Conversations for collaboration
BBC trails their version of networked journalism
In confirming the closure of the Action Network, set up five years ago to support grassroots action, the BBC offers some hints about what’s coming next in their public service remit for “sustaining citizenship and civic society”. The announcement says:
… we will continue our commitment to help people engage in civic life and national debate with two new initiatives.
The first will be to launch a new service which will give people access to all the BBC’s content across tv, radio and online on a range of topical issues. Many of these topic pages will reflect the same issues that have been central to Action Network, from healthcare and schools, to public transport and policing.
Each topic page will offer the latest news stories on an issue, including TV and radio programmes, while linking to the wider debate through people’s blogs, campaigns and websites.
Many of the Action Network guides and briefings will be moved across to the BBC News Online website and will be found in the new topic pages – and will continue to help people understand how political systems work and how to get involved.
The second is a wider digital democracy broadband project, ultimately aiming to provide video of debates and speeches from our main institutions, information on your local and national representatives, guides to issues and the institutions, and easy ways for anyone to plug in and take part.
I explored what might be in prospect at some length recently at Designing for Civil Society after hearing of a BBC demonstration in Coventry that upset regional media people … and linked that to the closure of the Action Network. E-Government Bulletin – where I picked up the current closure statement – says:
Some press reports and analysts have been linking the demise of Action Network to the planned launch of a new, highly localised, customisable news and information service online by the BBC. However, a spokesperson for the corporation told E-Government Bulletin this week that the new local services were not intended to replace Action Network, and their launch was not related to its closure.
The plans would make use of ‘geo-tagging’ and map-based navigation to create service customised by postcode, similar to but more powerful than the BBC’s current ‘Where I Live’ news interface.
These plans are still in their early stages, but are expected to go before the BBC Trust for approval this summer, the spokesperson said. If approved, the service is likely to take at least another year to launch.
Whatever: the line in the BBC announcement about linking to other people’s blogs, campaigns and websites sound interesting. Maybe it is the BBC’s version of networked journalism.
The growth of blogs, social networking sites democracy sites like TheyWorkForYou and E-Petitions are cited as one of the reasons for closing Action Network
Although we’ve continued to update our site with new features, we now feel that the pace and innovation of online democracy means that our members can access a wider range of web tools, and have more control of their campaigns, outside Action Network.
Over on the BBC Internet Blog Andy Williamson, Director of eDemocracy programmes at the Hansard Society, guest blogs on Digital Democracy: Bridging The Gap, further supporting the BBC’s role.
Access and literacy are pre-cursors to digital adoption, but personal motivation through accessible, relevant and timely content is the key to staying connected. So when Mark Thompson talked about the BBC’s rôle in building digital democracy recently, the idea resonated with me. The BBC’s Charter makes it clear that it has a rôle to play. While it is just one piece in the jigsaw, the BBC does have the scale and trust necessary to mediate the democratic divide.
This all ties in with Cabinet Minister Tom Watson’s promises of support for online collaboration through third party sites, rather than new Government initiatives.