Could it be that the future of public service media is a kind of platform, rather than the current crop of public service entities - which
are all essentially channels?
The question is posed by Steve Bowbrick, recently appointed blogger-in-residence by BBC. For the next six months he'll be exploring how to make the broadcaster's site more open, as well as work on the Common Platform project (via Journalism.co.uk) - which in certain ways is reminiscent of some of the stuff the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) is working on. Here's Bowbrick:
So what I’m talking about is building a big, generous,
accommodating public platform that runs code and community and content - making
life easier for creators and communities in Britain. A kind of giant shared
computer that exposes useful assets like public data, educational content,
archives and library catalogues, health data and democratic and community
The whole range of useful and enabling content and services that comes from state providers like the BBC, the Ordnance Survey and the Public Records Office and also the good stuff that comes from the commercial and third sectors. A national public service platform like this would be a public good, a freely accessible toolset, meeting place and notice-board. People would use it to tell stories about all the big issues: the drama about free content and software, health service reform, access to public data, surveillance and health records, copyright, immigration, educational standards, content ratings for kids’ media, community access, capacity building for excluded groups and all the rest.
The reason this reminded me of some of the stuff NRK is working on was two or threefold.
First, I read it just after reading a piece in Dagens Naerinsgliv about the controversy over Yr. no - the successful weather portal NRK has created based on data from the public Norwegian Metereorologial Institute. It is controversial because the weather site has been such a big success in terms of online traffic that commercial competitors have whispered in hushed, and not so hushed tones, about unfair advantages. Nonthesame, this kind of "consumer portals", based on data from public institutions, is something Norway's public broadcaster only intends to do more of.
"We are working to develop more services with other public institutions in the same vein to make information more available, based on our public mandate," the head of NRKs online division, Bjarne Andre Myklebust, told me in an earlier interview (Norwegian link). “I believe all public broadcasters more and more think along the lines that it is a competitive advantage that they can deliver content without charging it for it,” he said in another interview (English link).
The question is whether this is I an unfair competitive advantage, as many of NRKs competitors think, and perhaps whether we need this particular form of "public good" in a world where both information and the means to publish and/or broadcast it are more available than ever before? I'd welcome your thoughts.
This "public good" approach does however remind me of when I worked for NRK Drama, and a person called the division to make an appointment for borrowing some film cameras because "NRK, being a public broadcaster, did make all its equipment available to the public, didn't it?" After all, this person said, she was paying for this particular public service via her NRK-license and needed the equipment to make a documentary...