Peter’s principles 

11 May 2009

Thinking for inside the box (Peter Bazalgette’s plan to fix TV in a recession)

Given the extent of crisis within the television industry (and other media industries as well, although it’s television that’s the natural focus here), it’s no surprise that Uncle Tom Cobbley and his associated friends are all lining up to give their suggestions as to how to fix all these industry-wide problems.

And given his past and present associations with the media industry as a whole, the opinions of Peter Bazalgette are usually (rightly or wrongly) given a fair amount of credence by some people, although the only media representatives who can actually stop the industry dead with their proclamations are Rupert and James Murdoch.

So exactly what is Bazalgette now proposing in order to dig the industry out of a very large hole?

In the short term, he says that the industry needs to sort out contract rights renewal (badly needed but more of a long term proposition), and paid product placement will contribute relatively little financially to the media industry as well as opening up a whole can of worms in relation to the potential brand contamination of commercial programming.

Then there’s making the BBC iPlayer “an open platform for all content and, with the exception of simultaneously streamed BBC shows, let it offer subscription and advertiser-supported programmes” – that last bit would at least require further consultation, a Competition Commission report and major “white papers” from Ofcom and other parties.

Don’t hold your breath.

Then there are the long term objectives, which include potential “levies on kit that enables copying of content, such as Sky+ or recordable DVD, could deliver £175m a year”; that in itself would be highly controversial and could be bypassed via parallel European importing. Plus computers are now very much “media devices” – would they be taxed as well?

And as for the policy vacuum surrounding so called “behavourial advertising”, this highly controversial means of targeting individuals might arguably benefit certain companies more than the media industry in general, and may also lead to a further fragmentation of programme types as a consequence; the laws of diminishing returns then start to apply.

Nice try Peter, and several of the themes are recurring ones that definitely need further attention, but some of these suggestions – in particular, the “short term” idea relating to the concept of advertiser-funded programmes being served using the iPlayer – betray the application of ideological principles over commonsense ideas.

Which kind of ruins the whole thing, all things considered.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Saturday 11 May 2024