BBC 2.1

More on the BBC’s bold plans in today’s Media Guardian. Owen Gibson hears BBC head of journalism Mark Byford talk the talk:

The shift in distribution should be accompanied by a shift in tone, he argues. “They [the audience] like its accuracy, its authority, its authenticity. They want it to be a bit more modern, a bit more accessible, a bit more courageous and we’ve got to adapt to that as well.” And that shift in mindset should apply to the way in which complaints are treated too, he says. “In the past, people thought that if they admitted a mistake it would make them less authoritative. In fact, the audience feel it makes you more so,” he says, perhaps alluding to Hutton and bringing to mind his unhappy spell as stand-in director general following the departure of Greg Dyke. “You’ve got to understand that over time that’s got to change. Trust is about reliability but it’s also about responsiveness,” he adds.

Below that on the page, Anthony Lilley says, properly, that if they mean it about going 2.0, they have to stop talking about audiences.

At least once in his speech, the DG referred to changing “audience behaviour”. And therein lies a clue to the fundamental problem. The biggest change in audience behaviour is that for much of the time, the folk out there have stopped being an “audience” at all. They are, increasingly, members of various communities and some of the time they listen and talk to the BBC.

The BBC clearly understands this idea. It’s shot through Thompson’s speech. But acting on it goes further than putting new media on an equal level to radio and TV. This is the BBC’s main problem. Once a broadcaster, always a broadcaster. We don’t need the BBC’s permission to talk among ourselves and we don’t need to do it on the BBC’s (virtual) premises.

f there’s one thing that really differentiates so-called “new media” folk from our brethren in “established” media, it’s our version of the idea of control. Google knows that you don’t need to control everything. You provide, in its case, the best search service and use it as a platform to become a key player online. From the rhetoric, the BBC gets this. It just doesn’t seem to be able to resist going too far.

It appears determined to keep “audiences” within the confines of the BBC. But to do this, it plans to expand its means of delivery into every new area of media, and without questioning whether this is a) desirable or b) what the BBC is for. So we have the BBC developing search software. Is there a market failure in search engines?

See also Emily Bell.