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The BBC Make it Digital initiative has announced a series of platforms branded the “digital content season” across its TV, radio and online channels.
These include an online platform for teenagers to interact digitally with their favourite BBC brands, programmes on BBC TV covering science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects, and more than 25 programmes on BBC Radio designed to teach people about the technology industry.
“This is a hugely impressive season of programmes and content across BBC TV, radio and online, and it’s fantastic to see so many of our best-loved brands putting digital creativity in the spotlight,” said Jessica Cecil, controller of BBC Make it Digital.
“There’s something for everyone, with so many great stories about Britain’s role shaping the digital world, and we hope to inspire our next generation of digital pioneers.”
BBC television and radio
The BBC will be launching 35 programmes across its TV and radio platforms, including nine TV programmes focused on Stem-related subjects.
These will involve a science panel show hosted by Brian Cox, a factual drama starring Daniel Radcliffe, several documentaries about games, algorithms and computing, and a talent show on BBC Three called Girls Can Code.
Cecil highlighted this programme in particular as exploring the issue of girls not entering software engineering careers.
She said the show will be addressing whether girls and women think they cannot code and so do not attempt to learn it or go into coding as a career.
“For all of us who care deeply about increasing the number of women in tech, that’s an incredibly big question,” said Cecil.
The Make it Digital brand has launched a programme and digital influencer list called BBC Make it Digital Ones to Watch on BBC Radio 5 Live, selected by a panel including TeenTech CEO Maggie Philbin, Cisco CEO Phil Smith and BBC tech reporter Rory Cellan-Jones.
Emma Mulqueeny, founder and CEO of Rewired State and one of the judging panel members stated initiatives such as this, and the wider aims of the Make it Digital campaign, are vital in helping to normalise technology for children.
“Parents are terrified of the internet and the most important thing the BBC can do and the role it can play is to make technology normal – make it mainstream,” she said.
BBC expands digital content
The broadcaster has also launched a number of online services to help young people use digital skills to be creative and learn more about technology initiatives.
One of these is Mixital, a digital service for teenagers that helps them use digital platforms creatively by taking part in activities such as writing digital EastEnders stories and making their own Doctor Who games.
Alongside this, the BBC has launched Matchr, in collaboration with Google and Tech Partnership, which allows users to find the best resources and content for them to develop their digital and technology skills.
Collaboration and content to close the skills gap
This mixture of original content and partner-generated initiatives is reflective of recent announcements by BBC director Tony Hall, who revealed plans to develop an open platform for the BBC using partnerships and personalised news.
“Earlier this week, I talked about opening up the BBC, about ‘an open BBC’ that can be Britain’s creative powerhouse platform – a catalyst for this country’s incredible talent,” said Hall.
“Make it Digital was key in inspiring me to think that’s the way the BBC should develop. The initiative represents in many ways what the BBC is all about – working together with lots of other people, organisations and partners as equals to do something none of us can do on our own.”
The aim of these programmes and services is to encourage children and adults to use more digital services and learn skills to help them close the IT skills gap.
According to figures released by BBC partner Tech Partnership, the need for skilled programmers, developers and web designers will increase by more than 40% between 2014 and 2024.
The broadcaster’s latest initiatives are part of its campaign to increase digital skills across the UK.
Since the launch of Make it Digital in March 2015, when the BBC announced it would be giving one million micro:bit computers to schoolchildren and setting up a traineeship to create 5,000 digital trainees across the UK, the broadcaster has completed a nationwide tour to promote digital creativity, reaching 110,000 people in 10 cities.
“Our country has led so many of the world’s tech and digital innovations, and BBC Make it Digital will help give us the skills we need to succeed in the future,” said Hall.
“It’s another great example of the BBC I believe in – an open BBC, working closely with others to achieve something far greater than we could on our own, to inspire the nation to get coding and get digital.”
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