Is The BBC An AP Parasite?

from the just-wondering... dept

Over the last few months we've been hearing all these claims about how various "aggregators" and internet sites that simply rewrite articles from "mainstream" publications are somehow "parasites." But, of course, that ignores the fact that many of those mainstream publications do the exact same thing themselves. So, for example, earlier this week, there was a cute AP article getting passed around about a girl by the name of Kelly Hildebrandt who was bored one night and looked on Facebook for anyone else with her name, and found that the only other one was actually a guy. One thing led to another, and now they're getting married to each other (awwwww.) Anyway, not long after that, I saw that the BBC appears to have a very similar article, and it's quite clear that all they did was rewrite the AP's article. At one point, they do credit the AP, but the article is almost a direct paraphrase of the AP's. So does the AP start calling the BBC a parasite, too? Or does it finally realize that no one owns the news, and lots of publications often rewrite the news and have for ages?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Kevin, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 6:36pm

    But then...

    ...doesn't that make every newspaper, evening newscast, radio talk show, and many news-magazines and other news outlets simply parasites as well? Wouldn't they hate it if anyone said so?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Tim, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 3:47am

      Re: But then...

      Kevin, that's exactly right! They are all parasites. In fact, the business model of AP, AFP, Reuters et al depend on this parasitic behaviour in their business model! The "parasites" that AP don't like are no different from other news outlets, except that they don't pay AP for their items.

      It's a serious problem for the health of our democracy when professional journalists are failing to do any original work. Instead they buy items from AP (and maybe tinker with the wording in the case of Auntie Beeb), or sit around Westminster getting anonymous briefings, or repeat press releases verbatim.

      It may prove counter-productive for AP to broadcast in this way their role in the death of journalism.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 6:41pm

    ...or perhaps the BBC pays for the AP feed, and rewrites the stuff to make it a little more original and to use english that would be familiar to it's readers / viewers?

    Not everything is a conspiracy Mike. You need some fresh tin foil.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 6:44pm

    lots of sites come down to these theories

    for instance, the register licenses a lot of different feeds from independent writers. the guys at arstechnica often post pretty much the same stories on tech policy that come out on el reg. conspiracy? shrug. both of them are in my filtered feed, so i couldn't care less.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    trilobug, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 6:46pm

    The BBC is state owned, methinks it's a different case with them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Allen (profile), Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 6:57pm

    Yeah, but...

    I expect that the BBC subscribe to the AP service and from the AP's perspective, as long as they get their cut, everything is OK. I dont see anything hypocritical here.


    The AP are wrong in thinking that they can own the news, but their real problem is that they don't understand their product. The content itself was never the value proposition: the value was always the convenient collection, organisation and distribution (of content). Their failure is in routed in not realising this and missing the opportunity to enhance their product to maintain a value proposition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 7:11pm

    Brittan Licensing fees

    Well, in Brittan, and most of Europe for that matter, you do have to pay a yearly license fee to receive basic over-the-air television. It's a fascinating setup which must have a high operational cost. And, yes, there are still commercials.

    "In the United Kingdom, the current annual cost for a colour television licence is £142.50"

    See:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licence

    Point is, there's revenue coming in from multiple directions, via commerical advertising and also licensing fees, but perhaps the business model lacked revenue to the AP.

    Either way, it seems like AP knows what they're doing by strong-arming the BBC and the BBC will have no other choice than to pass the AP fee along to their customers in the form of higher television licensing fees.

    It's really a bad system, and unless the BBC decides to challenge it, you can expect other folks to come knocking on the BBC's door and other government's licensing entities for a handout.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 8:09pm

      Re: Brittan Licensing fees

      YOu need to learn to read the story - there is nothing that says the AP is going after the BBC - in reality, it is likely that the BBC is already an AP subscriber.

      So your whole spiel about license costs and all that are meaningless.

      Please, read more closely in the future.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Big Al, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 9:05pm

      Re: Brittan Licensing fees

      In Britain (not 'Brittan') the licence fee covers the cost of running the BBC TV and radio services which, by the way, do not run commercials. That way you aren't bombarded by your local car-dealer every ten minutes, but can actually watch the programs as they were intended, something I for one find preferable to an ad-funded system.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 12:49am

        Re: Re: Brittan Licensing fees

        That way you aren't bombarded by your local car-dealer every ten minutes

        Just because their commercials aren't as obvious doesn't mean they don't run them.

        The BBC spends more time advertising their own shows than ITV or Channel 4 spend on adverts.

        The BBC is the most blatant product placement channel in the UK. You just have to watch the news and see how they spend 30 seconds focusing on an Apple logo.

        something I for one find preferable to an ad-funded system

        I always find who support the BBC have the same argument - I like it so keep it.

        How's about this as a novel solution to the license fee. If you want it, YOU pay for it. Stop being a cheap bastard and having the tax payer subsidise YOUR television subscription.

        Oh, but that would mean YOU paying more and that's not likely to happen because, as stated above, you're a cheap bastard.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 2:00am

          Re: Re: Re: Brittan Licensing fees

          I prefer the "blatant product placement" where companies and logos are shown to the Discovery channel approach where any logo on a hat, T-shirt, side of a lorry etc. are obscured using a fuzzy blob that draws your attention to the advertising in the first place.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          JackSombra (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 2:23am

          Re: Re: Re: Brittan Licensing fees

          "The BBC spends more time advertising their own shows than ITV or Channel 4 spend on adverts."
          Because programs made by other networks (or by the BBC for selling to other networks) are geared to be an odd 40 minutes of showtime and 20 mins of adverts to fit in the hourly slots. BBC have to fill those 20 minutes with something to keep roughly to the hourly scheduling system
          "The BBC is the most blatant product placement channel in the UK. You just have to watch the news and see how they spend 30 seconds focusing on an Apple logo."
          Total crap, they are actually specifically banned from product receiving money or benefit in kind to do product placement. The only placement you will see is if the show was bought from another network/producer

          "I always find who support the BBC have the same argument - I like it so keep it.

          How's about this as a novel solution to the license fee. If you want it, YOU pay for it. Stop being a cheap bastard and having the tax payer subsidise YOUR television subscription."
          For a good example of why this does not work check out sky, an satellite subscription service
          At the start it was no ad's and quality programming.
          Then it only ad's on main channel.
          Then it was ad's on nearly all channels and the 100001 rerun of the Simpsons. Non blanket subscription then makes program planning a commercial concern and commercial concerns equal lowest common denominator entertainment to maximize profits

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Big Al, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:25am

          Re: Re: Re: Brittan Licensing fees

          I don't pay anyway (since I'm not in Britain, although I used to be) and I just wish I had the quality of shows here, along with the dearth of ads. Fully one third of programming here is advertising - consequently I ignore the majority of TV, and would consider it a complete rip-off if I had to pay a licence for the recycled garbage that is shown. However, let the proles have their bread and circuses...

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 6:04am

      Re: Brittan Licensing fees

      "And, yes, there are still commercials."

      No there's not.

      The occasional 30 second ad between shows for their own radio stations/programmes, perhaps, but nothing for 3rd parties. In fact, IIRC, part of the BBC's remit expressly forbids them from running commercials, and some programmes have had to be very careful not to have content that could be seen as advertising a 3rd party product.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    David E Y Sarna (profile), Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 7:40pm

    BBC

    I am no fan of the BBC. Search "BBC Objective Israel" for a host of posts on the BBC's slanted reporting. But if they pay the AP, they have a right to resdistribute their news.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 10:50pm

      Re: BBC

      But if they pay the AP, they have a right to resdistribute their news.

      But this isn't them redistributing AP news. This is them *rewriting it* and I can't recall ever seeing BBC run an AP report. I'm pretty sure they're not a licensee.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 4:39am

        Re: Re: BBC

        That's the point Mike: They don't run AP stories directly, they rewrite them to match amongst other things their local market. Perhaps in the past they have done a better job of writing such that you didn't notice the source.

        Rather than writing a speculative and damning piece, have you considered being a journalist for a second, rather than a blogger and actually checking some facts? How about dropping a line to the AP people or the BBC (or both) and asking them?

        No, wait, that wouldn't do, because you couldn't get all outraged if you had the truth in hand.

        Remember to mark this thread down for later linking as "the difference between journalism and blogging".

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 7:58pm

    AP = American Propaganda

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 2:18am

    Getting the news from Sky

    One local newspaper has a guy that watches Sky News in the UK all day and type up 'stories' based on what they see. Sad but true.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 5:14am

    Simple fact checking really does show a different story. If you check the BBC website closely, I am sure you will find AP images, also REX Images, Getty Images, and all sorts of third party image sources.

    While it would be an assumption, if they subscribe to AP for images, don't you think they might also subscribe to the wire service? Have you never heard a news story that starts out "according to the Associate Press..."?

    Fact checking. Journalists do it, bloggers apparently don't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Gregg DesElms (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 9:23am

    Oy. I don't have time to read all the comments, here, so this may have already been said in one form or another...

    ...but Mr. Masnick might want to consider the possibility that the BBC is an AP subscriber (it almost certainly is); and it's very, very common for AP subscribers to essentially just rewrite AP copy, adding something to it, perhaps (or not), and then placing a "AP copy was used in this piece" or "The AP contributed to this article" or something like that at the bottom.

    Mr. Masnick might also bother to intuit what is at least part of the "rewrite desk's" role in a typical newsroom."

    The whole POINT of such as the AP is so that budget-limited news organizations can report news from places where they, themselves either would or could never place reporters in person. It's clear in the Terms-of-service agreement between the AP and its subscribers that such as what the BBC is alleged by Mr. Masnick to have done is not only allowed, but encouraged. Rewriting a story so that its language and delivery has the character of the news organization publishing it, which its readers have come to know and appreciate, is EXACTLY what the AP wants to see its subscribers do.

    It's true that no one owns the news. However, the written (or spoken) words of the journalists who report it is THEIR creation, and may be legally and justifiably protected. Agreements between such as the AP and its subscribers which set forth the terms of use of such works is PART of said protections.

    Why Mr. Masnick finds any of this odd is a mystery to me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 10:39am

      Re:

      ...but Mr. Masnick might want to consider the possibility that the BBC is an AP subscriber (it almost certainly is); and it's very, very common for AP subscribers to essentially just rewrite AP copy, adding something to it, perhaps (or not), and then placing a "AP copy was used in this piece" or "The AP contributed to this article" or something like that at the bottom.

      This article did neither of those things, and gave no indication that the AP contributed to it. They gave every indication that they just rewrote the AP article.

      Also, it is not at all clear that the BBC is an AP member. I have looked and I have not been able to find a single AP story on the BBC site. I believe it is wrong to assume that they must be one.

      The whole POINT of such as the AP is so that budget-limited news organizations can report news from places where they, themselves either would or could never place reporters in person.

      Indeed. I know the point of the AP. Doesn't change matters here.

      It's clear in the Terms-of-service agreement between the AP and its subscribers that such as what the BBC is alleged by Mr. Masnick to have done is not only allowed, but encouraged. Rewriting a story so that its language and delivery has the character of the news organization publishing it, which its readers have come to know and appreciate, is EXACTLY what the AP wants to see its subscribers do.

      Again, that does not appear to be what happened here, but thanks for playing!

      Why Mr. Masnick finds any of this odd is a mystery to me.

      Um, I know how the AP works, but the point was that this was quite different. However, if you have evidence that this is an actual licensed AP story, please let us know. There is absolutely no indication that this is the case -- and every newspaper I know that uses AP stories clearly marks them as such.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 10:55am

        Re: Re:

        Mike, American English and English English are not the same. Running an AP story directly written in the US would likely not be as well understood as a story written locally. So a report / writer takes the newswire story, looks for other similar stories on other wires / news sources, and the then writes up the article in the local dialect so that it is easily understood. It might also include locally relevant facts, conversions of things like measures and money to their currency, etc.

        I don't understand why you don't get this simple concept. This is the second time in as many days that you have problems with a simple concept, it makes me wonder about the more complicated ideas you spout here.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 2:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Mike, American English and English English are not the same. Running an AP story directly written in the US would likely not be as well understood as a story written locally. So a report / writer takes the newswire story, looks for other similar stories on other wires / news sources, and the then writes up the article in the local dialect so that it is easily understood. It might also include locally relevant facts, conversions of things like measures and money to their currency, etc.

          I don't understand why you don't get this simple concept. This is the second time in as many days that you have problems with a simple concept, it makes me wonder about the more complicated ideas you spout here.


          I get the concept just fine. I have no problem with it at all.

          The ISSUE is that the AP has called this parasiting. So why aren't they pissed at the BBC?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Jul 23rd, 2009 @ 7:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Ummm, maybe you might want to think about it: If AP isn't pissed about it, perhaps you shouldn't be either?

            Really - this whole deal is the difference between reporting news and making stuff up. Again, you never cease to amaze me.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This