A few days ago the BBC announced plans to open up its archive of TV and radio programmes for on-demand access. Mention of the BBC’s recent Creative Archive initiative was notable by its absence.
According to this latest announcement,
Full-length programmes, as well as scripts and notes, will be available for download from the BBC’s website. The pilot is part of the BBC’s plans to eventually offer more than a million hours of TV and radio from its archive.
So is this the Creative Archive going mainstream, or is the “mix it, share it” ethos of the CA being quietly dropped or sidelined? I don’t know for sure, but the signs seem to imply the latter.
Meanwhile, we will keep you informed of progress. Keep checking this site for news, and for the lessons we have learnt during the trial.
That was last September, when the “Public Value Test” of the Creative Archive trials began. No news of the results of that test, and no reference on the CALG site to the latest announcement — which suggests there is little direct linkage between them.
What should we read into this? Some of the email list chat I’ve seen about the announcement is despondent, suggesting this is a retrenchment to a read-only version of the BBC archive. Perhaps the remix culture is going to take longer than some thought to move in from the margins to the mainstream. It’s quite possible — indeed likely — that other more ‘minority’ members of the CALG, like the British Film Institute and the Open University could be the seeding ground for remix culture before it crosses over to the more-or-less universal reach that the BBC has in the UK.
The results of the Public Value Test will be interesting, and surely will be made public eventually. My guess is that the level of participation in remix culture is still very low, and, with that in mind, it’s hard to justify moving it into the spotlight. It’s the same issue that’s reflected in the fact that only 1% of participants in Yahoo Groups initiate new discussions and an even smaller proportion of Wikipedia users contribute to it. Even when the opportunity is there to participate in and remix media is there, few people take it. So how to justify the cost of making this possible on a truly large scale?
I have another more contentious opinion about why remix culture isn’t yet ready for prime time: it’s just not good enough. This is an issue I raised in my Spectator article. What I’ve seen of the high-profile remix culture is, mostly, a lot of ‘clever’ parodies and some musical mash-ups. I’ve found these interesting for almost, but not quite, as long as one viewing or hearing. When it comes to richness of texture and the rewards of detail, you’re better off going back to the unadulterated originals nine times out of ten. Unless remixes are done at fine-grained levels of detail (which makes them really hard work, like John Wall’s compositions, not cut-and-paste simple), they’re just conceptual one-liners.