Why Doesn’t BBC News Online Understand?

by on July 17, 2004

One thing that gets me irrational about BBC News Online is the glaring lack of any proper back channel. People want to talk, and I for one resent only having half a chance to do so. The “Have your say” links at the bottom of some (but not all) stories, accompanied by the pretty contemptuous small print: “The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published,” works me up even more.

How long is it going to be before this kind of thing becomes unacceptable on the net? If you’re going to invite comments, then get your editorial team the hell out of the way and your systems capable of doing the invitation justice. It’s not as if this is a revolutionary idea, or that doing so will automatically mean that lunatics will swarm in and hijack the sacred “airwaves.” The quality and depth of debate about current affairs on a site like kuro5hin shows what happens when you do collaborative filtering properly.

But here am I wanting the Beeb to understand the medium its in. Perhaps I’ve got the wrong end of the stick – the Beeb isn’t going to become a two-way channel any more than magic lanterns became television. And most of all I’m forgetting the slogan of all netizens interested in this stuff:

Death to the communications monopolies! May ten thousand autonomous systems bloom!


(Hmm. I’m coming accross like Victor Meldrew meets Citizen Smith here. Note to self: tone down the ranting in future.)


So they’re still not posting that JBB branded stream of astute political commentary then? ;)

The truth is, that though the BBC has probably one of the broadest spectrums when it comes to news content, it is still an organization with an agenda. That agenda might be more intelligently planned and socially constructive than some of the other big media players in the world (Fox, CNN, US admin… no wait, they’re all the same thing…), but an agenda it remains. There does appear to be at least an attempt at balanced editorial. The trouble is, if the BBC posted all of our refined words of wit indicating the folly of such things as a ‘War on Terror’ (correct in our opinions as we may be :), the BBC must naturally seek out more of the opposite (AKA incorrecct opinion) on the subject to achieve that balance.

Pity them. It’s got to be very hard for the BBC to find people smart enough to string a sentence together, and yet dumb enough to be advocating lunacy…

Maybe we should play mutt and jeff with them? You write in and explain the advantages of a global approach to social responsibility, and I’ll write in and tell them that all such must-be-a-lesbian-pinko-communist-son-of-a-beetches such as yourself should be housed in a small shack in Cuba? There’s yer balance Beeb ;)


Job title: Web Designer/Master/Producer/Strategist/Architect/Developer/Administrator… Oh sod it. Let’s just say that after 10 years in this biz I can herd cats quite well…

Well, I admit I have sent in a few of my views… but the fact they didn’t turn up immediately may have made me think they were ignoring me. A quick “vanity search” reveals that in most cases they weren’t.

I take your point about the need to be balanced, but balanced should really mean representative – but in the Beeb’s case how do we know if they are reflecting that or not? I naturally believe in the power neutral technology in the form of collaborative filtering systems rather than a self-appointed team of human editors. But then again, I am a pinko idealist.

I just think that as time goes on, the need for editorialised “balance” will be made irrelevant by collaborative filtering. Maybe that’s it – I’m just a collaborative filtering fan.

Vanity searches
See here for why you can’t get a word in edgeways…


Job title: Web Designer/Master/Producer/Strategist/Architect/Developer/Administrator… Oh sod it. Let’s just say that after 10 years in this biz I can herd cats quite well…

That’s a hell of a oeuvre.

PS: Is posting anonymously to your own blog a breach of etiquette I wonder?

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