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The Media Television United Kingdom

Thrifty, Anonymous Benefactor Backs Up BBC Websites Before They Go Dark 159

Posted by timothy
from the slurp-and-emit dept.
revealingheart writes "The BBC is set to close down 200 of its websites in the near future as part of cost-cutting measures. Hearing that 172 of these sites would be deleted from the Web entirely, an anonymous individual has taken matters into his or her own hands. The result is a BitTorrent file that anyone can download to store a backup of these 'lost' websites forever. The cost of the project? Apparently no more than $3.99 for a VPS server to crawl and retrieve all the sites."
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Thrifty, Anonymous Benefactor Backs Up BBC Websites Before They Go Dark

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  • by MrQuacker (1938262) on Friday February 11, 2011 @06:16AM (#35171920)
    Is how many millions of pounds were spent developing all those sites.
    • by SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) on Friday February 11, 2011 @06:34AM (#35171984) Homepage

      What, you want them in Altarian Dollars? Can't do, as they no longer exist. I wouldn't bother with Triganic Pu, that has too many problems. Or how about one Ningis, you can get eight of those for one Pu, but nobody has ever rich enough to own one Pu so it isn't worth thinking about.

    • I'm not sure how to convert Libraries of Congress to pounds.

      • by Enigma23 (460910)

        I'm not sure how to convert Libraries of Congress to pounds.

        How much does the Library of Congress weigh in pounds..?

        • by S.O.B. (136083)

          How much does the Library of Congress weigh in pounds..?

          Not sure about pounds but it's about 6.5 Oprahs.

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday February 11, 2011 @08:20AM (#35172452) Journal

      BBC has a real problem understanding the concept of "archiving". For some reason they think just because they are done with the sites, nobody else wants them either, so just erase them.

      It's somewhat similar to how they destroyed 1950s and 60s television tapes.

      • It's somewhat similar to how they destroyed 1950s and 60s television tapes.

        That wasn't due to archiving, or even expensive tape, though. That was due to copyright. In the 70s and 80s there was a big scare that home taping would kill the TV industry (MPAA sponsored, of course) and that as Networks could store shows on tape, they might just replay them over and over again, driving down the need for new material. So the TV producers' and actors' unions (or whatever they were) made strict rules about how long material could be stored for and how many times it could be shown. The resul

    • by etwills (471396)

      Its' not the cost to date, but this morning's Metro stated:

      The BBC announced last month it would remove the sites from the web as part of cuts to its £34million online budget. It is also axing 360 staff.

      and

      While the torrent was created anonymously, some sources have suggested that the person behind it is Ben Metcalfe, also known as dotBen, who posted a link to the archive on Twitter with the message: ‘So here it is... if you want to download the torrent backup of all the sites the BBC are closing.’
      Metcalfe is a former BBC software engineer, who helped launch the BBC blog network, now living in the US.

    • by dziban303 (540095)
      Sunk costs should never influence your current decision.
      • by cyn1c77 (928549)

        Sunk costs should never influence your current decision.

        Your economic-based logic would apply to a company whose only goal was profit, but the BBC is a public service media company.

      • by DaveGod (703167)

        Sunk costs should never influence your current investment decision.

        FTFY. Sunk costs are still relevant when retrospectively evaluating performance, which I think is what MrQuacker is getting at.

        Not that the criticism is necessarily aimed at the BBC. A major source of waste and inefficiency where government is involved (and to a lesser degree at any large organisation), is the uncertainty introduced by politicians continually changing the landscape. The websites may have offered good value for money at the time of purchase and everything may have gone to plan at the BBC en

  • So, what you're saying is that to reprint a book costs wildly less than to produce a book? That an electronic copy with no attempts to guarantee availability is much cheaper than a resilient set of servers which deliver instantly and accessibly to goodness-knows-how-many-people per minute? And that the cheapest thing of all is to do so without asking anyone's permission?

    Look, we can all observe an assault undique to neuter and privatise the BBC. But OP is attention whoring with a cheap technical demonstrati

    • by Darkon (206829)

      Look, we can all observe an assault undique to neuter and privatise the BBC.

      We can? In case you hadn't noticed there's a recession on. Why should the BBC be exempt from making the same cost savings that all public bodies are having to make?

      • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Friday February 11, 2011 @07:05AM (#35172114) Journal

        Firstly, the privatisation began years ago under New Tories - the worst hit from a geeky PoV being selling of infrastructure to Siemens.

        Secondly, the BBC isn't a public body in the sense that is, say, the British Army. The Army is funded by a general, compulsory taxes on income and other trade. The BBC is funded by a licence which you only need to pay if you choose to watch (possibly time-shifted) live broadcast television.

        Thirdly, anyone who thinks that this round of government cost cutting is even slightly relevant to getting out of recession is an idiot. Money is wasted because government acts as an agent for private benefactors, in particular (i) units are sold off and services contracted back to well-back-scratched government officials at profit; (ii) money invested in private wars, trade and military, under the guise of "free trade" or defence of the realm. Much of our debt represents investment in banks from which (if we do things right) we stand to make huge profit once we've sold off again.

        Finally, government debt per se is not bad - it acts as a mirror private wealth of creditors. What matters is whether debt is sustainable. The approach after WW2 to a record level of debt was to invest more to grow local technology, industry and services. The approach today is to burn all society's bridges for firewood. Thatcher executed round one, and Cameron prepares kindling for remaining edifices. Then there's nothing left, and Britain will have got exactly what she asked for.

        • by Darkon (206829) on Friday February 11, 2011 @07:23AM (#35172174)

          the BBC isn't a public body in the sense that is, say, the British Army. The Army is funded by a general, compulsory taxes on income and other trade. The BBC is funded by a licence which you only need to pay if you choose to watch (possibly time-shifted) live broadcast television

          A tax doesn't have to be universal, unless you're also going to argue that the tax on cigarettes and alcohol aren't really taxes because only smokers and drinkers pay them. The licence fee is a compulsory tax on anyone who watches broadcast TV, whether or not they consume or even care about BBC services. Now I'm not saying that I don't enjoy BBC output, or even that I necessarily resent paying the licence fee, but please don't try to use weasel words and pretend it's something it isn't. It might be a special purpose tax and the money it generates might be ring fenced, but it's a tax and the BBC is a public body.

          • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Friday February 11, 2011 @07:45AM (#35172262) Journal

            A tax doesn't have to be universal, unless you're also going to argue that the tax on cigarettes and alcohol aren't really taxes because only smokers and drinkers pay them.

            You seem to be overly worried about whether something can be called a "tax" or not based on whether it's compulsory (I'd like to propose, then, that food purchases are taxes because they are compulsory for survival). Consider instead the allocation of funds.

            Scrapping Trident is a valid cost-cutting measure when the government has decided that it's overspending on unnecessary shit during a recession: if you scrap Trident, you suddenly have a few 10s of billions more GBP to allocate other than against an imaginary enemy who is already being sufficiently resisted.

            Even tax on fags and booze goes to central government. The extra taxation isn't allocated for health or policiing services for cancer patients and drunks.

            But, as you say, BBC money is separately funded. If you shut down a few small BBC web sites, you achieve precisely nothing to help anyone. The money won't go to firing one civil service PPP management bureaucrat or tearing up one agency contract in favour of well-trained full time employees.

            What is more, I regard the licence fee as the cost the viewer pays for (i) the content produced by the BBC; (ii) even if he chooses not to watch the BBC, the permission given by the people to private broadcasters to use parts of the e-m spectrum (and other artificial/natural monopolies) to broadcast stuff in their interests. The "cost" in this case is the right for the people to provide a counterpoint - something sorely lacking, in, say, the bastion of free press that is the USA.

            The BBC is (ideally) the people's counterbalance to the freedom of the press belonging to the owners of the presses.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              You seem to be overly worried about whether something can be called a "tax" or not based on whether it's compulsory (I'd like to propose, then, that food purchases are taxes because they are compulsory for survival). Consider instead the allocation of funds.

              Uh, the definition of a tax is that it is compulsory, and nobody is going to force you to eat. AFAICT, starving yourself is the only legal way to commit suicide in most jurisdictions.

              • Uh, the definition of a tax is that it is compulsory,

                It is not compulsory to watch TV as it is broadcast, so you'll need to give a better definition than that.

                AFAICT, starving yourself is the only legal way to commit suicide in most jurisdictions.

                The '60s called.

              • Your definition of a tax is outdated - a tax is defined as whatever the government say it is.

                The BBC License Fee was reclassified as a tax in 2006 by the Office of National Statistics, and has been treated as one by the Government and the BBC ever since.
            • But, as you say, BBC money is separately funded. If you shut down a few small BBC web sites, you achieve precisely nothing to help anyone. The money won't go to firing one civil service PPP management bureaucrat or tearing up one agency contract in favour of well-trained full time employees.

              In the last license fee review, the BBC was given responsibility for funding the World Service, S4C and BBC Monitoring, as well as providing funding for setting up local TV services and various other schemes - all while the license fee was held at its current rate. In other words, the Government offloaded a load of its own expenditure onto the BBC without increasing the BBCs funding, meaning that not only do the Government save its own money, it forces the BBC to reduce costs.

              So yes, while the BBC is separ

        • by Enigma23 (460910)

          Then there's nothing left, and Britain will have got exactly what she asked for.

          I didn't ask for it, nor did the vast majority of people in the UK. Governments presume to think they know best when they clearly don't most of the time.

      • Surely they know what "penny wise, pound foolish" means? If that's not a phrase with British origins, they must have one like it. I wonder what it really costs to host the sites in question.

    • So, what you're saying is that to reprint a book costs wildly less than to produce a book?

      Websites aren't books.

      That an electronic copy with no attempts to guarantee availability is much cheaper than a resilient set of servers which deliver instantly and accessibly to goodness-knows-how-many-people per minute?

      Yes, electronic copies don't cost Auntie anything, which is sort of the point.

      And that the cheapest thing of all is to do so without asking anyone's permission?

      If he's british then the matter of permission is a grey one: having paid his license fee it could be argued that he has a right to this material and making it available to other Britons is merely an extension. Of course, sticking it on BT for all to grab would complicate matters but I don't see Auntie getting her knickers in too much of a twist.

      Look, we can all observe an assault undique to neuter and privatise the BBC. But OP is attention whoring with a cheap technical demonstration which alienates him from the very people he might think he is supporting.

      If there is an assault on the BBC it's coming from the government

      • Websites aren't books.

        True. Maintaining a web site may be more difficult, as it may involve interactive services. But I get the impression that what was being mirrored could essentially be put into book form.

        Yes, electronic copies don't cost Auntie anything, which is sort of the point.

        The electronic copy just made doesn't. So what you're saying is that this is a campaign for the BBC to link to the .torrent file for an archive of its decommissioned web sites?

        If he's british then the matter of permission is a grey one: having paid his license fee it could be argued that he has a right to this material

        Nothing of the sort can be argued. Firstly, the BBC isn't funded by general taxation. Secondly, even if it were, there is no English concept mirroring

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      He is not alone, archive.org and I expect many others have done the same thing. It is trivial to do with free software from your own PC at no cost.

      I'm sure the BBC will keep copies too. The pages will be removed from the web but we are talking about data that can easily fit on a USB flash drive. The BBC probably has some kind of long term archival system too, e.g. tape. No-one wants a repeat of the video tape wiping debacle of the 70s.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        Given the existence of the debacle you mention assuming the very same organization would keep archives seems a risky one.

    • by MadJo (674225)

      It was either this or those sites would move to /dev/null.
      In this case a lot of cultural references (like h2g2.co.uk) will be kept.

      Whether it's legal or not, it is our duty to preserve our culture.

      • (Satire)

        "It is never your duty to violate copyright! You must dispose of the materials immediately! Who cares if the originator feels like letting them sink into oblivion! That is their glorious prerogative as copyright holder while you, the consumer get to moan in anguish at what might have been saved!"

        (/Satire)

  • by doperative (1958782) on Friday February 11, 2011 @06:55AM (#35172066)

    The real reason the BBC is cutting back on its online presence is hidden pressure from the commercial sector who have always seen it as a threat to their revenue. "News Corporation's James Murdoch has said that a "dominant [bbc.co.uk]" BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK". Of course we all know what kind of 'independent' journalism he really means. One where some Australian pornographer decides who gets to be president or Primeminister.

    "James Murdoch, son of Rupert and the man in charge of BSkyB has criticised the BBC iPlayer, insisting that the popular online VOD service is squashing competition" link [techradar.com]

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I assumed it was because they're going to be scaling back their new online output to save money, and want to reduce how bad that looks. Either they have a sparse site where there's a bare minimum of content, or they have the same sparse site alongside a huge sprawling matrix of brilliant ideas to constantly remind people of the kind of incredible projects the BBC used to spearhead online.

    • by Viol8 (599362) on Friday February 11, 2011 @08:05AM (#35172376)

      Theres a very noticable left wing bias at the BBC, especially on Radio 4. We need right wingers like murdoch to provide balance.

      • by mister_dave (1613441) on Friday February 11, 2011 @08:41AM (#35172562)

        Two BBC journos have written books denouncing left wing bias throughout the BBC. Most recently Peter Sissons [dailymail.co.uk], but before that Robin Aitken [amazon.co.uk].

      • by IainMH (176964)

        That is very much your opinion.

      • by gadders (73754)

        Agreed. The BBC is very left wing, and basically takes it's news agenda from the Guardian.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by coolmadsi (823103)

        Theres a very noticable left wing bias at the BBC, especially on Radio 4. We need right wingers like murdoch to provide balance.

        You mean like the "balance" you can get from Fox "news" in the USA? Wasn't there reports on this site that Fox news viewers are the most misinformed, and the company won a court battle that meant they were an enternainment channel and didn't have to worry about facts. I'd rather news be accurate, not half made up. It's not what I'd call balance; lies would be a more descriptive term.

        • by Solandri (704621)

          Wasn't there reports on this site that Fox news viewers are the most misinformed

          After watching different news stations, I suspect Fox News viewers are more misinformed. However, the "study" which was bandied out in the press "proving" it several years back was hardly proof. It based its conclusions on asking viewers biased questions like "Did the U.S. find WMDs in Iraq?" Of course conservative viewers are going to be more "misinformed" about that. Just like more liberal viewers would be more "misinform

          • by coolmadsi (823103)

            To come up with a bulletproof study on how misinformed news viewers are, you need to be asking them questions which are free from any confirmation bias [wikipedia.org]. Stuff like "the Prime Minister of the U.K. is...?" or "The African nation which recently voted to split is...?" Questions which favor or disfavor one political or social group's viewpoint won't work, and is more indicative of the researchers' bias rather than the viewers'. (Ideally you'd also control for socio-economic factors like education level, available time to watch the news, etc.)

            That sounds like a pretty awesome study, I must say! Whether anyone would actually run it is another question. I mean, you could try an online questionnaire, but people could just Google the questions to find the answers, and any news agency that might have the resources to get it out to many people, would suffer from being mostly limited to whatever their main audience is.

            There's a Census coming around the UK soon this year, which would be a good way to get a lot of coverage, however I suspect its already

    • by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Friday February 11, 2011 @08:15AM (#35172412)

      The same thing is going on in Germany. Our public broadcasting system was modeled after the BBC. The same huge media lobby groups comically defending independent journalism (yeah, right).

      As a result, the public broadcasters now have a list of criteria that everything they publish online has to conform with; the list is narrow enough that they're required to remove a huge amount of stuff from the archives -- aparently as much as 80%. They're also constantly under fire for everything they introduce, eg. smartphone apps. There was an effort to mirror data before it was deleted (@depub), but all the domains are dead, nobody seems to really know what happened to it. Couldn't find a torrent on the Pirate Bay, either.

  • by CODiNE (27417) on Friday February 11, 2011 @07:33AM (#35172204) Homepage

    But in the USA you do something like that you end up in court.

    "But your honor, I was only trying to help them."

    "Your honor, he has no RIGHT to help us!"

    But seriously it would be a great clause in the copyright scheme that if a copyrighted work is taken out of distribution it should automatically go public domain. Otherwise publishers can simply delete history like those old racist Warner Brothers videos they keep taking down from Youtube.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The BBC is publicy funded.

      If the person who did is is a UK citizen who pays their taxes and TV license fee, then they can argue they are a legitimate owner of the BBC, and therefore are protecting their assets. As one of the other 26 million or so other owners, I support the intent, however misguided it may have been in terms of strict interpretation of the copyright laws.

    • by sorak (246725)

      But in the USA you do something like that you end up in court.

      "But your honor, I was only trying to help them."

      "Your honor, he has no RIGHT to help us!"

      But seriously it would be a great clause in the copyright scheme that if a copyrighted work is taken out of distribution it should automatically go public domain. Otherwise publishers can simply delete history like those old racist Warner Brothers videos they keep taking down from Youtube.

      Disney would never let it happen. A big part of their revenue is based on burying beloved moves so that they do not end up in Walmart's $5 bin, and they can demand full price for the anniversary edition of a thirty year old movie. Apparently, creating artificial shortages is good for business.

  • Cue the BBC legal department in 3... 2... 1...

    I wonder how long before they try to track down the person behind this.

    • by coolmadsi (823103)
      I don't know how fast, if at all, the BBC will resort to legal action over this. I have heard there is an unofficial not-spoken-about semi-agreement that people who share old Doctor Who episodes (that they destroyed and fans have reconstructed) are allowed to carry on their business, so long as they don't try to make any money out of it. If they're not going to do anything about these websites anymore apart from delete them, this seems like it could be a similar situation.
    • by RichM (754883)
      This is not America.
  • If intention was to keep those web sites alive they'd better also obtain applications and databases. The way as I understand this is being done it will be just another archive.
    • I was wondering the same thing. Given the vintage of most of it, there are probably a few CGI scripts that will need to be picked up if the idea is that someone could bring the sites back to life at some future date. Once a cure has been found.
  • by Cyko_01 (1092499)
    that's ok, there is plenty of other Big Black Cock porn out there.
  • by gadders (73754) on Friday February 11, 2011 @09:05AM (#35172692)

    I have a couple of points to make:

    1. People shouldn't assume that this means that shutting the websites would have only saved £3.99 from the BBC budget. Given large orgs and the cost mulitpliers for internally supported servers, it could well be tens of thousands of pounds per year.

    2. Instead of people like Ben Goldacre [badscience.net] boo-hooing and expecting the government (which the BBC is effectively an arm of) to save the sites, he could have shelled out the £4 and done it himself. Could it be that - GASP - sometimes governments aren't the best way to get things done? :-O

  • Not the first time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by boristdog (133725) on Friday February 11, 2011 @11:18AM (#35174438)

    See: Devillier Donegan Enterprises.

    An American company that saved the original Monty Python tapes from being wiped, IIRC.

  • ... can be found in this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/24/bbc-online-website-closures [guardian.co.uk]

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