The secret bits of the BBC

BBC Future

Why do you have eyebrows?

What will humans look like in 10,000 years?

How do elephants create the rain?

What do we really need the moon for?

These are all questions I’m sure you’ve never pondered, but now you’ve read them I’ll bet you’d really like to know the answers. Sadly, however, if you’re in the UK you’re not going to know. That’s because these questions are explored on the “secret” bits of the BBC website that British people don’t get to see.

One of them is BBC Future, a fascinating collection of articles about science, innovation and technology.

Another is BBC Travel – and no, that’s not the same pages as the ones that tell you about congestion on the M74 or train delays on the Highland Main Line. No, this is a page of bright, colourful and engaging travel writing about all sorts of exotic and wonderful corners of the world.

BBC Travel

Its a curious anomaly that there’s a whole side of the BBC website that people in the UK don’t get to see. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why they’re not available to the people whose licence fee pays for the BBC – though I think the point might be that, in fact, the licence fee payer doesn’t pay for it at all. Outside the UK, unlike within it, the BBC is able to engage in commercial activity, and so is able to host adverts and so forth to generate revenue.

Presumably, therefore, those bits funded by the commercial activity cannot be made available within the UK. Which is odd, and a little confusing, though I can’t say I really bothered about the whys and wherefores while sitting in my hotel in Toulouse a few weeks ago browsing all these new, uncharted corners of the BBC website.

Of course, I’d seen them before – I’ve used the BBC website many times while abroad – but this was the first time I can recall having a casual browse of the site, as opposed to a quick visit with a specific purpose like checking email or booking transport or accommodation.

It was incredible to think that there’s a whole side of the BBC that we don’t really know about, and that this is how it looks to everyone outside the UK.

But it was also curious to think that, in Scotland, we’ll presumably be able to see those secret bits of the BBC website if we vote Yes in September…

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