Damn and Blast! Outcry at BBC plans to axe teen site

5th March 2010 at 00:00
Creative online platform for young people judged poor value for money

Blast, the BBC's creative learning website for teenagers, is among the services earmarked for cuts by the media giant.

The corporation has published proposals to cut #163;100 million a year from overhead costs - including closing radio stations BBC 6 Music and the Asian Network and halving its web output.

BBC Blast is aimed at 13 to 19-year-olds interested in creating art, fashion, music, games, writing, film, dance or drama.

Teenagers take part in free workshops, upload and discuss their work, and enter competitions.

Radio 1Xtra DJ MistaJam, wrote on the social networking site Twitter: "Now it's official #saveBBCAsianNetwork #saveBBC6music most importantly4me #saveBBCBlast who else will give free creative training to teens?"

The DJ's tweet prompted many responses. Budgetastic wrote: "These guys have been absolutely amazing to me and to thousands of other creative teens! Show your support to BBC Blast".

Bigbowpeep said: "Nooooooooo oooooooooooooo! What can we do? Surely there is something. This is OUTRAGEOUS!"

BBC Blast confirmed that the 100 work experience placements planned for this year will go ahead.

But a strategy document unveiled by BBC director general Mark Thompson this week claimed that Blast is not good value for money. The document, which was published by the BBC Trust, is now open for a 12-week public consultation.

It was drawn up after the trust, which governs the BBC, asked the director general to undertake a full-scale review of the BBC's strategy.

The report says: "Neither of the BBC's current teen offers - BBC Switch on television, and Blast in the learning portfolio - is reaching its target audience effectively. The BBC will continue to serve teenagers through its mainstream services, but recommends that the trust considers both Switch and Blast for closure.

"The BBC continues to face challenges reaching teenage audiences with targeted and effective public service broadcasting. The BBC Switch zone on BBC Two is sub-scale, reaching less than 5 per cent of its target audience who are watching TV at the time. Equally, Blast does not represent good value for money compared to similar outreach activity."

In 2007, BBC Jam, an online education service, was suspended following complaints from the British Educational Suppliers' Association that it was competing with commercial services. The site was later axed.

Paul Collard, chief executive of Creativity, Culture Education, which provides cultural programmes for young people, commented: "It is a real shame that BBC Blast is set to change because it is important that young people have more support to explore their talents and discover the options available for a career in the creative industries."

A PLACE TO SHOWCASE

BBC Blast's aim is to "inspire and motivate" young people to develop their creative talents and showcase their work. Users can share work online or attend workshops and gain experience.

This week's strategy document recommends that Blast should be closed but says the corporation will continue to support BBC Introducing, which aims to connect Radio 1 and 1Xtra with music-makers at the grass roots.

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