BBC Jam warning ignored

Andrew’s letter in the Guardian yesterday regarding BBC Jam, and in response to last week’s letter on the subject from Lord Puttnam:

“In his article about BBC Jam (No Jam tomorrow, March 26), Lord Puttnam misses a key point in the chronology. In December 2005, a watchdog set up to advise the DfES Secretary of State about educational software published a damning report questioning whether BBC Jam met the approval conditions set by the DCMS. This watchdog, the Content Advisory Board (CAB), comprises distinguished academics and representatives of government departments and agencies, chaired by a respected public servant. Hardly an apologist for big business then.

“It said: “CAB does not have an assurance that the digital curriculum service [as BBC Jam was then known] is likely to meet the DCMS conditions that require it to be ‘distinctive from and complementary to services provided by the commercial sector’ while being innovative.” CAB added: “We regard an early review as crucial.” Strong words indeed.Observers were stunned that no action was taken: no review, no apparent change in the BBC. It’s no surprise then that the EC competition authorities began to take notice. BBC Jam had been subject to an EC State Aid review and was only approved because Tessa Jowell put conditions in place to mitigate damage to the market. It is also no surprise that the BBC Trust, having taken a close look BBC Jam, acted swiftly.

“With an embarrassing report on file and EC questions, something had to be done. It is unthinkable that the BBC Trust, a body wholly concerned with regulation of the BBC, would act as a ginger group for education publishers. The only reasonable conclusion is that the Trust took action in response to reasonable concerns.It’s a sorry saga and another reminder that government doesn’t have its policy straight about the role of the public sector in our increasingly diverse media world. These issues deserve debate, but let’s not forget what’s really happened here: BBC Jam was suspended because the BBC Trust recognised that the coroporation had failed to meet the conditions set for it.”

Andrew Hall, CEO, Crocodile Clips