Media coverage of the Communities Day

UK community building under construction

BBC News June 17 1999

"The concept of community is helping to redefine the BBC's public purpose," said Nigel Chapman, Director of Online at the BBC, the host of the conference. He gave examples of programmes interacting over the Net with their audience. Radio 4's Home Truths had gone on to develop features based on experiences recounted in its discussion forum

"We see communities being at the heart of what we offer," said BBC Online's Executive Editor, Sheila Sang, "We have plans to change the way we are structured to subject- rather than programme-based.

Howard Rheingold recommended online news organisations should practice civic journalism - not just unloading information on users but building roles for them to become part of the solution to problems.

"A humane cyber society can't come about unless it's discussed and planned now buy its population...not by commercial companies," said the man who started HotWired (" I saw it more like a community, the publisher saw it more as a magazine, so I left.")

"You can amplify your efforts to build authentic communities by communicating with one another about best practices. Community builders ought to consider building their own community online and face to face," he said.

The conference, "Online Communities in the UK", aimed to establish a pan-industry professional association. Attendees included representatives from local councils and Internet community projects, MSN. NTL, Sony UK. Yahoo!, LineOne, Channel 4, Virgin Net, AOL, BT and Capital Radio.

Mission: Save Virtual Society

by Tamsin Todd, The Independent

BBC Online, the UK's most visited site, has taken a good bit of bashing in recent months.

Detractors have criticised the site for its lack of original content, arguing that its listings, information pages and news - and its programming-related chat groups - are little more than unnecessary adjuncts to the corporation's traditional broadcasting services. (The award-winning online news service is a different site.) Last Thursday, however, the BBC showed a new commitment to developing its online programming.

Tamsin concluded:

Few specific initiatives were discussed; still, it was clear that a kind of (non-virtual) community of virtual community organisers had formed, as BBC staff and attendees made plans to create a professional organisation for those involved in online community development.

The BBC may have blundered its first experiments in cyberspace, but it's certainly working hard to get back on track.

Help! I think I've just been disintermediated

by John Naughton, The Observer, June 20,3879,59553,00.html

The corporation has taken a lot of flak because of the scale of its Internet activity - which critics portray as 'flags on the moon stuff', a frivolous diversion of licence-fee money to a minority interest. The truth is that the BBC's move into online media may turn out to be the only truly inspired thing it has done in two decades. For its sites ( are becoming increasingly impressive. After a shaky start, BBC News online has matured into a really useful, high-quality operation, though still woefully under-resourced. And the drive of some Internet evangelists within the BBC to persuade programme-makers to engage with their audiences is paying off. See, for example, the terrific site ( based on the Home Truths programme.

The more one browses through extraordinary sites such as these, the more a strange thought keeps surfacing: maybe BBC Online is where the spirit of John Reith now resides.

How the Net can serve society

Interview with Howard Rheingold by Tamsin Todd, The Independent, June 28 1999

"Every computer connected to the Net is a printing press, a broadcasting station, and a place of assembly. The question is, will citizens take up the challenge to use this structural inversion of power to communicate and pump some life into the public sphere? - or will the Internet be shaped by money and power?"

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