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Time for the BBC to release the DOGs?

If 70 households really missed the BBC so much after 9 days, to the extent their £3.60 "refund" seemed like a bargain, shouldn't the BBC start better marking the output with "paid for out of the TV Licence" marks?

BBC One ident with something extra  Photograph:
BBC One ident with something extra Photograph:
published on UK Free TV

Here's an interesting document that has been doing the rounds.  It's called "Life without the BBC Household Study, 15 August 2015" and it seems that when cut off from ALL of the BBC services, these test households really didn't that they were watching the BBC.

Which rather begs three questions:

  1. Why BBC should not start using DOGs on BBC One and BBC Two, so viewers can know they are watching the BBC.   I watch everything on iPlayer and I really don't mind the BBC watermark in the top right hand corner.
    Current iPlayer DOG
  2. Shouldn't the BBC use the tagline "paid by your TV Licence" on everything it makes in the UK?
    BBC paid by your TV Licence
  3. The radio stations *especially* need to use these five words at least every hour.  "This is Five Live from the BBC, paid by your TV Licence".  "The Six O'Clock News on BBC Radio 4 paid by your TV Licence, the headlines this evening". 
  4. Flip up the words "BBC: paid by your TV Licence" TV during channel idents? 

At least until there is a new BBC Charter?   Do you have a better idea? 

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015
9:54 PM

I hate the DOG's on all channels (Especially BT/ESPN), please don't encourage BBC to add them. I seem to remember several Years ago that BBC did experiment with DOG's but thankfully soon removed them.

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Ian's 16 posts GB flag
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11:46 PM
Saffron Walden

DOGs are not needed on any channel and often obscure detail in scene. It is easy enough to work out which channel your tuned to by pressing the I or info key on remote. The only time I have ever found a DOG useful in the corner is when I had a moterised dish on a H to H mount trying to ID a weak transmission coverd in "sparklies" meant for eastern end of the Med or similar weak signals relaid from USA (ABC) or Mexico (Gala vision) on Pan Am Sat (PAS1) As for Dogs on the radio they have been around for years or am I showing my age EG:- (RNI-Caraline-390-R:London-R:city-R:Luxumburg-Capital 95.8 and many more that I'm just to young to have heared.

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G.Lewendon's 1 post GB flag
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Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Martin Baines
8:38 AM

Sounds like another experiment that proved why the licence fee should be made a voluntary subscription to me.

The whole argument of "you will lose your favourite programmes" if the BBC were changed is just blatant scaremongering . Even if the BBC were shut down completely, it would make sense to auction off its content and rights to get a return on investment. The popular stuff would be snapped up by other services, and it's hard to think of anything that the BBC would not be cancelling anyway because of lack of audience, that would not be taken up elsewhere. Even the "specialist" content on things like BBC4 usually has large (if niche) audiences abroad (although in fact a lot of what people think is "BBC" science, history and arts content, is often just US content revoiced with UK sound track).

The argument about the licence fee is not "you will lose Eastenders and Strictly" if it gets changed, but "should people be subject to criminal sanction for not paying for media they don't want".

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Martin Baines's 14 posts GB flag
8:48 AM

If I'm watching TV and it doesn't say Sky Sports then I know I'm watching BBC.

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dud5ers's 6 posts GB flag
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8:41 PM

Brianist: I'm not sure about the DOGS (although most channels have them now), but I certainly agree that the BBC should point out to licence fee payers what they are getting for their money, and why thats a good thing. Of course the Daily Mail will decry it as propaganda, but since they think Antiques Roadshow is propaganda, who cares?

Martin Baines: Sadly, the same cannot be said for 'voluntary subscriptions'. This is a piece of magical thinking, which is only trotted out by people try to reconcile an ideological position with its practical flaws. What emerges is a simply economic and behavioural nonsense. When Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky all have 'voluntary sibscriptions', we'll think about it, but until then its simply nonsense.

You also seemed to jumped to the wrong conclusion about the 'deprevation experiment'. If the BBC went subscription (which is often suggested), then it would basically disappear for those unable to afford the (much more expensive) subscription, and its doubtful that much of its radio content would survive. Likewise, if it was starved down to the PBS style broadcaster of 'very serious stuff', then much of the things that people like about the BBC would simply disappear.

Would other stuff be snapped up? The commercial sector could have commissioned Great British Bake Off, Horrible Histories or Sherlock. They didn't. They could have made Wolf Hall, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (and shown it on a Sunday night!) or An Honourable Woman. They didn't. They could have come up with a programme about ballroom dancing, or devised a way to watch programmes on the internet. But they BBC did. No one is going to make Radio 4, nor The World Service. I'm pleased that money is going into production from ITV and Sky, and C4 (as a state owned company) has always done well. However, if you think changing the BBC would not have consequences, the experiment clearly shows your wrong.

The experiment actually provides some data to answer many of the sort of meme's that people always trot out.

I never watch or use the BBC, so why am I paying for it?

I wouldn't miss the BBC if it was gone

Its too expensive for what you get

Its rubbish - who watches it?

Everyone does the same sort of thing - whats different about it?

The BBC could do adverts - I dont mind them at all

How did it turn out? After just 9 days (so about two episodes missed froma weekly show or about 5 episodes of Eastenders), two thirds of the 'did not want or should pay less' crowd changed their minds. I'm actually wondering if some of the others might have also had those sort of feelings, but knowing the cussedness of some anti BBC types, they just refused to admit it. And if the study had lasted longer, who knows what might have happened?

However, the comments do tend to refute the memes. Firstly, they did watch the BBC, and as one person said, a lot more than they thought. It turns out that they really didn't like adverts all that much, and some brought up the quality of the alternatives to the BBC. Personally, I have no idea if the ITV weather is better or worse than the BBC's, but someone though so. They also missed the BBC, and the sort of programmes it did.

The other thing that stands out is that they seemed to realise suddenly that the licence fee was only 40p a day, and that they actually got good value from it.

If you look at the data and match to various opinion polls, then the difference if that experiment is pretty stark. Normal polling reckons the licence fee is OK with about 50% to 69% of the public. They lost 1 from the 21 full supporters, so a drop of around 4%. However, they then add around 20% of 'converts', which makes around 85% willing to pay the licence fee at its current level or even more. Thats a pretty big change.

The ones that stayed as they were tended to say they hadn't missed it, or wanted to pay less often gave the reason of cost (although I'm slightly stumped as to what they could get cheaper) and ' the obligatory nature of the licence fee was often a secondary rationale'. Thats as much an ideological/personal view as anything, and if perhaps difficult to change.

I think what this experiemnt did was show people that you dont know what you've got until its gone, and its perfectly acceptable that the BBC reminds people of what they are paying for, and its relative cost.

I like this quote:

'At the conclusion of the experiment, families were given £3.60, a rebate for the nine days of BBC access they had foregone. For many, that was a watershed moment. That's what, £12 a month, said one unnamed participant, who was initially against the licence fee. And we pay £70-odd a month for Sky. That's a bit of a shock to be honest.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
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Thursday, 27 August 2015

8:07 AM

Martin Baines et al:

In addition to that said previously, there is the problem of how to control who has access to the services under a subscription funding model. Sky use a conditional access system that is incorporated within their receivers, the signals are 'scrambled' at source and unscrambled at the receiver if the access control allows. I know of no Freeview TV set that has any such conditional access system built-in already, though there are models that can have them fitted at considerable expense (it's cheaper to fit them during manufacture, but still expensive). So if the BBC went to a subscription only service everybody would need to change their TV equipment, not just the TV but also their PVRs as well, so that their viewing can be controlled by the CA system. That is an expense that nobody wants and I suspect that the BBC and Ofcom do not want to go down that route because of the expense for everyone and the major problems that will cause across the board.
The same problem arises with viewing via the internet, controlling who can watch what on a computer, smartphone, tablet, etc would also require a conditional access control system. Again, I know of no such equipment that has such a system built-in.
Then consider the administration costs involved. Sky charge a significant fee for the most basic package they offer and a large proportion of that goes to paying for the administration of the conditional access system, most of Sky's profits are made from selling the additional packages hence their constant promotion of the 'add-ons' like Sport, Movies, etc. If the BBC were to be subscription funded than they would have to charge fees sufficient to cover those costs over and above the normal running costs to produce and broadcast their programmes.
Thus the whole concept of a BBC subscription model does not work commercially nor practically. The whole idea is a non-starter in my view.

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MikeP's 215 posts GB flag
Martin Baines
8:52 AM

The old "CA would be too expensive" canard. That was exactly the same argument used for not going digital (along with "granny won't understand", which I expect to be rolled out any moment too). In fact adding a CA system to most modern TVs and set-top boxes could be done with a software update, not even requiring new hardware, couple that with the option of a TV dongle to give online access for others - cost about £30 if standalone, again it would just be software on SmartTVs and existing "sticks" like Amazon FireTV or Roku.

Give enough notice, don't let a government IT organisation specify the "how", let alone try to make it happen (or it will take 20 years and be way over budget), with five years notice most people would probably just get devices capable of receiving the CA services without even thinking about it, the upgrade would be cheap for the rest, and for "granny", just send someone round to plug in a stick for her, much like with the Channel 5 retune. It would be much less disruptive and costly than the "Digital Switchover".

There would also be industry wide advantages - finally there would be a Freeview CA system that could be assumed to be on every device, resulting I suspect in significantly higher take up of other PPV and subscription services.

Or we could be really radical - announce the BBC will be online in five years, then when "swichover" happens, just give the recalcitrance a stick. However we did it, it is significantly easier than solving the problem of all those analogue radios in cars (which are even still being sold as standard in most new vehicles) for when analogue radio switches off.

It just needs some 21st Century "how" thinking, rather than forever looking for excuses "why not".

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Martin Baines's 14 posts GB flag
Friday, 28 August 2015

8:02 AM

Martin Baines:

Sadly, not everyone has a TV that can be re-configured by a software update, so they would need to have their equipment replaced. Further, not everyone has access top an internet connection and not everyone who have a connection get sufficient speed for it to be useful for on-line TV services, so they will not be able to watch TV if it is opn-line only.
That is why it will be expensive for some who may well be unwilling to have that forced upon them. 21st Century thing must include consideration of all the possibilities, good and bad. My argument holds true for many and is based on technical knowledge plus experience with a great many customers, young and old.

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MikeP's 215 posts GB flag

8:59 PM

Martin Baines: I notice that you've abandoned 'voluntary subscription' for a slightly more tangiable solution, of actual subscription. Yet, your still engages in magical thinking.

A software upgrade? Its as easy as that? In that case, why is BT Sport available via an app on smartphone/tablet, Sky or their own BT box? And although Sky has Sky Go (and of course Now TV), I've seen nothing to indicate that they are giving up their boxes any times soon.

As MikeP has so ably pointed out, most TV's (and PVR's) are not able to be reconfigered via a software update (they were never designed for that), and even if that were possible, how would they work for subscription services? Neither my TV or my PVR have the capacity for any sort of return path, and the previous TV had no CAM slot at all, and the PVR has none. In fact, if you read Brianists page about the birth of Freeview, CAM cards were deliberately left out of PVR's and set-top boxes Popular misconceptions 3: looking back at DG Greg Dyke

So a decent part of the population will have to change their set-top box, PVR or TV, or buy something extra.

Even for smart TV's, I'm not sure the software upgrade would be supported by all brands, and we all know how much even a small change can make big problems. And I'm not sure how secure CAM cards would be, anyway (Brianist - can you explain?). If it was web based communication, what about the people who dont have web access?As for Firesticks, etc, thats easy, but only 5% of viewing is streamed at present, so what about the other 95%? Online only viewing in 5 years? Have you seen the average speed of rural broadband? You might as well promise everyone will have their own jetpack!

Have a look at the BBC webpage about this: BBC Blogs - About the BBC - Why subscription isn't the best way to fund the BBC , and then answer the question they ask about radio - who will pay for that? Its impossible to encrypt, so if I am a subscriber, then I get to listen to BBC radio, but so does everyone else as well.

And you havn't bothered about the cost. Fewer subscribers means higher costs per subscriber. Even if we accept this amazing 'software' idea, will it cost less than the roughly 3% it costs to collect now, and what will the actual cost be? Sky spends a quarter of its revenue on maintaining its subscription system, so I'd love to know what the figues would be for your plan. And one other thing - 97% of licence fee payers access the BBC on a weekly basis, so what is the point?

Personally, I'd like Brianist to do an article on this subject. I know relatively little about subscription security systems, and it would be interesting to know how they could work, if other equipment could be 'upgraded', and what sort of costs would it be to operate. Frankly, the whole is nonsense, but I'd like some hard data to show it.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
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Saturday, 29 August 2015

4:16 PM

MikeB: Great idea for an article. I have covered some of this stuff before, but it certainly could do with some explanations. Being a coder since I was 9 years old, this stuff all seems very obvious to me, but from the outside what can be done in software and what can't (and why) is certainly worth an explanation.

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Briantist's 38,899 posts US flag
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