Great justification for the future of Digital Britain

Guys talk about Volume at the V and A

Victor Keegan from the Guardian, pins down a great argument for the TV license rise. Here's some of the best bits.

The BBC needs to be cut down to size because it uses the certainty of its licence fee to undermine entrepreneurial initiatives in the private sector. That is the accusation used by many of its rivals as they try to prevent the BBC from getting an above-inflation rise in its current licence application, a decision on which is imminent. The reality is rather different, as two recent examples illustrate.

Back in May the BBC – Radio 1, actually – was prescient in launching a pop concert in the now-fashionable Second Life virtual world that attracted 6,000 people. The spin-off from the event is credited with tripling the number of SL participants and helping to change it from a geek's secret paradise into a mainstream phenomenon. Justin Bovington, chief executive of Rivers Run Red, the enterprising Soho company that employs 22 people to build projects in SL, reckons that only the BBC could have done that because
private sector companies wouldn't have taken the risk.

The main UK global media brand online is the BBC (with the Guardian running second). If the UK wants to breed companies that can rival YouTube or the new wave of online media such as NowPublic.com (which utilises 52,000 story-hungry cameraphone-equipped citizen journalists) then the most obvious organisation in terms of resources and a culture of innovation is the BBC. Why can't the politicians throw themselves behind one of the few global stars we have instead of finding reasons to cut it back?

No one knows what will happen when the digital revolution is turning whole industries upside down. The latest instalment is this week's news that the founders of Skype, the free internet telephone calls company, plans to launch a global near high-definition broadband television service.

At a time when a small cup of coffee at Starbucks costs £1.90, the BBC's licence fee of £131.50 a year for colour (36p a day) or only £44 for black and white (12p a day) is amazing value for money. If the government, through the licence fee review, underfunds the BBC during this critical period, then it will truly deserve the contempt of history.

Indeed! This certainly makes me proud to work for the BBC. This is also one of many reasons to have projects like the Backstage and Innovation labs. We're a publicly funded company and everything we do is to the benefit of the public now and into the future. If the government does (in my view) the right thing, Digital Britain will be a great place to live and work. But obviously we can't go it alone, this is why I find things like Vecosys moving on from techcrunch, Girl geekdinners expension plans extremely interesting. 2007 also seems to be the year when conferences and events in england (at least) grow massively. February looks to be very busy and with companies like Chinwag launching their own events, its certainly looks like there will be something of interest for everyone involved in Future Media and Technology (I'm dumping new media in 2007).

I was also thinking the other day about the sheer diversity of the UK compared to elsewhere. Bruce Sterling wrote a nice piece in Make 07 titled the Interventionists. About how the tech geeks and fine artists are jostling onto the same page. After reading it I thought Dorkbot London and started to reflect on some of the other groups which already occupy the UK. The UK government has also made it clear they want to help drive more of them as this is critical to enterprising britain.

So in summary, I think 2007 will be great for the reasons of people coming together more than ever. The BBC will have a big role to play in this but maybe more to highlight whats already going on elsewhere.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.