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The Fall and Rise of Broadcasting

Some of the big broadcasters complain that TouTube is substantially rubbish. I have to say that as far as I can see YouTube represents fairly well the content of the brains of the human population at large and I think we could all say that the majority of YouTube we have no interest in watching.

But what YouTube does is it takes away control of broadcasting from the few and puts it in the hands of the many. It creates channels from people who have something to say to people who wish to hear them and although many of us may feel that the most popular channels contain rubbish we are in no way coerced into watching them.

Now we can look for what we want to watch, with just a few key words typed in the search field. Then when we find something interesting we can look at the person who made it and find what they found interesting to watch, which often interests us also. That way we can find a network of people, who are largely like ourselves culturally. We can all do this.

Broadcasting used to mean the few to the many, but now it is the many to the many. To "inform, educate and entertain" was and still is the mission of the BBC and in many ways it has succeeded. However just like the commercial channels it has pressures and there might be a question as to whether "inform, educate and entertain" are friends working together or enemies battling for air-time. It is hard to judge to what extent the BBC has succeeded or failed given that there is nothing quite like it.

It has been many years since I had a TV in my house simply because the vast majority of what was broadcast was not of interest to me. News focuses on the popular stories and ignores the majority of the world. (The BBC usually tries to cover both sides but USA TV doesn't even bother to do that!) Education is generally pretty basic and pretty rare and the best of it you can buy on DVD and watch when you like. Entertainment fills the vast majority of air time. During the 1970s this meant a cop show every night but now its reality TV. I'm not saying that there are not some brilliant programmes but finding them if you don't want the rest is hard.

Last night, on you tube, I looked up "Cybernetics" and within one minute I found a talk of interest. "Fallugah" and "White phosphorous" and within one minute you have news on the USA's illegal use of chemical weapons against the civilian population of Fallugah. Not just the documentary about the atrocity but the soldiers that did it celebrating their action and confirming the nature of it and the counter propaganda claiming it was not an issue. That is news with coverage from both sides, not today's news, but history that now cannot be forgotten. And that is just one such indecent of many.

Yes the technical quality of much of the material is lacking but the content is there and can be found at the right time.

So what should the "few" old broadcasters do in the light of the "many" new broadcasters if they are not to end like those mechanical calculator companies that did not see the need to move to electronics? Could they find themselves unwanted and replaced by YouTube and the like. Not if they do things right. Two problems exist. How to pay for certain content and how to stop piracy of that content.

First the old broadcasters need to use the new delivery methods. In other words any-time delivery, search based or link based. By link based I mean "If you watched this you might enjoy these" or "If you like this guy he liked these". Then they need to have the ability to charge for some programmes or be allowed to insert advertising to pay for the programmes.

Then finally this needs to be delivered in your sitting room not your office and probably in high definition, the TV really becoming more of a web-browser pay as you go device. Sit down to watch a programme on high energy physics, or a game show. That's the future.

(C)2010 Tom de Havas. The information under this section is my own work it may be reproduced without modification but must include this notice.