Broadband biz catches BBC’s eye

Hull to be testing ground for interactive services

LONDON — The BBC has announced a £25 million ($36 million) investment in an experimental broadband TV service based in Hull, a small city in northeast England that is unique in the U.K. because it is served by its own local telco, Kingston Communications.

Kingston, unlike national telco British Telecom, which covers the rest of the country, has invested heavily in broadband, making the city a testing ground for many interactive services.

The BBC will develop a range of education, news and entertainment services, dubbed BBC Hull Interactive, transmitted from a state-of-the-art broadcasting center to be built in the city.

Existing BBC programs, such as soap “Eastenders,” nature doc “The Blue Planet” and kids show “The Tweenies,” will be repackaged with extensive interactive elements, far beyond those currently available via the Internet or digital TV.

“We are opening the door to a new era,” BBC director general Greg Dyke said. “New interactive technologies provide the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, with a unique opportunity to get closer to our audience.”

Hull and its surrounding area have been defined as a new BBC region, which means it gets dedicated local news programs on the pubcaster’s existing TV and radio channels.

The BBC’s $36 million investment over five years will be enhanced by a further $2.8 million from local orgs.

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