Exposing the past of BBC 2.0

One follow-up to my post yesterday about the BBC’s plans for re-invention – the broadcaster has posted its complete catalogue online, which includes:

  • Details of 946,614 BBC radio & TV programmes, dating back 75 years
  • 503,193 subject categories, from Pig Farming to Pirate Radio
  • 1,182,424 contributors, from Bruce Forsyth to Imelda Marcos

This is a gigantic searchable database – there aren’t any programmes themselves online.

Writing about it yesterday, project director Tom Loosemore says:

[…] This experimental prototype is rather rough and ready. It may fall over. The search is crude. The design is basic. There are mistakes aplenty. These were conscious compromises for which I apologise. We just wanted to set free this amazing store of culture as soon as was humanly possible. We hope you enjoy it.

[…] PS For those who care about such things, every list is also an RSS feed, every entry also RDF and the terms of use allow for non-commercial re-use. Have fun.

Note Tom Loosemore‘s job title: “Project Director, BBC 2.0”.

It’s a terrific resource and, on a quick try, works well. For example, search for Charles Clarke (Home Secretary and a major part of very hot political news in the UK at the moment) and you’ll get a page with links to everything about him that the BBC has ever broadcast. The page also links to search results about him elsewhere on the BBC website and to a Wikipedia entry.

And as Tom Loosemore said, you can subscribe to a feed (Atom) of a search result so you can get updates as they’re added to the database. Very useful to complement other resources you use to track something you’re interested in.

Looks like the database was developed with Ruby on Rails. BBC 2.0 indeed.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. neville

    There is some great stuff, Lee, isn’t there? My favourite – Just a Minute on Radio 4. Sadly, this doesn’t show up when I search the catalogue!

    Maybe we should try something like this on FIR :) Might help us get to that magic 60-minute show rather than 90…

  2. Lee Hopkins

    My dear chap — when a regular issue of FIR comes in under 60 minutes I will personally close down my business, cancel all engagements and retreat to a monastry in deepest darkest Ireland, where there’s no Guiness or Murphy’s.

    I won’t hold my breath or book my flight just yet… :-)

  3. Lee Hopkins

    My goodness — I just checked out the link to Just a Minute. I’d forgotten about that show. WOW! What a list of current crew: Stephen Fry, Julian Clary, Wendy Richard, the sublime Clement Freud (how old is he now?? it feels like he’s been on radio for ever). Oh, memories of Radio 4 just keep flooding back. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world, is there?

  4. neville

    So don’t hold your breath, Lee, or book your flight! Today’s FIR was a bit of a marathon. Just completed putting it all together. Whew!

    The good thing about the net is that you can listen to Just A Minute online. I wonder what BBC 2.0 will mean for radio shows like this. Podcasts is an easy thought, but that’s today’s thinking. I could see global editions wholly taking place online, live, with different people participating, not necessarily celebrities (or with them as well). That would be great fun!

  5. Lee Hopkins

    Cool — kind of like:

    “Imagine a world where three people who’ve never met together are able to talk about their passions, even though they are each on a different continent”

    Now, THAT would be cool!! :-)

  6. Dennis Howlett

    What have you been saying about the death of MSM Neville?

    But seriously – there’s a big reason behind all this. The license fee is under long term threat so they have to commericalise. They do that already to a certain extent by syndicating content around the world and across to Sky where many dramas and sitcoms turn up. Remember how successful the Ricky Gervais thing was?

    So today, Time Warner was captialised at $78 billion – what price the richest voice/TV media library in the world? $200 bn? $300 nb? More? Hold that thought.

    Government frames BBCs constitution such that it can remain a public service and be ad free (ish) but fully commercialises its archives. Not a stretch so how about this twist. BBC forms strategic alliance or acquires the only other UK 21st century (I won’t say Web 2.0) savvy media crew – The Guardian.

    Now what have you got?

  7. Strategic Public Relations

    Friday’s Flickr Fix – “Web Two Point Ode to Newspapers”…

    2.24.06 FREE by MJMMore than 8,500 Flickr pics sport a newspaper tag, but I only need a handful of them to show you why I’m so eager for publishers (all mainstream media really) to keep evolving. “Web Two Point Ode to Newspapers”Whether it’s a …

  8. neville

    Dennis, I’ve talked about the death of mass media, not mainstream media.

    There is a difference:

    • Mainstream media = media organizations, eg, broadcasters, newspaper publishers.
    • Mass media = the newspapers, TV programmes, etc, produced and distributed to mass audiences (passive receivers) by the media organizations.

    I don’t think the license fee will disappear any time soon (soon = within 3 years). A political and cultural hot potato. Yet I also think it’s inevitable that it will eventually as the BBC evolves in tandem with how people’s needs and expectations evolve. And those changing needs and expectations are at the heart of what the BBC is planning to do and why they’re going to do it.

    The Guardian? Hmm, interesting idea. I can imagine an evolving BBC being associated with another mainstream medium if that medium fits the objectives of the BBC’s plans (see the speech by Mark Thompson, BBC Director-General, for an idea of how it could).

    I wouldn’t have thought The Guardian, though. Too small scale. I could imagine a global publisher, one with a presence and evolving plans in other key markets, eg, the US, or countries with historical and cultural ties to the UK where those ties would offer an advantageous entry point (India springs to mind).

  9. Dennis Howlett

    That’s certainly an interesting take on the scale thing. Not sure I’d agree unless it adds value in the eyes of the British public which, as you say, has a strong affection for Auntie. It might be a tricky thing. I do know that Beeb content broadcast in other territories carries ads. Heck – Sky does it! But all this is speculative anyway.

    The more interesting thing from my perspective is how, for the first time, it is moderately easy for the likes of thee and me to dream up scenarios that have bags of mutual goodness attached to them without losing sight of economic necessity. Traditionally – we’d be mortal enemies. I wonder how many people spot that?

  10. Dennis Howlett

    [INA link] provides an explanatiojn in English of what it contains, how it’s organised etc. I’ve not been through it but it looks pretty comprehensive. But I don’t have an objective way to compare.

  11. neville

    That site is really geting hammered, Dennis, just server gateway errors every time I go there. But the main page is reachable. Interesting to note that the site offers Chinese as a language option, in addition to French and English.

    Re scale, I’d have thought that we’re looking at plans that must be global in nature. Maybe some years out, so UK first. But think of the opportunities for BBC 2.0 and audiences in a global context.

    (By the way, I edited how the link in your comment is displayed. The long URL you typed played havoc with the Conversations widget in the sidebar.)

  12. Craig McGinty

    The French site is not very Web 2.0 with no option to tag videos etc. but I suppose the most difficult bit is out of the way in actually getting such a range of items up and running.

    It is good to see both the English and Chinese language being supported, for example here is a collection of clips on Bob Marley:


    I just hope they get a few more boxes and bandwidth so people can actully watch the clips!

  13. Dennis Howlett

    It’s an interesting theory Neville and you can argue they’re kind of there already. The bigger question (as always in these things) is the extent to which BBC can move the entire culture forward to match the challenges of global business as compared with public service.

    It can be argued the BBC already has global attention through World Service and language specific services but those are delivered within the context of a public service culture. That’s very different from being a full blown commercial entity.

    The trick will be to maintain the public service ethos whie concurrently building the commerical agenda. I think it can be done but it wil be a neat trick to pull off – assuming of course that our speculation/interpretation is vaguely correct.

    Let’s not be too harsh on INA. From what I know technically about these projects, there are a number of variables around which it’s almost impossible to predict what will happen. Remember the UKs problems with opening up the census? Scale is something you try to anticipate but which you build as you go (salesforce.com).

  14. neville

    Dennis, a bit of social media here and there (blogs and podcasts) plugged-in to websites is purely a jumping-off point. So I’d argue they are hardly there at all (although far further along than any other UK broadcaster, if not any other anywhere).

    That’s one of the interesting things about their announcements this week – where they want to get to.

    The ‘how’ is the key thing, which I think will have a lot to do with your point re public service ethos. But that’s also part of the seismic shift the BBC speaks about – changes in attitudes alongside changes in people’s behaviours and expectations.

    Craig, that INA site is still being hammered: I just get a server error on that link.

  15. Dennis Howlett

    A bit of fun – if you want to do a REAL EgoSurf, go to the site and do a search on some of your blog pals – ahem (you’re there Neville – look at the ‘earlier’ reference – I didn’t click through but Baby of the Year sprung to mind :) :)). So Am I – boy does that bring back memories. I’ll blog those next week.

    Then I got carried away. Do Larry Ellison or Bill Gates. Now think about our current research and how we compare with the past. Now we can do interactive fact checking, interpreting the present in the context of the past. Developing social history in real-time. Just as we’re theorising now. That IS exciting.

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