BBC Offers Tempting Vision Of TV Socialism

It’s weeks like these where a sort of TV socialism seems appealing. How great is the free market anyway?

TLC is making a bet on a reality show with Pete Rose, a sign that series with cameras trailing outré characters aren’t going anywhere. Viewers all over the place can’t watch networks as programmers and distributors blame each other for blackouts. And, the rush of Olympic-oriented commercialism is starting to build towards unavoidability starting next week.

It makes one pine for the BBC. Would the broadcaster air a reality series featuring an odd cricket star about to get married to a decades-younger girlfriend? Its various channels don’t go off the air when a company that earned $4.6 billion in profit (DirecTV) last year can’t agree with one that had $3.7 billion (Viacom). And, there are no ads and no insulting product placements.

The cost: less than $20 a month. The citizens of the U.K. fund the BBC by paying that amount, which will remain the same through 2016. (To be fair, the 20% of Americans with broadcast-only service pay less, though watch ads.)

BBC programming seems to offer something for everyone from the U.K. version of the “The Voice” to impressive documentaries, including co-productions with the Discovery Channel, to plenty of top-tier sports.

There was some talk that the Olympics would move at least partly off the BBC starting in 2014. But Wednesday, it was announced the Beeb had landed TV, digital and radio rights to the Games through 2020.

All of the events will be “free-to-air." So unlike in the U.S., a home without pay-TV service won’t have to worry about missing favorite events on NBCUniversal outlets such as USA, Bravo or CNBC. And, BBC viewers will be able to watch online without going through the effective NBCU paywall.

To top it off, viewers won’t run the risk of sickness from watching the same ads – no matter how stirring – over and over from the likes of Citi, GM and P&G. Actually, they won’t have to watch any ads from anyone. Capitalism does have some downsides.

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3 comments about "BBC Offers Tempting Vision Of TV Socialism".
  1. Mike Bloxham from Frank N. Magid Associates , July 18, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.
    A bit like the health service in the UK really. You pay your taxes and theres a decent services covering everything you could need that's available to everyone, while you still have the option to go for a private supplier if you want to (read satellite or cable in media terms). And no one in the UK calls it socialism - it's just a more balanced and sustainable approach to capitalism. Even Mr. Murdoch has done rather well within it - not to mention plenty of American companies. Of course, now I'll be burned in effigy by a percentage of the readership :-)
  2. John Grono from GAP Research , July 18, 2012 at 6:59 p.m.
    Good article and I like your comment Mike. I must say the 'socialism' comment in the headline made me chuckle. Here in Australia we too have publicly funded broadcasters, a national health system (which we're looking at extending to include dental health), social services, public housing, and various other social safety nets. Oddly, I regarded that as being part of a society that cares for its bretheren and its less-well-to-do. Of course we have some rabid populist media commentators (and politicians) that bewail that we're heading to hell in a hand-basket - and who seem to get inordinate amounts of media coverage - but I think that says more about their selfish mindset that interprets that anything that is for 'the common good' as an evil that should be resisted at all costs.
  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , July 18, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.
    There were comments on an article about American selfishness in the NYT this past Sunday. You guys seem to cover much of it.