Not checked against delivery
For the benefit of those of you at the back or whose eyes are failing
from watching too many showreels, I'd just like to point out that I'm
not Greg Dyke.
Greg was due to speak here today. His departure from the BBC at the
end of January was a big loss. We lost an enormously popular Director-General
but also a great ambassador for the BBC and powerful advocate of public
As you can probably imagine, the circumstances of Greg's departure
left little time for handovers so I can't be sure what kind of speech
he had in mind.
One thing I do know is that he wouldn't have spent a lot of time on
the technical side of broadcasting. He may have been a great programme
maker and leader of the BBC, but he was the first to admit that he didn't
know that much about how television actually worked.
Here at least I can offer some continuity – I too don't want to talk
much about the technical side of things – not because they don't matter
– clearly they do. But rather because the sum of my knowledge of what
goes on behind a television screen would fit on a very micro chip.
But, like Greg, I love television, I love what public service broadcasting
is and what it's there for, now and in the future.
Instead I'd like to consider three things:
- The revolution television has been undergoing;
- Where the revolution goes in the future;
- And the role of public service broadcasters like the BBC in that
I have a few clips to show, but perhaps unusually the clips show what's
happening beyond the programmes, outside the box as we explore the public
value we can create as we harness digital.
I must start by saying how pleased I am to be addressing both MIPTV
and Milia audiences under the same roof for the first time. Ladies and
gentlemen, we have convergence!
Back at the BBC we've recently undergone a similar joining of two worlds.
We are the first major broadcaster in the UK to bring our enhanced television
operation within the main TV team.
Interactivity is now fully embedded into our approach to making and
commissioning television from the Olympics biggest ever interactive
coverage to classical music.
I know an integrated approach to commissioning eTV will ultimately
result in greater audience connection and engagement.
This is good news for our audiences in the UK but in our overseas markets
where we are seeing increasing demand for both our programmes and our
I'm equally sure that bringing together of these two conferences is
good news for delegates, who can now get the complete picture of how
television and interactivity are coming together, fast.
Of course this is not the first revolution for television. Seventy
or so years ago television felt every bit as radical as it does today.
This new medium reached into people's homes and into their lives. It
was a liberating force. It created new forms of entertainment, new sources
of information and new opportunities to learn.
Its near universal take-up, combined with the power of pictures, gave
it more impact than any other medium. These were exciting times when
anything seemed possible.
Looking back, it's easy now to see the limitations of the analogue
era. So many things we take for granted today simply weren't possible.
Analogue television may have been a force for liberation in its day
but it was also bound by some pretty rigid technology.
Television during much of the last century was a pretty monolithic
affair. Many households only had one. It was big, square and sat in
the corner. We fitted our lives around it, thankfully receiving the
handful of programmes and limited choice handed down by the powers that
We all tended to watch the same things at the same time whether it
suited us or not. TV called the shots.
Today, television is shrugging off those technical limitations. The
technical revolution of the last decade has put power in the hands of
PVRs and multi channel platforms are giving people the freedom to watch
what they want, when they want.
And like the transistor radio of the 1960s, we're now getting our hands
on portable devices like this (show PDA), which will allow us to watch
television where we want.
Let me show you something that the BBC is developing at the moment
and will soon go into technical trial - I can use this to watch my favourite
shows – in this case, The Office, at the time and place of my choosing.
What's also striking about the digital revolution is at the start,
it was driven by the commercial sector. It focused on maximising the
commercial value of television. It used particular kinds of content
to drive reach and revenues.
In the UK, football and films in particular – and of course Sky - have
played a crucial part in establishing digital and interactive.
Along with 24-hour news and an endless menu of niche channels, modern
viewers can consume more television in more ways.
You could say we've gone from the limited menu and rigid hours of a
traditional restaurant to a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat diner. Out go the
restricted choice and measured portions. In come the opportunity to
indulge in unlimited quantities of programmes and services.
You can feast exclusively on your favourite or spend your time grazing
your way down a never ending menu.
The question we as an industry must now consider is whether this is
enough. Where does the revolution go next? Is the all-you-can-eat approach
going to provide consumers with the freedom to enjoy everything television
has to offer in the 21st century?
I believe one of the biggest challenges ahead will be creative rather
than technical. I see consumers becoming just as concerned with the
quality of the experience as the quantity.
The freedom to eat all you can doesn't feel like freedom if you don't
like the kind of food on offer. Equally, the novelty soon wears off
if the menu never changes.
Audiences want something fresh and exciting brought to the table. If
we're honest, while we've found ingenious new ways of serving up television,
the content itself can be pretty familiar fodder.
How and where we can watch comedy, drama and entertainment have undergone
a revolution. The programmes themselves have not.
So what's needed now is a creative revolution every bit as ambitious
as the technical one we've seen.
We must apply the same vision and determination that made this (PDA)
possible to the process of programme-making.
But who's going to lead this next stage of the revolution? I see the
publicly funded broadcasters like the BBC as having the potential to
play a crucial role.
This is not because the commercial sector lacks creativity or for that
matter that publicly funded broadcasters lack technical expertise. Some
of the most successful breakthrough shows of recent years have come
from UK commercial broadcasters and our wonderfully creative independent
Similarly, the BBC throughout much of its history has been a technical
pioneer. Two years ago, it was BBC engineers who cracked the technical
problems that had plagued the digital terrestrial platform in the UK.
Freeview is now the fastest growing platform in the country.
But I see a special place for publicly funded broadcasters to be the
creative engine room for television.
The freedom from commercial pressures is a privilege – and one we mustn't
be afraid to capitalise on.
In the UK, you can see the impact the BBC is having on the digital
revolution in two ways in particular. The first is doing something which
has always been part of the BBC's purpose and that's boosting demand
for new kinds of broadcasting.
It's been an incredibly exciting year for digital in the UK, not least
because we've passed that crucial 50% tipping point. Digital homes are
now in the majority – just.
Technology has played its part – the success of Freeview as a subscription
free option on digital terrestrial has brought millions of homes into
the digital world.
Creatively also, a new world of possibilities has opened up. The digital
revolution has enabled the BBC to experiment with new dishes – and not
just satellite dishes - to create stimulating new menus and to sometimes
challenge the palates of digital diners.
It's enabled us to create new channels alongside BBC's ONE and TWO:
- BBC THREE with a completely original mixed schedule for young adults;
- BBC FOUR where arts and culture rub shoulders with documentary and
the deliciously wicked humour of the drama The Alan Clark Diaries;
- And our two children's channels – Cbeebies and CBBC – which are now
the number one and number three channels for kids in the UK (and providing
a valuable alternative to the diet of imported animation on many other
These services are providing additional choice and value for existing
digital audiences. And the channels are using digital technology across
television and the web as this short film shows. [Clip]
By working the potential of ideas across the portfolio, we're seeing
opportunities to build a greater variety of flavours into the television
For example, telling the story of Mozart was an opportunity to really
use the power of digital in new ways. We could cast the experience wider
and take the audience deeper thanks to what digital television makes
That meant a two-part drama documentary on BBC TWO (which got one of
our biggest audiences ever for a programme devoted to classical music);
a complementary series on BBC FOUR allowing viewers to immerse themselves
in pieces of music;
and a unique interactive application offering the chance to analyse
how Mozart constructed his scores.
Some of the biggest takers for this have been late adopters to digital,
the older classical music lovers – like my mum and my in-laws, who all
told me they had pushed their red buttons to devour what was on offer.
A year ago they would have thought of digital as the face of their
Here's a flavour of the Mozart season. [Clip]
It's this kind of approach which is adding value to the television
experience and creating a digital dividend.
- It's awakening an appetite among analogue audiences.
- It's adding value and choice for digital audiences.
- It's deepening the experience and raising expectations about what
television can do.
But I don't want to see a willingness to take this approach to be limited
to classical music. I want the BBC to be a pioneer of original programming.
Of course new ideas tend to be risky ideas. But as a publicly funded
broadcaster, we can afford to take more risks. Our secure funding is
a licence to experiment. In doing so, we can pave the way for other
programme-makers to be braver.
I see the BBC as getting better at taking risks in pursuit of new ideas
and doing it across the genres:
• In science, with the major investment required for ideas like Space
Odyssey which takes viewers on a breathtaking tour of the solar system,
fusing science history and drama
• In comedy, one of the riskiest genres in television, we are setting
the pace, often taking chances with new talent and writing as was the
case with The Office – which recently picked up not one but two Golden
Little Britain was a similar brave commission which now looks to prove
• In current affairs, we've been discovering the power of mixing documentary
and drama to achieve a big impact with different audiences.
• In the arts, we've committed to fresh thinking such as End of Story,
a new approach to creative writing which gives members of the public
a chance to complete the second half of a set of short stories from
best selling authors, such as Ian Rankin, and to have their joint work
• And our latest big idea is something we're provisionally calling
Home Movie. Our aim is to find 100 first-time film
makers – from the gofer to the gaffer, from the leading lady to the
make-up artist - and give them the training and resources to make a
film for television.
I can't tell you yet what the film will be about but I can promise
you, it'll be a major event across our services and online.
- It'll create opportunities for creativity that otherwise wouldn't
- It'll change people's ideas about who can make films and how you
- And it could open up worlds of possibility for a group of people
and an audience who hadn't even dared to dream.
All these programmes are examples of creative risk-taking. All required
channel commissioners, producers and talent to make bold decisions.
And all could have been made in the same old way we've done things before.
But there's more we can do if we are prepared to combine original ideas
and risk taking with a willingness to think big about the possibilities
for audience involvement and participation.
In the digital age, that means more than slapping a vote on as an afterthought.
As I said at the beginning of this speech, it's about building interactivity
in from the start and giving viewers freedom to play with our ideas
in ways we no longer control.
The result is television which really does break out of the box. So
a programme exploring the potential to restore some of Britain's historic
buildings didn't have to be low impact show relegated to the margins
of the schedule.
Instead, the series we called Restoration became a major interactive
event, reaching some 20 million viewers – that's just over a third of
the UK population.
Interactivity was at the heart of the programme. It generated unprecedented
levels of public interest in a show devoted to historic buildings, with
millions (2.3 million) of viewers voting via phone or the red button
for the building they wanted to see saved.
Eight out of ten adults were aware of the series. Viewers were not
just interactive but physically active too. They got out of their armchairs
and started getting to know the history and architecture of their town.
Some 83 per cent of viewers said that watching the series had encouraged
them to get out and about, discovering more about the history of their
local area. And almost half (46 per cent) said they wanted to go even
further and get actively involved in preserving the local heritage.
The winner – some Victorian public baths in Manchester - was expecting
about 500 visitors in the week of the final programme. In the end it
was more like 10,000.
And this was not an experience confined to the winner. All over the
country, buildings featured in the programme and many others besides
became the focus of public interest and concern.
Restoration was the catalyst for a national debate.
We brought the same approach to literature through a series called
The Big Read. Again, interactivity was at the heart of the idea of finding
Britain's favourite book and again it took an old idea into a new dimension.
- Nearly 20 million people watched the series with hundreds of thousands
participating via the web and interactive TV.
- The top 21 titles saw an average increase in sales of 575%.
- Sales of The Catcher in the Rye rose by 833% in the week it was
featured and Joseph Heller's Catch 22 saw a ten-fold increase in sales
- from 500 a week to more than 5,000.
But the impact was felt far beyond the nation's bookshops.
Thanks to our partnerships with schools, colleges and libraries you
didn't have to watch the programme to feel its influence.
Nearly nine out of ten people surveyed said they were aware of the
series and more than half of schools got involved.
This kind of approach need not be confined to genres such as the arts
and history. I believe by looking beyond the commercial returns of interactivity
we can create extra value for the public in every genre.
Talent shows may be as old as television itself but interactivity has
reinvented the genre for a new generation.
In the UK, the commercial channels led the way with interactive voting
for would-be pop stars. When we got involved we wanted to take the idea
further and saw scope to do more than a simple vote show.
So we used the £2.7million raised from public voting and our share
of the winners' record deals to create a bursary which will help fund
the musical education of five aspiring musicians.
It'll also pay for musical instruments for 150 children and help hundreds
more over the next two years.
But you might ask why bother? Why spend money at the margins of ratings?
Why enter where a commercial broadcaster fears to tread?
The age of interactivity allows us to be driven simply by what viewers
want. But the BBC difference is that we sometimes offer viewers things
that they did not know they wanted.
We should never be driven by the lowest common denominator and I want
programme makers to come up with ideas which could offer ancient history,
science and any number of subjects in ways which will engage with mass
We have already seen some examples of that, but interactivity has to
develop beyond voting someone out at the end of the programme by pressing
your red button.
It also has to offer challenge and excitement and the thrill of knowledge.
Digital plays to people's natural curiosity to find the new, the unexpected,
But the examples all share one thing in common and that's the pursuit
of original ideas which challenge assumptions about what television
In doing so, they break new ground creatively and through interactivity
offer new kinds of experience and engagement for viewers. They have
a value beyond the screen.
But this is only possible because the BBC retains its scope and scale.
It's this which allows us to play a distinctive role in UK production
- both through our in-house investment and as a partner to the independent
It's this which enables us to bring more than 600 hours of high quality,
original television to Cannes this week.
So finally, let me emphasise that a marginalised, under-funded BBC
wouldn't be able to take these risks or explore the full creative possibilities
of television today.
It wouldn't be able to explore the potential to enrich people's lives
through music, culture and learning.
The BBC's ability to do this is in an increasingly commercialised industry
is, I believe, becoming more rather than less important.
And that's why the review of the BBC's royal charter which is currently
underway will be crucial to determining the kind of television we have
in Britain in the future.
Of course there'll be those who will argue for a reduced role for the
BBC. All you can eat will keep everyone satisfied, they'll say. But
I hope we see a debate based on a much broader understanding of the
value of television.
I hope that while continuing to pursue the commercial value of television
we don't lose sight of the need to invest in ways to deliver its public
value too. It's this public value which broadcasters like the BBC must
focus on delivering. It's this that will determine our future in the
I see the BBC's ability to deliver this kind of value as enhanced
by digital television rather than diminished.
I see more scope for us to foster debate that underpins an informed
I see greater opportunities for us to be creative in our approach
to programme making and to champion public engagement and original ideas.
I see increased potential to develop our educational role and as a
means of linking communities.
Finally, just take a look at one of my favourite projects at the BBC's
Worldwide stand. It's this summer's huge factual event – D-Day.
It is dramatised and with first-hand eyewitness accounts which link
the past and the present to the red button.
The point of this speech – and indeed this joint conference – is to
explore the potential of television today.
One way or the other, we are all united by the same thing and that's
meeting the needs of audiences.
That's why MIP and Milia belong together. That's why talking about
television without thinking about digital is no longer an option.
I also hope we can also move beyond the arguments about whether commercial
or public broadcasting is the way forward.
The lesson of the last century was that neither sector on its own could
provide everything television had to offer.
While many things have changed, that lesson still holds true today.
For public service broadcasters like the BBC, interactivity is opening
up new and exciting possibilities to strengthen our democratic, social
and cultural contribution.
In doing so we can increase our scope to enrich people's lives. Bringing
audiences closer to programmes, getting them more involved and creating
shared experiences is where our value lies.
I passionately believe that the BBC will be more important in the digital
interactive world – not less – in providing:
• information rich factual programmes;
• rib tickling comedy that lets the UK laugh at itself (and the rest
of the world with it);
• impartial trusted news with an international perspective and
• home-grown drama and entertainment enhanced by interactivity and
with content increasingly powered by our own viewers.
Roll on the revolution!