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Microsoft's Grip on the BBC is Tightened

Former Microsoft executives inherit the Beeb

Whereas Microsoft crumbles at its executive ranks, it appears to find its influence penetrating other innocent companies, some of which are direct competitors of Microsoft. In addition, bias in the media can transcend the borders of the technical industry amid managerial changes, so this can affect also commerce-independent channels, such as the BBC.



Issues with the BBC were expressed before (to catch up with an assortment of criticisms, see [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]). Problems almost immediately followed a technical collaboration that had been established with Microsoft rather than with trusted UK-based companies, which are not convicted monopoly abusers.

Bias in the media comes in different forms. Editorial control, which is also supervised by the management, can affect article headlines and convey hidden messages. It is therefore interesting (yet worrisome) that Microsoft has just 'lost 'a vice president. Although it reflects badly on the future of the company, it turns out that this man will likely land in a position of influence where he can serve Microsoft better. He is reportedly headed towards BBC Worldwide, which is still perceived as trustworthy media.

Chris Dobson, Microsoft's VP for its UK Online Service Group, is leaving the company. Dobson is believed to be joining BBC Worldwide in a senior role. He joined Microsoft in 2001 following positions at Zenith and MTV Networks.


He would be not the first executive from Microsoft who occupies a position of great responsibility there. Also inside the BBC, Erik Huggers, who arrived from Microsoft, continues to use iPlayer against GNU/Linux. Despite the fact that everyone pays tax, the BBC underplays the role of the operating system and has so far refused to support it. In addition, it threw FUD at it, suggesting that only 600 people in the UK are GNU/Linux users. How familiar a routine [1, 2].

“The language and attitude is very clear to see and for the BBC to publish such articles would simply be irresponsible.”Let us assume -- but not hope -- that Microsoft employees at the highest of levels are running the BBC and managing public money (tax money). What might be the impact? Technical facilities (e.g. iPlayer framework) is just one small ingredient of this equation; the other is media coverage. Might the BBC refuse to say anything positive about GNU/Linux, or altogether ignore its need/right for coverage? It is always hard to measure such things. One must consider incidents, keep track of them, and maybe count them.

The BBC's inter-personal connections and partnership with Microsoft may already have a subtle effect. For example, just earlier, the BBC published this GNU/Linux-bashing article. It published it unchallenged. It contains 'weasel words' like "Hippy ideals" and it's referring to the software just as "Linux" and explaining "open source", not Free software. The latter mistake is not so uncommon, so it's worth ignoring for now.

Looking at the myths that are spread and reinforced throughout the article, one finds "It's not the machine itself that's driving me to violence, but the operating system that controls its programs and hardware: Linux." Another piece of FUD about GNU/Linux in 2008: "As someone used solely to double-clicking on pretty pictures to do most anything on a computer this is pretty hairy stuff." There's also the "no support" FUD at the end: "Bang a couple of lines of code into the terminal window to tell the machine to install what we've downloaded. Bingo, we're cooking on gas," it says. The language and attitude is very clear to see and for the BBC to publish such articles would simply be irresponsible.

The bottom line is: do not consider the BBC a credible source. This is far from the first such example.

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