BBC asks Ofcom for permission to lead the way into 1984

In George Orwell’s 1984 the TV screen in the corner also watches you. The PC or mobile that is the “extension to your mind” and your “window into world” is also the world’s window into your mind, available for rent to any those will pay or who the government deems should have uncharged access. Surveys indicate that about a third of population is deeply suspicious – but not yet in a state of open revolt. The rest think “so what’s new”?  


On Friday Ofcom published a consultation on a proposal by the BBC to control how its high definition content – which will in the future be available on Freeview – can be copied. HD programmes have begun to be broadcast on digital terrestrial TV in parts of the country and HD Freeview boxes will be available in the shops in the next few months.

The consultation asks whether the BBC, through its subsidiary BBC Free to View Ltd, should be granted a change to its digital licence. The BBC’s proposals would allow it to require the use of content management technology in HD receivers to control the way films and TV shows are copied.

The content management technology would allow unrestricted recordings of the BBC’s and other free to air broadcasters HD content onto digital video recorders, but it would also allow broadcasters to control the number of times the content can be copied onto, for example Blu-Ray or HD DVDs and its redistribution over the internet.

The BBC argues that this would ensure that rights holders, such as film and TV production companies, have sufficient confidence in the effectiveness of the copy management system on digital terrestrial TV that they will continue to supply it with their content.

Meanwhile our children deny usable Internet access to most of us after 18.00 when they go on-line to google their homework while simultaneously gossiping on Facebook, exchanging photos and video clips and downloading longer music tracks and videos, unable to upload their own because they lack symmetric access. And the providers of advertising-funded on-line content and services want some-one else to pay to overcome the shortage of bandwidth.

In May you will be consulted – at the ballot box.

And the silent majority will get what it deserves – ignored.

Don’t just respond to Ofcom. Tell those who will be seeking your vote in May what you think. Over 50 of those standing for the first time are sufficiently interested in the issues of access to world-class broadband and the related regulatory and governance issues to have joined the Information Society Alliance (EURIM) as associates and ask for material to help them campaign for this as part of their own local election election strategies.   

If you do not let them and their colleagues and opponents know your views, they will know that you do not really care. The debate can be left to “them” (regulators and the dominant players) to do what gives them an easy (and profitable) life.

This process is called “liberal democracy”.

I am not sure what the alternative is. But we should take a cold-blooded look at what we ourselves are doing, and why, before we get huffy when the Chinese say they are only doing what the rest of the world does.