The public service broadcasters BBC, ITV and Channel 4 but not five yesterday announced a join venture, dubbed Project Kangaroo, to provide all their online TV services in one place.
Currently the BBC have their iPlayer, Channel 4 has 4OD both essentially the same system and ITV also has online services on their web site. In addition the BBC streams BBC News 24 live, and Channel 4 is also watchable online.
Having seen the monopolising success of gateway service such as iTunes for music and YouTube for streaming short videos, the public service broadcasters are loathed to allow these services to become the gatekeeper for their services.
In addition, the UK's satellite tollbooth, BSkyB, has had a very poor relationship with the public service broadcasters. The BBC's Greg Dyke said:
"When the BBC first put its television services onto BSkyB's digital platform it took the rather odd decision to pay BSkyB 5 million for the privilege of doing so. It was a decision taken back in 1998 and it was odd because BSkyB were desperate to get the BBC on board and would happily have paid them to get them. The BBC were total mugs. In late 2003 ... two further things happened. First a new satellite had been launched with a smaller footprint that only covered the UK and part of Northern Europe.
Second, I discovered from my colleagues in the German equivalent of the BBC that they happily put their signals out unencrypted - this was allowed under European rules on overspill."
ITV lost over 800 million pounds in the ONdigital/ITV Digital system, which was 50% imcomptance, but 50% BSkyB's competition. Channel 4 still has problems with BSkyB to this day, with the main channel, E4 and More4 being provided under totally unnecessary encryption because they risk loosing their low EPG numbers.
But there is already much continuation about the services. The use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) alarms many people as the system implements restrictions which attempt to put the broadcaster in full control but with a system that is technically broken.
In addition, many people wonder why they have to pay again to watch programmes they have bought. Most people in the country get paid for the work they do just once. It can seem incredibly greedy of certain people to demand repeated payments for no additional work. This is particularly annoying as the Kangaroo system uses your own hard drive to store the programme, and your bandwidth to upload the content to other users!
Another concern is that for most content online the subscription systems have failed. For all the hype about iTunes, it accounts for a tiny amount of the music online ("legal" and "illegal") and only impresses Apple people. Most online information content is non-subscription; even the Wall Street Journal has failed to get subscribers.
Would you prefer to pay another subscription or pay-per-view to watch programmes you get for free now?
Another idea is to charge 12.50 a month as a BBC tax on your broadband connection, with a 100% refund if you pay the TV licence. In return, all BBC content, including the back catalogue (the "long tail") could be watched when and where you like.
Doubtless, it will cost much, much more to pay-per-view. Is this a price to be paid for not having a TV Licence? Would you be happy with the current BBC Executives making a large fortune for themselves as happens when public bodies are privatised?
Please, let us know? Is there are future for free television in the UK?