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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

RSA event proposal: How should the BBC support citizenship and civil society

It looks as if the BBC is planning to spend some £20 million on new web sites for local news, multimedia content and other activities that could help fulfill its Charter purpose of "sustaining citizenship and civil society" now that its platform for local activism, the BBC Action Network, is due to close. More details over here.
This may be a great idea - or there may be better ways to support local democracy and civic innovation. It may seriously damage moves by commercial regional media to support citizen journalism - or networked journalism as it is better known these days.
Networked journalism is where the people formerly known as the audience contribute to the whole editorial process. The public write blogs, take pictures, gather information and comment as part of newsgathering and publishing. The professional journalists become filters, connectors, facilitators and editors.
The problem is we may not get the chance to discuss the pros and cons of how our license money is spent unless the BBC Trust (which has the final say) mounts a rather more effective consultation process than they have in the past.
I think this could be a great opportunity for the RSA to use its convening power to bring together some key interests to discuss both the issues, and the way that citizens should be involved in how the BBC - and other local media - help provide platforms for engagement in future.
I'm being quite shameless here in seeing if some blogging, and the RSA networks initiative, can help influence the way that pillars of society like the BBC and BBC Trust pay more attention to effective citizen-led action - and not take for granted what's needed at grass roots level.
My initial blog post (see comment) has already attracted support from Charlie Beckett, quoted above, who is director of a think tank on journalism and society backed by LSE and the London College of Communications. Charlie asks if anyone is interested in a conference. Another commenter has further suggestions for an open conversation to frame the issues.
What do you think? Is this a good one for RSA networks?