Unbroadcasting

BBC Director General Mark Thompson announces his big reorganization for “360-degree, multiplatform content creation,” dismantling walls between broadcast and digital. This is not at all unlike newspaper newsrooms merging with online newsrooms; the media doesn’t define the content anymore. “Much of what we call new media,” Thompson said, “is really present media.”

Note in this chart from the Guardian how future media and technology — Ashley Highfield’s domain — wraps around everything else. Note also how they are not separate blobs for journalism on TV and journalism online. It’s all journalism.

Here‘s how the BBC used to look.

This is a big cultural change for the BBC — and any media organization. Different tribes are being thrown in together and told they’d better get along to survive on the island. So Thompson lectures his staff:

I want to end with a different thought. New structures can be part of the answer but we know that – no matter how pretty they look on the chart! – they can never be a complete solution. Behaviours and values are vital too. Some of the biggest problems we face – the often poor and sometimes really bitter relationships between commissioning and in-house production for instance – are often blamed on structure but actually come down to the way we treat and respect each other and the extent to which we’re prepared to act as partners rather than rivals. In a converging 360 world, this isn’t just a question of being nice, it’s a question of survival. . . .

Now [if] this doesn’t sound like your kind of place, then it’s time for you to decide if the BBC is right for you. People – and I include senior managers and leaders in this – people who ignore the BBC Values and who would rather fight old battles or just sit on their hands won’t prosper anymore. They won’t get bonuses, they won’t get promoted, and if they won’t or can’t change their ways, we’ll ask them to go. Life’s too short and the challenges we face are too big for all of that.

Give that speech in every newspaper in America.

Note that Thompson’s reorganization tackles the inward network. I think the bigger challenge and opportunity is the outward network: the relationship with content and creators elsewhere.

I’m including this in the Guardian column I’m writing now; so more on this later.

  • http://leatherpenguin.com Staten Island guy

    are they gonna give up their forced-by-law funding?

    If not, as FARKers would say: “DIAF.”

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  • Muz

    Staten Island guy, frankly, get a grip. The whole driving force behind these changes is the need to use their funding more wisely and to be seen to be more accountable. Unfortunately Mark Thomson knows that the days of the licence fee are numbered, and he is acting to prepare the organisation for a future with a different funding model.

    However, put all the pointless, misguided, ill-informed and depressing conservative rhetoric aside for a moment and think about what the licence fee gives the British people – it gives them the most wonderful, richly diverse and high quality media in the world. It gives them excellent news and current affairs coverage, exceptional drama and more radio than you can shake a stick at. I don’t understand why people are so keen to see that go? I used to live in the UK, and now I don’t and I miss the BBC tremendously.

    The other thing the BBC does is represent the unique culture of Britain (much like the French, Germans, Yanks et al) and stand as a barrier to the tide of relentless crap that comes out of the US, pandering to the lowest common denominator with an insular viewpoint and poor production values.

    As if to prove my point… I offer you the example of The Office and Coupling. Two fantastic British shows that were remade for US tastes and which were completely devalued in the process. But my beef is this – I’m in Australia, a country which has more in common with the UK than the US and yet I was still forced to endure these horrific American abominations.

    Before you dismiss me as some sort of crank, I’ll give credit where credit is due and say there is some fantastic American TV. But there’s not much that is to be celebrated about American newspapers (why do all your journos use impenetrable AP style and adopt a puseudo intellectual New York Times-lite tone) or radio. Or even the web?

    I suggest your resistance to the BBC licence fee is a wholly unjustifiable position to adopt, and is surely driven by tasteless commercialism, cultural imperialism or the worst kind of conservatism.

  • RonP

    gee that’s realy special. as a yank living in the UK (and paying tv license fees) I see what gets posted to the screen – 80% dreck, unless you like british sitcom reruns from the 80′s, 20% good – sports coverage is especially good. News coverage is laughably biased, execs are overpaid, while production and talent are underpaid. Although they did bring us Little Britain.

    Sounds like Brochure Level Integration to me.

  • RonP

    gee that’s really special. as a yank living in the UK (and paying tv license fees) I see what gets posted to the screen – 80% dreck, unless you like british sitcom reruns from the 80′s, 20% good – sports coverage is especially good. News coverage is laughably biased, execs are overpaid, while production and talent are underpaid. Although they did bring us Little Britain.

    Sounds like Brochure Level Integration to me.

  • http://www.frankfisher.org Frank Fisher

    While the BBC has done great things Jeff, it nowadays principally talks about doing great things – and in the areas where it does lead, it’s doing so on the back of an imposed taxation. It cross subsidises web output with licence payer’s dosh – fine, you say – but how does that skew the market for the other guys?

    Moreover, how does the widespread mirroring of BBC values – moderating all forums for instance, imposing censorship that goes far beyond the legal requirements – benefit a plurality of views?

    The BBC does not reflect British values, as a poster up thread suggested, it merely thinks it does.

  • Muz

    RonP, how is the news biased? Because it asks tough questions? Because it’s a little more probing and quizzical than Fox News? What is the American obsession with media bias all about? I take it that in your eyes Right is Right, centre is wrong and left is worth declaring war on?

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/ Jem Stone

    Frank: The BBC has a fairly standard and more complex moderation model than the one you infer.
    We publish hundreds of thousands forum posts/blog comments a day.
    Some of these are pre-moderated (all childrens content, some news discussion), some are post moderated (checked after publication), but the majority of comments/forum posts are now reactively moderated (checked if the user alerts us to an issue).
    This is for reasons of safety, quality and also cost. Moderation as I’m sure Jeff will concur is a bloody pain for all services that invite readers/users to comment/debate but moderation techniques are hardly ever introduced because of a desire to censor.
    Disclosure: I work for the BBC in this area.

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