BBC has key role as tech leader

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The UK government's consultation on the future of the BBC has found that the public places a high value on the BBC's perceived role as a technological leader, and recognition of the crucial role the corporation has played in expanding markets for digital TV and radio is reflected in widespread support for the BBC's Freeview initiative.

The consultation, commissioned by culture secretary Tessa Jowell as part of the BBC's Charter Renewal Review, was published yesterday under the title What You said About The BBC.

Some see an important role for the BBC as a "trusted guide" in introducing the public to new technological experiences, shown in widespread public appreciation of BBC Online services. The public also tends to focus first on digital TV when asked to consider the BBC's role in technology.

But the BBC must strike the right balance between new and traditional technologies, making the best possible use of digital. Some expressed an "intangible fear that technological advances might come to dictate the nature of programming and provision, rather than always remaining the malleable means for delivering programming."

Others concluded that the BBC's digital strategy should focus on delivering universal access to its digital content as fast as possible, with a view among analogue-only viewers that the BBC itself should supply the technology needed to make all of its output accessible. Those familiar with new technology often thought BBC content should be made available over the internet.

Respondents from the voluntary and community sectors said the BBC should exploit the potential of digital media to widen access for all sections of society. Suggestions included more region- and subject-specific services, and more provision to ensure inclusion and reflection of the diverse and changing face of modern Britain.

A few organisations sounded a cautionary note, identifying groups they felt the BBC could do more to serve. Help the Aged argued that older people who do not use newer forms of technology, such as digital TV and radio, interactive or online services, are in danger of exclusion from democratic processes if these means of engagement become the norm.

One request emerging from the consultation was for a dedicated digital channel for 'senior citizen programming.' There were calls, too, for the BBC to use new technologies to try to capture the interest of young people and stimulate their involvement in social issues.

Lovelacemedia  |  21.07.2004

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