The times they are a changin’

Published on 18 March 2006 in , , , ,

It’s April 2000. I’ve been at the BBC for three months, and have been sent on the half day induction programme. We’ve watched a video where Ross Kemp stands behind the bar in the Queen Vic whilst wittering away about branding. Later over sandwiches, people form groups and chat.

“So what do you do?” asks someone.

“I’m a subtitler”.

“Oooh!” says most of the group as an in depth discussion about subtitling occurs.

“So what do you do?” says someone to someone else when the conversation has petered out

Cue another in depth discussion.

“So what do you do?” I am asked.

“I build websites for BBC Online”.

Several sets of eyes glaze over. The response is quick and brutal.

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a Broadcast Assistant on the John Peel show.

And that was that.

Nowadays people in the BBC – like people everywhere – understand a bit more about the internet, and if they’ve been around in the BBC a while, they will have seen how the organisation has changed, and how more important it’s becoming.

They know other things like how everyone is going digital. But – and again like many people everywhere – they don’t quite know what else is going on, how things are changing. They might understand a Freeview set top box, but how about a PVR? A TiVo? A Media Center PC? Howabout how a simple games console has become a media centre in the home? And so on.

Which is why Auntie runs sessions about such things, and that’s where I found myself yesterday afternoon. Not learning about it all – but helping to explain such things to other people.

It’s the first time I’ve done such a thing at the BBC and it was an interesting experience – not least because it’s rare that I get to meet anyone from outside the new media departments! But because you get to see how people are putting all the pieces together in their mind. Trying to work out how all this is going to change things. How it’s going to affect their job, affect the programmes they make, and how people are going to watch them.

Whether we like it or not, things will keep changing. And in a way, television has changed since it first went on air. From 405 lines to 625 to digital. Black and white to colour to widescreen smellovision. From a simple one to many model, to a world where your TV signal can control a purple Barney puppet in your home and make it say things (seriously. It has been done).

But as well as trying to help people through all this, it did remind me about how little I sometimes know. I showed a batch of people a TiVo and a Media Center PC, but all my recording is done to good old VHS. Okay, my music is on an MP3 player, but my shelves are still full of CDs.

Which kind of sums it all up. Times change, but only as fast as people change with it.