Public Service Content: Open Knowledge Foundation’s response to Ofcom’s consultation

Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries,released a discussion document to encourage debate around public service intervention in digital media and the concept of the Public Service Publisher. The Open Knowledge Foundation made a joint response in association with the Open Rights Group to OfCom’s Public Service Publisher consultation.

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Firstly, we commend the suggested investment in open content and open data. In particular we urge that, where the PSP funds the generation of new content, such content should always be made available under a license such that others are free to enjoy, redistribute and, most importantly, reuse and refashion that content.

Secondly, we ask that OfCom pay special attention to the ability of the PSP to invest in architectures of participation, both by supporting the development of Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Open Content technologies and projects and by investing in the creation of content to encourage the growth of networks around these technologies.[..]

The success of an endeavour like the PSP will rely upon these details of its founding principles, and we urge OfCom to pay significant attention to those details now. For example, the PSP may commission a website for people to post and discuss short films, investing in the “architectures of participation” suggested above. But unless the use of Free/Open Source software is specified, and the resulting website platform is ‘open’, allowing re-use and modification by other interested parties, the PSP will not be fully meeting its public service remit. Similarly, The PSP might commission a set of short films to be placed on the website, to seed its growth as a network. But unless the PSP commission explicitly requires that the resulting work be ‘open’ so that others are free to use, reuse and redistribute the work, the PSP’s audience will remain ‘consumers’ of content, and the PSP will have failed to maximise the opportunities of the digital age.

Finally, the PSP should engage in advocacy and educational initiatives to enable people, organisations and companies to publish their material using open licenses, formats and technologies. It is our sincere hope that the PSP can become a strong, public voice in favour of open knowledge structures.

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