In my latest Guardian column, What Canada's national public broadcaster could learn from the BBC, I look at the punishing cuts to the CBC, and how a shelved (but visionary) BBC plan to field a "creative archive" of shareable and remixable content could help the network lead the country into a networked, participatory future.
The CBC, at least, has only limited delusions about the importance of commercialising its archives, especially when that comes at the expense of access to the archives for Canadians. Canada is a young nation, and the CBC has been there with Canadians for about half of the country's short life. The contents of the CBC's archives are even more central to the identity of Canadians that the BBC's is to Britons.
If the CBC is to be cut and remade as a digital-first public service entity, then a Canadian Creative Archive could be one way for it to salvage some joy from its misery. There's nothing more "digital first" than ensuring that the most common online activities – copying, sharing, and remixing – are built into the nation's digital heritage.
What's more, the CBC's situation is by no means unique. In an era of austerity, massive wealth inequality, industrial-scale tax-evasion and totalising market orthodoxy, there's hardly a public broadcaster anywhere in the world that isn't facing brutal cuts that go to the bone and beyond.
All of these broadcasters have something in common: they produced their massive archives at public expense, for the public's benefit, and have made only limited progress in giving the public online access to those treasures.
What Canada's national public broadcaster could learn from the BBC
Frontier is the bottom-rung of the top-tier of US ISPs, serving customers in 29 states. Despite enjoying monopoly control over its customers' online lives, and despite massive government handouts and a lackadaisical approach to maintenance, and despite out-and-out theft from customers, the company is filing for bankruptcy, having accumulated $16.3b in debt through mismanagement.
Bruce Schneier's Foreign Policy essay in 5G security argues that we're unduly focused on the possibility of Chinese manufacturers inserting backdoors or killswitches in 5G equipment, and not focused enough on intrinsic weakness in a badly defined, badly developed standard wherein "near-term corporate profits prevailed against broader social good."
Long before 4chan and other anything-goes forums existed, every major online community had a similar community: the Well had its "weird" forum, Usenet had alt.syntax.tactical (among others), and Something Awful had the "Fuck You and Die" forum, where people were funny, mean, obscene, and gross, sometimes all at once.
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