BBC brings UK Internet industry together to develop virtual communities

Press release Thursday June 17 1999

BBC Online and BBC Training & Development have teamed up to present an innovative conference aimed at bringing together the BBC and the wider UK Internet industry to develop the building of online communities.

The conference - Online Communities in the UK - will propose the formation of a professional association to represent a wide range of organisations involved in online community development from internet service providers to software developers, web creatives, non-profit, community and social groups. The aim is to create a framework for discussion and to share expertise and experience in a spirit of mutual co-operation across the industry. Keynote speaker Howard Rheingold will present a vision of how online communities can shape the future, helping delegates understand the questions about their businesses, lives, political freedoms and social values they need to be asking themselves in order to develop successful communities on the Internet.

"Communities are at the very heart of the Internet and its growth in the UK," says Nigel Chapman, Director of BBC Online. "The Internet offers so many platforms for self-expression, allowing individuals to make a meaningful contribution to the issues and interests that affect their lives.

"Live chat, forums, debate and opportunities to interact with programme makers and personalities are integral to BBC Online's public service role, enabling us to maintain an ongoing dialogue with our diverse audiences across the United Kingdom. Just as importantly, our community forums are enabling individuals to talk to each other and offer help, advice and feedback."

Bob Nelson, Controller, Development and Training, said, "BBC Multimedia Training is delighted to be a co-sponsor for the conference. The successful use of new media is proving crucial to the BBC's future, both in our ability to meet audience demand and in continuing to provide a high quality, innovative service.

"BBC Training and Development sees the formation of learning communities as a vital new tool both to the BBC and to training delivery itself. It complements the unique range of courses and learning opportunities already available both inside and outside the BBC."

The keynote speaker of the conference is Howard Rheingold, the acclaimed author of The Virtual Community and founding Executive Editor of HotWired, the pioneering online publication launched on the World Wide Web by Wired magazine.

Howard is internationally regarded as a key innovator in the development of online communities globally and promises a journey through the human side of the technology-shaped future. In his speech, entitled Community Development in the Cybersociety of the Future, Howard will examine how new societies and cultures are emerging on the Internet and explain the value of online communities and their role in enhancing democratic debate.

For further information:

Simon Rahamim
BBC Online Publicity
Tel. 0171 557 3485

BBC Online Community Forums

BBC Online has begun the process of adding community forums across its websites to provide users with opportunities for feedback and debate. The community elements of BBC Online will be developed considerably in the latter part of 1999, and later this summer we will be launching dedicated sites for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Current BBC Online community offerings include:

BBC Online live chat with Sir Christopher Bland

24 June 6.00pm BBC Chairman Sir Christopher Bland will take part in a live chat for BBC Online. Visitors can question the Chairman about any aspect of BBC policy and programming…and perhaps even the appointment of the new Director-General.


The EastEnders community forum has proven enormously successful, with visitors discussing a range of topics about the programme, its cast and plotlines. Some of the cast drop into the forum from time to time to take part in the debate and answer questions. Matthew Robinson, Executive Producer of EastEnders often logs on and has even dropped a few teasers about forthcoming plot developments.

Network Asia

The Network Asia forum is rapidly becoming a vibrant discussion area on all aspects of Asian culture and life in the UK. Recent topics have included religion, music and fashion, social mores and whether youngsters should conform to the traditions of their parents.

Home Truths

The web site and forum for John Peel's popular programme on family life and relationships are closely tied in with the weekly radio show, with many contributors to the forum invited to recount their experiences on radio. The community forum allows people space for discussion of issues such as coping with bereavement and adoption through to the lighter and quirky side of family life and relationships.

Children's BBC

Chatterbox - Over-2-U is a place where youngsters can express themselves and post news, views and reviews on what gets them motivated, aerated or just plain exasperated. The forum began life as a light hearted area for youngsters to discuss favourite programmes, jokes and fashions, but has evolved to introduce areas for serious debate including some poignant thoughts about the situation in Kosovo and how to cope with exams.


The Antiques community forum has become a popular place for collectors or anyone with a passing interest in Antiques to drop by and ask questions or share their knowledge. Experts from the BBC's Antiques Roadshow and Antiques Show drop by regularly to provide advice, help and information to visitors.

Animal Zone

An opportunity to discuss all things related to animals with the team of the BBC's acclaimed Natural History Unit and other acknowledged experts in the fields of natural history and animal biology.

BBC News Online

Talking Point allows visitors to take an active part in the news and debate the major issues and stories of the day. Recent debates have included whether Europe should bother electing a parliament and discussions on whether a lasting peace can be achieved in Kosovo. BBC News' top correspondents are also available to answer questions, with thousands of people logging on recently to quiz John Simpson, Katie Adie and Jeremy Paxman.

BBC Knowledge

The BBC's new digital channel makes full use of the Internet to help viewers explore the ideas and themes raised by programmes and question guests and presenters.

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