myCBBC: All Your Stuff In One Place?
myCBBC hit the headlines again this week - this time in the Media Guardian - and, for a change, it was a positive story. (If you don't know what myCBBC, is check out Richard Deverell's previous post.)
myCBBC still manages to divide opinion. It's designed to provide younger children an alternative environment to express their personalities online and share in their favourite brands, without necessarily going on to more intimidating unregulated social networking sites.
There are those who believe that the very fact we're offering such a service means we're actually encouraging kids to embrace social networking before they're actually mature enough to understand the risks.
On the other hand, many argue that the cat's already out of the bag, and that the allure of unregulated social networking sites is far to great to ignore. You can guess where I stand, and recent Ofcom stats suggest that more than a quarter of children aged 8-11 who are online have a social networking profile, whether we like it or not.
We genuinely hope that myCBBC can provide a safe alternative for kids hungry for a taste of the web 2.0 network experience that they keep hearing about everyday from siblings, in the playground, on TV and in the press. Social networking is touted everywhere and children want a piece of the action - so we've come up with a secure environment where we can make sure that children pick up good tips on how to stay anonymous and safe.
But that raises another dilemma which we've been trying to grapple with at CBBC. If we want to be truly web 2.0, we surely can't restrict the share functionality to just BBC assets. Kids, more than anyone, are driven by their favourite brands and make little distinction between channels or websites except as a method to find their chosen programmes, characters or presenters.
So it feels rather anachronistic to suggest they shouldn't be able to aggregate all their fan-trophies (pictures, wallpapers, gossip etc) in one place. Surely if you're a fan of both Blue Peter and High School Musical, both posters should be available for you decorate your virtual den?
Most broadcasters struggle with the notion of embracing competitor brands on their websites - but for us, the issue is more about how to moderate all this stuff rather than fending off the competition.
If we didn't have an obligation to protect kids from inappropriate material finding its way onto our site, we could theoretically allow children to import whatever images they like.
But then we also open up a thorny rights issue. As a broadcaster/web publisher we have to be far more rigorous about what we allow on our sites than most aggregator services. And yet the costs of moderating make it impossible to pre-check the content or rights situation for every image a child might submit.
So the philosophical questions remain:
- should broadcasters like the BBC allow users to collate other material alongside BBC assets?
- and if so, how do we technically guarantee that content is appropriate for younger users and doesn't cross the line with third party rights agreements?
All suggestions welcome.
Marc Goodchild is Head of Interactive & On Demand, BBC Children.