Giving the BBC a purpose. Or six.

In Sunday’s Telegraph someone claimed to have heard that the proposed new BBC Charter would not include one of its current public purposes: Delivering to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services.
“Mr Whittingdale will presage the (publication of a new Royal Charter) by announcing that he has removed a requirement in the BBC’s charter that it should develop “emerging communications technologies and services”, which the corporation has used to justify its online growth”
The sixth purpose, which is not an ‘additional’ one but just as important as the others, is one of the reasons iPlayer exists, one of the reasons Bitesize exists, one of the reasons the Shakespeare archive exists ( and one of the reasons Genome exists (, one of the reason IP Studio ( exists and one of the reasons the Digital Production Partnership ( exists.

It’s the reason R&D has an Internet focused research group and the reason why the BBC can imagine being ‘internet-fit’ as it goes forward. Without that mandate to explore, develop and deliver new technologies, the temptation just to make TV and radio and distribute them over other people’s platforms (like this one..) would be hard to resist. And we would all lose out.
I believe that the BBC needs a continuing mandate to ‘develop and exploit’ its Service ‘in the national interest’ – as stated in the first charter, from 1927. Today, that development must include online tools and services. If we lose the sixth purpose, we will miss it.
[Yes, the BBC employs me to think hard about this sort of stuff and to explore ideas like the Digital Public Space as a zone of online engagement that is not broadcast-centric. But I do it because it’s important, and you all know I’ll continue to do it whether or not I’m inside the BBC just as I did it before I joined the BBC.]