Thursday, February 28, 2008

BBC Jam - bloody mess

A story you won’t find on the BBC website but which has appeared in the national press today is the final sealing of the lid on the always-doomed BBC Jam. Another £75 million of public funding down the drain following in the noble footsteps of UKeUniversity, NHSU and many more before. The total, so far, easily tops £200 million. Then there’s the disappointing OpenLearn from the OU, and dozens of other completely useless EU funded projects, running to tens of millions. BBC Jam was always going to land jam side down on the floor. The commissioning was hapless, the content useless and the management hopeless.

Are they MAD?
So what happens next? Only in the topsy-turvy world of government/BBC politics could the following happen but it seems the BBC is to forge ahead with some sort of large Vocational Training e-learning content initiative. Yes, it’s
Alice in BBCWonderland again. Let me replay that one. They screw up a £75 million project, proving themselves incapable of handing basic curriculum content, so government will fund them to produce vocational content. Are they MAD?

What did the advert or ITT say?
'Must have proven track record in completely screwing up large-scale, publically funded projects'. In addition, 'the organisation must be totally remote from the real vocational world and managed by Tristians'. The phrase ‘lunatics running the asylum’ comes to mind. Let’s recruit bank robbers to run our banks. No, I have a better idea, let’s recruit a whole army of ageing technophobes and broadcast people to run our e-learning policy and research – sorry, I nearly forgot, we’ve done that already in DIUS and BECTA. We spend untold sums of money in technology in education and training but it seems to end up being spent on the wrong people in the wrong institutions.

They don’t exactly mix. It’s not something the average BBC employee knows much about, never mind the management. You will, of course, have to enter through the tradesman’s entrance to access the content.


Michelle Gallen said...

I've recently emailed a senior BBC staff member asking for information on the status of BBC jam. The staff member replied they knew nothing about it. I also tried getting information via the BBC website and tried their contact form. Nothing.

I'm not surprised Jam's completely axed (need to read more about the reasons given for that).

I guess I'm not even surprised that following the failure of jam they're now going to tackle an online vocational project without having done a thorough post-mortem on why jam failed.

And although I hope this new project will be carefully planned by people who are skilled in the relevant technologies and guided by people with a strong understanding of both the technologies and the audience, I'm not confident that this will be the case.

Recently in Belfast I was at a digital content event, at which several BBC employees presented. Emma Somerville, Head of Interactive TV was one of the speakers. I'm afraid I went away with a familiar empty feeling after listening to yet another BBC presentation overloaded with marketing and buzzwords. Lots of chat about 'new formats' and 'non-linear video' - mobisodes and tardisodes...when really all they were talking about was yet more of the same - linear video clips played out on a few different platforms.

I've blogged about it in more detail at

Anonymous said...

I don't hold a special candle for the BBC, but wasn't the reason for BBC Jam being suspended not that it was rubbish, but that it was too good?

Other educational providers complained vociferously about unfair competition.

That's certainly my recollection, and is also the line taken by The Guardian today (also this), which is the only national press covering the story I could lay my hand on easily.

Donald Clark said...

The Guardian article doesn't say anything about the quality of the content. I reviewed all of the released content in this blog - believe me it was awful - over-engineered, difficult to use and often irrelevant (type BBC Jam into the search box on this blog). The complaints were around the £75 million spent on producing so little at such a high cost. The BBC failed to meet anything like their promise output againts costs. It was, in short, a disaster. there have been others - some of us remember the doomed Doomesday project - again millions spent by the BBC and nothing to show for it.