The future of the BBC is mobile, according to 'the kids'

 by Martin Belam, 22 January 2004

Tessa Jowell recently announced a consultation of children as part of the Charter Review process. Contributions can be made via the DCMS website by people aged between 8 and 17.

Ariel, the BBC staff newspaper ran what it described as a "snap poll" of some children from a group of schools, and published some of the results last week. Some of the quotes are fairly predictable, for example, children enjoy EastEnders, and on balance they find the news 'for adults' and boring.

One recurring theme leapt out at me when reading it:

"They could text telling us about new programmes or information about competitions."

"Put some programmes on mobiles or the internet."

"If you forgot to revise for a test at secondary school you could put Revisewise on mobiles."
     (Children from Little Kingshill School, Bucks.)

"The BBC could use a daily text messaging service for news headlines."
     (age 15, Richmond)

"I don't like how the news is on in the morning for about three hours. There should be top-ups on your mobile phones about the news and sport."
     (age 10, St Thomas Moore School, Coventry)

"Maybe there could be a loyalty bonus of certain programmes if you watch every day. Maybe you can send a top up card of £5 or give them 10 free text messages."
     (age 9, St Thomas Moore School, Coventry)

"Mobile phones are used a lot in films which can make younger children want to use them."
     (age 10, St Thomas Moore School, Coventry)

Elsewhere in the feature a group of pupils at Doon Academy in Ayrshire were asked for ideas about how the BBC could use new technology. They listed:

  • Free ringtones of programme tunes for mobiles
  • Versions of games on internet for mobiles
  • More vote-in programmes where people phone in to vote for their favourites

I know of course that these are selective quotes from selective quotes from an unscientific polling panel (no offence to article author Andrew Harvey).

It really struck me that in the 'so-called' adult world we are often talking about "convergence", and how there will be somehow a miracle technology that will unite your ipod, computer, FOAF file, and fridge to automatically throw the perfect dinner party. Whether it is a new-fangled "wireless network protocol", a web site, or a piece of software, the dream always seems to focus on the practical technical side of delivering this utopia.

Yet when you look at what these children are saying, the convergence is already happening for them mentally - certainly for their media. It isn't the protocols they are interested in, but the content. It doesn't matter whether the BBC is games, programmes, revision, or news headlines, they want it to happen through their mobile phones as well as their television. And they now expect it to happen through their mobile phones. They appear to be living in a world where they don't insist on a split between old media / new media / newer mobile media. Unlike my generation.

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