[okfn-discuss] public service publisher discussion documents out

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Fri Jan 26 10:40:02 UTC 2007

Saul Albert wrote:
> Hi All, I wrote this as a blog post for okfn. Would you all be terribly
> embarrassed to be associated with it if I posted it?

You should definitely post this (it's great!), though like Jo I think 
that a few tweaks on the vocabulary front would improve the tone (and as 
a result make it a more effective rant!) :) Below I've inserted some 



> Title missing.
> -----------------------------------------
> I was glad when on Rufus' insistence ('It's your Civic Duty!') I decided
> to go to ofcom's riverside HQ at London Bridge and participate in a
> discussions with a bunch of other smart-looking white guys (and a few
> gals) about what the UK's putative 'Public Service Publisher' should be.

The 'smart-looking white guys ....' sounds a bit too po-mo ironic for my 
tastes. I think the sentence reads better without it.

> The room was filled with execs from Yahoo, Google, as well as
> institutional players like the BFI and the Beeb. I guess I was (as
> usual) the only person not on a nice fat salary at the table. But as I
> said, I was glad that they'd invited me in the end.

'nice fat salary' -- sounds kind of resentful. Also I'd stick with BBC 
rather than Beeb (people outside of the UK might read this -- you never 

> It wasn't the high quality biscuits that made me glad, it was the fact
> that when the dodgy git from the 'creative' department at Wanadoo
> suggested that the PSP's 1 billion budget should be given to the Telcos
> and ISPs for their wonderful PSP-like job of carrying p2p content, I was
> there to suggest that this might not be the best use of taxpayer's coin.

We are letting our cup of sarcasm overrunneth here.

> I did a lot of wry chuckling and head-shaking that day, a bit of
> spluttering into my Perrier, and made a few (hopefully) more articulate
> contributions none of which gave me much hope that the PSP would be
> anything other than a funnel of public funds into another doomed online
> offering to the great and gastly 'public' in partnership with all kinds
> of poisonous corporates and some kind of monstrously distended
> BBC-online.

ditto. I think it would be a lot more effective shorn of the 'poisonous 
corporate' type stuff. IMO you could just leave these two paras out -- 
you've got more than enough to say.

> Having read through the website http://www.openmedianetwork.org.uk and
> skimmed the chunky pdf:
> http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/pspnewapproach/, I was
> pleasantly surprised to see that heavily watered-down mention was made
> of non-restrictive IP models:
> "...it is unlikely that restrictive IP models will maximise public value
> in a way which is consistent with the overarching thesis of the paper,
> namely that new forms of public value can be found in the participatory
> media environment which are distinct from those in the traditional world
> of linear broadcasting."
> Whew! For the first few pages of guff I really wasn't sure we'd even get
> that far.

suggest: delete guff

> Reading through the pickled reiterations of the BBC and OFCOM's mission
> statements in relation to one another and the Internet, I was pleased to
> see a pickled reiteration of the Creative Commons 'concept'. Of course
> the terms in which it was described were vague enough for it to be
> meaningless.

repetition of pickled

> I read the rest of the website with an increasing sense of despair.
> This report, which I'm sure cost a great deal and provided many
> Shoreditch twats like me with high quality biscuits just randomly grabs

suggest: delete section on 'which cost a great deal and provided .... 
biscuits' (IMO undermines your point)

> Cool Things (flickr! youtube! wikipedia! - and puts them alongside some
> snaggle-toothed UK Gov. Funded counterparts in a ditzy, glitzy 'already
> out there' section:
> http://www.openmedianetwork.org.uk/alreadyoutthere/default.htm
> Of course without these bright shiny colours and this undifferentiated
> platform for mediocrity the report would be extremely dry - like the
> pdf, which is actually much less depressing.

suggest: you might want to cut this para

> But the chief cause for my grumpiness is not the lack of distinction
> between 'good' and 'funded' projects on offer as possible fundees of the
> PSP, it's that somehow, the decision has already been made to turn this
> PSP into a funding agency that gives money to people to make new media
> 'projects' - presumably with the overarching aims of 'educating' and
> 'entertaining' the 'public'. I use scare quotes because I'm scared.
> What I was really hoping for was a tiny little bit of strategic

delete tiny -- 'tiny little' is just a bit too witheringly sarcastic

> thinking: thinking that might actually recognise that the Net and the
> emerging universe of electronic devices that people use to communicate,
> create and use networks, and on which people build their own platforms
> is an *infrastructure*, not a fairground.
> I was glad to see this one bit of input from our discussions on the
> site:
> "what we see now are the equivalents of the 19th century end-of-the-pier
> zoetropes and nickelodeons, but somewhere in there is the new cinema".
> But dismayed to see that it hadn't been understood.
> Deep breath.

this section onwards is *really, really* good. I almost feel it should 
be at the start or at least higher up because you may have lost readers 
before they got here -- and that would be a real loss as this is so good 
(maybe a rason to slim down the previous paras?).

> 'Cinema' isn't a project. It's a complex and interlinked infrastructure,
> that was only allowed to develop because of the difficulty Edison
> Laboratories would have had in patenting the Kinetoscope in Europe -
> partly because he'd borrowed from prior British inventions. In fact, it
> was two British inventors: Birt Acres and Robert Paul who extrapolated
> this invention into the first 35mm camera - which they never managed to
> patent effectively. This didn't stop a war raging over patents - led by
> the Pathe Freres company in Europe and Edison's Motion Picture Patent
> Company (a.k.a. the 'First Oligopoly' in the US, patenting and
> controlling technological development, owning cinemas and developing
> monopolies throughout the industry. The judiciary of the US - through
> public interest patent-busting and anti-trust suits finally broke this
> Oligopoly in the early 19teens, only for others to form - consolidating
> the power of the Film and global mass media industries in Hollywood as
> the 'Independent' studios and thier 'star' systems emerged in the 30's,
> leading to intense vertical integration of the whole film industry in
> the run up to WWII, which put the nail in the coffin of the British Film
> Industry. It's been interestingly pathetic since then.
> The British Government's intervention in this consolidation process was
> the 1927 Cinematograph Films Act, which put a quota on British Films
> being shown in UK Cinemas - leading to overproduction of crappy low
> budget quota-fillers. Nice.

suggest: crappy -> low-quality
delete 'Nice.'

> So the question is not which of these 'projects' is the next cinema?
> The question is - what underlies these projects? Who are the Edison Labs
> and Pathe Freres, MGMs, Paramounts, Foxes, RGOs and Loews of the Net?
> Who is defining and owning and shaping how the Net is used, understood
> and extended?
> These days, it looks like the Search Engines. The Googles, the Yahoos,

You are absolutely spot-on here. I've just posted something about this 
on my personal blog:


I've been meaning to repost the first part under the title: 'Regulating 
Search the Open Way' or just 'Open Search' on the OKFN blog asap.

> the information associators who have a semantic stranglehold on the Web
> and increasingly on other parts of the Net. This is not to mention the
> infrastructure owners: the DNS demagogues, the backbone bonapartes:
> the people who can hit the 'off' switch or suddenly start metering
> access to their network territories.
> But what could a Public Service Publisher do about this? Surely it's in
> the public interest to address the fact that the infrastructure we're
> all using to do business, publish, and do business online is dangerously
> similar to Cinema's vertically integrated hollywood-centric monopoly?

monopoly -> oligopoly (?)

> Clearly, the PSP is going to do absolutely nothing:
> "A further key role for the PSP would be in ensuring that search
> mechanisms for its content - and conceivably for all public service
> media content - become as efficient as possible. This would never extend
> to the development of a search engine, but it would involve working with
> search engine specialists and the major global and local players in
> search to establish tagging and discovery mechanisms to facilitate
> this."
> Wonderful. We're going to help them tighten the stranglehold they
> already have.
> My response to these discussions, emailed to the organisers after the
> session doesn't appear on the empty 'responses' section of the site.
> For the record, this is what I thought the PSP should do at the time:
> - Researching and advising on best practice in metadata, exchange and
>   archiving standards.
> - Researching and advising on best practice in legal preservation and
>   maintenance of publically funded IPR.
> - Producing and maintaining high quality free educational materials for
>   groups and individuals in how to publish their video/audio/text online
>   and archive it well enough for it to not contribute to the backlog.
> - Investing in open source software and shared IPR projects that are
>   consistent with and facilitate the above goals.
> - Research and develop systems for traversing, searching and making
>   inferences from data generated by the aggregation of all this published
>   material, and make that data, and those queries available via open APIs.
> Last, but not least, I interjected a little plea:
>     Please, please *please*, don't lets reinvent any wheels. There are
>     some great projects and initiatives out there, mostly organised
>     along very ad-hoc and non-institutional lines. If this PSP idea can
>     be kept human-scale at the edges, can be smart and careful in how it
>     invests money and time in things, it could become part of an
>     existing international ecology of open source publishing platforms,
>     advisory organisations and citizen-publishing initiatives.
> I'm sorry to say, it looks to me like the PSP we're talking about isn't
> just going to reinvent the wheel, it's going to be a state-run factory
> for reinvented wheels.

This end section is fantastic. You've definitely got to post this.

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