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Hit the North

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Nick Gallon Nick Gallon | 11:05 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The BBC's move to MediacityUK in Salford in 2011 has had plenty of coverage in the news throughout the year, but maybe a footnote glossed over thus far is that the TV Platforms Group, the department responsible for the Red Button service, is one of the teams in-scope to relocate to BBC North's flagship headquarters.

Signposts for 'the North' and 'the South'

While not as headline generating as the proposed moves of BBC Sport, Children's or Learning departments it represents both a significant challenge and lofty ambition in equal parts.

The discussion as to why the BBC needs to move some key departments North could fill a few posts on its own so I shall steer away from the general debate and instead focus on what it means for the TV Platforms team and the Red Button service.

It's certainly an exciting time in the Digital TV field, with Digital Switch Over in full swing, BBC iPlayer already on Virgin Media and now full screen via the Internet and the emergence of IPTV as a technology all coming direct to your living room.

As the team behind the Red Button service and with our colleagues in R&D we have been behind numerous innovations, but perhaps the biggest opportunity to unlock the potential of truly interactive TV is that presented by IPTV. The new generation of televisions, set-top-boxes and games consoles are starting to demonstrate what is possible when traditional TV converges with content and functionality previously associated with the Internet. The result has to be so much more than previous 'Web on TV' experiences, instead, as the viewer is more than likely watching a big screen in a communal location, it has to offer a tailored experience to match. By having additional content delivered or streamed via a broadband connection, the traditional limitations of the broadcast model are to a degree circumnavigated and to the viewer this may well provide a whole host of additional choice, involvement with and enjoyment of BBC content in new and exciting ways.

Building a centre of expertise in IPTV and a hub for 'Future TV' development is one of the key goals behind our move north. These provide stern challenges for ourselves and the region, so taking the bull by the horns, we have already set up an advance team in Manchester to tackle them. As a Northerner myself, and after 10 years in London, I've recently moved to Manchester in order to lead this advance team. We are going to be spending time on honing our requirements, growing relationships and refining our ways of working to become a more collaborative organisation from day one in Salford which will hopefully enable us to become everything that the new BBC North is about.

The downside of the move is that a number of highly skilled staff who have seen us through significant technical obstacles, launches and transformations have chosen not to make the physical journey North, a decision I know that was not taken lightly. So between now and 2011 there will be a lot of changes happening within our department which will include sadly saying goodbye to some of the team but also welcoming new team members on board.

The journey continues with us starting to understand how the Red Button must re-invent itself in anticipation of these technological developments and changes in audience needs. We are focused on building connections and partnerships with local industry and academia, to tap into some of that rich heritage that the North has of developing interactive entertainment. In addition, the chance to work towards creating job and skills opportunities in the North, enhancing its Digital economy and to see it become a real alternative to London is a fantastic challenge.

It promises to be an exciting journey and the team here and I will endeavour to keep you updated on our progress but in the meantime we'd be very interested in your views on our move north.

Nick Gallon is Technical Manager, TV Platforms North

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