A Year in Review – Future Media & Technology
"When there is a big news story we can run a multilingual debate that really is a 'global conversation'."
As the digital revolution gathered pace, BBC World Service strengthened its
commitment to future media with more interactive programming and the launch
of online video content in six languages. An increasing range of programming
in English and other languages was made available through podcasts and more
web content became accessible on mobile phones.
The process of changing from a radio broadcaster into a multi-media network
is a fundamental part of BBC World Service's strategy to compete as
the digital age transforms the way millions of people access news and information.
By March 2007 the number of international users of the BBC's international
online sites had reached nearly 12 million a week. A new generation of users
is increasingly likely to opt to listen to or view content on mobile phones,
mp3 players or via high speed broadband connections.
'Convenience to the individual is now the most important thing, not
the platform itself,' says Alan Booth, Controller, Marketing Communications
and Audiences. 'There's no reason why people won't soon
be able to get everything they want on one device. This isn't science
fiction or something that's only happening among the really wealthy
in Europe and America. It's something that's going to happen
around the world.'
Interactive programmes such as World Have Your Say and Africa
Have Your Say already make it possible for audiences to share their
views and contribute directly to news programmes every day, whether by telephone,
email or text message. Divisions between communities which are separated
by geographic location and language are being eroded as BBC World Service's
online teams share content in different languages. 'When there is a
big news story we can now run a multilingual debate that really is the 'global
action,' says Sally Thompson, Managing Editor Future Media. 'If
you just run a debate in English you will probably get very Western-style opinions.
Once you start bringing in languages like Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Hindi there
is such richness of debate. You get people together who would never normally
communicate with each other.'
Content submitted by users is now an integral part of websites in every language.
Some of the most valuable contributions are received from countries such as
Burma and Uzbekistan where conventional reporting is dangerous or impossible.
Emails and pictures from China broke the story of campus violence, which the
Chinese media had not reported.
VIDEO ON DEMAND
During the year broadband video news reports were launched
in Arabic, Portuguese for Brazil, Persian, Russian, Spanish and Urdu to meet
the explosion in demand for video on the web. Paulo Cabral of BBC Brasil typifies
the new generation of multimedia-trained producers. Covering the war in Lebanon,
he was able to file reports for radio, online and video services. New technology
is being introduced to make it easier for users to find the content they want,
including audio and video content as well as text. Effective searching is essential
in an age when social networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube, Odeo and Second
Life account for a growing share of the time and attention of young audiences,
who are more interested in showcasing content than consuming traditional media.
'We are moving on from linear broadcasting into an age of find, play
and share services,' says Sally Thompson. 'Our content already
appears on myriad partner sites and social networking sites. Users see it as
audio rather than radio. We have to enable them to find what they want to listen
to, then take it away and share it just as they do with music.'
During the Generation Next season a MySpace connection linked to
Big Thing competition to find the best under-18 unsigned band. 'People
of that age group are not normally going to visit a BBC World Service site,'
says Thompson. 'MySpace provided a much more appropriate environment
to attract their interest and it worked really well.'
Partnerships have proved particularly effective in competitive markets such
as Latin America, where BBC content in Spanish and Portuguese is widely accessed
through partner sites. In China, where access to BBC news websites is blocked,
partnerships have established portals for BBC learning and education material,
delivering 13 million page impressions a month.
THE WORLD HAS ITS SAY
Listeners set the agenda and can even take part in the
World Have Your Say editorial meeting every morning. The value of
hearing what listeners have to say was demonstrated when the programme went
on air just after the military coup in Thailand in September 2006. 'Listeners
in Bangkok told us there was no mood of fear, no violence and, yes, there
were tanks on the street but it was pretty calm, says Editor Mark
voices changed the way we covered the story.'
A co-production between
BBC Caribbean's interactive programme and Africa
Have Your Say marked
the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade. 'It
was a very good example of the global conversation, connecting communities
that have a very strong link through a subject that is very important for both
of them,' says Americo Martins Dos Santos, Executive Editor, Americas
and Europe Region.
BLOGS SPARK DEBATE
Internet diaries or blogs featured on
BBC sites generated worldwide attention. A remarkable example is the case of
a Pakistan rape victim, Mukhtar Mai, who fought for a change in traditional
attitudes to women through a weekly blog on the BBC Urdu website. Unable to
read or write, her words are written up by a local BBC journalist and also
translated into English. 'She drew enormous response from
people all over the world and generated a lively debate about traditional attitudes
towards women and other issues that are rarely talked about in Pakistan,'
says Behrouz Afagh, Head of Asia & Pacific Region.
we are on something like 15 different delivery platforms or technologies, from
traditional short, medium and long wave and FM through to proprietary satellite
systems, online, DAB, DRM and mobile phones,' says Mike Cronk, Controller
Distribution & Technology. 'Every market we serve
is different. That's
a real challenge for the way we put our technology together.'
is on maximum flexibility in responding to the changing market. The year's
key development is a revolution in the way programmes are produced. The launch
of the digital Production House of the Future took place at Bush House, with
services for South Asia. Traditional studios are replaced by a suite of glass-walled
production modules and stand-up 'pods' for newsreaders, all communicating
through state-of-the-art WiFi and internet links. 'It
is already helping us to work better, work faster and move closer to audiences,'
says Sabir Mustafa, Head of BBC Bengali. 'We can now announce
an interactive phone-in at very short notice because we know we can handle
it - we have
BBC - Many voices,