VLV's Bulletin, which is published twice a year gives details of VLV's activities and keeps members up to date with the latest issues and developments in broadcasting and the media.
VLV bulletin February 2018 - the complete bulletin is available here. As a taster, below is a an article which is published in the bulletin on BBC Education.
A NEW DIRECTION FOR BBC EDUCATION?
by Wendy Jones
In the next few weeks – possibly even before you read this – the BBC is due to reveal a new and long-awaited strategy on education. This has to be welcome news. It’s a good few years since the last strategy was published and at times the BBC has seemed uncertain over its education mission.
That is not to say that programme-makers and content producers haven’t been delivering some excellent material and projects under the education banner. There have been strong education campaigns that have delivered genuine audience participation in areas such as digital literacy and popular history and science. CBeebies continues to offer a unique educational service for pre-schoolers and Bitesize, which started as TV programmes in the 1990s, has gone from strength to strength and is now a video-rich online resource of study material.
But there have been too many changes in direction, not enough debate about the BBC’s educational purpose in the 21st century and, perhaps most seriously, the BBC as an institution has not seemed to value its education mission sufficiently. Directors-General have rarely made speeches about education in recent years.
Perhaps some of this uncertainty dates back to the knock that the BBC took a decade ago with the BBC Trust’s decision to kill off BBC Jam, the innovative digital education service mortally wounded by competitors angry at the BBC‘s intervention in what they regarded as their marketplace. The demise of Jam deprived UK children of an innovative educational resource, saw £100 million of licence fee funding wasted, but drew relatively few complaints from licence payers. It was a low point from which the BBC’s learning department took some time to recover.
Today the BBC still has to carry the flag for education among public service broadcasters. ITV quit formal education several years ago and Channel 4 now concentrates on non-curricular life skills for teenagers (and it does this very well – arguably better than the BBC). But only the BBC has a broad all-age remit to stimulate interest in “a full range of subjects and issues through content that is accessible and can encourage... learning” and to provide specialist educational content.
It is the informal side of this – especially for adults – that has always been hardest to define. If the BBC still adheres to the original Reithian trinity of ‘inform, educate, entertain’, how does it extract the educational value and which programmes and content does it see as most ‘educational’? Highbrow arts and history programmes? Literary drama adaptations? Or cookery and quiz shows? Popular science programmes? Soaps that say something about modern society and relationships? Potentially all of those and much more besides.
So it will be interesting to see what the BBC comes up with – how it defines education and what areas it prioritises. There is a lot of ground to be regained but I, for one, am optimistic.
Wendy Jones, is a VLV trustee, former head of policy at BBC Learning and former BBC education correspondent.
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