EXCLUSIVE: British broadcaster BBC has launched BBC Ideas, its long-gestating digital factual service that aims to be “more rewarding than stalking your ex’s ex’s ex on Facebook”.
The service, which was unveiled by Director General Tony Hall in 2015, has now gone live and will target audiences aged 25-55 with a slew of “intelligent” audio, video and written articles drawn from across the BBC and third party producers.
It has launched with a slew of content including short-form docs on sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke, why people should learn to write Chinese, how women were integral to the techno and grime music scenes as well as a guide to surviving nuclear war. The initial films were produced by a range of creators including the BBC’s own archive division and indie producers including Guitar Star producer Somethin’ Else, Oxford-based Angel Sharp Media and podcast firm Intelligence Squared.
The videos are aimed primarily at a UK audience but are not geo-blocked and will be available for international audiences. Budgets will range from £300 ($400) to £1200 ($1650) per minute but the BBC may pay more for ideas and budgets may stretch further for a series of videos, which range from between two and fifteen minutes in length.
The service is being overseen by BBC director of radio and education James Purnell, who last year called BBC Ideas the first of a number of projects to “reinvent the BBC for the next generation”. It will be run by Executive Editor Bethan Jinkinson and former BBC Newsnight digital chief Cordelia Hebblethwaite, who is Commissioning editor, BBC Ideas.
“What would the world be like if everyone could write Chinese? Should we make sure driverless cars have a ‘conscience’ before they hit the roads? And how did David Bowie know the internet was going to be so big, way before (almost) everyone else? These are some of the questions that have been bouncing around our office in recent months, and if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to spend your time on the internet a bit more wisely, you’re in luck,’ said Jinkinson.
She added that it would feature ideas from the likes of virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier and essayist Adam Gopnik. “It aims to be informative, smart and genuinely useful for when you need a little bit of a lunchtime brain-detox. But we also want BBC Ideas to be entertaining. So much more rewarding than stalking your ex’s ex’s ex on Facebook. But not quite up there with 2017’s most challenging political biographies,” she added.
The service, which is currently in Beta mode, launched as a website but Jinkinson admitted that it was “trying out a bunch of different formats, styles and technical tools. If it works, and people come back for more, we’ll know we’re on to something”.