Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Letter to NBC

►►► letters@msnbc.com ◄◄◄

To those in charge of public relations:

This is not a form letter. It is a real letter from a living person who is writing one time only. I am not vain enough to imagine that a single letter from one distant disappointed individual will make any difference, but I am writing mostly to make myself feel better. And to put up another blog post.If anyone copies and sends you another one like it, just know that it may have been written by one person but it also speaks for whoever sent it.

The aim of this letter is to complain about the absolutely selfish manner in which NBC has controlled and continues to control every video image of the Beijing Olympics. I realize that as sole sponsor NBC has every legal right to stop others from using video images of the opening ceremonies and games that follow. That tight-fisted control seems so complete that even privately-owned cameras are either forbidden or their video images are not allowed to be shared.

I just came from an online article in China Digital Times,
Spectacular Opening for Olympics (Videos added) which was put together by adding half a dozen You Tube videos to a BBC article. At this point the BBC content remains but the videos all show the message that they are no longer available. I think we all know who to thank for that.

That kind of control may be legal, but such manipulative selfishness will in time be very bad for the name and future brand image of NBC.

When the Internet first came on the scene newspapers and magazines were like NBC (and others... you are not alone), first forbidding anyone from sharing content not paid for, then charging a subscription for content, and finally opening the portals wide to one and all. It has been a learning curve that teaches that those who are interested in numbers catch more fish by casting bread on the waters. Web fathers call it The Long Tail. The people who sell specialized research or offer certain professional services still charge. But those who deal with everyday matters like news have learned that if the public doesn't get it one place it will be freely available at another. In time people looking for content will learn to look elsewhere to find it. I know I am. And every time I come across yet another unavailable You Tube video you need to know that I hold NBC accountable for my frustration.

Perhaps you feel that by denying me and countless others access to images that should be as much a part of news and world history as a moon-launch or PBS documentary NBC is just following good business practices. I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that you are being seriously deluded by what you imagine is nothing more than good business. It is, in fact, exactly the opposite. From Old Testament times honorable people in control of important resources, like food, have found it better to leave gleanings in the field, not forbidding access to those who would gather those meager bits and pieces.

Part of my frustration derives from my wasted efforts yesterday to catch a few videos on my blog in advance of last nights four and a half hours of what passed for coverage on NBC. Even the New York Times was doing exactly the same thing, having captured one of the first videos uploaded. They had to go back and use the "strike" command to edit their blog. I simply deleted the post I had been working on for several hours.


UPDATE: We had posted video from YouTube of Sarah Brightman and Liu Huan performing the official Olympic theme — “You and Me” — at the opening ceremony, but now it has been removed from YouTube. There’s an interesting tug of war going on today between the openness of the Internet and the restrictions imposed by television broadcasters who paid a lot of money for the rights to this event.

UPDATE 2: Some of the opening ceremony itself has now made it to The Tube. [That’s now been taken down too.]

As the hours passed You Tube uploaded a veritable blizzard of little videos from all over the world. And one by one they were pulled. Not because they were obscene. Not because they were of poor quality. Not in response to an avalanche of public complaints. Not even because their equipment was being overpowered by the demand. My guess is that NBC was the source of more copyright infringement claims yesterday than at any time in history -- thanks to the same technology that made both the content and that number possible.

I say shame on you, NBC. Shame on you for your overbearing, unconscionable corporate greed. As a company you will not likely lose much on paper. Not this quarter. Not this year. But if that measure of selfishness is not curbed, the future of NBC is darker than it was even before the advent of cable, satellite, and yes, the Internet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Hoots!
Looks like you are deep into this blogosphere!
I'm new to this but wanted to leave the bluegrass band link you asked about - http://www.ravenwoodtheband.com/
That's me in yellow on the left at the Turner field venue, and check out the video of us playing "Salty Dog" and all the little kids dancing down front.