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Title: From television programmes to 'projects that have levels of interactivity': the SSG's multi-platforming of public service for a digital era
Author: Strange, Niki
ISNI:       0000 0001 3488 069X
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2008
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The impetus of this research was to consider the implications of interactivity and convergence for television's textual and industrial forms in relation to the BBC's status as a public service broadcaster. In particular the thesis focuses on the events of a historical period book-ended by two particularly significant shifts in strategy. In April 2006 the BBC announced Creative Future, its five-year editorial Vision. One of the earliest, and most significant, reforms to be implemented was a profound organisational restructuring to 'enable 360-degree commissioning and production and ensure creative coherence and editorial leadership across all platforms and media' (BBC, 2006a). This institutional transformation represented the full-scale adoption of a mUlti-platform and multi-media approach to commissioning, producing and distributing public service 'content' first embarked upon in the early 2000s. Taking as its springboard the provocative statement made by Ashley Highfield, the BBC's Director of New Media and Technology, in 2001 that: 'The days of commissioning programmes are over. We are now only commissioning projects that have levels of interactivity', the thesis traces the emergence of the BBC's multi-platform 'Project' as industrial strategy, as cultural form and as progenitor of the 360-degree approach to 'building public value'. Following an introduction, chapter one traces the most influential regulatory, industrial, institutional, and cultural moments of the Project's pre-history. The chapter provides a survey. of literature around thorny concepts such as 'interactivity' and 'convergence' and of earlier research into the similarities and differences of the BBC and Channel4's nascent digital strategies at the tum of the millennium. Finally there is a discussion of the impact of Channel 4's Big Brother as pioneering mUlti-platform format on the UK media production landscape: Chapter two outlines how this thesis seeks to address, in some part, the lack of engagement with industrial production within television studies. Drawing on Caldwell's notion of critical industrial practice (2006), the chapter forwards the notion that the productivity of the experimental multi-platform text might actually be understood in terms of its functioning as a site for reflexive practices, and as a 'performance of context'. The chapter also introduces key work on the modelling of viewer/user engagements across and within dispersed textualities, and also how a public service context may serve to re-frame such industrial strategies. The remaining three chapters advance the thesis' aim to originate a chronological typology of early Project textual configurations, each taking a textual configuration and a genre as their focus. Chapter three locates its analysis of a granular Project within the contextual registers of its commission: firstly to experiment with the drama genre using interactivity; secondly to pilot extremely localised content to a discrete viewing group utilising a 'new' technology; thirdly to use these tools to re-connect with a local community seen as part of an estranged audience. Chapter four compares two weblTV game/shows to delineate the woven Project's attempts to marshall and mobilise communities of interest, in particular appealing to an increasingly elusive youth demographic. It also traces an increasing emphasis on the desire to experiment with the harnessing of viewer/user 'play' and creative 'co-production' as means of delivering a re-formulated public service as pUblic value, for the digital age. Chapter five explores the aesthetics and production. practices of bundled Projects as their template developed, engaging in particular with how they mobilise notions of quality as delineated by Charlotte Srunsdon (1997) and, later, Helen Wheatley (2004), of viewer/user participation and of 'Sritishness' in order to drive digital take-up through Ihiking landmark television with digital 'content'. The chapter concludes with an exploration of how bundled Projects contributed to the evolution of the '360degree commissioning' strategy, of its centrality to the SSC's Creative Future vision and of the ramifications of the SSC's adoption of this vision for in-house and independent producers, as well as for its relationship with its viewers/users. The thesis concludes with a reflection on how the work here will help arm television studies' future examination of the second wave of multi-platform Projects that are emerging as Creative Future's 'Find, Play, Share' initiative, launched in late 2007, takes shape.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available