Home > Culture, Entertainment, Opinion > More ill-conceived ideas of our time

More ill-conceived ideas of our time

The BBC iPlayer.

I signed up. I received my ID a day later. The website looked good. I was excited. I could watch BBC TV at home, catch up on the last seven days. Fabulous.

The first problem. What is there to actually watch? After going through all the programs available, I could only find one thing to watch. Being an ex-pat, it has been a long time since I was able to watch something on UK TV, the list of TV shows meant nothing to me. A few factual, documentary style episodes did look appealing, but most lasted an hour and I wanted instant gratification.

The second problem. Being an ex-pat.

You can only watch TV shows from the last seven days if a). You are currently connecting in UK and b). Ideally have a TV license. Requirement B can be overcome quite easily, one way or the other. Point A raises the following questions:

  • If you are tech-savvy enough to go through the registration process, download and install the player, go through the second registration process and get to the point of actually wanting to download a show, the chances are that you already have a recording device at home. If there is something you want to watch you’d have set up the device to record.
  • If you have a device to record then you can watch it anytime, maybe in a year or two when there is enough time.
  • If you are in the UK and really want to watch TV on my laptop, then you would probably have a digital tuner for the machine. With one of these things it is possible to record the show directly on to the laptop and watch any time that is convenient.
  • If you were still living in the UK, but went on holidays (or even worked) outside of the UK, then even though you are a resident, have a TV license, you can’t watch the show where you are because the BBC knows the computer is located outside the UK. Its part of their conditions.
  • The chances are that if you knew you would be away and really wanted to watch “The Weakest Link” then you would buy recording device or you’d have Sky+.

The likely audience who will want to jump on to such things are either residents of the UK who are desperate to watch TV shows from the past seven days on their computers, or ex-pats, like me who seem to have this idealized vision that BBC TV is still the best since we haven’t actually watch any British TV for at least the last five years. Except we can’t. And that’s the strange thing, the audience is likely to fall into one of these categories and half can’t watch it. Most ex-pats would be willing to pay the license fee to watch BBC TV wherever they are.

At the end of the day we are probably being spared the torment of finally realizing that those “good old days” of BBC TV are best left as happy, deluded memories. Of the shows available, the good documentaries will be available on BBC World, the comedy will come to DVD and the rest are best left unwatched (or downloaded from other sources). How long will it be before the service is part of the digital Freeview boxes for the next generation of domestic viewing, or as a downloads to the mobile phone. Then the whole of idea of watching on the computer will becomes somewhat pointless. Except for us ex-pats who just don’t care how much it costs because we really would like to watch something different.

Then the next problem is forseeing ISPs trying to extort money to cover distribution costs. I am not sure about this argument since the BBC is utilising a distribution system that already exists and the same argument can be applied to any popular website/service. If people are already paying for a distribution service they expect to be able to use this service as they like. If they need more bandwidth they pay for it. I am still not convinced that distribution of content using the internet, within the UK, is the right way to go. Using current broadcast systems can be leveraged for this purpose.

Categories: Culture, Entertainment, Opinion
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