Ducks, Nazis And Disney: Well, That's One Way To Get A TV Transition
by Cory Doctorow, Guardian.co.uk
Guardian.co.uk News ISBN/ITEM#: CM100302DNDTVT
Date: 02 March 2010
Links: Guardian.co.uk Article #1 / Guardian.co.uk Article #2 /
(Walt Disney raised the funds to build Disneyland in California by opening the company's vaults to TV network NBC. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/EPA)
In my last column, I asked why Ofcom was so willing to surrender oversight of the BBC by allowing the broadcaster to opt into a DRM scheme that put British telly rules into the domain of a cartel of offshore entertainment giants.
Truth be told, I think I know the answer: Ofcom's worried that if the US media giants (as well as sport leagues and other major rightsholders) make good on their threat to boycott unrestricted high-def television, the ensuing absence of "good content" will stop you from upgrading your receiver. If enough people refuse to upgrade, it will be politically difficult to complete the "analogue switchoff" (termination of all non-digital TV broadcasts) in 2012.
Nothing upsets a voter like a broken telly, after all.
Why does anyone care about analogue switchoff? Spectrum. The last major British spectrum auction was one of the most successful money-raising exercises in the history of world government, with more than £50 billion coughed up by telecoms companies for 3G licences. As government struggles to patch the yawning pits in its balance sheet, another £50 billion would be most welcome. And, more importantly, the failure to realise the expected windfall would be fatal to the career of any civil servant who could be blamed for it.