Why does toast always land with the Jam side down?
So, BBC Jam is being pulled off air on Monday as Commercial Providers (presumably those not employed in the £150m project to create materials) complain that it is taking away their livelihoods. When the European Commission get involved, better to play it safe than face the daily six figure fines.
I'd have thought it's pretty devastating for the public service - education, the BBC, Government, but above all education - that a free, high quality service which allowed learners to learn without the teacher being there is being pulled.
But instead, it seems to be a situation ripe for the "I told you sos" to get the knives out.
Donald Clark gets the reason for pulling the service all wrong - it's not because some people, like him, think the content is 'appalling'. The BBC Trust is doing its job only in terms of damage limitation and will probably win any European Commission investigation (as it's won two previous challenges to the service).
Rose Luckin over at Futurelab's Flux blog also seems to miss the point:
The key question for me has to be:
“How do we make sure that the next portion of Jam is more appetising”…
To get the ball rolling I’ll suggest a couple of possibilities and invite others to add to the list:
1) Make sure that learners, teachers, parents and other stakeholders in a learner’s education are part of the design process.
2) Recognise and build upon the fact that ‘Learners are doing it for themselves’, using Web 2.0 tools to create, share and publish their own stuff.
Very noble, absolutely essential and completely what BBC Jam has been doing throughout its commissioning process and in its day-to-day work. I don't know how many Web 2.0 briefing sessions I've led or been part of down at White City and as Senior Consultant on the Applied ICT project this would something that I felt had to feature prominently in this area in particular. The BBC's plans for CBBC SecondLife type activity, BBC Blast and many other interactive projects clearly take this into account.
AB hits the nail on the head for those looking at it from a Scottish perspective: this is disastrous in terms of lost content for those who do not want to pay commercial providers for their locked in material, subsequent upgrades. It gives part of the curriculum, not all of it.
And it's what the BBC is designed to do - read its Charter. The BBC has been producing educational programmes for decades yet ITV, Sky and the myriad of cable cos don't complain - they just make sure they make better programmes and compete. It just so happens it's the first time commercial software developers have had to up their game and compete with something truly competitive. Ask some might say, they've picked up their ball and gone home. Aw, poor souls.
The BBC is not about making programmes, as Tom Loosemore said last Thursday, though is the immediate argument some will make: "they should get back to doing what we pay them to do". Nowhere in its charter is "making programmes" mentioned. Education is mentioned as an aim as is the Internet. Put the two together and Jam is what you get. It's a simple recipe, it's one everyone should get. Let's just hope the European Commission get this quickly, get everyone to kiss and make up, and we can all get back to learning.
Disclaimer: I, like many teachers, work as Senior Consultant and Consultant on several BBC Jam projects. I like the service. There you go.
Update: 50% of the project's financing, £75m, has been or would have been spent on commissions to the private sector, mostly to Small and Medium Sized Enterprise. These are the companies that struggle most against the larger companies, probably the same large companies that are taking the BBC's case to the European Commission. Publicly funded, yes, but publicly funded and straight into business whether in the UK or elsewhere in the European Union. Spending £75 on education is surely a good thing?