Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More bad news for Sky
Following Sky’s disclosure that it could face a £20m reduction in profits as a result of the failure to reach agreement with Virgin Media (was NTL) comes the news that the BBC trust has approved the long awaited satellite version of Freeview. This is undoubtedly bad news for the folks out at Osterley but many observers consider an alternative platform as long overdue, C4 is expected to be part of the offering but will a 17.9% Sky owned ITV also be there?
BBC reacts quickly to premium phone hysteria by Chugger* Holmes.
News that while the larger than life Eamon Holmes was simulcasting across BBC Radio and TV he was also cadging money for BBC charities was met with horror, in their favour the BBC have now decreed that such phone-ins will henceforth be live. Me I think it’s not for the BBC to be an arbiter of the charities and consider such commercial concepts should be removed from the public broadcaster. (Eamon, the hardest working man in Showbiz also available on Sky News)
Ericsson swoops on Tandberg tv
Convergence takes a further twist with the news that the company that enables many of the DVB (digital TV) services in the UK and the rest of the world Tandberg TV) is being stalked by mobile phone giant Ericsson it certainly shows that further consolidation fuelled by the predicted growth in IPTV is going to be the only show in town (for a while).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hopefully not the last laugh

We went to see The Last Laugh ( known in Japan as Warai no Daigaku) a comedic play by the Japanese writer Koki Mitani I can’t help feeling that this already sounds slightly pretentious (which I like)
The plays starred Martin Freeman (Tim from The office) and Roger Lloyd Pack (Trigger from Only Fools ..).
It was slightly dark and had some value in questioning the value of humour and how arts can flourish even when censorship is the norm– worth catching if you get the chance, if only as an opportunity to be slightly pretentious.
Darling’s Sky Chalice and institutional leftism at the BBC
Always mildly suspicious of reports from the Mail stable on SKY and ITV but I think there could be some truth in this one.
The New labour pact with News International goes to the heart of the electability of a Labour Government, with the removal of Blair there’s likely to be a reassessment of how Sky’s dominance of commercial TV affects democracy, in truth the question is not about if Sky bought into ITV as a spoiler to NTL Virgin but can they get away with it ? I wonder if James Murdoch will alter anyone’s mind on this before he leaves for the U.S.A.
If I was holding ITV or Sky shares I’d be unloading them now, Sky does not need regulatory issues and ITV although improving has some way to go.
The Sunday Times has a provocative piece by Robin Aitken around the BBC’s stodgy slightly left of centre world view, I’m in agreement but not sure how it should be tackled, Channel 4 is not much better and a right of centre bias is just as bad- true independence is perhaps a pipe dream but the idea that the BBC is something other than a state broadcaster is a view held by all at the BBC but not so many outside of it.
Checked my Blood pressure again it’s 125/78
So the aim is to
  • Lose weight.
  • Eat a healthier diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day .
Get a first life
As promised I made a trip to Second Life – seems pretty hopeless and a bit of a waste of time, I guess it's suitable for Trekkies and other low-lifes but think the web has plenty of better uses.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

batlle of the giants (not)

Virgin versus Sky (1,2,3, News etc)
The battle between the major commercial digital platforms is heating up with Sky threatening to pull some of its channels from Virgin Media's Cable line-up. (actually it's not renew the agreement).
Sky are saying that Virgin are unwilling to pay a realistic rate for carriage of their great channels ( my words )
And the facts?
 * The channels threatened are Sky One, Sky Two, Sky Three, Sky News and Sky Sports News
 * The Sky movie and sport offerings will not be affected.
 * Sky’s top offerings are Lost and 24 and to a lesser extent Battlestar Galactica.
The analysis
In fact Sky One has consistently managed to deliver far less than one would expect, it has a few shows that are audience pullers but to say they are sparsely spread is a severe understatement, the channel underlies the feeling that Sky is not in the TV business but is merely an aggregator of content both in terms of external channels and its own.
Virgin loves to play the underdog and is being given the opportunity by Sky to do so here, Sky usually surefooted is missing a trick making the competition look more important than it is.
Look at Virgin Media's statement and note how they hate being called Virgin NTL (they've issued a cease and desist order to Sky).
And some hotspots for people who are on the side of the angels..
Mean or green try here
Send out some positive vibes from this spot
Tips on some places to live are here

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wieghty matters

Somewhat alarmingly my weight has been creeping up and I've reached 11st 6lbs (it's a long while since I've weighed myself) I don't think it's all down to winter and I'm going to do something about it.

Blood pressure is 132/76 which is a touch high, could be that it was caused partially by a nice hot bath but i'll keep an eye on this too - I listened to Dr Trevor Beard on Ockham's Razor a really cool ABC (Australia) radio programme that can be downloaded and he was convincing on what causes high blood pressure - salt.

My BMI comes out at 23.5 which is still in the 'ideal' but getting towards the top end of it.
I shall try to track all on a weekly (or so) basis and try to be even more careful on eating, drinking and exercise.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Joost in time

Apart from all the excitement (?) over BT Vision, Virgin Media and Sky on demand the new kid on the block Joost should not be underestimated (which I’d already done) –they’ve gone and signed a deal with Viacom and are rumoured to be talking to the UK’s ITV, the guys have a form on the disruptive technology front and are looking like recidivists – get across it now.
There’s a growing head of steam that’s saying the BBC licence fee should be top sliced and OFCOM’s PSB might be an acceptable way of keeping UK media landscape exciting –push for it if you can.
UK recording giant taken over by USA's Warner?
EMI to be bought out by Warners, my view; don’t hold your breath, the company has serious assets, a great UK heritage and just needs a top flight management team to be installed to enable them to exploit what they have.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Ripping from Youtube
There’s been a lot of stuff going on about content owners unhappy with Youtube acting as host to their content well I got an e-mail telling me about a site that helps you rip Youtube to your PC (have a look) - for me life’s too short but I can see that some might worry that this is the thin end of the wedge (is it not just a poor quality VCR?).
This is not going to go away here’s another site that’s across the idea
Bringing February to life
It’s nice that February has a few things to celebrate – This evening saw the decorations and Lion dance in London’s Soho and even had a little Chinese feast to show solidarity with the pig, it’s pancake day today too (and carnival).
Last week we went to Kew Gardens for a Valentines meal after a quick tour of the Orchid house – a sign of the times that tables were not only populated by couples of different genders.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Age and Youth

Now I’m fortunate in being someone who can potentially retire at a relatively early age, and to this end I’ve been trying to salt away some funds to make this possible (perhaps) what I’m picking up as I go along this path is that (of course) pensions are costly, and something few want to consider.
The strange thing is that a Labour government is helping those who would save anyway and ignoring a lot of folk who won’t be able to put anything aside until the benefit from their saving is likely to be marginal to put it mildly.
Higher rate taxpayers can get over 40% relief (and often get help from their employers) those on lower incomes often get no pension and are having a struggle to make ends meet anyway.
Not really sure what the answer is and am a little dismayed by people who continually blame the governments (present or past) few want to pay higher taxes even fewer seem to want to assume responsibility for their old age. We need an informed debate and to offer some choices.
Storm over a Smoking Pot
The storm in a teacup over Cameron’s run in with his school authorities seems to have blown over, which as far as I’m concerned is a good thing, with knights McCartney, Jagger and John (Elton) being familiar with mind altering substance of a not altogether legal nature it seems to me we (the body politic) should take a realistic attitude to ‘youthful indiscretions’ I’m unlikely to vote Tory but welcome Cameron as a 21st century leader of a viable opposition.
(Listening to Emotional Rescue by the Stones as I write this, it'd earn Mick a knighthood by itself.)

Second Life
I was listening to Click on this morning and interested to hear talk of Second Life - it's considered Nerdy but as I heard to paraphrase-'try before you criticise' - I'll have a look and report back next w/e.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

it's all about Money- and Sky

Sky and DTT
The fallout from Sky’s announcement that they will launch pay TV services on their terrestrial bandwidth carries on in a muted fashion with OFCOM doing their deliberations.
Assuming that Sky’s plan is a serious one (some commentators are voicing the opinion that Sky used the idea merely to spoil Virgin Media launch knowing that OFCOM would not permit) then part of the impact is going to be around the STB (Set Top Box),
Now MPEG 4 is what Sky say the new channels will use, the current DTT standard is MPEG2 a move to MPEG4 is interesting in that it's the system being used on Sky’s Satellite High Definition service and also being used in the UK terrestrial HD trials (incidentally also the system used in France for Digital TV), so will Sky’s box be able to receive MPEG2 and MPEG4 –I think this would be an essential a future proof MPEG4 box with download capability and HD ready would be great- is it likely to be on the cards for summer 2007- NO
Now not everyone knows it but there is already a pay proposition on Terrestrial TV, it’s called TOP UP TV, the people behind it are some ex Skyers and it uses MPEG2 and Mediaguard (for it’s live services like Setanta) and a proprietary Thomson system for its programmes that are described as Top Up TV Anytime – so will there be interoperability between Sky pay on terrestrial and Top Up TV – I think to say unlikely is putting it mildly (unless OFCOM insist and then I think it’ll take some time or Sky will decide it’s not of interest).
So is Sky’s plan merely a short term spoiler ?– I don’t think so as I’ve said before Sky, BT and Virgin Media are fighting for the same coveted place in the home and if Sky can get the right STB in the home be it Satellite or terrestrial then they have the chance to deliver both linear live services and an on demand service (along with broadband home security and goodness knows what else).
I would say this is good news for Pace, Amstrad and other makers of little boxes that you put near your telly.
Mobile phones as electronic purse/wallet
Another technology that seems to be of the day – is the electronic purse, now when I was in HK about 10 or so years ago a trial was done in some of the shopping Malls where low value items (a coffee and a paper for example) could be bought electronically – I’m not sure what it proved. Fast forward a few years and we have the successful roll out in London of Oyster cards, handling cash is expensive and time consuming and London Transport ticket counter queues on a Monday morning or the beginning of the month were legendary (and a terrible way to start the week).
What do the majority of people not leave their home without – their mobile phone.
This week I’ve been reading of how money transfers are made using mobile phones both in the developing world and increasingly from the ‘West’.
Bring this lot together and you’ve got the cashless society- let’s revisit in a year or two to see how it goes. Or if you have a view/experience let me know.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Guerrilla advertising has its down side

There’s a great story about US cartoon giant Cartoon network virtually closing down Boston.
The cause? A rather over the top advertising campaign which at this time of heightened security awareness r in the USA meant that one of the cities where the campaign was launched didn’t take too well to a number of magnetic lights stuck around the city(it was the only one out of ten cities that was thrown into a panic).
The fallout has been a cost rumoured to be around $1 Million to make sure Boston City doesn’t press charges and the resignation of the networks head honcho Jim Sample.
The show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force will certainly get good viewing figures.
Interference Inc are the responsible (or perhaps irresponsible) marketing company behind the stunt – not sure if any publicity is good publicity?

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Brian May has been hitting the headlines regarding being a touch miserable and sensitive, let’s face it he’s got a great barnett for a man of 59, I expect it’s dyed but presumably his own and it’s a recognisable piece of hedging when all’s said and done.
Now that brings me to a couple of points, why should Brian mind? If he wanted to be anonymous he’d drop the locks and the clogs and look like most other people of his age- so presumably he has an ego and wants to be recognised?
Does it matter that may people think his hair/image is funny? He has talent and brains (as can be seen from his book on astronomy and his guitar playing on for example ‘One vision').
I think there is a problem in this ironic post modern world where many folk take very little seriously, but with tensions and terror perhaps the more serious danger is of taking things too seriously?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Landscapes and shifts

Plates shift
This week has seen further shifting of the tectonic plates of UK broadcasting, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that there is a battle around the core media/communications access and activity in the home, this is the battleground that Sky, BT and Virgin Media are all fighting over.
Sky has something like double the income of the BBC but it is not about broadcast content, Virgin Media has an interest in content to drive its business, the re-brand could help them sort out the perceptions of poor service but only if the service is resolved, I heard the Virgin brand being described as ‘Teflon coated" but even Teflon wears off eventually!
BT has to see revenue beyond broadband and may find it necessary to move its position from being an aggregator, the employment of Michael Barry, from MTV may be an early sign that broadcasting brilliance is an area of expertise where they have to look outside the ranks of grey techno suits.
I’m not sure how the BBC or commercial TV i.e. ITV, C4 and channel five should respond to the changing landscape, history tells me that Murdoch will win but Branson is undoubtedly a clever operator as his battles with BA proved and BT should not be underrated, a minor political storm has been created around limiting Sky’s ambitions
We need more people like Bruce Lacey (he looks a bit like 'Rigsby' here doesn't he?)
I had in my mind memories childhood of a crazy inventor figure, managed to work out that it was Bruce Lacey, as well as working with the Beatles and Bonzo Dog Doodah band (Viv Stanshall, Neil Innes and others) he’s known as an artist find out more about him here. Bruce is still alive and to me epitomised the English eccentric I hope there are others around who can inherit his mantle – Me, I’m certainly tempted to try.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Feedback welcome

Exciting development as I find people are visiting my Blog and some even making feedback comments – it’s really good to start a dialogue and find that my words on these niche topics do cause some sort of reaction -many, many thanks (hope I don't sound too needy).

Sky getting their retaliation in quickly

Branson gives Sky the jitters?
In a sure sign that Bskyb are taking the rebranded Virgin Media (was NTL/Telewest) seriously they have today announced a pay service on Digital terrestrial (DTT).
Press releases are talking about MPEG4 encoding which might be double dutch to some of you out there but in laymans terms it means get a new STB if you want to see the service - very likely it'll run NDS CA software too.
I can’t see this playing well with the regulators concerned about Skys 'smash and grab' raid on ITV shares that scuppered Branson’s hope of a content deal with the then beleaguered pre-Michael Grade ITV.
The move is likely to put the willies up BT Vision bosses too as the TV competitors slug it out for the low cost digital refusenicks.
I will be an interested observer (although not currently holding any signifcant holdings!) in the share price of the concerned parties tomorrow (ITV, BT and Sky are the ones I'm thinking about).
I will also take a punt on ITV news resurfacing as ITV play gets too hot to handle and a lack of competiton on Freeview means it's needed more than ever

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Not Selling?

BBC is there a cure?
'Scrap the BBC' is an interesting book which I’ve started reading, the thing about the BBC is that it is an anomaly and it annoys me in any respects but when I read something like this I’m forced to spring to it’s defence. 'm not sure that Richard D North is someone who I can agree with too much.
* The BBC historically has been thought to super serve the middle classes (imagine the cost per listener hour of Radio 3 as opposed to Radio 2) but it recognises that this is a shortcoming and it does try to address it.
*The BBC is a state broadcaster but it (to me) tries to pretend it isn’t – there a real danger that the BBC Trust will in fact endanger what independence it has, the recent licence settlement which for the first time includes clear hypothecation with respect to the closing down of analogue transmission is extremely worrying.
* Does the BBC act as a unifying element, should we be concerned that such a thing might be required?
These are important questions but putting them to one side for considerably less than £3.00 per week you get fantastic Radio,TV and web coverage things like ‘the men from the ministry’ or Melvyn Bragg rambling along with his guests – University Challenge and Mastermind - at the end of the day (and through the night) it is very good value for money.
Radio for sale
I was surprised that no one wants my radio – I’ve got at least 10 radios and wanted to get rid of one – thought someone would like it but no takers on e-bay, latest sale is an old Canon AE1 camera it’s not being used and I would rather it went to someone than to landfill.
Great British film shock – we went to see Venus last night, it was very amusing and thought provoking, subconsciously I probably knew it was written by Hanif Kureshi but I didn’t register this until the end- this was perhaps why it referenced The Royal Court theatre. I hope Leslie Phillips and Peter O’Toole get some serious recognition for their fine performances.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Humour matters

Clive James -Web Pioneer
Having previously commented on web TV developments like 18 Doughty street, I was rather enthralled to hear about Clive James former TV pundit and amusing Australian who has done something innovative in terms of Web exploitation- check it out.
Comedy Gig -in good cause
Good to see that Russell Brand is doing a charity gig in March for Teenage Cancer Trust, I’ve booked my tickets and am greatly looking forward to seeing him bounce off Noel Fielding (in a comedic way).