Skip to main content

Audience at the gates: how the BBC is using social media to identify talent and involve audiences in programme production.

Tedd, A., 2018. Audience at the gates: how the BBC is using social media to identify talent and involve audiences in programme production. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

Full text available as:

TEDD, Andrew James_Ph.D._2017.pdf



The rise of social media has changed the way the BBC broadcasts. Previous studies have examined the way major broadcasters use social media and social network tools, such as YouTube and Twitter, to supplement their existing channels (Burgess and Green 2009), and to augment newsgathering (Wardle and Williams 2008). But, so far, none have looked at how the new ways the BBC has used social media to engage non programme-making staff and audiences in its programme-making activities – to invite them right inside “Fortress Journalism” (Horrocks 2009). To that aim, this study analyses three BBC projects; moo.gateway, an internal social platform with the aim of identifying new programme-making talent within the BBC; The Virtual Revolution, a BBC2 documentary series which used social media to aid content development; and World Have Your Say, a BBC World Service radio programme which uses social media to include the audience in the development of its running order. Through qualitative interviews with a mixture of senior BBC staff, frontline programme producers, and participants in the programmes, these new uses of social media are critically examined. The analysis of the interviews shows that the reasons given for initiating new ways of working were often emancipatory in nature, consistent with the social constructivist rhetoric of digital utopian literature such as We Think (Leadbeater 2008) and Here Comes Everybody (Shirky 2009). Interview responses were also consistent with other forms of rhetoric such as ‘digital natives’ (Prensky 2001), the ‘rhetorics of creativity’ (Banaji, Burn, and Buckingham, 2006) and ‘open innovation’ (Chesburgh 2003). The study finds that the success of the initiatives depended on an intersection between the everyday lives and motivations of both the participants and the project sponsors, and that external audiences were less interested in the mechanics of programme production and journalism than was assumed by BBC staff. This meant that numbers of participants were limited to those with considerable interest in the stories being developed, or with an interest in developing a career in the media. The success of participants in the moo.gateway case in obtaining programme commissions and film funding, both inside and outside the BBC, demonstrates the usefulness of social media in identifying new programme-making talent. Critical reviews of the narratives of the winning and losing finalists of a BBC3 competition ran using moo.gateway indicates that a prior knowledge of the BBC ‘rules of the game’ and participants’ location within the BBC habitus (Bourdieu 1984) could be considered to be determining factors in their success at the BBC. Succinctly, I have been able to show that social media can provide effective ways for BBC programme makers to identify new talent, but a significant insight and caveat is that care should be taken to ensure projects are framed in terms of the audience’s motivation, rather than that of the BBC. Additionally, where participants are from outside of the BBC, mentoring and coaching has a significant role to play in helping people understand the internal mechanics of the BBC, and particularly any unwritten ‘rules of the game’. I enjoyed unique access in the qualitative interviews for this PhD, at a unique moment in the BBC’s evolution. As a result, these observations have been embraced and welcomed by policymakers within the organisation and by interested parties outside.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:social media; BBC; co-creation; media practice
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:31066
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:27 Jul 2018 09:00
Last Modified:09 Aug 2022 16:04


Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...
Repository Staff Only -