Seetha Kumar, Controller BBC Online, on redesign of website and audience participation / civic engagement:
Our continuing concern is to make BBC Online better for our users. This includes looking at how we can genuinely make BBC Online part of the web and meet our users growing expectations that they can contribute in different ways to our site. A number of ideas are in train; including allowing users to add comments to news stories as they can at many sites, including The Times and The Guardian. However, those ideas are aimed at allowing us to keep pace with what users have come to expect – they do not add up to a radical” social” overhaul!
I agree that this is long overdue and hardly revolutionary. Indeed one of the conclusions from my PhD was that debates taking place on news stories appeared to have a better focus and greater sense of dialogic interaction than those in Have your say debates. Bear in mind though that this was based on the 2005 UK General Election, when the BBC still used a manual system for updating content to these debates. Anyway, Kumar went on:
The BBC has always sought a close relationship with the people who provide its income. Interacting with audiences is intrinsic to our heritage even if the means of doing so constantly evolve. I remember debates with viewers via letter, arguing in response to complaints and closely monitoring daily call logs during my programme making days. These kinds of feedback helped – and still help – programme makers to shape and sharpen the output for which they are responsible.
Newer forms of audience participation are audible or visible across our output, whether in Nicky Campbell’s compelling morning show on R 5 or in texts to BBC Breakfast. And, of course, feedback is the u.s.p of shows such as the appropriately namedFeedback on Radio 4 and Points of View on BBC ONE. In these programmes, value for the whole audience is provided by the contributions of a few – and this is a pattern we want to be part of BBC Online in future.
Our aim is to be part of the much more joined up internet that is emerging; not compete with other service providers. Indeed, in order to become more part of the web we need to interact successfully with other sites and services – and that means effective collaboration. From being a digital repository for the BBC’s digital content, BBC Online aims to co-exist more fruitfully with other services and significantly improve the way it signposts and embraces content and services that exist outside the BBC.
More ambitious, but also more complex perhaps, are emerging plans to work with partners in the sharing of technology and other service elements like metadata. This is the thinking behind many of our partnership proposals – such as open iPlayer and Project Canvas. The same principles and intentions are informing our thinking on social media.
From BBC Online and social media, over on the BBC Internet Blog.