The BBC, Open Content and Wikipedia

I had a really interesting meeting with Robin Morley, the BBC‘s Social media lead for the English Regions, a couple of weeks ago. After he gave me a very interesting tour of their premises in Birmingham’s Mailbox (where, in its former guise as Royal Mail’s Birmingham head office, my father Trevor had an office), he described to me the work he does.

We then discussed how his London colleagues insert automatically content from Wikipedia, into the BBC website’s pages on wildlife (example: ), and on music (example, of course, ). I contributed to the former by writing markup to make them emit the ‘species’ microformat, of which I’m also the author.

Screen capture of BBC article on Pink Floyd, linked to in post

BBC article on Pink Floyd, including Wikipedia content (links to original article)

They are able to do this because all of Wikipedia’s content is available under a . In other words, anyone can reuse it, for free.

I suggested to Robin that his news staff could similarly reuse Wikipedia content. For example, the article “Birmingham Assay Office silver name plaque stolen“:

screen shot of BBC article linked to from this post

BBC Birmingham & Black Country article on a theft from Birmingham Assay Office (links to original article)

could use text from Wikipedia in a pullout (a sub-section, or box at the side of the article) which might say:

The Birmingham Assay Office is one of the four remaining assay offices in the United Kingdom.

It opened on 31 August 1773 and initially operated from three rooms in the King’s Head Inn on New Street employing only four staff and was only operating on a Tuesday. The first customer on that day was Matthew Boulton. The hallmark of the Birmingham Assay Office is the Anchor.

Services provided by the office include nickel testing, metal analysis, plating thickness determination, bullion certification, consultancy and gem certification.

Text in this section copyright Wikipedia authors, licenced

All that would be required would be for credit to Wikipedia to be given, and the pullout text (but not the whole BBC article) to be made available under the same open licence, as above.

This could be done on articles about all sorts of topics: people, places, organisations, events and more, as well as sports reports.

Robin seemed to like the idea, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he and his colleagues make use of Wikipedia content.

Update: Another post, “The BBC, Regional News and Sport, and Hyperlocal Blogs” about something else we discussed at our our meeting, is now published.

About Andy Mabbett

Enjoying my freelance career, helping organisations to understand on-line communities, open content, and related issues; often as a Wikimedian (or Wikipedian) in Residence.
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One Response to The BBC, Open Content and Wikipedia

  1. Robin Morley says:

    Hi Andy – Thanks for the write-up. It was great to meet you and talk about ways in which hyperlocal websites and the BBC might explore opportunities together. As you mention there are several ways in which other parts of the BBC use Wikipedia content – these are very carefully chosen and formatted. Using it in a news context isn’t something that’s being planned – but suggestions and food for thought on how the BBC could get more involved with open content are always welcome. Cheers – Robin

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