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myCBBC: All Your Stuff In One Place?

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Marc Goodchild | 15:04 UK time, Friday, 18 July 2008

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_logo.jpgmyCBBC 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.


  • Comment number 1.

    I don't see a problem with the BBC using 3rd party assets, especially in applications like this, but it would be pretty much impossible to control what users are uploading if they were allowed to use anything from the web without 100% moderation from the BBC - but as you said, thats also not possible.

    Perhaps the way to get around this is to go to other broadcasters such as ITV and Disney, even as well as some record companies, and see if they are willing to provide the BBC with a catalogue of their material to use.

    Then MyCBBC could use the BBC's own content, and selected content from other publishers which has all been vetted as safe before hand, thus allowing users to get material to use from multiple places, while being safe from the rest of the big bad internet!

    Then again, this would require the other companies willingness, but I dont really see why they should say no, seeing as how the BBC is 1 - a non profit organisation, and 2 - its free advertising for them.

  • Comment number 2.

    I find it sad that the BBC (broadcast and web sites) persists in calling children 'kids'. My child will declare to anyone calling him that, including teachers, that his parents are not goats (although we can be stubborn)!

    Referring to social websites, having heard from Ed Gibson who ran FBI computer fraud and child protection for 10 years, we do have to protect our children as evil people do use information posted on the web.

    We need to remind our children not to trust web content and 'people'. Also data posted is not always transient.

    I think the BBC should consider carefully if it can commit to enough moderation to protect the proposed MyBBC as I expect parents would assume BBC content to be 'safe'.

    How much and what type of resources will be deployed? Human and computer tools?

  • Comment number 3.

    I think you are talking about the experience of childhood, which is not owned by one TV company or another.

    I think the idea of openly sharing you are thinking about would lead to a huge step foward. My CBBC is clearly a huge step forward in broadcasting to children and is a model I'm sure others will soon immitate. Sharing of assets would benifit everyone, especially the audience.

    The big Hollywood studios have always provided free assests 'for non commercial use' via their websites. Clips, pictures, screensavers, ring-tones are given away freely as part of their approach to marketing.

    If marketing depts of all Children's broadcasters - BBC, ITV, Nickelodeon, etc, offered a range of free assets working with the simple rule of 'anyone - including other broadcatsres - can have these things but you cannot make anyone pay for them and you can't repurpose them, this would work.

    If both ITV and the BBC were offering free pictures from Blue Peter, for example, it would then up everyone's game since to grab and keep the audience the most creative and usable offering would win out. This in turn would mean the audience is served better.

    I say be bold and experiment. Remember the BBC used to sue people who built fan sites and 'stole' its pictures. Let's keep shifting attitudes of ownership.

  • Comment number 4.

    That there is a demand for a `safe` way of allowing young children onto the Internet is undeniable. As myCBBC is also free I imagine a lot of parents will welcome this. The only main rival I can see are the Disney sites, particularly Club Penguin (funded by subscription and merchandise sales.) Interestingly – as Disney only recently bought ClubPenguin, it isn`t themed around Disney characters, though that may change.

    You ask two questions about the BBC allowing users to collate other material alongside BBC content. My feeling at the moment is that is doesn`t hurt to limit access. There`s enough popular BBC childrens` characters to populate the site with. I also suspect many parents would prefer it if myCBBC were kept free of advertising and commercialisation.
    But you could have a request form to see what user demand is for (My Little Pony might be popular for example) and then enter into a commercial agreement to allow such characters etc into myCBBC. But I can`t see an overriding reason why commercial brands should be allowed free advertising to a captive market.

    And as Richard defines myCBBC as being `to enable children to customise and collate the content that the BBC offers`. Could adult users have a – completely separate – similar facility? Again I`d limit it to BBC content only; there are plenty of other sites that allow aggregation and social networking.

    On the issue of young children`s online safety may I also point out to parents that there are two freeware browsers aimed at addressing just this: kidzcd and kidzui.
    If your child has its own PC it may be worth installing one of these rather than IE or Firefox. They both operate a walled garden Kidzcd hides its address bar; Kidzui only allow access to sites OK`d by a panel of parents and teachers.

    Finally a heads up: Whilst Googling around I came across a URL with mycbbc in it.
    The site under construction claims this will be `My Cute Bouncing Baby Club` but it might be worth keeping an eye on what the actual content is and whether they`re hoping to dupe people into thinking it`s a BBC service.

  • Comment number 5.

    How much, if any, customisation of the services offered is a key question for many businesses and services in the modern world. The book "Mashup Corporations" by Mulholland, Thomas, Kurchina and Woods deals with these same sorts of questions that CBBC is considering. In the case of CBBC obviously there are some extra interesting questions to do with the use of their site by very young children. Social networking has always been a significant part of the usage of the internet. The earliest mass applications were email lists and usenet discussion groups and many of these were social rather than work oriented (the sf-lovers mailing list for example). The advent of the web and the personal home page allowed people to become their own broadcasters just as much as the modern SNS sites, although the barriers to entry in terms of technological literacy were higher. Questions of "ownership" of "brand" have always been there in the digital world but are becoming more difficult as the mass usage of such things becomes the norm not the individual exception.
    The question for the BBC should, IMO, focus on the issue of its public service remit. Dos the provision of a free "walled garden" SNS for youngsters come within its remit? If so, should that remit restrict itself to contents for which the BBC is directly responsible for producing, or include those it broadcasts, or include those which children find of interest outside the BBCs' content. In addition, should the principle question be answered that it should include material from outside the BBCs production/broadcast remit, then it becomes a practical matter as to whether it has the resource to spend on allowing it. The analysis needs to consider as well whether the lack of external material will make the system offered by the BC a failure in making it so unattractive to children that they do not use it (at which point it's pointless providing it at all). Since the concept of the walled garden restricts any concept of interoperability (and anyway SNS are generally not offering or considering interoperability) the BBC needs to consider if its offering will be of sufficient interest to make it worthwhile.
    I think the approach of an initial offering including only BBC-specific material is a worthwhile public service offering. If the lack of external material becomes a bar to its utility for the intended audience then it is probable that offering to appropriately license the BBC's material to suitable external sites may be better than paying money for external licenses.

  • Comment number 6.

    Sharing of assets would benifit everyone, especially the audience. The big Hollywood studios have always provided free assests 'for non commercial use' via their websites. Clips, pictures, screensavers, ring-tones are given away freely as part of their approach to marketing. https://www.birsesver.com


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