Right of Reply: Bob Long

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The Independent Culture
The BBC's head of Community Programmes responds to a report by Paul McCann

ON THE day The Independent claimed the BBC is axing Video Nation because scheduling the two-minute Shorts is too difficult, 55 people across the country were filming their lives for us, providing the raw material for a unique, evolving archive about British life in the 90s. Before they start thinking that they are wasting their time, can I state that the BBC is not axing Video Nation. We are trying to find new ways to underline its importance.

Video Nation is the umbrella title of a project which the BBC has been running for five years. In many forms and different titles it gives people access to equipment and encourages them to record the minutiae of their lives.

The two-minute Video Nation Shorts are the tip of a project which encompasses more than 10,000 hours of recordings covering a bewildering variety of subjects. No one can deny the affection in which the Shorts are held, but they are far from being the only thing that the project exists to do.

Reviewing the Shorts isn't a conspiracy to deprive people of access to television and hasn't been purely driven by scheduling. Nothing in television stands still, there is a constant need to reinvent programmes to keep them fresh. This is true of all programmes, but particularly of Video Nation which will perish unless it keeps up with the speed at which British society is changing. Paul McCann's article ran underneath a large picture of a new cybercafe. They scarcely existed when Video Nation started. All we are doing is finding ways of reflecting what it's like to live with that pace of change.

We will always have room for the clan chief filming Finnish toilets, whom Paul McCann remembers so clearly. He just might find him in a slightly different place in future, that's all.

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