The BBC Trust has terminated the Corporation’s plans for a big new local news service. Here’s the nub of it:
In the case of the Local Video proposition therefore, we have judged that the proposal would not create enough value to the public to justify the investment of their licence fee monies and that this value is not great enough to offset the adverse market impact. The Trust has therefore rejected the proposal.
The Trust’s remit is clearly to dish out summary judgments, terminate services and generally kick butt. You can understand why: thoughtful touchy-feely judgments are hardly going to wash with the Corporation’s various implacable opponents emboldened by the last couple of months of cock-ups and defensive slips—especially those of them who buy ink by the barrel.
But it’s sad: a more measured response to the proposed video news service, something that acknowledged local media’s present crisis, for instance, might have been more helpful. It might, for instance, have said something like: “we’d like BBC local news management to go away and come up with a revised proposal that addresses the thinning out of local media by providing video, audio and news feeds free of charge to local media groups”, for instance.
Fairly vague ideas about sharing facilities and content were raised by Mark Thompson earlier in the year and there’s a strategic study under way that should report this year. The newsgathering and distribution facilities (studios, newsrooms, personnel, servers, bandwidth, CMS) purchased at wholesale rates by the BBC could be opened up to local players to produce real benefits to communities and struggling media outlets.
Radical thinking in the design of these services could also see them more open, more accessible and more useful than anything else in local media: benefits that should flow to local partners as well as communities. How about a local media toolset with deep links to the BBC’s various open linked data projects, to data and tools from government departments and institutions, to stores of open content and code, to archives from the BBC, museums and universities, to shared community and accountability functions… The list could go on.
So, giving the Trust the benefit of the doubt on this occasion—they were really only doing their job and creativity and flexibility are not in their remit—could Thompson expect a better reception if he came back with a totally reworked ‘Local Video 2.0′ proposal? One that emphasised openness, access to tools and local empowerment through technology. I’d like to think so.