to mask the widespread tendency of quangos and of institutions in receipt of public monies to turn themselves into rent-seekers who control the resource, impose their terms on it, decide who will and who won't be allowed in. Think universities. Think professions. Think Ofcom.

    Think well. Think often.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    £25,000 chunks

    Channel 4 is a non-producing broadcaster, (something like) 98% of it's output has to be produced by other companies, and it controls the purse strings to pay for these programmes, giving out cash to producers who say they can make good programmes.

    This is the same broadcaster who brought us Big Brother...

  5. Man Outraged

    Andrew Orlowski - shame be upon you!

    Caual mentions of keywords of the moment, "Phorm", just to get your story read by everyone with Google News Alerts setup maybe!? RUMBLED!!

  6. Anonymous Coward

    The problem with Ofcom

    Ofcom seems hugely reluctant to regulate commercial broadcasting (and broadband internet as well) apart from slapping fines on TV and radio channels if they broadcast naughty words or if they suddenly realise that the companies that they're *supposed* to be regulating were committing widespread fraud, as was the case with the premium rate phone scandals of last year.

    Another example of Ofcom sticking fingers in its ears and whistling loudly was allowing ITV plc to get away with numerous cutbacks in regional television (some perhaps justified, some not) despite holding expensive regional licences that many other companies would still pay good money for.

    They're also ideologically obsessed with the notion of 'choice' even to the extent of the proposed alternatives being either unworkable or impractical, though this isn't too surprising when a regulator is allied to a political regime that is obsessed with giving people choice in hospitals and schools when what people really want is decent education and health care no matter where they live. So now Ofcom is suddenly trying to reverse the damage caused by years of negligence but is still afraid or unable to ask the established commercial broadcasters to make better programming.

    As for Channel 4, it made better programmes when its advertising was controlled by ITV, so if Ofcom wants something better to do than pinch a proportion of the BBC's licence fee then it could try its hand at selling Channel 4's advertising.

  7. s. pam
    Thumb Down

    You need to start the TV License Protest with this review

    Lads and Laddettes, this is where we start to win the battle back that Mother Beeb is not a "public service" but a cash consuming commercial fat-cow. it'll take you a few minutes to read the main parts of the brief, then fill-in the survey. you need to illustrate that in a free-market economy such as the UK broadcast industry, the notion of "public service" has long since gone away and been replaced with the £/$ game. it's even ludicrous that broadcasters such as CH-4 and ITv are getting free gubmnt handouts when they raise £100-200M in profits in the past year, thus validating the point that the TV license is out of vogue, and they are commercial entities.

    you may also want to cover that if the Beeb is going to run and deliver services all over the globe, that it's more akin to Sky/Murdoch as a commercial broadcaster in this internet age, and even LESS a public service.

    i know i've made those points and more on the survey, come on, you can too!

  8. Edward Rose

    BBC, public service?

    Now, I may be getting the wrong vibes, but back when I bothered with TV the BBC showed the very narrow selection of shows that the current director liked. There was, for instance a point when anything relating to technology was removed, and the closest thing to science was along the lines of...

    "Well, this is one theory of what could have happened. Now, provided it did happen this way then something else occurred, and from this so-in-so happened. Which inevitably leads to this happening. So, as you can see we are in a lot of (insert exaggeration) as this is going to happen."

    Truly fantastic science at work there. Theory turning magically into fact. Shame it never worked for the Beeb. Theory is, it is a public service broadcaster set up to help educate the great unwashed and be completely unbiased.

    Eastenders? WTF? And, people watch it!!?

    BBC News, unbiased? WTF? Unbiased my arse, I've read all sorts of points of view being forced down the readers throat on the site (sometimes both sides from different authors). Not just a 'facts-easy-to-digest' article, nope, not enough wow. And, I'm sure they have a blog too. Public service?

    s.pam is almost right, they are _almost_ a commercial entity. Difference is, they are funded by the license payer, so have no financial pressure.

    They should be forced to show 30mins+ of user submitted stuff a day. It would be an interesting trial into the handing out the cash openly. It would give some good results too.

    Still, who am I to say. It's not my money.... :)

  9. Naadir Jeewa
    Thumb Up

    Group think to anti think

    It should be noted that another problem with group-think movements is the inability to form cross-identity consensus. As Matthew Nisbett (a science communication prof.) keeps repeating on scienceblogs, the Dawkins movement is alienating religious moderates with whom liberals share most of the same values with, i.e. pro-science, pro-choice, pro-AGW-action, etc...

    I've also seen a growing group-think on this very site. Andrew has posted a nuanced article that goes far beyond the rhetoric of "free-market fundamentalism," as it is, at the end of the day, about public services. We don't need to reify the article into some summary of Adam Smith ("rent-seeking" is more to do with Ricardo and the Friedman generation of economists anyway).

    The question for me is, how do we stop money being used to increase groupthink with even more powerful media? There seems to be a lot of literature on how deliberative practices *within* groups seem to polarise them further (Sunstein, Why Societies Need Dissent, 2003)). We need to find ways for competing groups to communicate to each other without debates degenarating into slagging matches, as they do now.

  10. Daniel Dearlove
    Paris Hilton

    Somebody is obviously confused... the beeb gets all it's revenue from the taxpayer in one form or another whereas all other channels have to compete commercially. In other words, every broadcaster but the beeb has to appeal to advertisers with their content so they (advertisers and broadcasters) view everything in terms of return on investment (ROI).

    In recent times, it has been very obvious that the beeb is trying to appear like the commercial channels. Remember everyone copying Kirsty Young propped on a desk? The number of weekly episodes of Eastenders has stayed in line with Coronation Street. The beeb has the space to plough it's own furrow as it's revenue is not directly linked to it's viewing figures. This enables it to take a punt in areas other broadcasters fear to tread yet I don't see any element of risk-taking to expand it's viewing figures and, in turn, revenue from other broadcasters and DVD sales.

    For starters, there is talk of the licence fee being used to fund other producers. The BBC could easily spare a couple of million quid to find new screenwriters and producers and undermine this proposal in the process. To the best dozen proposals for a new TV series give £100,000 (or however much it costs) to make the pilot. Next, use your favourite selection method (phone vote?) to choose the best set of pilots for a series in the primetime 12 months from now. A regular introduction of new blood keeps the incumbents on their toes which keeps the standards high. If the new blood is better, they force out the incumbents and vice versa.

    Also, have proper, 1 hour+ debates on single topics instead of the 20 or 30 minute segments interspersed with music, travel information and adverts. Currently, there is no space for rigorous questioning of the participants for a thorough understanding of various public-interest issues, the exposing of hypocrisy in the participants and a replacement of the "truth" or "consensus" in an issue with the complexity that most issues actually are. On television, this could include pre-approved Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy-style VT segments or short presentations to give a quick overview of "the scientific method", "what is DNA?" or whatever. God forbid we can actually think for ourselves.

    Paris? Does she think at all?

  11. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Change the Game, for the Controls have Changed Hands and moved into Beta IntelAIgent Sources ...

    ..... for the NXXXXt Generation of ITCommunications and Future Generations.

    The BBC are vulnerable to an Independent media program/Independent media programming which exposes it as a closed shop parasitic organisation working to private and "undisclosed" agendas at significant detrimental cost to the Public Purse and Good Governance Public Service Broadcasting.

    In fact, if what they Broadcast as news and/or current affairs is not factually correct and merely Spin to hide A.N.Other agenda, in [concerted] cynical attempts to maintain Status Quo positions/alliances, and enhance personal standing rather than impart and share greater wisdom/knowledge/understanding/enlightenment, then such is surely a Criminal Conspiracy which is not in the National Public Interest and is even against the National and International Interest and could be argued as an act of deliberate Treason/Terrorism?

    The BBC and its Paymasters/its License Fee Collectors stand so accused?

    "Now here's the BBC's Adam Curtis, on what a fragmented landscape looks like when the "public service" media don't know what they're doing. ....[Blah,blah,blah, blah.]" ..... Quite, Mr Curtis, but where can we read of your views on the landscape whenever the "public service" media know XXXXactly what they're doing, which you might like to consider is a number of degrees of knowledge higher than that which is presented to us with current Programming.

    Or would it be Arrogant/Delusional to think that such is Available and being studiously ignored/avoided because of the Political Fallout from such as would be ITs Past/Present Abuse of Public Trust and Funds.

    It is a view which has been both directly and indirectly shared with Government/the Cabinet and the BBC and Ofcom on any number of occasions since the Gilligan/Dyke fiasco/stitch up. ...... .... but obviously dismissed in favour of the flavour which delivers so little of significant Global/National value today, as it seeks to prop up the crumbling structures of Past Controls....... and to consider what they would be, is not something which would be helpful in exploring unless of course, there was a dogged and unreasonable Resistance to Change in AI Progressive Digital/Binary/Virtualised Regimen............Transparent Leadership albeit with ITs Leaderships in the Cloud/Virtual Communications Spaces/CyberSpace.

  12. michael

    I for one

    welcome our web 2.0 drug despencing appet all hail adwords and phorm

  13. Tony

    Group think

    BBC's Adam Curtis:

    "What really happens now, is that they're so entrenched in their self-referential groups, anyone who joins up the dots any other way......."

    doesn't work for the BBC and should be terminated (or something similar).

    Pot & kettle?

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  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Well I think the press - even the "New Press" in their smart casual clothing and their multiple electronic personae thumbing their nose at the stuffed shirts of the old media as young turks have done since time immemorial - needs to remember that it, too, travels in the narrow twisting lanes of their own self-referential worlds and inflate its collective chest on the humid exhaled breath of its loving, huddled audience.

    Very nearly no-one sets out to form an insular group of obsessed dogmatics. More often than not they begin as bright minds with their crackling new ideas sparking like ball lightning and illuminating new parts of the world in interesting new ways. Then the sifting and sorting starts and people start accreting to personalities and ideas like limpets till they are encased in a slightly smelly shell of decaying malignant self-defensiveness .

    The challenge is how to capture the energy of that initial electrical storm and turn it to good use and fend off the pending seizure. No-one wants a thousand televisual Wikipedias locked in endless debate over WP:GratuitousNudity.

    What is needed is a more open playing field with the referee there just to ensure that

    1) All the teams get time on the field, and

    2) Yellow cards follow fouls and red cards follow yellow cards..

    The beeb - or another centre of broadcasting capacity - could be refactored as a groundskeeper - making sure the turf is soft and fluffy and rolled elegantly before each game, and the loos are cleaned afterwards

  17. trackSuit

    -props for the author turned actor / Playwright

    Just as there is a dystopian version of the future, there is also a yang opposite, in which the sun shines -a fecund blessing.

    If corrosion by means of apathy and ignorance is slow and yet pernicious, then its opposite is fast-Acting and Vital.

    When people Dare to Care, the changes are quick and Positive for all. For anyone to complain at this, would QuITe likely betray old and entrenched Ideas which were being misused purposely and publicly? A pitiful State of Affairs and very poor play.

    To pretend that problems of any kind are inevitable and unavoidable is to be so far from reality as to be ridiculous.

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