Skip to main content
I Love My BBC...?

Jonathan Miller’s announcement of his refusal to pay his BBC television license fee and furthermore, challenge this annual exercise in extortion in the European courts, set me thinking about the relationship between the license fee and the government’s UK Online agenda, its grand plan for an information society.

Last year, I resigned as a Director of dkTV, the public sector Digital TV pilot, which had the BBC, as it’s programming partner. At the time, it became obvious to me that the project would run out of money very quickly unless government, in the shape of The Office of the e-Envoy, was prepared to help fund it’s second stage of project development. Without money, it sank, leaving several local authorities looking embarrassed and yet another ambitious pilot was washed down the drain, losing the people, the ideas and experience with it.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights supports Miller’s protest, which says, “Everyone has the right to freedom or expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by a public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent states form requiring the licensing of broadcasting television or cinema enterprises”.

So, as Miller points out, the use of “Radio telegraphy apparatus” without a valid license, to watch satellite television is a criminal offence according to the BBC, which must involve interference with one’s right to receive information as defined by Article 10?

So what’s my point?

This is supposed to be an information society. I can watch television in my car or on my PC or even on a watch? The broadcast can be analogue or digital and can even include Web content or as with dkTV, the ability to send an email to access NHS Direct or call in a plumber to a council home. The content represents a rich information stream and only a small fraction of what is available today originates with the BBC, most of which, other than the occasional period drama, can be safely ignored as drivel or considered politically biased or generally unsuitable for children.

Why on earth is the UK, as a supposedly advanced technological society, taxing “Radio telegraphy apparatus”? The answer of course is that it can but this, for me, is utterly inconsistent with the government’s UK Online strategy unless there is a political motive behind support for the BBC, as after all, the moment you view a live Web Cam of a television feed, it might be argued that you are breaking the law if you don’t hold a TV license?

The information revolution is bigger than the BBC, which appears to be accountable only to itself and its politically connected management. If Government plans to offer the population the digital content and the multiple channel services that it deserves, then it’s time to let people decide, like Sky, whether the BBC is worth paying for or whether the licence fee is better spent on a Broadband Internet connection.


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …