Archive for the ‘digital britain’ Tag
With the publication of the Digital Britain report today it’s an apposite time to reflect on the role of Channel 4 in Britain’s Public Service landscape. After listening to former BBC Chairman Christopher Bland asserting (this morning on Today) that the UK can only afford one public service broadcaster and after reading a spiky response from BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons jealously guarding the BBC’s cash, I reflect on last night’s RTS Education awards. I went along with The Sex Education Show presenter Anna Richardson and the Sexperience team from Mint Digital and Cheetah. During the evening I caught up with Tanya Byron who was presenting the awards and served on the Digital Britain steering group (I worked on the DB Being Digital / digital media literacy work group, whose outputs Tanya polished. I also helped her a little with her government Review of Children and New Technology last year and have been busy trying to get it implemented this year via the UKCCIS). At the end of the ceremony she spoke of how she had been inspired by watching all the nominations with her family and picked out Sexperience, Chosen and Troubled Minds for special mention.
Just playing the numbers game, the BBC with its pots of cash for education scored 2 awards. Littl’ ol’ Channel 4 bagged 5. And some 5…
For Educational Impact in Primetime Chosen (True Vision for More4) – three courageous men disclose the abuse they suffered at school. Turned down by 17 commissioning editors before More 4 had the balls. Talking of Balls, one of the three protagonists, Tom, drafted a set of recommendations taken up almost in their entirety by Secretary of State for Education Ed Balls when he reviewed this area in the wake of this film. The jury said: “A revelatory and dignified film… which explored paedophilia by allowing three highly articulate middle-aged men to tell their own stories of having been groomed and serially abused by teachers in the same public school as they were growing up.”
For the 11-16 Years category KNTV Sex produced by Tern Television (whose trusty leader Harry Bell – he knows a good Rioja when he sees one – I caught up with in the bar afterwards) – a lively, funny animation (punctuated with weird archive from Eastern Europe) tackling tackle and other forbidden subjects. The jury said: “A witty and uncompromising look at a subject of great relevance to its target audience. It uses first-class entertainment devices and characters to deliver tough content. An engaging and fun watch with real take-home for the viewer.”
For Campaigns Jamie’s Ministry of Food (Fresh One for Channel 4) – love him or loathe him, you have to admire Jamie’s commitment. I was lucky enough to work on Jamie’s School Dinners which in many ways set the gold standard for mainstream Public Service TV. The jury said: “The winning series was utterly brilliant – it truly enriched the lives of the people involved and gave the viewer a rare insight into other people’s lives.”
For Factual Education 7/7: The Angels of Edgware Road (Testimony Films for Channel 4) – driven by one committed film-maker, a story of people who risked their lives to save others. The jury said: “not only a deeply moving account of the appalling events on the London Underground in 2005 but challenged its audience to consider their own responses if faced with the dilemma of whether to save themselves, or try to save others.”
For Educational Impact in Primetime (Series) Can’t Read Can’t Write (RDF Media for Channel 4) – teacher extraordinaire Phil Beadle (who I worked with on The Unteachables) again teaches the ‘unteachable’, this time adults who have never grasped reading and writing and had given up. Now two of the featured contributors have written books! The jury said: “powerful storytelling and memorable sequences within this important series which highlighted the shockingly high numbers of British adults who cannot read or write. The jury was genuinely surprised by the extraordinarily brave characters whose stories were at the heart of the series, finding them engaging, surprising and honest.” Compare that one for example to BBC RAW for flair, passion and imagination.
Sexperience lost out for Innovation in Education to the BBC’s School Report which marshals the whole BBC machine – BBC News, Radio 4’s Today, the network of local radio stations, the Full Monty/Aunty – to encourage children to try out news journalism. Laudable and solid. But an exact replica of Channel 4’s Breaking the News for a different audience (Newsround age as opposed to 14-19) which won an Education RTS in 2005, a year before School Report was launched. Yes, a strange choice given Raw’s Battlefront was the other nominee.
All of this illustrates how Channel 4 is the grit in the PSB oyster. The BBC would be even Blander (scuse the pun) without the boundary pushing of C4 and its discovery and nurturing of talent. On BBC Jamie cooks and makes a dish, on C4 he campaigns around food and makes a difference. (He was discovered of course by an ex-C4 PA who followed her passion straight out of Charlotte Street to become a highly successful exec producer, Pat Llewellyn.) Digital Britain has highlighted and backed C4’s place in British media and started rolling an exciting updated remit:
Championing and promoting creativity and new talent across all digital
●● Investing in a wide range of original, innovative, high-quality audiovisual
content, including film, which provides alternative perspectives
and reflects the cultural diversity of the UK.
●● Providing audio-visual services and programming that can stimulate
learning and which will inform, challenge and inspire people, particularly
older children and younger audiences.
●● Maintaining a strong commitment to distinctive national and
international news and current affairs.
●● Enabling through partnership the development and reach of other public
service content from British cultural organisations.
●● Developing new services and applications to support its overall role,
embracing the potential of all digital media to connect with audiences
in new ways and to encourage the wider take-up of and participation in
new digital media by audiences.
When I first arrived at Channel 4 my job was Creative/Commercial Director of 4Learning. Channel 4 has always existed with that tension between public service and commercial, and I remember sitting down after the first couple of weeks, trying to reconcile that creative slash commercial, and writing down the 8 ways of making money off content slash services on the internet.
Yesterday morning (on the 20th anniversary of the day Tim Berners-Lee sent *that* memo which gave rise to the Web) I attended a very stimulating workshop at NESTA set up for the Digital Britain team (directed by Lord Carter which gave rise to a top class peer-to-peer joke) who are tasked with mapping out the way forward for the UK into the fully digital age. Among the colleagues in attendance were Charlie Leadbeater, whose critical response to the Digital Britain interim report was the springboard for the discussion; Mark Earls of Herd: How to change mass behaviour reknown; the energetic, insightful JP Rangaswami; Matt Locke, fellow commissioning editor at Channel 4; the always lively James Cherkoff; Roland Harwood and Jon Kingsbury of NESTA; Steve and Johnnie Moore; Joanne Jacobs (what is it with digital media and the scarcity of the fairer sex?); and Christian Ahlert of Open Business.
I found Charlie’s response to Digital Britain stimulating, particularly liked his categorisation of media into Enjoy, Talk and Do media (the first of these modes is usually couched in negative terms like Passive which don’t do it justice). But I felt the hole in the piece was a failure to address the lack of new business models to take over from the disrupted and digitally undermined ones. Beside a passing reference to “people who lose jobs set[ting] up microbusinesses online”, there’s very little sense of where the cash flows in this world of ‘mutual media’ or how most people make a viable living in what presumably remains a significant industry. Charlie did, however, address this issue early in our discussions yesterday. In this context, JP drew attention to Kevin Kelly’s illuminating blogpost Better Than Free which lists 8 ways to make money in the digital world. In super-brief, these are a set of “generative values” – qualities which must be nurtured and grown, and cannot be copied or faked:
The thing about new digital business models is that people often second-guess or idealise behaviour when they’re trying to conceive them. I remember sitting in a meeting at Intellect in Russell Square in the early days of the Broadband Stakeholders’ Group and having at one point to ask people round a big table, as they blathered on about subscription and Pay-per-View: Who here has parted with actual cash money for digital content in the last month? And the answer, needless to say, was next to no-one.
So by way of experiment to test Kelly’s ideas and get a feel for how cash flows in the brave new digital age I thought I’d try to note down for a typical quarter what I spend on products and services from within the realms of digital content and networked digital services (i.e. media and communications). I won’t bother listing stuff like regular monthly bandwidth or mobile account (only where that’s over and above the routine). So here we go, starting now… (14.iii.09 17:30 gmt):
Date Purchase Amount
14.iii.09 iTunes Track of the Week Big fat zero, honey (nor is it worth anything much)
18.iii.09 2GB of extra bandwidth (cos of having to watch loads of Embarrassing Bodies off-line edit videos for work) £2.92
22.iii.09 2 x iTunes tracks for Mother’s Day mixtape £1.58
21.iv.09 Domain name renewal £12 (actually on behalf of Channel 4 on expenses)