Ofcom, the independent regulator of the UK telecommunications industries, plans to analyse the economics behind of the provision of public service digital media content to try to work out if there is any “shortfall in provision”. I doubt that means another overhaul of the BBC however.
Behind the scenes Ofcom has been consulting many people in the digital media industry about using online to deliver public service “audio-visual content” but there remains a question over where any intervention is needed.
The options up for debate are the creation of a “Public Service Publisher” (PSP) which either helps citizens navigate to other sources of public service content or acts as a fund for public service content, rather like a VC. In the former case, since Google, Yahoo! and MSN all spend billions of pounds every year on making their search engines work as a business, it does seem a tad optimistic that a bunch of civil servants and private contractors are going to be able to come up with a web site which beats the GYM club when it comes to algorithmic search.
In the latter case, Ofcom’s research has not turned up much enthusiasm for the VC route, with this proposal pointing out that there is no consensus on the required scale or source of potential funding. They are not that keen on an open rights model either, despite the lobbying no doubt from the Open Rights Group.
Meanwhile some ideas about what the PSP should do are coming in from different quarters.
Recently, The power of information report by the founder of mySociety, Tom Steinberg, and chief executive of the National Consumer Council, Ed Mayo, set out a roadmap for the government to help online communities create and reuse information for the benefit of citizens.
This found that by supporting the existing innovation of citizens, with facilitation and greater access to information; government will be creating opportunities for people to become empowered to make informed decisions and create solutions to improve their lives.
Tom Steinberg, founder and Director of mySociety said: “Around the world, the first phase of Government use of the Internet is coming to an end with public services and information largely online. We are now at the start of a new era, where Government starts to learn how to support citizens’ own ways of making, finding and re–using information.”
In other words, this seems to suggest either that there IS a funding route for the PSP – supporting new projects financially – or that government should put in a better framework around the media industry which allows citizens to “re–use” information in a creative way.
But that puts us back into the DRM debate and open access to data and information. This story will run and run…