BBC Jam – Jammed

Watchdog tells BBC to drop learning website. The Times has a report that the BBC have decided to suspend the BBC Jam site. It was only launched a year ago, and, if the queues round the BBC Jam stall at BETT were anything to go by, it’s popular.
The home page now has information about the suspension, warning users that they could lose work/playlists etc. It will be removed on March 20th.

The BBC’s press release about the suspension outlines the EC Treaty Clause that has lead to this issue:

Article 87(1) of the EC Treaty prohibits any aid granted by a Member State through State resources which distorts or threatens competition by favouring certain undertakings in so far as it affects trade between Member States. All new aid needs to be notified to and approved by the Commission before being put into effect and in the case of BBC Jam this approval was granted in 2003.

They also add that:

“The BBC exists only to serve the public. Its mission is to inform, educate and entertain. Because all the BBC’s services on television, radio and online are funded by the compulsory licence fee, they must meet a public purpose. The Royal Charter requires the BBC to meet six public purposes, one of which is to promote education and learning. BBC Jam has been an important element of the BBC’s delivery of this purpose.
“The Trust’s priority is to ensure the needs of the children and young people who use and value the service are not neglected during this process.

The Media Guardian reports that New Media developers are not pleased:

Andrew Chitty, the vice-chair of the producers’ trade body Pact, estimated that pulling the service would cost the new media production industry £20m-£30m in addition to further revenue from rights ownership.

Mr Chitty accused the UK’s educational publishers of undermining the country’s burgeoning new media industry by objecting to the BBC’s educational services “at every step”.

I’m still trying to decide what I think. Firstly, I think that it’s a great pity that the service has been removed, as it’s a good source of learning resources. I’m not a commercial educational software creator, though I can see their argument, that the BBC, through public money (i.e. licence fees) are creating unfair competition. It’s not the same as the case of someone else undercutting them and/ or a philanthropist deciding to give away content.
However, having grown up on BBC schools programmes, (and Blue Peter!) I think that it’s a real pity that children will have a good, learning resource removed – let’s hope that they can sort something out, as from the statements, there is obviously a lot of material that was going to be part of the site that has yet to be released.
It seems that good, free, educational material for school age children is gradually being removed (e.g. Learn.co.uk) – at least Channel4’s is still there at the moment. However, while this is happening, we’re starting to see more and more universities putting their material online…

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