Posted on 12/02/2015
Last night, Tony Ageh OBE, the BBC’s Controller of Archive Developments, proposed a Digital Public Space funded from a licence fee fit for the digital age.
This ground-breaking concept will give all UK citizens the right to free, anonymous and permanent provision of internet bandwidth, giving them access to “our museums and libraries; our public service broadcasters (all of them); our public archives; our government services”.
Addressing contemporary concerns about the commercialised internet, he argues that it has taken away “the three characteristics of broadcasting that are fundamental to the vibrant and democratic nature of our media consumption: 1. Total anonymity; 2. Unmetered consumption 3. It cannot be taken away from you”.
Drawing on the history of the licence fee as a permit that underpins all public service broadcasting (and not only the BBC) he says:
“We used to be broadcast beings. We are now internet beings. We should ask what the Licence Fee buys us when we, as citizens, are under attack from all sides. I believe there is, and has always been, a higher calling for the BBC and the Licence Fee.”
“We should go back to first principles and give our Licence Fee Payers what they will soon find they need more than they had imagined: guaranteed access to the public sphere, control over their own data and identity, and innovative services that they love and can trust.”
“To get there, perhaps we may need help from the source that created the BBC in the first place – an ambitious desire for there to be an infrastructure constantly developed in the public interest. The combination of Real Thought and Significant Engineering”.
Mr Ageh, Honorary Research Fellow in Royal Holloway’s Department of Media Arts, is the pioneer behind the Digital Public Space project. He was also behind the BBC iPlayer which allows viewers to watch or listen again to programmes.
As the BBC’s Charter is due for renewal this summer, the licence fee and funded public service broadcasting is again being questioned. Mr Ageh argues that the licence fee helps extend public service broadcasting and makes platforms such as the Digital Public Space possible.
“To make the BBC relevant to the 21st century, instead of just asking what the BBC is for, we also need to ask what the licence fee is for,” said Mr Ageh.
The lecture text is here
The podcast is here