How the BBC is redefining public value

Konrad Weber
5 min readOct 7, 2021

In times of climate crisis and the pandemic, many companies have had to realise a fancy product and an embellished marketing story are no longer the easy way to attract customers.

Today more than ever, organisations are required to legitimise themselves and their actions in society. Especially in a world that is characterised by oversupply, transparency and changing demands by growing generations.

From Purpose to Public Value

The public value approach — originally developed as a counter-proposition to the shareholder approach — can serve as a compass in this regard: In future, corporate visions and strategies will be defined even more strongly by society. Products and services must be measured by their “public value”. Remember the purpose.

Up to now, those who wanted to measure the success of digital products have primarily looked at usage, recurring loyalty and interaction rates. But this hardly says anything about the real needs and the quality of the relationship with the users.

From observing behaviour to measuring real values and needs of users. (Quelle: BBC R&D: Human values: understanding psychological needs in a digital age.)

Why, therefore, the success of products and services is not more closely measured in terms of values that move people forward as individuals and as a society as a whole?

Public service media organisations have been aware of this approach for a long time, although they have struggled with measurability and legitimacy in this regard for about the same length of time.

The BBC became one of the first media houses to take this issue a step further. In 2005, the public value approach previously known from public administration was transferred to the media world in the renewal of the “BBC Charter”. Since then, the media house has not only coined the term but has also initiated the debate on how to make this approach operationalisable and measurable.

Human values as success criteria in product development

At an operational level, a new approach was developed within the framework of a research project by BBC R&D two years ago, which is intended to direct the…