British Digital Corporation? Radical thoughts?

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour

You might have noticed I haven’t been blogging much recently (there are many reasons) but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have a ton of things to blog.

One such thing is Jeremy Corbyn’s 2018 Alternative MacTaggart Lecture or rather his big, bold, radical thinking on the future of our media.

Big and bold maybe, radical? I’m less convinced but the interesting part is section 4, where he outlines plans for a British Digital Corporation.

The final idea I’d to share with you today, which I hope will generate some new thinking, is about how we, as a public and the media, as an industry take advantage of new technology.

I want us to be as ambitious as possible. The public realm doesn’t have to sit back and watch as a few mega tech corporations hoover up digital rights, assets and ultimately our money. This technology doesn’t have an inbuilt bias towards the few. Government is standing by and letting the few take advantage of the many using technology.

So, one of the more ambitious ideas I’ve heard is to set up a publicly owned British Digital Corporation as a sister organisation to the BBC. The idea was floated by James Harding, former BBC Director of Home News in the Hugh Cudlipp lecture earlier this year.

A BDC could use all of our best minds, the latest technology and our existing public assets not only to deliver information and entertainment to rival Netflix and Amazon but also to harness data for the public good.

A BDC could develop new technology for online decision making and audience-led commissioning of programmes and even a public social media platform with real privacy and public control over the data that is making Facebook and others so rich.

The BDC could work with other institutions that the next Labour government will set up like our National Investment Bank, National Transformation Fund, Strategic Investment Board, Regional Development Banks and our public utilities to create new ways for public engagement, oversight and control of key levers of our economy.

It could become the access point for public knowledge, information and content currently held in the BBC archives, the British Library and the British Museum. Imagine an expanded Iplayer giving universal access to licence fee payers for a product that could rival Netflix and Amazon. It would probably sell pretty well overseas as well.

I find this interesting mainly because I still think the BBC is still best placed to do this, rather than set up a new corporation. If I didn’t think this was still true I’d be rethinking what I’m doing at the BBC.

The thing I do think could work is a collaboration between different existing companies/institutes/organisations to a make something like Corbyn is talking about.

Now that would be radical…?

Author: Ianforrester

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

One thought on “British Digital Corporation? Radical thoughts?”

  1. A collaboration between the BBC and Private Corporations. How would that achieve any of the aims and objectives that Corbyn outlined in the lecture? The BBC is already a grossly flawed and biased organisation. Its focus should remain broadcasting. The BDC is where we could harness and develop technologies and make them available to the public free without advertising or any of that crap or that ability for tech giants to make millions out of our eyeballs. The BBC is not set-up to pursue any of that.
    When industry insiders talk about how they can “collaborate” I am not interested. I am not interested in enabling insiders to better collaborate but for the public to be given the tools to facilitate their own collaboration and pursue their own projects.

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