BBC Corrupted

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Today the BBC made it official -- they have been corrupted by Microsoft. With today's launch of the iPlayer, the BBC Trust has failed in its most basic of duties and handed over to Microsoft sole control of the on-line distribution of BBC programming. From today, you will need to own a Microsoft operating system to view BBC programming on the web. This is akin to saying you must own a Sony TV set to watch BBC TV. And you must accept the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) that the iPlayer imposes. You simply cannot be allowed to be in control of your computer according to the BBC.

We can certainly blame the executives who have misled the Trustees into making this decision, but that really is no excuse for such poor governance. Let's remind ourselves of what guidance the BBC Trust is supposed to follow from the BBC Charter:

4. The Public Purposes

The Public Purposes of the BBC are as follows—

  • a. sustaining citizenship and civil society;
  • b. promoting education and learning;
  • c. stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
  • d. representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
  • e. bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;
  • f. in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.

But with this decision all these high principles are thrown away. No chance then for the millions of the worlds poorest children who are about to receive the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) computer to be able to view BBC educational programming. The OLPC runs only Free Software and
Free Software is, of course, the main competitive threat to Microsoft. I don't expect we will see an iPlayer built to the principles of free software whilst this incompetent BBC governance is maintained. The Chair of the BBC Trust is Sir Michael Lyons and we need to call on him to account for this terrible decision.

How did this happen?

As with any form of corruption, follow the money, power, and influence.

Let's start from the top. Queen Elizabeth was directed to bestow Bill Gates with an honorary knighthood in 2002, for "services to global enterprise". This knighthood came after Microsoft had been convicted of monopolistic practices in the US. And just before the European Commission investigated Microsoft's bundling of Windows Media Player into Windows ending with €497 million ($666 million) for its breaches of EU competition law.

Bill was nominated for this honor by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who, on June 27, 2007, became the the new Prime Minister of Britain. You may not know this, but Gordon is tight with Bill, and the Labour Party is tight with Microsoft. And after 10 years of one party rule, the UK is a politically tied up Microsoft shop. Everything else that follows in relation to the iPlayer can be connected to this corrupting political association. No one in the ruling Labour party is really going to question the corruption of the BBC. I predict the outcome of the petition to Gordon Brown that has over 12,000 signatures and calls for the iPLayer to be available to all operating systems, will be the wooly, "The BBC is committed blah blah". Meantime Microsoft has been given a monopoly for distribution of BBC programming.

Still, please sign the petition.

Let's look closely at the executives who are behind this decision and who gave guidance to the BBC Trust on this matter.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson, is a big personal fan of Bill Gates, and it's his Media and Technology team that have led the way for the Microsoft takeover. Let's take a closer look at these characters.

The BBC has a Director of New Media and Technology -- a position that really requires some degree of independence from Microsoft you would think. Unfortunately, this position is held by Ashley Highfield, who was caught on stage with Bill Gates at the Mix06 conference in Las Vegas on March 20, 2006, doing a direct sales pitches for Microsoft. Showing us
that the fix was in early, Ashley says to Bill, “Wherever possible we want to give our audience a chance to view our programmes for at least a week for free. We want a kind of sophisticated DRM that would allow that, then move into potentially a pay model. That kind of sophisticated DRM will improve the partnership with yourselves, for instance,”

That's it then, by pre-determining the model fits Microsoft's wishes, they can ensure the partnership with Microsoft, excluding free software.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

Reporting to Ashley Higfield is Erik Huggers, Group Controller at BBC Future Media & Technology. Erik was previously Senior Director at Microsoft Corporation and before that a Director of Business Development at Microsoft Corporation.

There is simply no chance of breaking this Microsoft stranglehold with these people in control, and no accountability whilst the Labour hierarchy is wedded to Microsoft corp.

All this makes me particularly angry, because I used to work for BBC Network Radio, and was always proud of what the BBC stood for.

So I'm packing my bags and heading back to the UK for this one. On Tuesday August 14 DefectiveByDesign will be heading to BBC Television Studios in London to protest the corruption of the BBC. Except I won't be protesting the BBC, I will be protesting the incompetent management that has allowed this to happen.

I will ask my old BBC colleagues to join us for the protest, and see if we can shake things up a little. Sign-up below to help us plan, and ask anyone you know in the UK to join the protest.

Read the protest report - plus photos