Everyone may find the following article very interesting. Bill Hogan ============ URL: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0%2C1284%2C67552%2C00.html The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth By Cory Doctorow 02:00 AM May. 18, 2005 PT America's entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe's biggest broadcasters -- the BBC -- is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it. Unlike Hollywood, the BBC is eager and willing to work with a burgeoning group of content providers whose interests are aligned with its own: its audience. The BBC's news website is the first mainstream news-gathering organization in the Western world to solicit and give prominence to photographs and reporting provided by its visitors. Professional photographers spluttered at the presumption of the BBC to use amateurs' efforts. But the BBC is doing its job: engaging the audience, and picking the best from all worlds, commercial and public alike. The BBC isn't perfect. It's a public broadcaster known as much for hidebound bureaucracy as nimbleness and foresight. Its internet offerings have always been forward-looking, but paranoia over its public image has led it to restrictive policies on things like outbound linking. Until recently, the otherwise stellar BBC News site hardly linked to anything apart from other BBC pages. Stef Magdalinski, a hacker-agitator-entrepreneur, responded with a guerrilla project called Wikiproxy, which rips all the news stories coming off the BBC news wire and mixes them by linking every proper noun to its corresponding Wikipedia entry. Of course, this burns to a crisp the old BBC policy against linking to external sites. Rather than sue, the BBC created BBC Backstage, a service for remixing the Beeb that launched last week. With Backstage, BBC's online department takes all the goop in its content-management system -- breaking news, editorials and conferences -- and exposes it as a set of standard programming interfaces. Anyone who can hack a little Perl or Python can mix these into any kind of service they can imagine. The crowning glory of the Beeb's openness is the Creative Archive. The Creative Archive is an attempt to digitize all the programming the BBC has commissioned, clear the copyrights and post it online with a Creative Commons-like license. This will allow Britons to download the BBC's content, distribute it and noncommercially remix it into their own films, music, gags, projects and school reports. It's a shame that Auntie couldn't find the political will to use a proper Creative Commons license, but this is the kind of reversible error that I expect the BBC to correct soon enough. Meanwhile, the BBC has shown itself to be awfully clueful with its announcement that the Creative Archive will not employ useless, consumer-hostile digital rights management technology of the sort that Movielink and Apple's iTunes Music Store waste so much time and money on. Take digital TV. Practically every country in the world needs to come up with a strategy for the "analog switch-off" -- the day when the analog TV towers go dark, leaving only digital TV behind. To get there, citizens need to get new digital receivers, or risk having their TVs stop working after the switch-off. In most countries, the switch-off will be sometime before 2010. In Britain, the BBC led the charge with something called Freeview, a system for transmitting 30 free digital TV stations and 20 free digital radio stations to the nation's analog TV sets. A digital receiver sits on top of the TV, attached to a set of rabbit ears, and provides as many channels as most Americans get on basic cable, for free, forever. Britons have embraced Freeview in spades, and the United Kingdom will likely effect the first major analog switch-off as a result. Quite a payoff, considering the billions that the analog TV spectrum can be sold for in a market of spectrum-hungry mobile carriers. In the United States, the "solution" was the doomed broadcast flag. The Federal Communications Commission decided the way to get Americans to junk analog sets was to offer high-definition programming. But Hollywood wouldn't open up its high-definition coffers unless the FCC gave it a veto over the design of digital television receivers. These companies -- who tried to ban the VCR -- wanted to be in charge of all digital television apparatus (including PCs), forever. How this was supposed to result in an American analog switch-off is beyond me. Hollywood tried this kind of blackmail on the BBC, too. In 2003, when the BBC switched off the encryption on its satellite feeds, allowing anyone who bought a receiver (including the French and Belgians) to watch free satellite TV, the studios went nuts, saying that they would lose licensing revenue from continental Europe. Hollywood swore it would boycott the BBC: No movies for you! The BBC stood fast -- after all, anyone with a camera can be a filmmaker, but to be the BBC, you need 29,000 employees and 78 years of history -- and when the studios' fiscal year wrapped up, they came, hats in hand, to the BBC, asking if they couldn't please have some of the money they were accustomed to for satellite licensing. The greatest irony here is that it takes a publicly-funded broadcaster from a cozy liberal democracy to teach America's lumbering, anti-competitive Hollywood dinosaurs what a real, competitive offering looks like. © Copyright 2005, Lycos, Inc. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.