This Guardian Media Talk live: Edinburgh special (though no longer live) is worth a look, as the panel discusses James Murdoch’s call for the BBC to be downsized, among other, er, highlights of the Edinburgh TV Festival.
The best bit for me in this 45-minute session is the excerpt from David Simon’s live interview with Charlie Brooker, if only because what Simon says directly contradicts what Murdoch was saying. Fair enough, HBO is a commercial organisation in that it aims to make a profit (most of which comes from pay-per-view boxing), but the absence of advertising has truly changed the types of drama made by HBO.
Simon is a man on a mission and discusses The Wire as portraying what happens when you try to use capitalism (which he says is a good means of generating wealth in an economy) as a tool to solve social needs like housing, education, healthcare etc. The problem with that approach, he says, is that “If there’s no short-term profit in it, it ain’t gonna get done.”
Which directly contradicts Murdoch, who claims at the end of his speech that profit is the means to a better society. Yeah, right.
Emily Bell, on the panel, points out that all the people who are insisting that news-on-the-web must be paid for are men; she adds that they’re all wrong, and they’re all nuts, because none of them have any experience of running anything on the web.
All of this ties in with the “impact of new media” topic. On the one hand, we’re talking about the reach of the BBC (a finger in many pies); on the other, we’re talking about how old mass media TV ratings are a spent force in the DVD-Box_Set, illegal download, TV-on-demand era.
If something is popular among illegal downloaders, it means it’ll be popular as a DVD box set, or if you offer a way to access it legally. The problem with much of the stuff that gets illegally downloaded is that producers are still making it too hard to access. When Doctor Who or Top Gear gets broadcast in the UK, people who don’t want to wait months and months for the legal version, are immediately online to download it. One simple example: I’ve ordered the Dollhouse DVD box set, but I’ve got to wait till 7 September for its “official” UK release. Meanwhile, if I didn’t want to wait, I could just download it illegally and cancel my order.