Association for Learning Technology Online Newsletter
Issue 17 July 2009   Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ISSN 1748-3603

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Feature article
A systems approach to e-learning
Case studies
Learning on the go with an iPod Touch
Conference reviews
Second ILT Champions informal conference
Project updates
EduApps: it's the environment, stupid
In my opinion
Open opportunities, open threats?
Digital Britain sees digital inclusion emerging from the chrysalis
Digital Britain: Carter's charter for luvvies & lawyers
Advocacy for scholarly communication
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Chief Executive's report
Professor Robin Mason: 1945 - 2009
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Digital Britain: Carter's charter for luvvies & lawyers
by Donald Clark

Lord Steven Carter’s recent novel-length report on Digital Britain is a charter for the analogue professions: luvvies, farmers and lawyers. It’s skewed towards old media like TV and radio, lacks vision, focuses on the past not the future, and stinks of lobbying by the professions. Where’s the citizen in all this? Most of us will simply end up paying more and being threatened by lawyers over peer-to-peer use.

TV talk digital future, geeks create it
The London Luvvies, and press, immediately leapt on the BBC/ITV/C4 funding stuff. Why should we care? The BBC, ITV and C4 are TV companies. The digital future is about the web, not TV! I don’t give a damn how they slice up the licence fee among themselves. In practice this brouhaha is only of interest to London media types. The reality is that there’s been a vast overpayment to the BBC for the Digital Switchover (a mess of a project) that would be better spent elsewhere. Simple as that. The National Audit Office calculate this at around £250 million. How did that happen? It makes £75 million wasted on BBC Jam seem like a bar bill. The controversy in all of this should be incompetent budgeting, not slicing up the TV tax? TV people love to think that they’re creating the digital future, when the reality is that they’re mired in the past. Can you name a single person in TV, or from a TV background, who’s created a Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Myspace, iTUNES, Flikr,Twitter or anything meaningful and long-lasting on the web? Of course not. While TV people run conferences on the future, businesses and geeks create it.

Digital Radio
Again, who gives a damn? Radio’s an old analogue medium that’s not worth mentioning in this report. We’re going to scrap millions of domestic and car radios at an enormous price environmentally to replace them with expensive digital radios that give you the same thing? Radio’s an analogue footnote.

Is Carter boss of Inland revenue?
So Carter has decided he’ll slap a poll tax us urban types to pay for laying in broadband for those lovely country folk.  So I pay for highly priveliged people who run around in 4X4s while living off vast EC farm subsidies. If you want to live in the country for the ‘peace and quiet’ why do you want the cacophony of the internet and broadband access to play Halo? They’re perfectly happy listening to the Archers. Leave them alone.

And if we do go ahead and give BT and others this money, surely we should have a stake? When we subsidised the banks, we took equity. This is public money raised by a tax, so why not demand a stake? Carter’s revealed his background here – he’s a telco business guy at heart. What’s worse this levy is likely to stick and be included in future pricing.

Criminalise customers
This was the funny bit. The government pass the buck to OFCOM who pass the buck to the ISPs who pass the buck to the rights holders who take kids to the courts. This, of course, is unworkable. It’s a charter for lawyers. “a court-based process of identity release and civil action" We’ve been through all of this. You can’t take millions of people to court, most of them children. Send them letters if you will – they’ll be ignored. Customers will be outraged that their services will be cut because of file sharing by their children from sites they’ve never heard of and over which they have no control.

IP for gardeners
“NESTA will pilot a simplified IP framework for digital media bringing together PACT, the Cabinet Office, Kew Gardens and Arts Council England.” Kew gardens? This bag of quangos will take years to get an agenda together and another couple of years squabbling and by that time the world will have moved on. On p199 there’s a peculiar paragraph on Botanical gardens and Kew. They’re a leading edge digital media organisation, allegedly!!!! Someone on the report team must be fond of gardening.

Digital self-exclusion
Here’s an interesting paragraph:

“Among non Internet using groups a common response to “digital self-exclusion” is that they say they are living contentedly offline and see no real need or benefit to going online. Despite the advantages of digital participation, as outlined in this document, 43% of those asked in a recent Ofcom study said that even if offered a ‘free computer and broadband subscription", they still would not choose to be online.”

Wow! It pops up, is ignored, yet the whole report is premised on the idea that it’s good for them. This is an idea that needs to be explored further, but it is not.

The reports a messy, fudge that focuses far too much on old media. BBC is mentioned 169 times, Google gets 6, FaceBook 5, Twitter 3, YouTube 2, iTunes 1, Games 0, Xbox 0, Playstation 0, Second Life 0, Wikipedia 0. It’s as if the internet doesn’t really exist and that the digital future is an issue for broadcasters.

Donald Clark

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