BBC Turns Educator, Streamer, Shopkeeper, And Futurist All In One Day

One day, will all state broadcasters be like this?

BBC Turns Educator, Streamer, Shopkeeper, And Futurist All In One Day
[Image: Flickr user Trondheim Byarkiv]

The U.K.’s state broadcaster has managed something that, for many organizations, would be impossible: to embrace its past ideals at the same time as the future. It has just announced a trio of innovations that it hopes will educate, inform, and entertain people–as well as bringing a healthy slice of commercialism to the table.


Director-General Tony Hall launched the changes this morning. Hall is a long-standing former BBC man who replaced the previous incumbent, George Entwistle, who resigned in 2012 after just 54 days in the job. There were at least a dozen new announcements, but these are the ones that really jump out at you.

  • A new, “bespokeiPlayer, which will suggest shows to users. It sounds like the BBC has discovered algorithms.
  • An audacious attempt to teach a generation of kids how to code. This is perhaps the most interesting of all the new services on offer. It brought computing to a generation of British kids in the 1980s with the admittedly clunky BBC Micro (Kit Eaton remembers playing 3-D space game Elite on it for hours).
  • Playlister, its music streaming service, in conjunction with Spotify, YouTube, and Deezer, will allow audiences to save music they’ve heard on a BBC program before exporting it to one of their partners.
  • The BBC Store will allow users in the U.K. to buy, download, and keep shows produced and shown by the corporation. The BBC might get a bit of stick for this, given that it is a taxpayer-funded organization, and the corporation’s detractors will want to know why a British citizen should pay twice for a show, but that is nit-picking, really.

Aunty Beeb, as the BBC is known in Britain, has been pushing boundaries for some time now–especially on the TV front. It may be a slow process, but that is how state-funded entities roll. What do you think of the new services? Is this something that should be tackled by the private sector, or are you impressed by the BBC’s big thinking? I know I am.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.