Spending the BBC licence fee
There's an interesting discussion doing the rounds on Twitter today (kicked off by James Governor) around whether the BBC should be spending licence fee money building tools for the iPhone and iPad. The argument goes that public money should not be spent investing in technologies which require the public to use products only available from a single supplier.
It's an interest debate because, under normal circumstances, I'd support this line of thinking. Public money should be invested in open technologies, because the information and services should be available to all, and open technologies is the way to do it. Seems obvious.
However, there are some important points to make here:
- Even with the creation of iPhone and iPad apps, the BBC and the public don't have to depend on proprietary hardware or software to get at the information. The exact same information is available over many other channels and services, including their website.
- There are at least 2 million iPhones in the UK, and Lord knows how many iPads. Surely we shouldn't ask the BBC to ignore this size of group, many of whom also pay their licence fee? Aren't they entitled to access the service in the way that they want? That last bit is important, by the way. Convenience and user experience are part of the service.
- If the BBC is to deliver on the promise of "delivering to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services", then this shouldn't exclude proprietary platforms. No one can deny that the iPhone is one of the most influential, innovative and popular platforms around. To exclude it for idealistic reasons would be petty, not to mention uncompetitive.
Essentially, I think it comes down to this. The BBC is about connecting users and information / services. It should remain agnostic about the technology required to do this.