Ed Richards has just finished talking at the Oxford Media Convention and is taking some questions – including the obvious one from a Daily Telegraph journalist, which he will almost certainly kick into touch.
It was, as always with the patrician Mr Richards, a carefully judged, eloquently delivered and cleverly constructed speech, one which could be read as reassuring the entrenched interests in broadcasting while also outlining a view of the future which, if it comes to pass, will almost certainly mean their current business models are redundant.
Amidst the placatory words about the vigour of the current market solutions and the importance of Sky, along with comments on the BBC’s importance, he pushed forward thinking about the Public Service Publisher – the ‘other PSP, to any gamers reading – and made it clear, at least to me, that he knows and accepts that funding the deliver of quality content over new channels is in practice a disruptive act, but one that he thinks Ofcom can get away with.
I’m in favour of public service content, and a fan of the BBC, as I’ve made clear many times in the past. I wasn’t convinced that the PSP idea was well thought through when I first heard it, but the detailed review by Anthony Lilley and Andrew Chitty has produced something that could end up being as important for the media landscape in the next few decades as the BBC was in the latter half of the last century.
Richards’ speech indicates that he – and Ofcom – are still very serious about this and intend to push it through. It may mark the point at which they stopped being so interested in the BBC, perhaps believing that the current leadership cannot deliver on the digital dream, and that the political misjudgment behind the licence fee settlement reveals a deeper malaise in the corporation’s digital strategy.
If that is the case then we need to look very carefully indeed at what happens next, and anyone who is at all engaged in the creation of public value content must engage with the discussion. Ed Richards has the political skills, the organisational ability and the team needed to push this through – not being part of it isn’t really an option.