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Case Study of Innovation at the BBC

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2090 words Published: 23rd Nov 2020

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The BBC is home to some of my favourite shows. I hope to be able to contribute to this organisation in the future and have identified certain areas that can be innovated. Innovation implies introducing something new into the socioeconomic system. Furthermore, what is new is not necessarily an invention but more typically new combinations of existing ideas, competences and resources (Schumpeter 1934:43; Shtern et al. Chapter 15). Marcel Proust observed that: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”.

There are many ways of conceptualising what kinds of change media innovation involve. As our starting point, we apply Francis and Bessant’s (2005) four Ps of innovation: product, process, position and paradigmatic innovation.

Product innovationrelates to changes in the products/services offered by an organisation. In a media context, product innovation may imply the innovation of new media platforms, such as the iPad or the smartphone and  it could also imply the innovation of genres and communication patterns (Liestøl, Chapter 4; Müller, Chapter 16). One example of this that I personally remember was when BBC Three became an online-only service. Initially, I was very against this proposal. I was within the  sixteen-to-thirty-four-year-olds who were seen to be more engaged with internet services than traditional services. Now, not only I see its merit, the channel’s success in developing original programming was recognized by the Royal Television Society’s ‘Channel of the Year’ award in 2017.4

Process innovation refers to changes in the ways in which products/services are created and delivered. This includes innovation in media organisations and how they organise their activities (Bauman, Chapter 5), and processes outside established institutions in which, for example, users are increasingly active in driving innovation (cf. Hippel 2005; Tapscot and Williams 2006).

Due to the unique nature of the BBC being a taxpayer commodity, it’s in a different category to its commercial competitors, such as itv, sky, channel 4. With no commercial incentive through advertising, the BBC relies on meeting the standards of the Royal Charter to gain funding. Hearing our new Prime Minister casually state that he may end the tv license tax questions how intact and safe the current system is. If so, reform and innovation will be required. Also, as more and more content are internet dependent, access to the internet becomes more important than standard TV connections, such as Freeview. Without significant government intervention, access to the internet will invariably require payments to commercial providers. Also, policy attempts to adopt a more ‘media neutral’ approach have left the BBC open to conflict with commercial competitors and raised questions of whether the tenets of public service broadcasting can be adapted to new online contexts. (Hallvard Moe p. 61.)

Paradigmatic innovation includes changes in an organisation’s mindset, values and business models. This was seen when the music industry shifted from CD sales to streaming services; the newspaper industry is in a similar process, where focus is no longer primarily on print but increasingly on online services.

As Dan Taylor Watt, the BBC’s Head of iPlayer, explained: ‘the journey of iPlayer started as a Future Media thing which was done in a different building to television with an entirely different group of people and it was quite “other” as far as television was concerned’. (Paul Grainge and Catherine Johnson interview with Taylor-Watt)

When BBC iPlayer launched in 2007, its marketing tagline, ‘making the unmissable unmissable’, placed a clear emphasis on iPlayer as a catch-up service. In the 2010s, however, the functions and meanings of BBC iPlayer were refined in promotional campaigns. While ads in 2012 emphasized the availability of iPlayer on multiple platforms, by 2014 marketing was targeting “everyday uses for a broad public, from sitting on a delayed train to entertaining the kids during half-term holidays.” (4 Hallvard Moe, p. 61.)

I would plan future concept work for the BBC to see how the public will interact with iPlayer media in the future 2025, 2030. I will have experience on this as I will develop future concept work for the Department of Food and Agriculture.

Initially the growth of iPlayer was driven by broadband; the service provided access to broadcast television through a seven-day catch-up service delivered through personal computers. The second major wave of growth for iPlayer was driven by the rise of multiscreen media, the explosion of tablets and smartphones. (‘Moments and opportunities, pp. 139–55.) It is vital that the BBC find an innovative way to grow during a future ‘third wave’ and especially as it will be lacking advertising incentives online.

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Position innovation involves changes in how products/services are positioned or framed within particular contexts. Central features of innovative product positioning are the “management of identities, through advertising, marketing, media, packaging and the manipulation of various signals” (Francis and Bessant 2005). Media companies who reposition their brand, product or services are engaging in position innovation. Typical examples would be a magazine repositioning itself for a new target audience, or how the BBC in the 1990s repositioned itself as a global media corporation (Francis and Bessant 2005).

As a northerner, the decentralisation from London, by setting up a broadcasting hub in Salford Quays, Manchester, was something I favour. Incorporating regional diversity to its public service mission has been complex and includes the development of local talent, the commissioning of content from suppliers outside of London and, most crucially, broadcasting content which reflects the lives and experiences of people and places throughout the country, not just the geographical minority of London. The regional centres of the BBC and the content they deliver are key to addressing some of these issues. (Scannell and Cardiff 1991, Harvey and Robins 1994). I am very passionate to see that that is more encouragement of regional talent.

To conclude, the BBC will have to consider many factors in order to innovate itself in the media landscape, where boundaries between traditional and digital television are breaking down. It must also remain a neutral media platform that represents all license paying regions across the country. I believe that I would be well suited in your research and development team, to tackle this future challenge. Please read my enclosed cover letter to show my skills and credentials.

Dear Recipient Name:

I am very interested in the Research & Development role at the BBC . I recently graduated in Chemistry from the University of Bristol. This combined with my ongoing Postgraduate Masters in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, have given me a solid base on which I plan to build my career. Given my experience and excellent capabilities, I would appreciate your consideration for this position.

Whilst undertaking a Chemistry Degree, I developed and honed my independent research skills, both practically and through reviewing literature. Also, I have learned to understand and use computer software by processing data, using spreadsheets, word-processing and problem-solving.

I was successful in gaining a prestigious research position Prague at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB) during the Summer 2019 holiday season. My research during my Internship at IOCB was for the Jiří Kaleta Group; I researched Molecular Devices, which are self-propelled synthetic devices that transform chemical energy into mechanical motion. During my time I synthesised three different types of devices with a range of halogen substituents for the group. Then I discovered the most efficient one by running experiments in the laboratory. Our group worked in collaboration with Noble prize winner Feringa’s work. In addition, after my internship at IOCB I presented my findings and research in a presentation representing my research group, in a lecture theatre in Prague to over 50 academics and students. During it, I emphasised my enjoyment of the internship and what I learnt from the experience.

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I am presently undertaking an Innovation & Entrepreneurship Postgraduate Master’s Degree at  Bristol University, that not only develops my research skills and how they can be transferred into different employment sectors, but also allows me to expand my interests beyond the Chemistry sector. This course has also improved my range of leadership skills due to a major focus on team-based activities, working with an international, multi-cultural cohort of students from across the world.

For our latest task, we will be consulting for clients and have designed future concepts for the Department of Food and Agriculture.  This will give me valuable experience, which will be required for your role at the BBC. At  the start of the project as a combined group, we will allocate tasks for each team member in a collaborative way that drew on individuals skill sets.

The most creative thing I have done recently on my master’s degree was to design and run an art exhibition for the Bristol theatre collection, using items from a famous performance artist, Franko B. Our challenge was to engage a new audience who would not normally see it or have an interest in live art.  We developed an interactive exhibition which successfully attracted a varied audience. I helped liaison between the theatre collection staff and our group, organised and requested materials needed and partook in my part of the research for our item. I also edited the music for our exhibition, mixing an interview from the artist, with techno music from one of the artist’s DJ sets in Rome. I volunteered to do the latter part of this task as I have played several times as a DJ whilst at Bristol University, using my own decks which I’ve built up over the years. During my time I have been an active member of the DJ Society and have been hired to perform at numerous clubs and events using my own equipment.

I am the youngest student on this year’s course and have had the chance to work with mature students, from a range of nationalities, all with diverse professional skills, such as PWC in China and KPMG in Brazil. Interestingly, the feedback I have received from my group was that I had a confident, mature approach and a calming influence when tasks got a little stressful. Demonstrating that helping others, in sometimes difficult times, is very rewarding. The Head of Innovation at Bristol selected myself and one other student from the course cohort of fifteen, to be filmed discussing future promotional material surrounding our subject which would also appeal to a Research & Development target audience.

I hope from the above you can determine that I am an enthusiastic individual with a relatively broad experience of involvement in various areas that I believe can be applied to the Research & Development role which I hope would be an enjoyable experience. I hope to get the chance to progress my application.


  1. Schumpeter, J. (1934) The Theory of Economic Development. London: Transaction Publishers.
  2. Francis, D. and Bessant, J. (2005) ‘Targeting Innovation and Implications for Capability Development’. Technovation 25(3):171-183.
  3. Löfgren Nilsson, M. (1999) På Bladet, Kururen och Allehanda. Om journalistiska ideal och organiseringsprinciper i den redaksjonella vardagen. Göteborg: JMB, Göteborgs universitet
  4. https://rts.org.uk/awards 4
  5. (Bauman, Chapter 5)
  6. (Hippel 2005; Tapscot and Williams 2006).
  7.  (Hallvard Moe, ‘Defining public service beyond broadcasting: the legitimacy of different approaches’, International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 17, no. 1 (2011), p. 61.)
  8. (Paul Grainge and Catherine Johnson interview with Taylor-Watt)
  9. (‘Moments and opportunities: interstitials and the promotional imagination of BBC iPlayer’, Critical Studies in Television, vol. 12, no. 2 (2017), pp. 139–55.)
  10. (Scannell and Cardiff 1991, Harvey and Robins 1994)`


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