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'BBC 2.0' reinvented for digital generation

The BBC is to radically reinvent itself as an organisation tuned into the Internet habits of the iPod generation in a bid to safeguard its survival in the online age. At The Royal Television Society's Fleming Memorial Lecture last night, the BBC’s director-general Mark Thompson warned that the publicly funded broadcaster risks "losing a generation forever" as viewers ditch television schedules to watch what they want, when they want, online. "Audiences have enormous choice and they like exercising it. But many feel the BBC is not tuned into their lives," he said. "We need to understand our audiences far better, to be more responsive, collaborative and to build deeper relationships with them." The admission comes as the BBC unveils a new "editorial blueprint" designed to ensure it remains competitive, not only against old adversaries such as ITV, but also against the new generation of media giants such as Google and Yahoo!. The plan, "Creative Future", will leave virtually no part of the BBC’s sprawling empire untouched and includes an unremitting focus on "cross-platform" programmes that can be as easily delivered through a mobile phone as a television set. The huge project - dubbed "BBC 2.0" - will require a hike in license fees, which currently raise £3 billion a year. The argument is that the ambitious agenda will "cost a great deal more" than today's "mixture of outstanding output with repeats". The key recommendations include a drive to bring on board more "user-generated content" - a move that could eventually see amateur bloggers vie with the BBC’s star presenters and news correspondents in presenting and generating the news. A new service called "Eyewitness" will also throw down the gauntlet to sites such as Flickr and MySpace, now owned by News Corporation, the parent company of Times Online, by providing a similar forum where "citizen journalists" can share first-hand accounts of events. The BBC’s entertainment department will be encouraged to "learn from the world of video games" as part of moves that could see new series commissioned to be shown exclusively online or even on mobile phones. Echoing Culture Minister Tessa Jowell’s comments in last month’s Government White Paper that "the BBC should continue to take fun seriously", the blueprint says audiences want to be "seriously entertained through drama, entertainment and comedy, but also through factual programmes". Teenagers, the key drivers behind many of the changes seen in the media landscape, will be courted through a "new teen brand". This will be launched simultaneously across broadband, radio and TV and will compete with established players such as MTV, which already has a deal in place with Google to deliver video content online. BBC News will be centred on News 24, the rolling channel that competes with operations such as Sky News and CNN. For more on this story see The Times Online.

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