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AOP directors briefed on PSP proposals

Anthony Lilley
Anthony Lilley, chief executive of Magic Lantern Productions, addressed 50 senior heads of the digital publishing industry at the first in a series of AOP Directors’ Dinners last night.

Lilley, also advisor to the DTI on broadband content and innovation, the DfES on the future of media, and to Ofcom in its reviews of Public Service Broadcasting and Television Production, talked about the motivation and ambition behind Ofcom's proposal for a Public Service Publisher (PSP).

Ofcom’s vision of a Public Service Publisher has aroused both interest and concern among the major players in the UK digital content industry, with questions arising over where the line would be drawn as to what is public sector content and what is not, the structure and process for market impact assessments, and the favoured intellectual property (IP) regime which appears to moves away from the traditional model.

Lilley said that the PSP would fund innovative digital projects that would not be commercially viable.

"I believe that the PSP should place public benefit at the heart of its mission rather than commercial potential," he said.

"It should release content free of charge and encourage it to be shared, modified or integrated into new services by others. Delivering public benefit should be sufficient reason for the PSP to invest – others may then be able to build on this investment to create commercial value. In short, PSP output would be non-commercial but commercialisable – just like basic scientific research before it gets turned into technology and services."

However, Lilley added that "It doesn't follow from this, at all, that there is no potential of commercialisation returning some funds to the PSP and – more importantly – to the creators of content and services funded by it... The precise boundaries between commercial and non-commercial will be a matter of judgement, but I expect them to be manageable – after all, fine distinctions between commercial and non-commercial exploitation have been made in for decades."

Lilley outlined some basic principles according to which the PSP could operate:

  • Be 'shareaware' – "content is going to be made, mixed and mashed – don't fight it, go with its energy"
  • Construct rights models, contracts and budgets to enable being shareaware
  • Partner, partner, parter – "by which I mean, operate in a decentralised way, through partnerships and with a balance between nations and regions. Harness London, but don't be solely based there"
  • Publish as widely as possible – don't distribute exclusively
  • Release everything for free - some would call that open source content – but allow commercialisation – track value back to creators
  • Be influential as a trusted source, but don't become a competitor brand to anyone in the market already

The exclusive networking event, designed for senior AOP member directors and their guests, was held as part of AOP’s comprehensive and ambitious calendar of forum events for members this year.

Having completed a strategic review last year, the AOP Board agreed that events should form one of three main pillars of activity for the association, the others being research and group representation.

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