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    Wednesday, 2 May 2007

    A big week for PSB broadband?

    The BBC Trust has given final approval to the revised BBC proposal to provide 'Iplayer': a seven day 'watch again' TV catchup service. And ITV chose this week to unveil an ad-funded 30 day catch up service on ITV.com.

    For those of us that see on-demand as a crucial space for the evolution of PSB, these seemingly dry decisions are worthy of a little more consideration.

    What is now clear is that the PSB services proposed this week are very basic and severely restrict local storage, sharing and re-use. It is unfortunate that the more ambitious and radical creative archive service that the BBC has led is mired in a delayed investigation of public value and market impact, because there are strong reasons to believe that it is in these kinds of services (rather than such basic broadcasting led, DRM laden services) that real public interest innovation is likely to occur.

    If PSBs had more vision, they would capitalise on their unique position as curators of the audiovisual canon of our culture and drag PSB into the current century. If this week's services are the best that UK PSBs can offer we might look back in a few years and wonder whether putting the treasure trove of BBC content would have been done more quickly and openly by Google. After all, Google books has partnered with The British Libary and Oxford's Bodleian Library to open up access to books.

    A footnote: as Joost, (an ad funded commercial distribution platform from the makers of Skype) opens up its Beta testing ahead of its September launch we can see that video on demand is likely to make a breakthrough this year, and not just for the PSBs. But which users will benefit? Ofcom's updated report on the availability of Broadband in the UK shows rapid growth. More than half of UK adults have broadband at home. But the real question is 'how broad'? the low levels of access to fibre and problems of distance from exchange for DSL services mean that UK 'broadband' tends to be less broad than that deployed in other countries. Increased use of video services is likely to make this abundantly clear. And as video use increases, this 'broader band divide' will be much more obvious than it currently is, particularly in rural areas.

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