Saturday, October 10, 2009
There is a good case that advertising was not created by God to keep the free market working. It has been a business model that allows broadcasters, newspapers & indeed Google to work without being branches of government but it works purely because advertisers want something fairly close to maximisation of audience size & will pay for it.
But there may be other business models which could deliver a quality service without all those ad breaks.
One is state funding of government appointees, which is pretty much what we have in Britain & results in a BBC which is willing to lie & censor to promote any government propaganda whatsoever from trying to induce hysteria over a global warming scare they all know to be a lie, to lying to assist in war crimes, mass murder, racial genocide, the sexual enslavement of children & the dissection of living people to steal their organs. Compared to that advertising is the preferable option.
Here is another one:
Keep the licence fee. As there is no such thing as a free lunch there is no such thing as a free service paid by advertising because in the end the advertisers pass the cost back to us.
Give it to a new controlling body, BBC Management, whose job is to measure viewers per programme & hand over the licence money in proportion to the number of viewers. This body would also conduct an open auction of airtime. Thus anybody could bid for any programme slot, or series of slots weekly and if their programme proves popular would make a profit. Independent companies wouldn't have to pitch their ideas to BBC executives they would just have to rely on their own judgement (or for start ups their bank manager's). This dramatically lowers the barriers of entry, far more than in any conventional commercial TV channel & throughout economics we see low barriers to entry of any business as being in the consumer's interest.
I suspect even I could afford to broadcast a debate on global warming at 4 AM in August, something which no conventional broadcaster in Britain will even think about. Thus not only would we get better programmes, at least in the viewer's opinions, but we would greatly increase access to the media by non-official views thereby making Britain a much freer country.
A Beeboid recently got a certain amount of stick for the last part of this:
'If we didn't all think differently, have different ideas of what works and what doesn't, wouldn't our lives, and more importantly, our TV screens be less interesting? We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn mindedness, left-of-centre thinking.'This neatly encapsulates the problem. By "left of centre" what the BBC actually means is more big state controls, regulation, taxation etc. which in turn shows the very sharp limits of what sort of idiosyncrasies they are interested in broadcasting.
Real "peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn mindedness" would certainly flourish under an open access regime - so much so that it would, in time, come to be seen as "open mindedness, individualism & dedication".
3 amendments to the pure system which I would suggest.
Firstly a system of prizes giving a fixed sum &/or percentage bonus to programmes high quality. I would have 2 separate panels making awards - one of the "great & good" & one of a citizen jury. It would be interesting to see whose judgement held up better over time.
Secondly I can see a case for some loading for any educational programme including News & Discovery channel type material.
Thirdly, because I am so soft hearted, I would wish the current BBC structure to get a 40% loading in the first year declining by 10% in each succeeding year. If they only had to bid 60% as much as competitors to keep a particular programme slot they could keep anything they really wanted giving time for the current organisation to slim down to its useful parts.