Saturday, June 20, 2009

Digital Britain: Carter's charter for luvvies & lawyers

You know you’re in for disappointment when the opening sentence is, “On 26 August 1768, when Captain James Cook set sail for Australia, it took 2 years and 320 days.....” Stevie boy then compares this with Google. Some comparisons are odious, this is just stupid.

The report landed in my inbox like an octopus falling from a tree. Is this the best they can do? Carter’s badly written, novel-length report is a charter for the analogue professions; luvvies, farmers and lawyers. It’skewed towards old media like TV and radio, lacks vision, focuses on the past not the future, and stinks of lobbying by the professions. Where’s the citizen in all this? Most of us will simply end up paying more and being threatened by lawyers over peer-to-peer use.

TV talk digital future, geeks create it

The London Luvvies, and press, immediately leapt on the BBC/ITV/C4 funding stuff. Who gives a toss? The BBC, ITV and C4 are TV companies. The digital future is about the web, not TV! I don’t give a damn how they slice up the licence fee among themselves. In practice this brouhaha is only of interest to London media types. The reality is that there’s been a vast overpayment to the BBC for the Digital Switchover (a mess of a project) that would be better spent elsewhere. Simple as that. The National Audit Office calculate this at around £250 million. How did that happen? It makes £75 million wasted on BBC Jam seem like a bar bill. The controversy in all of this should be incompetent budgeting, not slicing up the TV tax? TV people love to think that they’re creating the digital future, when the reality is that they’re mired in the past. Can you name a single person in TV, or from a TV background, who’s created a Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Myspace, iTUNES, Flikr,Twitter or anything meaningful and long-lasting on the web? Of course not. While TV people run conferences on the future, businesses and geeks create it.

Digital Radio

Again, who gives a damn? Radio’s an old analogue medium that’s not worth mentioning in this report. We’re going to scrap millions of domestic and car radios at an enormous price environmentally to replace them with expensive digital radios that give you the same thing? Radio’s an analogue footnote.

Is Carter boss of Inland revenue?

So Carter has decided he’ll slap a poll tax us urban types to pay for laying in broadband for those lovely country folk. So I pay for twats who run around in 4X4s while living off vast EC farm subsidies. If you want to live in the country for the ‘peace and quiet’ why do you want the cacophony of the internet and broadband access to play Halo? They’re perfectly happy listening to crap like the Archers. Leave them alone.

And if we do go ahead and give BT and others this money, surely we should have a stake? When we subsidised the banks, we took equity. This is public money raised by a tax, so why not demand a stake? Carter’s revealed his background here – he’s a telco business guy at heart. What’s worse this levy is likely to stick and be included in future pricing.

Criminalise customers

This was the funny bit. The government pass the buck to OFCOM who pass the buck to the ISPs who pass the buck to the rights holders who take kids to the courts. This, of course, is unworkable. It’s a charter for lawyers. “a court-based process of identity release and civil action" We’ve been through all of this. You can’t take millions of people to court, most of them children. Send them letters if you will – they’ll be ignored. Customers will be outraged that their services will be cut because of file sharing by their children from sites they’ve never heard of and over which they have no control.

IP for gardeners

“NESTA will pilot a simplified IP framework for digital media bringing together PACT, the Cabinet Office, Kew Gardens and Arts Council England.” Kew gardens? This bag of quangos will take years to get an agenda together and another couple of years squabbling and by that time the world will have moved on. On p199 there’s a peculiar paragraph on Botanical gardens and Kew. They’re a leading edge digital media organisation, allegedly!!!! Someone on the report team must be fond of gardening.

Digital inclusion

Martha Lane –Fox is our new Champion for Digital exclusion. Martha is to represent the estimated six million adults who are both socially and digitally excluded. I think not. Martha, bless her silk socks, doesn’t know any poor people. This is like appointing Wayne Rooney as Champion for Higher Education.

Digital self-exclusion

Here’s an interesting paragraph...“Among non Internet using groups a common response to “digital self-exclusion” is that they say they are living contentedly offline and see no real need or benefit to going online. Despite the advantages of digital participation, as outlined in this document, 43% of those asked in a recent Ofcom study said that even if offered a ‘free computer and broadband subscription’, they still would not choose to be online.” Wow! It pops up, is ignored, yet the whole report is premised on the idea that it’s good for them. This is an idea that needs to be explored further, but it is not.

The reports a messy, fudge that focuses far too much on old media. BBC is mentioned 169 times, Google gets 6, FaceBook 5, Twitter 3, YouTube 2, iTunes 1, Games 0, Xbox 0, Playstation 0, Second Life 0, Wikipedia 0. It’s as if the internet doesn’t really exist and that the digital future is an issue for broadcasters.


Davy Sims said...


I've put the audio from the events on my servers until Invest NI posts them to their site. The links are below.

Having listened to them all I thought I would write a short piece for the Belfast Telegraph Business section. May I use a few quotations from you in the piece?


Unknown said...

Don't be so hard on radio - many people like me get all our news and much of our comment from radio. The problem in the UK is that the BBC is so well-funded and completely dominates the airwaves, completely crowding out all competition. We need to encourage and develop a diversity of radio voices.

Andy Tedd said...

Great - it's about time someone laid into it.

Old media and the dead tree press won't for fear of rocking the boat. Like some much of what is written about the web it's all very much about telly on your computer. The idea that a published 300 page tome is the way to describe 'Digital Britain' is a joke for a start and says it all.

And the rural stuff is nonsense, even more so than your quiant stereotype you metrosexual urban lefty-gheyer :)

I live in the sticks and get 8Mb all day every day. It's you townies fighting over your shared lines or getting ripped off by cable companies who need help.

Donald Clark said...

Nice to laugh on a Monday morning Andy. 'Metrosexual' is a first for me, but grateful for any moniker I can get these days!

'TV on computer' obsessives - spot on.

Report itself, overwritten, messy and visionless - spot on.

akh said...

With you all the way - apart from your comment on the Archers.

Unknown said...

I'm very pleased to confirm that your allegations about Kew are at least partly true (ok, declare an interest – I run the digital media bit of Kew…).

Clearly Kew isn’t a media powerhouse, but it is the world’s leading plant science institute and as such has huge quantities of information and data of great value – for medicine & health, food, schools, wildlife habitats, rainforests…. I could go on. We’re serious about using digital media to open this up and get it used more widely, which I hope will release real value to a large range of people.

Surely that’s what public service content – and digital britain is all about?