Ofcom Fails to Get the Message [Updated]


Two days ago I wrote a rather rushed appeal for people to write to Ofcom about a BBC enquiry concerning the addition of DRM to its HD service.

The reason it was so last-minute (you had to submit comments on the day the post appeared) was that the time between the announcement of the consultation and the closing date was unusually short. That's strange enough, but there's more.

As you can see, the email address for the submission of such comments, which I included originally, has been removed from the post.

This is at the request of Ofcom itself, apparently, since it was receiving such an unwonted flood of them (and presumably some were after the closing date) that it was all in a tizzy (BTW, many thanks to all of you who contributed to that flood, which seems to have been noticed.)

Now, I understand that receiving submissions late is problematic, and that Ofcom wants to get on with the consultation process, but I'm surprised by its actions.

Instead of drawing the conclusion that there is a pent-up desire to comment on this consultation – a highly-desirable situation in itself, I would have thought – which was thwarted by the extremely short consultation period, and deciding to accommodate those responses by postponing the closing data for a week or two, Ofcom instead decides to try to shut down all these tiresome comments, and takes active steps to do so.

Cynics might even think that Ofcom didn't really want comments, but was just going through the motions of carrying out a consultation - and a brief one at that - because that's what the rules say it has to do.

Although this is the first time I've come across Ofcom – or anyone else – trying to staunch the flow of comments it had solicited, I'm pretty sure it won't be the last time.

The rise of Twitter in particular, with its ability to mobilise considerable numbers of people very quickly, means that the traditional rhythm of consultations needs to be re-thought for the 21st century to allow greater flexibility when it comes to sudden surges in response.

It would be rather ironic if Ofcom, charged with overseeing the UK's communications industries, failed to respond adequately to one of the most important developments within that sector.

Update: as the first comment below indicates, it looks like Ofcom is listening: kudos to them. So, you can *still* comment on the issues around DRM on the BBC's HD broadcasts, by sending your submisstion to [email protected]

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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