BBC Launches @North Initiative to Boost Interactive/Multiplatform TV Industry in North of England

--Initiative Has £500,000 Budget to Support Development of Interactive Content for Children

The BBC on Wednesday unveiled a new digital initiative, called @North, that is designed to boost the interactive/multiplatform TV industry in the north of England, the region in which Salford--the city to which a number of BBC departments, including Future Media & Technology and Children's, are scheduled to move in 2011--is located.

According to the corporation, the initiative, which was announced by BBC director north, Peter Salmon, at the Manchester Media Festival, will encourage and support the development and delivery of interactive content for children, with up to four projects with a total budget of £500,000 available for commissions by the BBC's children's channels, CBBC and CBeebies. The BBC says that the initiative "represents a new model of engagement with independent companies and digital agencies across the north," and that it will rely on close collaboration with regional screen agencies Northwest Vision and Media, Northern Film and Media, and Screen Yorkshire. The initiative will be led by BBC Children's and will involve multi-disciplinary teams from many other areas of the BBC, including Future Media & Technology, in "new collaborative ways of working," the corporation says.

The BBC says that the key objectives of the project are:

  • To enable CBBC and CBeebies to tap into new opportunities for innovation and creativity.
  • To "stimulate and inspire" the digital sector across the north of England, initially focusing on creating new children's content.
  • To understand and help develop the supply chain across the north for the BBC and build on existing creativity and skills.
  • To make the BBC North process for commissioning multiplatform content open and collaborative.
  • To share knowledge about the BBC's infrastructure, processes and audiences.

The BBC says that it is hoping that the @North initiative will provide a blueprint for how the BBC can work more openly in its new northern headquarters at Salford's MediaCityUK facility, and that it will involve more BBC division partners as it develops. "This is an exciting new concept and there is real business up for grabs, with CBBC and CBeebies commissions to be won by creative organizations working on interactive media across the north of England," the BBC's Salmon said in a prepared statement. "There is some great creative work going on in the digital sector across the north and we want to work in partnership to develop new and exciting multiplatform content for our young audiences."

The BBC is inviting independent companies and digital agencies in northern England to send expressions of interest in the @North project to project lead, Mario Dubois: It has also provided a timeline for the project:

  • November, 2009: Expressions of interest in workshops and projects.
  • January/February, 2010: BBC workshops across the north.
  • February/March, 2010: Commissioning briefs and ideas submissions.
  • April/June, 2010: Ideas development.
  • July-September, 2010: Pitches to commissioning.