Daniel Radcliffe and Brian Cox to lead BBC drive to 'get Britain coding' – with help from Eastenders and Doctor Who video games

Radcliffe stars in a drama on the controversial Grand Theft Auto franchise

Ian Burrell
Wednesday 09 September 2015 19:30
Wiz-kid: Daniel Radcliffe in 'The Gamechangers'
Wiz-kid: Daniel Radcliffe in 'The Gamechangers'

A BBC push to promote Britain’s digital sector will be led by actor Daniel Radcliffe and science presenter Professor Brian Cox, supported by a range of video games based on the hit shows Doctor Who, EastEnders and Strictly Come Dancing.

Lord Hall, the BBC Director General, said the BBC wanted to help the nation to “get coding and get digital”, as the organisation announced a series of programmes and initiatives aimed at celebrating Britain’s record in the innovation of new technology.

Radcliffe will star in The Gamechangers, a 90-minute drama on the controversial Grand Theft Auto franchise in which the Harry Potter actor plays Sam Houser, billed as “the British genius behind one of the most lucrative video games ever”. Set in 2002, the drama is being shown on BBC2 next Tuesday as part of the BBC’s Make It Digital season.

Also being screened in the season of 61 programmes across radio, television and the BBC’s online platforms, is a Horizon documentary titled Are Video Games Really That Bad? It promises to go “behind the headlines” and “discovers whether video games could actually be good for you”.

The BBC’s relationship with the gaming industry has not always been so positive and a 2010 edition of Panorama titled Addicted to Games? angered the gaming sector with claims of its damaging impact on obsessive players.

But the Make It Digital season is part of the BBC’s attempt to position itself at the forefront of Britain’s technology sector as it makes its case for charter renewal in response to a Government Green Paper on the organisation’s future.

In a speech, Lord Hall, said: “Our country has led so many of the world’s tech and digital innovations, and BBC Make it Digital will help give us the skills we need to succeed in the future. It’s another great example of the BBC I believe in – an open BBC, working closely with others to achieve something far greater than we could on our own: to inspire the nation to get coding and get digital.”

He unveiled a series of new initiatives including the BBC Mixital platform, which offers digital tools that allows users to make animated episodes of EastEnders and to create Quickstep and Salsa routines for Strictly Come Dancing “robots”. A Doctor Who Game Maker, which goes live next week, offers the chance to create game adventures for the Timelord and various heroes and monsters from the BBC’s epic saga. Martin Wilson, head of product for BBC Digital, said: “It’s a completely new way for fans to engage with the BBC and to be creative.”

Mixital also offers tools for creating visuals which move in time to the beats and bars of pieces of music, ranging from Bizet and Wagner to tracks from upcoming bands.

Matchr is another project set up by the BBC in collaboration with Google and the digital industry network The Tech Partnership, and aims to help young people find the right resources to develop their digital skills.

The Make It Digital season runs until 26 September. Professor Cox will host Six Degrees of Separation, a panel show identifying the connections between disparate objects. Several programmes in the season recognise the role of women in technology. The BBC4 documentary Calculating Ada: The Countess of Computing, explores the work of pioneering mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace. The youth-orientated channel BBC3 will host a talent show Girls Can Code, challenging selfie-obsessed young women to think up ideas for viable tech businesses.

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