Chances 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.Â 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.Â 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 donâ€™t agreeâ€”I think the Internet should be bigger than such parochial concerns, but Iâ€™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?Â Really?Â Look, I understand that those who don’t pay should not receive the same benefits as those who do.Â But, BBC, why don’t you give us the opportunity?Â 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.
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.Â 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.Â 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.Â It’s the BBC that’s selling the game to the world.Â It’s the BBC that’s getting the money from the commercial interruptions during the American broadcasts of Doctor Who and other British programmes.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.”
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.Â The distributor loses money to torrents, and the pirates lose their computers to viruses.Â Wouldn’t it be simpler to debut Doctor Who everywhere all at once?Â 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?