I have just finished a stint as part-time, temporary Chief Executive for BTSR, the training and development regulator for licensed broadcasters. The first report on the state of play in TV and Radio will be out in June or July. And an interesting time it has been interacting with the hundreds of organisations that build into the complex ecology of broadcasting in this country.
I noticed today on p 20 of the Independent on Sunday a three quarter page advert for BT Vision . What a fabulous deal: the V-box with a hard disk to record 80 hours of TV (must be about 200 gigabyte), the ability to pause and record on the fly, all the Freeview channels and more, FREE. You don’t even need a subscription! You can pay per view.
From a standing start, this is a serious rival to Sky and Virgin Media the other two big players, as well as the other on demand TV operators. Yet they have noOfcom license. They are not regulated at all. They will not contribute to the (modest) cost of BTSR or the media bit of Ofcom, but they will employ much the same people as any other broadcaster.
BT Vision is the first big crack in the regulation wall and the definition of what constitutes a media company. The fact that all the content comes down the line means they are technically not broadcasters. And if you tried to regulate them, you go down a very slippery slope attempting to regulate the internet. That has proved spectacularly unsuccessful in countries like Australia which tried to limit IPTV to the already licensed broadcasters. And if you don’t believe the technologies can work take a look at Joost to see the quality available now of full screen video channels and a lot more besides just one way delivery.
This is the broadcasting world turning upside down: radio on the internet, TV down the line. This is convergence in the mainstream and not the periphery .