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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
BBC changes mark a digital future
Torin Douglas
By Torin Douglas
BBC News media correspondent

BBC Director General Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson says new media is now "present media"
The BBC's restructuring speaks volumes about the rapid changes going in the digital world - and how media organisations are having to adapt, faced with the challenge of new audience demands and huge new players such as Google and Microsoft.

Gone are the words radio and television, which have been pillars of the BBC structure since the1920s and 30s.

Instead, there will be two divisions called BBC Vision and Audio and Music, reflecting the way millions of people now receive pictures and sound from the BBC not on their TVs and radios but on their computers and mobile phones.

A third division, called Journalism, will be responsible for the BBC's news, current affairs and sport output, across the globe and on all media platforms.

The term New Media also disappears, on the grounds that much of it, as the director-general Mark Thompson explained to BBC staff, is now "Present Media".

Video on broadband

The BBC websites, the BBC Radio Player, podcasts and even video on broadband have been available to licence-payers for some years.

Instead, there's to be a new division called Future Media and Technology. This will concentrate on delivering BBC programmes to audiences in new ways.

Crucially, it will no longer create content for the BBC's websites which it has been funding and running up till now.

These will be integrated into the main programme divisions - BBC Vision, Audio and Music, and Journalism - so, for example, the children's web pages will be directly funded and produced by the children's department, within BBC Vision.

Man listening to music on MP3 player
The way in which the audience uses BBC programming is changing

The changes are designed to simplify the way the BBC's content is commissioned across various platforms, and to make it easier for audiences to receive BBC material when and where they choose.

But inevitably, the new structure raises as many questions as it answers, not least which executives are going to fill all the new posts, such as commissioner, fiction, and controller, portfolio and multimedia?

Will we eventually abandon the terms radio and television altogether?

Not immediately, of course - the main BBC radio networks are called Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Live and those won't change quickly.

Return of 'wireless'

Though it's worth noting that the TV channels aren't labelled in the same way - and nor are the BBC's digital radio networks, 1Xtra, 6Music and BBC7.

Will we stop talking about radio news and television news? Or radio drama and TV drama? Will they become audio drama and video drama instead? Or just drama?

Look on the BBC website and count just how often the words radio and television appear and it seems unlikely they'll disappear. But then think of the term "wireless" and see what happened to that - dug up from the grave and reinvented with a whole new meaning.

Will audiences stop talking about TV and radio when everything comes through their new digital hub, provided by BT Vision or Sky or some other broadband provider? And what about the channels themselves?

Desperate Housewives
Desperate Housewives is among the shows available on iTunes in the US

How important are they in the BBC's Creative Future? Once, the controller of BBC One had his hands (it was always a 'he' in those days) firmly on the purse strings.

Now BBC One is just one of more than two dozen BBC services - on TV, on radio and online, as the saying goes - and there are programme genre commissioners jostling with the channel controllers for power.

Where exactly does power lie these days, when listeners and viewers can download programmes to their BBC iPlayer instead of watching or listening to them when the scheduler dictates?

With the audience of course. And in these days of user-generated content, they're producing as well as consuming.




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