Mark Thompson’s MacTaggart Lecture: it’s about services

Mark Thompson delivered this year’s MacTaggart memorial lecture earlier tonight.

The best bit?

…The clue actually is in the title – public service broadcasting. It’s about services as well as individual programmes. At its best public service broadcasting is woven of whole cloth.

And, just like the wicked old British Library, it’s founded on the idea of public space – in other words on the belief that there is room for a place which is neither part of government or the state nor purely governed by commercial transactions, which everyone is free to enter and within which they can encounter culture, education, debate, where they can share and swap experiences.

That’s some pretty exciting stuff.

Here’s the full speech and here are some choice quotes.

I’ll leave you to decide whether you think the DG tackled Murdoch head on tonight, whether his speech was an entertaining irrelevance or indeed whether he misunderstands the BBC’s public service mission. I’m actually pretty excited about his broad interpretation of public service not being limited to public service broadcasting. In fact, with that distinction in mind, one thing that stood out to me in that Telegraph editorial was this (rhetorical?) question:

We may applaud the resurrection of Doctor Who on television, but why does the BBC think that its charter covers the provision of electronic games?

The answer, to my mind, is simple. The charter does cover more than just making television programmes. In fact, it’s quite explicit about including ‘online services’, and even as-yet uninvented technologies, to deliver its public purposes.

The BBC’s main activities should be the promotion of its Public Purposes through the provision of output which consists of information, education and entertainment, supplied by means of—
(a) television, radio and online services;
(b) similar or related services which make output generally available and which may be in forms or by means of technologies which either have not previously been used by the BBC or which have yet to be developed.

This makes me proud to be part of the BBC. A BBC which – while doing fewer things, better – still knows it needs to be about more than making TV programmes.

Television Centre

NB: This is a personal blog. What I’ve written here is my own point of view, and doesn’t necessarily represent my employer’s positions, strategies or opinions. Though, of course, I hope it does.

One reply on “Mark Thompson’s MacTaggart Lecture: it’s about services”

  1. ‘doing fewer things better’ is something that it’s hard to disagree with.

    I’d love to see the BBC doing almost nothing but provide the social infrastructure for individuals to share each others creativity.

    However, I don’t get the impression that that is what Mark Thompson is thinking when he says ‘doing fewer things better’. I think by doing fewer things, he means producing less content, and when he says ‘better’ I think he means more tightly controlled content.

    If I’m right, he actually means stepping backwards, circling the wagons around the bastion of mercenary produced content, trying to keep alive what is already becoming a useless distinction between content producers and content consumers.

    It’s no surprise to me therefore when I see the BBC advertising the iphone and ipad apps that they’ve spent time and money to write, when they could have provided the content on an open API and had better apps written for free and for more platforms. That’s the action of an organisation that doesn’t understand that everyone makes stuff.

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