The Siege of Wapping

It’s an old story. An entrenched vested interest is faced with a new technology which threatens its livelihood. It reacts by attempting to contain the advance, which is flowing around it like a river around a shopping trolley. Eventually, innovation always prevails, mainly because it refuses to fight the battle with the same weapons or on the same field. It fights with the weapons it has created. History records who were the losers.
The printers of Wapping in 1984 are definitely now seen as the losers in the technology war with Rupert Murdoch. And he is seen as the visionary liberator, whose victory over the unions ensured a golden future…to some.
It is surely one of the most historically monumental ironies that this same Murdoch is now frantically erecting barricades in defence of his own brand of corporate Spanish Practices. The Murdoch of the Siege of Wapping now under siege again from the same forces of progress he once posed as the champion of.
Peter Preston, in today’s Observer, compares him with Lear, railing against the storm. That is to grant him too much grandeur. He is not even Orwell’s Tolstoy, disillusioned by the failure of ideology to deliver happiness and therefore resentful of happiness in others.
He is simply a gigantic hypocrite, another corporate gangster able to deny anything and believe his own lies. Anything to make money and protect and enlarge his power.
Luckily, he is almost as insane as Lear on the heath, in that he cannot accept the inevitable, and is in hysterical denial about his emasculation.
Murdoch Vs The Internet can only see one winner. In 1985 Murdoch backed progress because he saw an empire to be built. Naturally he opposes the same progress which now threatensto demolish it, but that does not make him sane, only more desperate. And so the BBC can expect an even greater campaign against it than ever.
The BBC is embracing internet technology, having invented vital parts of it, and is committed to free access. The scrap between News Incorporated and the BBC is where the deciding punches will be thrown in the battle for free content, and from a British point of view, the battle for a keystone of our cultural identity. We should know the general outcome by the beginning of June next year. When a closely fought general election is over.
But in the meantime, the BBC might take a leaf from the Murdoch book, and win.
There is nothing to stop any Laundromat millionaire from setting up as an internet service provider. The BBC should do this as soon as possible and market the service globally. The package would include access to all the BBCs growing archive of comedies, documentaries, drama, wildlife etc… This income would subsidise the loyal British license payers who would have access to the service by right. Eventually, with even moderate global take-up (Flickr charges £15 a year) The British member of the corporation would be paying a peppercorn sum for a service which would meet all their needs. The scope for innovation is vast.
Naturally the boardrooms will squeal in horror and outrage, but all are going to have to face the facts that the age of the ownership of information is over. That the source of their profits and lifestyles has dried up. So the sooner they choose sides the better. The sensible will decide to use the new approach to encourage the democratisation of creativity. To enable as many users as possible to find and be stimulated by material produced by people, not the brands marketed and distributed by the usual showbiz/media conveyor belt.
The diehards will try to sue the BBC, and try to charge the public money to read about the drunken antics of the D-list. It’s almost sad.

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