Digital Planet: the final broadcast

DP Zoom Nov 2020

I’ve just come off a zoom call with Ania, Gareth and Angelica, three of my most important colleagues. Ghislaine couldn’t be there, and was missed (the screenshot is from November 2020).

We started these calls on a Thursday three years ago, when we moved the production of Digital Planet into hybrid mode as the UK went into its first lockdown to try to control the spread of SARS-COV-2 and the BBC had to adapt its working practices.

Although the show continued to be broadcast at 2030, instead of recording ‘as live’ at 1930 we moved the recording time to lunchtime, and while our producer Ania and our studio manager were usually in Broadcasting House the rest of us were remote – though Gareth sometimes made it in.

We used some very helpful software developed by the production team, Pre-rec, that let us record a live programme while squirreling away a high-quality copy in the browser cache and uploading it in the background. Keep the line open for a few minutes and your producer gets everyone in quality.

I was living on a narrowboat at the end of a 4G connection so it was useful. And the birdsong that accompanied my contributions to the show as spring moved into summer was well-received by listeners.

And because production was more complex, and we didn’t see each other in person, and our entire lives were filled with them, we started a regular production call on thursdays, to review the latest show and plan the next.

And the practice continued, even as we were vaccinated and travelled more and things opened up.

Until today, when we held the last call. Not because we have decided to change our working practices, but because next week’s Digital Planet is the final one. After nearly 22 years, under three different names, with two main presenters – Tracey Logan when we were Go Digital, and Gareth through fifteen years of Go Digital, Digital Planet, Click, and Digital Planet redux – the World Service is changing the way it covers technology and we are going off air.

I’ve already told the story of how we got to 21 years, and the randomness of my continued presence on the show, so I won’t rehearse it.

two macarons
Two macarons from the 21st anniversary party.

It’s a big loss for me, even though it’s a relatively small part of my week (and my incomeā€¦ the BBC doesn’t pay contributors a lot) but a big part of my identity. It’s been the easy thing to say to taxi drivers or hotel clerks or at networking events. ‘I do a technology show for the BBC’ is never boring, and often leads to fascinating conversations. Not being that will be hard.

So, as we plan the final show, I can think back on all the amazing people I have worked with, in every part of the show, of all our fascinating contributors, and the opportunities it has given e. It’s been wonderful. And I can reflect on the close relationship we have with our listeners, in part through our Facebook group (we did try Orkut.. it went away) and via Twitter and email.

But in the end all the punditry and jokes and insights are lost, like tears in rain.

Though there’s always the archive

Catch the last show on Tuesday 28 March at 2032 GMT on BBC World Service

Digital Planet on Sounds: the last show