Archive for July 20th, 2006

The (dis)functional BBC Media Family

So last night I started thinking about the ongoing relationship between digital media, TV and Radio, and the image that came to mind was something like this.


Actually if I were to shoot it, gobby emo teenager Future Media would furiously be trying to swipe/hug/climb on overweight balding TV but being held at arms length by TVs bigger arm. TV would be looking at itself in a hand mirror held in its other hand. Radio would be sat down on a comfy chair looking perhaps austere but actually would be a bit of a maverick, in a Paul Newman/David Bowie kind of a way. He would also be slyly helping Future Media out or nicking something from TV. Sure they’d be bickering a bit, but in the end they all love each other – like any family. Any of my Beeb colleagues dis/agree with this?

Where’s all this leading then? Well it part of a bigger question on how projects get made these days, not just in the BBC, but other media organizations. The BBC has a dream of 360º commissioning, finally realizing you can’t simple bolt on the ‘new media’ bits to an idea, and any connectivity and interactivity has to be in from the start. And it’s exactly that point that Mark addressed yesterday.

“Everybody shut the fuck up!” – Ridley Scott on the set of Bladerunner

Trouble is people from a traditional visual media background tend work in a top down way. They offer ‘their vision’ to the commissioner, client or studio. This is how filmmakers and photographers have worked since the medium of ‘film’ began. One of the main reason they can do this is because most directors and producers are skilled in the language of the people under them. They have an understanding of editing, lighting, and composition. They may refer to a Director of Photography for advice, but on the whole they understand the processes and procedures involved and so came make valid authoritative judgments. Very few of them have any internet experience.

New media projects in my experience seem to be more collaborative. They have to be, because of the vast difference in technical, editorial or design skills. The project director/owner probably won’t have the same level of understanding about AJAX or mySQL or typography or colour theory and so they have to rely much more on the judgment of others.

Now there’s good and bad points about both ways of working, If things go well or bad, there’s one point of praise for the ‘vision’ method. Where as praise and blame can be shared out and pasted around in the group way of working. Also New Media’s much much smaller than say Hollywood or even the likes of mainstream TV, so there’s far less cash, coke and ego flying about for a start.

Another sin leveled at those who commission or those who green light a project is what I’m calling ‘iglooitis’. This is where the meme du jour – in this example, igloos – are must haves for anything approved by that person’s department. At that time they’re seen as key to the goals/milestones/roadmaps/ of ‘the business’. Any would be pitcher then goes away and shoe horns some badly thought out last minute ‘igloo’ concept into there pitch only to go back a month or so later to hear “You know all I see these days are ‘igloos’..I want something fresh!” This has happened to people I know, it happens a lot in areas like comedy.

True 360º will include every output device the BBC can bring to bare, going in size from 10 ft public screens, 42” HD TVs, 21” monitors, 5” PDAs, and 1” mobiles. The content will empower users and allowing anyone and everyone to join in and enjoy the experience. And the technology will just melt discreetly into the background like a Relate councilor watching the BBC and our audiences hug each other like we’ve never done before. If we don’t get this right, it’s a bitter custody battle, divorce and years in therapy.

CEEFAX Shuttle Infographic 1981

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CEEFAX Shuttle Infographic 1981
CEEFAX Shuttle Infographic 1981,
originally uploaded by pauliepaul.

A lot of people are getting misty eyed about Ceefax. Compare the above to This.

We never had a telly good enough in our ‘ouse to have Ceefax, we didn’t even have a remote until we got our first video recorder in 1990s and had to use that. Maybe that’s why I’ve never really been that impressed with Ceefax/Teletext. Though it did give the world Mr Biffo.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
July 2006
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