Responsive Radio is a new experimental way to make radio content more personalised, relevant and flexible. Responsive radio creates the story you want at the length you’ve time for. And this is just the start of a broadcasting revolution.
What is Responsive Radio?
Responsive Radio is an experiment looking into how we can make programmes more personalised and flexible. When you listen to Responsive Radio, you tell us how long you want the programme to be, and we create a path through the story of that length.
Very Clever! How does it work?
Each radio programme is separated into small ‘chunks’ that contain the content as well as information about the content itself such as its duration or description. All of these ‘chunks’ are delivered separately, along with instructions describing all the ways they can be put back together.
In Responsive Radio, our instructions describe how all of the pieces of a documentary fit together to produce a story – for example, which parts of the story are essential, and which ones are there to add more detail.
We call this approach behind Responsive Radio ‘Object-Based Broadcasting’ and, if it takes off, we believe it will slowly but surely transform the way programmes are made and watched.
Wait, so you could create your own programmes? This has huge implications!
We think the majority of our audience will want to be able to tailor programmes to their tastes and needs with a minimum investment of their time, rather than build up programmes from scratch. Perhaps they’re not so interested in the back-stories of contestants on the Voice, but would like more of the rehearsals – maybe we could give them this. Or, after missing a few episodes of a favourite soap, we could automatically construct a catchup programme for them that brings them up to speed before tonights episode.
There’s always super-creative types out there who, I’m sure, would love to get hold of all of the chunks of a programme to rework them however they see fit. Which sounds great – but if you’ve heard any of Cassetteboy’s work, you’ll realise that BBC content could easily become misrepresented. So, there’s some interesting conversations to be had about balancing the flexibility built into our programmes, and maintaining the BBC’s editorial integrity.
Another advantage of delivering all of the pieces of audio separately is that we can separate music and dialogue, giving you the option to personalise the audio mix either for preference or accessibility.
Doesn’t this make the production process more complicated & Expensive?
Well for this project it took a lot of people printing out and transcribing a lot of material, cutting it up with scissors, covering a huge wall with it, theorising about how to store the story, consulting the original producer, and then digitising all of those thought processes for your enjoyment.
This was a time consuming process, but it gave us a lot of ideas of how current production tools could be improved to support creating both variable length programmes, and enhance creating traditional programmes. Radio producers at the moment are working with abstract squiggles of sound on screen – how quicker could they make their edits if these had transcripts alongside them, showing what was said, and who said it? What about a tool that could do all of this, and also understand the script – while you’re making an edit, the tool could indicate to you which other parts of the story this edit might affect. We think that tools like these, as well as enabling new types of programme, point to big time and cost savings for existing programmes too.
What do want to learn from the audience?
We’d really like to know if people see value in programmes with this kind of flexibility built in. Did it work for you? Would you like this kind of programme in a different genre?
How about a variable length news bulletin, or one that can give you more or less detail on a news story? What about your favourite TV programme – this technology could remix it to your preference, but what would those preferences be? Top Gear, without Jeremy Clarkson?
You can read more details about Responsive Radio here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/blog/2013/05/object-based-approach-to-broadcasting