His last section tells a fictionalized story of his experience working for The Corporation in a place called Television Centre, a sprawling labrynth of a headquarters for which there is no map.
He writes, another producer who had been getting lost a lot joked to his editor that if, somehow, everyone at the corporation died, they would have to send explorers into the building to map the place out in the manner of Vasco Da Gamma or Columbus.
This is a metaphoric reference to the BBCs production emporium in Londons White City where I spent a day last week discussing the ways Big Media lost its way, and is struggling hard to map out a new strategy to regain public trust. That occasion was the pricey We Media conference, co-sponsored by Reuters, in association with a U.S. think tank called The Media Center. It discussed how the media system has to adopt new technologies and ways of working or die.
Leading executives are now interested in moving beyond broadcasting into broadband, integrating so-called user-generated content like citizens journalism including blogs, podcasts, videos and photos. They are opening their doors to the people while insisting, at they same time, they will not lower standards of accuracy, impartiality, balance and other boilerplate blah-blah.
The headline on the BBCs internal newspaper Ariel shouts Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated, a play on Mark Twains dicta about a premature obituary he once read about himself. The Corporations chief Mark Thompson has promulgated a gutsy new policy with technologies that give the audience new ways to find, play and share programming when they want to enjoy it. Global News chief Richard Sambrook admits that the worlds most popular news organization BBC with 16 million internet users worldwide, despite its flaws wants more public input and not just as filler. Dont be passiveparticipate--is the new mantra.
My own voyage of exploration in this media shift has taken me in just a few months to what seems like a non-stop global talkathon of endless conferences, forums, workshops, panels and debates in places like Slovenia and Copenhagen, from one side of London to another and the wild east of Kazakhstan, with a pit stop in Newark New Jersey. In all of these locales, I have been doing some speaking but more listening.
As the frequent flyer miles pile up undermined by the jet lag, I find myself engaged in this same search, asking what can we who want a better and more democratic media system do differently to keep up with fast moving trends of change. How can we attract audiences and build a movement for change?
The discourse is not academic or contrived. Necessity remains the mother of invention. Wherever I go, I carry my critique on whats wrong with modern journalism in the form of books and videos in my luggage but some of it already feels tired or obsolete as if we are already in a post-journalism age where millions want to hear the sound of their own voices much more than my own or those of other professional practitioners and pundits.
In every location, the business buzz bristles with innovative ideas, new software and reluctant acknowledgements that the media system is being changing radically and that a new generation doesnt want what many of the media companies have been offering.
New satellite channelsthe subject of a conference backed by UNESCO that I later attended at Copenhagens Business Schoolare fragmenting the audience even more into special interest slivers. Most are offering more of the same but the Arabic news channels and others targeted to ethnic minorities and diasporic communities are offering impactful programming with different outlooks and programming,
As they say, the cheese is moving with the big companies plunging into the digital future with hopes of dominating it as totally as they have the analog world. The Telecom giants are subverting net neutrality. Rupert Murdoch has bought Myspace.com. Big advertising agencies are using sites like You Tube and Rocket Boom to plant hype for products with cool new videos that dont look like conventional ads. They want to control what they call the internet space and make it their own. These private interests are shrinking the public space and subverting commitments to public interest and service.
Unfortunately, many are using bottom-up content to help them keep top down control. For them its a way to enhance their commercial products and infuse them with the aura of populism. They have realized they can add bottom-up creativity and diverse points of view without diluting their corporate narrative which usually denies (and conceals) that it has any point of view. They dont care what you say as long as they can get it to pay.
On the positive side, Reuters has made a deal to distribute Global Voices online, a valuable aggregator of blogs from around the world while BBC is encouraging citizen engagement.
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