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Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The BBC Brand and BBC Blogging

Last Friday, I met one of the senior editors at the BBC. I only had a brief five-minute chat with him but he highlighted what I think is one of the key issues with BBC blogging. BBC blogs, he said, must be something that last and not simply the random thoughts of a correspondent writing the first thing that comes into his or her head. Crucially they must “protect the brand”.

Although the ‘brand’ may have taken a bit of a hammering in recent months, the BBC’s determination to provide accurate, impartial and honest news remains at the heart of the organisation’s thinking. This raises interesting questions for BBC blogs. After all, one of the common sense positions on the nature of blogging is that blogs are best when they provide off-the-cuff, opinionated, almost gossipy information.

I’m not sure this is necessarily true and blogging has evolved to incorporate a variety of different styles. Generalising about blogs is dangerous. But I think BBC blogging is different to a lot of blogging that is taking place. Just try comparing Nick Robinson’s blog with that of Iain Dale for example. So why is the BBC blogging? Does the BBC merely feel it ought to because 4 million other people are doing it? And how does the need to protect the brand affect the nature of BBC blogs.


In the case of war and terrorism, is it worth getting a BBC war correspondent to spend time writing a blog, when military blogs (milblogs), unconcerned with the need to live up to any sort of ‘brand’ may provide better insights? (They also may not – British military blogging seems scarce compared with the richness of American blogs on offer). In times of war, the BBC’s commitment as a public service broadcaster would complicate any blogging activity any further.


As far as I’m aware there aren’t any BBC defence correspondents blogging on a regular basis at the moment. (Stuart Hughes, currently defence and security producer, used to have one but has since stopped blogging). Is this the sort of thing people want to see? Would it improve the BBC’s coverage of war and terrorism?

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