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Provacations arising from Trevor Barr and Mark Pesce

Categories: Content as A/V Experience, Drivers, Technology
Date: 16 February 2008


Trevor was very good on technological infrastructure. I feel I have much more of a sense of the view from the big end of town, and of the stakes and players in the Open Network process we are about to enter. I was struck by Trevor’s observation that Telstra would likely be the big winner from the new government’s election commitment to a national broadband network. I was astonished by the number of cases Telstra is involved in with the ACCC, so astonished that I didn’t even write it down, but I remember being stunned by the number of cases and the budget for litigation that the corporation works with. Just last week the ACCC was notified of three more disputes between Telstra and smaller carriers over Telstra’s provision of a Line Sharing Service (LSS). And the ACCC is close to completing an audit of telecommunications infrastructure that may have significant influence over the future regulatory environment. This was important stuff, and critical in consideration of technology and governance.

At one point Trevor observed that there is much discussion of broadband as a technology, there is little debate about the services available via broadband. His talk really came alive for me in the discussion of his examples of service provision: Kenneswijk, and particularly Lyse in Norway. The idea of digital spectrum (or bandwidth) being used to ‘broadcast’ kids’ weekend football matches on several local channels immediately set my mind whirring. Later conversation with Andy who was proposing quite sensibly that such a role can be the legitimate ambition of public service broadcasters, tying back in to an earlier discussion on the blog about community managers as a job function that will become more prominent in future. As Ross observed, in each of Trevor’s examples there was very much an emphasis on connecting with the local community and providing the means for community engagement with each other, with civil institutions, and with the world at large.

I liked the idea of the ‘triple play’ but wonder if this is any more than bundling.

In many ways Mark’s presentation didn’t intersect with Trevor’s, at least until the discussion of ‘pervasive wireless’ technologies, meraki and the cantenna. The great unspoken of Mark’s presentation was that things like technological availability and broadband speed and content regulation are almost irrelevant as they will grow and solutions, workarounds or hacks will be found as ‘micro-audiences find each other’ and share the word. This was quite confronting after the previous presentation which placed so much emphasis on the regulatory environment and on the terms of commercial operations. And I do think that there will be a place for trusted gatewatchers advising on sites to visit or media to download – ‘finding, filtering and forwarding’, in Mark’s terms – which may or may not be existing players. Here I am thinking of the recent Nielsen Netratings report on online video use which showed that a majority of women watch online video through the website of one of the main free to air networks.

It is hard to forget that these are massive corporations making enormous profits – just last week Telstra announced half year profits of $1.9 billion. Trevor talked about the cost of the national network – around $4 billion depending on who is quoting – and the size and potential uses of the Future Fund, currently $50 billion despite losses estimated at over $600 million in the recent period of global stockmarket volatility. (Jessica Irvine, “$700m wallop as Future Fund feels world pain”, Sydney Morning Herald 23 February 2008

Mark began by throwing the question back to us to define ‘what is television anyway’. I feel that this is the question underpinning the entire project. Mark worked with a definition of “an audio-visual time-based media that I can access”, and made his point with some lovely examples that there are so many circuits of media that bypass what we have always understood television to be. He also lodged the word ‘salience’ in my head.

I think we are all aware of the significance of the social network and the idea of the semantic web, but for all the millions invested in them and however much their paper value is (Microsoft’s investment of $240 million valued Facebook at $15 billion) those seeking to monetise the swarm have still to work out effective and reliable mechanisms to generate revenue. Unrelated to Trevor’s talk, but related to this train of thought is the fact that the last decade has seen the emergence of a number of new global media behemoths: Google, Yahoo, YouTube, and now we have MySpace and Facebook, but while the former seem reasonably secure (at least they will once Google work out how to make YouTube pay) the latter may be just passing fads, a phase we’re going through, on our way to the brave new world.