Arguably one of planet earth’s most well known brands, the news, drama, entertainment and sporting coverage provided by the BBC is underpinned by extensive use of technology. From being the only trustworthy source of news for both sides in World War II, the corporation has established a strong presence in many markets with properties as diverse as Eastenders, period costume dramas like Pride and Prejudice, comedies like The Office and a range of science documentaries like Walking With Dinosaurs. In 2005 it relaunched its Dr Who sci-fi series to both great domestic and international interest, and the corporation is a major player in online content and use of the internet as an education and learning medium.

The state-funded broadcaster has also attracted its fair share of criticism over use of resources and some aspects of its programming, with the government and its leaders both signalling that change is in the air.

"Technology is right at the heart of our plans here"

John Varney, CTO, BBC

In 2004 the organisation outsourced what had been its BBC Technology in-house IT group to Siemens Business Services as part of a 10-year, £2 billion technology framework contract. The deal involved nearly 1,500 BBC staff, who now work for Siemens Business Services Media Holdings, which provides the staff, skills and investment needed to support the BBC’s technology needs, explains the Beeb’s internal head of IT John Varney.

“But that was 2004’s story,” he told MIS 100. “The next step, as part of the BBC’s reinvention of itself, is to combine that service delivery with our new business architecture work. Technology is right at the heart of our plans here in both business efficiency and digital broadcasting.”

Though technology has always been important to the BBC, that importance is increasing. Recent innovations include the trial of a peer-to-peer downloading technology, MyBBCPlayer, which will potentially allow viewers to catch up on missed programmes or see first run content via their PCs. It will also work with its partner Siemens on a brand new network proposition, a so-called ‘Raman’ style network. This is an experimental way to massively amplify the bandwidth capacity of any network, based on the study of photons, which will offer a way for it to move off tape to a completely digital production format.