In 2002 BBC New Media and BBC Talent ran a scheme to recruit five ‘Interactive Presenters’ and I asked if I could oversee the project. It would run for six months and the presenters would work in a new studio which was capable of running a live chat (real-time text) with video. They would receive training and be put on placements with production departments.
It seemed the ideal opportunity to find out more on what kind of new presentation, mediation, hosting, could be brainstormed over the six months the ‘iPresenters’ were with the BBC on the training contracts. Richard Berry, one of the producers within the live chat team agreed to facilitate fifteen experimental production workshops, and to video the brainstorming, role play and other exercises. Various BBC production teams also volunteered to try experiments in different types of presentation and hosting including Video Nation,the BBC’s first foray into video User-Generated Content, Top of the Pops the weekly round-up of the music charts, Celebdaq, a celebrity stock exchange, and the Interactive Television Division (who oversee the ‘red button’ services such as TV informational overlays, menus and electronic programme guides).
I decided to try and use the opportunity to do doctoral research on presenters and hosts, using the experimental production workshops as the research data. The BBC agreed to support the study and the University of Westminster thought the research was a good subject. There seems to have been no detailed research on the role of the broadcast presenter from an academic point of view, which is surprising.
The research questions I have been asking over the last four years are:
- What is the function of the broadcast presenter?
- Will the skills of the presenter remain relevant within new media forms and if so, how?
- Does the online community host have any similarities to, or differences from the broadcast presenter?
- What policy implications are there for the BBC in ‘hosted space’?
The experimental production workshops generated over 50 hours of video, which is being transcribed and analysed using the first analysis programme which enables academics to code video (and audio) data, Transana.
~ Lizzie Jackson