The BBC Exterminates the World!

Doctor Who - The Adventure Games kicks off with City of the DaleksChances are you know by now that the official release of City of the Daleks, the first installment of the planned series of interactive episodes entitled Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, was last Saturday, but only for the Windows-using population of the United Kingdom.  Since then, all across the web, both Whovians from the not-UK and Brits who sympathize with the Whovians from the not-UK have expressed disappointment in the Beeb’s closing the curtains, at least for now, on the rest of the world.  For example, a Doctor Who Blog contributor wearing the username Graeme wrote a furious rant critique from a Canadian point-of-view expressing disappointment with the current system:

“I get that the BBC and its website are designed to solely service the license payer. I don’t agree—I think the Internet should be bigger than such parochial concerns, but I’m a futurist at heart. Fine.”

Being an American Whovian myself, I can’t help but feel similarly slighted by the current shape of the BBC’s international agenda; therefore I will vent my frustrations to the wonderfully understanding Kasterborous community, effective immediately.

First order of business: The licence fee?  Really?  Look, I understand that those who don’t pay should not receive the same benefits as those who do.  But, BBC, why don’t you give us the opportunity?  It’s not that we don’t shell out our cash to experience the trove of services provided by you, it’s more that we can’t.

Doctor Who - City of the Daleks is currently only available in the UK

Before any readers dismiss me as an ignorant Yankee, let me make one bit clear – I’m not asking the BBC to allow me to pay the licence fee.  I understand that the collection of such taxes are the government’s problem, not the corporation’s, and that it applies to all British television, not just the BBC’s.  I have no desire to give any cash to a foreign government in order to be granted a few entertainment improvements in my life provided not by a coalition, but by a broadcaster.

After all, who’s going to get all the money from City of the Daleks when it is “available to purchase in early July?” Certainly not any entities led by David Cameron.  It’s the BBC that’s selling the game to the world.  It’s the BBC that’s getting the money from the commercial interruptions during the American broadcasts of Doctor Who and other British programmes.  So why can’t the BBC charge some sort of fee of its own to the international audience that wants to, at the very least, use some of the most basic features of its website, like watching video clips or downloading equivalent-of-an-episode Doctor Who video games?

Yes, there are international copyright laws in place and if a misstep is taken somewhere on the ocean-crossing tightrope of media protection, doom could be spelled for us all, and the planet would basically explode.  It’s a problem that would take an effort to fix, and we wouldn’t want to make anyone get their hands dirty for once, would we?

But it’s not the geo-lock that gets me.  It’s the fact that, after five years of nuWho, the air dates between the UK and the rest of the world are still not in sync.  In fact, despite pledges to draw the string of new episode premieres around the world tighter together, BBC America has shown symptoms of significantly extending the gap, in accordance with a recent wave of bad moves on the part of the network, including excessive hunger for ratings-boosting marathons, Star Trek fever, and the appointment of a new company executive, Herb Scannell, an MTV veteran who has already pledged to create more US-produced shows for the network using the “DNA of the BBC.”

Doctor Who - City of the Daleks is currently only available in the UK

Significant measures that could be taken to reduce illegal downloading of Doctor Who television-made and computer-ready stories are being largely ignored, and as a result, the international pirates desperate to replace their Black Pearl with the infinitely more sleek TARDIS are swashbuckling their way into Trojan horses, while BBC America could be in danger of losing some of its commercial revenue because its potential audience is using the internet to catch each episode three weeks early.

Releasing to separate countries on separate dates is a lose-lose situation.  The distributor loses money to torrents, and the pirates lose their computers to viruses.  Wouldn’t it be simpler to debut Doctor Who everywhere all at once?  Even if it does cost international residents a little extra dough, disappointed fans such as myself would find themselves with quite a lot less to complain about.

If the BBC wants to make Doctor Who a phenomenon around the world, shouldn’t it start by making Doctor Who available around the world?

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  1. jealousguy1 says:

    I can understand the frustration that you can’t get all the content as soon as we get it in Britain, but it is a two-way street. the websites for NBC, ABC, Fox, Hulu etc lock me out everytime I try to watch a video on them, claiming I am in the wrong region and am not authorised to view the content. The delay for some shows to be shown over here can be 6 months to a year. For example, we are still waiting on Scrubs series 9. When do air them in 1 or 2 weeks behind we have to put up with the bizarre mid-season no-episodes-for-three-months thing that American TV does.

    My point is that the issue is not just to be taken up with BBC and the license fee, but all TV channels in every country.

  2. Rick714 says:

    BRAVO! Absolutely correct!

  3. Rick714 says:

    I would add that since BBC America does such a horrible job presenting the episodes, both being late and with horrific pop up adds, that the boxed DVD set should be made available to the USA, the second the series is competed.

    And those who only download and DON’T buy the material? They’re cheap little creeps who wouldn’t buy them anyway so you’re better off without them. So leave the downloads alone and focus on getting the DVDs out *faster* to the US. I’ll download them all anyway *but I always buy the sets* of the new series and I always buy the classic DVDs as well.

  4. Patrick Riley says:

    Jealousguy1, you’re absolutely correct.

    I did hone in on the BBC a bit to keep it Doctor-Who-related, but the problem is with just about every network. I suppose the solution would be to hop in the TARDIS and go back and shoot the one who came up with the idea to put everything out of sync!

  5. 23skidoo says:

    Personally, as someone who endured the CBC here in Canada putting us on a 6 MONTH waiting list a couple years ago for new episodes, having to wait 3 weeks is a vast improvement. However these days people want instant gratification, so 3 weeks is too long (never mind there is no comparison to watching broadcast on a 42-inch plasma vs. a computer screen).

    The BBC is to blame for this situation, because of their rather silly policy of not confirming airdates until only a few weeks prior, which makes it difficult for BBC America or Space, who set their airdates months in advance, to catch up. Otherwise, they’d air the show the same day as the BBC, guaranteed.

    As for the game’s availability, ooh – don’t get me started. OK, too late! I saw Graeme’s original post and I agree with everything he says, as well as what Patrick says here. The BBC’s Doctor Who website it utterly useless to everyone outside the UK, yet they want international exposure. Now, I understand fully why we shouldn’t be able to view full episodes (classic or revival) — there are broadcasters in North America airing the shows and streaming them. But not letting us see stuff like “Captain Jack’s Monster Files” (a webisode series starring John Barrowman) was just silly. And all that stuff was on Youtube within 5 minutes anyway — so they might as well get the benefit of the hits.

    What annoys me about the game is that NONE of the publicity stated that the game would be geo-locked and not-free outside the UK. The fact the BBC was not making the game, coupled with the concerted push towards internationalizing DW promotion this year, led many to believe the game would be available to all, for free, in June. Even Space Channel’s official website here in Canada – they air the show here – stated this would be the case.

    So instead we’re told we have to buy the game, sometime in July (maybe). And in the meantime we hear everyone saying “OK game, but not worth paying for.” So when the game does come out, and if they charge $20 for it – who is gonna pay? Especially for a non-physical-media product like this? That’s assuming the game DOES come out in July. Maybe they’ll wait to release all 4 at once on 2011. I have no trust in these people.

    Not that it matters, really. I’ve already decided I won’t buy the thing anyway, so they lost me. If I really want to see the story, I’m sure someone will upload a “playthrough” video to YouTube if they haven’t already.

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