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Engineering a more flexible and efficient BBC

Tim Sargeant, BBC North’s Technology Controller, discusses the future direction of BBC Engineering.

IET President William Webb with Academic Account Manager Jake Godfrey on the BBC News sofa

Engineering has always been a vital part of the BBC – first with radio, then TV, and now in the digital age. It’s our combination of creativity, programme making, innovation and engineering that makes the BBC unique. In March we hosted the IET’s President, Professor William Webb, at BBC MediaCityUK in Salford to show him this breadth of engineering, including our sports and news production systems and infrastructure. William also spoke with our engineers and technical operators about the roles they play and the changing skills needed in the media and broadcasting sector in future.

A new name

To reflect our rich heritage and range of activity, BBC Technology has recently been given a new name: BBC Engineering. To continue this excellent track record, we are introducing a new approach to ensure the BBC’s technology infrastructure, which keeps the BBC’s services on-air and online, is flexible, efficient and able to adapt to new technology and innovation. We have a new structure – one that is flexible and more closely aligned to product areas, partners with editorial teams. This includes a bigger focus on user experience and design to make it easier for our programme makers to get the most out of new technology.

Transforming the way we work

We are also in the midst of transforming the way we procure and manage our biggest, most strategic technology contracts, moving away from one monolithic, long term contract with a single supplier, to multiple shorter-term contracts with a number of specialist companies. This will save £90m over the next two years and we expect to deliver similar savings once we’ve completed the transition. Looking ahead, BBC Engineering will also focus on doing what the BBC has done so expertly throughout its history – taking advantage of digital developments, innovating new broadcast technologies and transforming the industry. The Olympics has always been a moment for innovation at the BBC. Imagine what kinds of experiences we might provide in 2020 or 2024 if the nation had universal high speed broadband and a broadcast infrastructure designed to take advantage of it? We at BBC Engineering are truly excited about the future and are making sure we are as prepared for it as we possibly can be, and that we’re flexible and efficient enough to adapt along the way.