Virtual Revolution and R&DTV: An open question

February 7, 2010

It’s unfair to compare two things which are completely different.

Virtual Revolution is a glossy television series about the internet aimed at a mass audience on a Saturday night on BBC TWO.

R&DTV is a video aimed at a much smaller audience who want to know about “interesting tech stories inside and outside the BBC.” It’s not on television, it’s online.

However, both do claim to be “open”.

From the BBC Backstage blog post:

“R&DTV is a pilot show, designed to be shareable, remix-able and (strange gap here in the original copy)
redistribution. It was built for the internet era and all
the assets which make up the show are released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.”

From the Virtual Revolution’s website:

“The Virtual Revolution was an open and collaborative production, which encouraged the web audience to help shape the series”


“It was also a radical change for BBC documentary making – an open and collaborative production, which asked the web audience to debate programme themes, suggest and send questions for interviewees, watch and comment on interview and graphics clips, and download clips for personal use and re-editing, all months before broadcast.”


Which is more “open”? Virtual Revolution or R&D TV?

What impact or influence does being “open” have on the finished product in each case? If they had been not “open” would this have made any difference?

What are the benefits and disadvantages of being open?

This blog is not Harry Hill’s TV Burp (if only) so this is not a “fight”…


2 Responses to “Virtual Revolution and R&DTV: An open question”

  1. Mo Says:

    R&D TV is definitely more open, and that has a direct effect upon its reach: because it’s not available via iPlayer, nor broadcast through traditional means, its license shapes its distribution channel.

    On the other hand, Virtual Revolution is to most people an ordinary programme. There was certainly a lot of debate and discussion during its production, and it was definitely an interesting experiment, but this is where it ends: the jump from production to the finished product was essentially opaque (as with most programmes which take some kind of external input), and Virtual Revolution is distributed in exactly the same way as most of the rest of the BBC’s output.

    I’ve rather got the impression that, as enjoyable and debate-sparking Virtual Revolution is, many of those involved in the debates and discussions which helped shaped it (myself included) are perhaps a little disappointed with what followed the “open” phase.

    I’d really like to see a blog post on why — exactly — VR can’t be distributed under the same terms as R&DTV. Who’s preventing it? Which rightsholders aren’t permitting it? The BBC itself may think it’s not worth its while perusing this, but what about the rest of us? What would happen if the community bandied together and secured permission from all of the rightsholders concerned which would allow the BBC to distribute VR freely? Would the BBC then be the roadblock (which could perhaps be indicative of a wider problem), or would it be happy to go along with it? What about other programmes?

    As a publicly-funded PSB, the question should never ever be “why should we release this under as permissive a set of terms as possible?” but “what prevents us from doing it?”. Sometimes this will be a financial issue (resale opportunities are, obviously, diminished, which puts many shows out of the running), others it might be the talent isn’t happy about it, or that there’s music which must be licensed, but in each case it should be a known quantity, and where that quantity is zero, I should be able to download the relevant programmes straight from iPlayer, or via BitTorrent, or whatever, and redistribute it if I think others would appreciate it: ultimately, that’s “social media” in the truest, and oldest, sense.

  2. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Nevali – but what would the benefit be of what you suggest?

    As for a blog post – well surely this one states the BBC’s position:

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