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UK Podcasting in crisis?

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Chris Vallance | 11:02 UK time, Wednesday, 13 December 2006

As noted earlier the Britcaster Forums are closing. Britcaster played a key role in the development of a thriving indie podcasting scene in the UK (full disclosure I was a member) but the announcement that it was to close has prompted some heated debate about the future of podcasting in the UK. This post by John Buckley of Citizen Scoop is well worth reading: of UK podcasting he says:

"the veneer of vitality has slipped, exposing a mass of conflicting symptoms that collectively, paint a far less rosy picture of its current condition than had previously appeared on the surface.The true depth of the malaise finally emerged a few days ago, following Neil Dixon's announcement that the Britcaster podcasting forum would be closing its doors for good at midnight on December 15. In the wake of this news, a major implosive event began to be played out on Britcaster with a series of heated exchanges and recriminations hurtling across modems and onto forum pages."

I encourage those with an interest in UK podcasting to read the whole thing, but to precis the post: John bemoans the loss of a sense of community. UK podcasting is now, according to John, fragmented and directionless. So has UK podcasting been a victim of it's own success? As the Web2.0 boom continues money has followed and large players like BTPodshow have entered the scene. Indeed podcasts are now a category in the Sony Awards the major awards of the UK radio industry. One might think all these should be taken as signs of a healthy market for UK podcasts. I asked Neil Dixon the founder of Britcaster and now with BTPodshow for his view. This is what he had to say:

"UK podcasting community has never been in crisis, but it has been recently in a rut. The sudden, and to some surprising, closure of the BritCaster community forum has already generated a flurry of positive activity giving rise to new community projects, and once again the UK independent podcasting community is looking forward, planning, and collaborating in a way we haven't seen since the early BritCaster days in 2005. Let's hope the new energy and positive attitude to the power of community-driven progress keeps UK podcasting innovative and at the forefront of this new media."

Two different views of the current situation and I'd encourage podcasters with a view on the subject to email or jump into the comments with their own thoughts.

UPDATE: John Buckley sent me this email clarifying his thoughts: "UK Podcasting isn't in crisis, but it is undergoing a major restructuring operation! The closure of the Britcaster forums can be viewed as a good thing, but it carries within it the seeds of possible future conflict. We need to work constructively to avoid this. There will be two new forums where before there was only Britcaster. This will enlarge the forum space for everybody and encourage new people and fresh ideas into the medium. The challenge, will be to ensure that these two distinct spaces do not become antagonistic communities. It's important that we recognise this possibility and continue to work on projects that allow us to come together in a spirit of openness, collaboration and congeniality. That way we ensure the brightest possible future for everybody involved in British podcasting. "

UPDATE II Dean Whitbread of the UK Podcasters Association sent his thoughts, "After two years of being in very few places, the UK podcasting scene has just evolved amoeba-like, which has caused some consternation, but I think it was actually the current dynamism of the UK podcasting scene that inevitably caused podcasting to outgrow this particular nest. From my perspective, I'm convinced that the energy is alive and well...."

" Britcaster was a valuable hub, but it was never the only one - Podcast User Magazine, UK Podcasters Association both provide focus and bring energy to this tight-knit community, and both have attracted significant support away from the Britcaster family home.

During 2006 UKPA has been busy innovating, planning, negotiating, and going where no podcasters have gone before. Keeping podcasting out of the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty was a major achievement which won the UK podcast community international respect, and closer to home, successfully lobbying for the inclusion of podcasting in the Sony Awards is something we are particularly proud of. We also formed affiliations with Irish, German, and Swedish groups, so UK podcasting now has an international voice.

My feeling is that it is good for us all to be less of an island race, and to look outwards. This is less of a disaster, more a natural development. We should be more confident in our capacity for change. It's all part of growing up and being British."

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