Saturday, January 31, 2009

Digital TV - Early mover (dis) Advantage

I went to an interesting RTS session earlier in the week covering the European roll out of Digital TV.
A few of the significant nuggets that were imparted by the presenters from Futuresource Consulting were:

* One UK is currently the leader with the greatest take-up of Digital TV (as a percentage).

* Two As a rule of thumb the driver in markets is the number of channels, the more channels the quicker the take up (example Australia has few extra channels and has slow take-up).

* Three Being first is not always best UK is now in a position where there's a lot of deployed MPEG 2 receivers and for the emerging bandwidth hungry High Definition this is is a distinct disadvantage- countries who have waited can now go directly to
the more efficient MPEG 4.

Other points worthy of note are the facts that TV in Germany is primarily delivered by Cable and Satellite, and that no large scale volume producers of TV sets are situated in the UK.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Get Carters Digital Britain report - can we catch up with the best

It's been a much heralded report and now we have it the overwhelming theme seems to be that the gov's thinks faster broadband is a jolly good idea and if it doesn't come along soon they might just do something about making sure it does.

The French already have what we in the UK would consider Super Broadband but this has been a policy decision backed with a will to deliver- some commentators worry that the LordCarter vision is all about protecting the big players (like the BBC) and would prefer something that will help to promote innovation and new thinking.

Worthy of note is the concern over piracy - but does it really address the issue?

I expect the fine print means that the report is worth going over with a fine tooth-comb.

The report can be found HERE. (and don't forget this is just the interim report)

You may also wish to take a look at what some of the major media are saying..

The Guardian
The International Herald Tribune

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

OFCOM and the future of PSB

When OFCOM was set up it was given a remit to be a light touch regulator with incentives to remain lean- I’m not sure how well it’s achieving these twin goals with so much on its collective plate.

It’s certainly been a busy time at OFCOM towers of late where they’ve been looking through their crystal balls and consulting the runes over where broadcasting is going.

Alongside the much debated future of Channel 4 the ideas coming from Ed and his team are the removal of the major programming requirements that ITV has been moaning about.

Ed of OFCOM outlining thoughts

The question is will the future (publicly sanctioned) ‘competitor’ to the BBC be a runner? Do we need further intervention in the market to make sure that the major market intervener keeps up to standard?

With such a healthy and diverse media is there such significant failure in the market? If there is can this be managed via regulation?

Hopefully there’ll be a lively debate –previously UK broadcasting changes have been made after Royal commissions and consideration- rushed legislation is not always the best!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

BT's Global Services rang the alarm bells

The recognition by BT PLC that the results of its Global Services division have been overstated is another warning to investors of the old adage “if something appears to good to be true it probably is”.

At times when good results are needed there is a danger that they are too easily welcomed and not treated with the full vigorous scepticism that they should be.

For a truly alarming commentary on how this can happen at the largest of businesses I’d recommend ‘Stealing Time’ by Alec Klein, like the BT Global Services overstating of results story this book focuses on a giant that is scared of decline hitching its wagons to a technology led future and in this case doing some seriously questionable things.

News that BT could lose more employees can not be good but it is neccesary for the comany to keep tight control on costs as revenues look likely to slip further

Reading the piece on Sir Michael Rake makes one wonder a little about how the relationship between the chairman and Ian Livingston's predecessor was.

The idea that has been raised that it might be a good time to sell this particular division does seem odd.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Creative industries as saviour to the economy?

Some commentators, probably with good cause have been talking down the UK currency and the long term viability of its economy.

We all of us know that the UK economy is now in recession, (2 successive quarters of declining GDP or something like that) predictions (guesses?) are that this will remain the case for the majority of 2009 - perhaps a recovery starting end of this year start of next.

Now when the upturn comes how will unemployment be brought down? Previous recessions have seen the UK manufacturing industry ‘re-structured’ this one is likely to see financial services and retail badly damaged.

One hope is that UK PLC will be able to leverage its much trumpeted ‘creative industries’ already these industries employ large numbers and we actually manage to export the products they are responsible for.

Let’s hope that the UK’s Government recognises the importance of Media, Music, Sport and Tourism and prepares these areas for the inevitable upturn.

Pictured Andy Burnham UK Culture Secretary

Thursday, January 22, 2009

OFCOM got it right? (probably not)

So OFCOM has pronounced on the future of C4 and most commentators are distinctly under impressed.
It's always worth looking at the motive of the UK press when broadcasting matters are under scrutiny but The Times' view (and Sir Chris Bland too) that the UK can really only support one PSB does have some validity.

Of course the economist has a considered view as well.

The one thing C4 and C5 have in common is that they are merely delivery agents and my personal view is that this is going to be an increasingly marginal business as proliferation of delivery takes place over the next few years, a good media company needs content and rights to assure its future.

I know it's not the time for a privatization but that or a move (towards at least) a subscription model would be another direction to look at taking C4.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pixsta the next generation of search? - Image based Search

The IET hosted a stimulating session from Dr. Daniel Heesch the man behind Pixsta on Tuesday evening (20th Jan).

Although Google are pre-eminent in the field of search there are other ways we might consider initialising searches and with the number of images on the web growing at an extraordinary rate there is potentially a whole new field of image search to monetize.

Having undertaken his doctorate around the issues of image retrieval Daniel has since started a company to exploit the knowledge he’s gained and its called, rather neatly PIXSTA.

So far the technology of image search is in its’ infancy and can be seen demo'd in the fields of shopping - mainly Shoes, Handbags and Dresses (remember how important shoes are to Jen from the IT crowd ?)

It was was pointed out by one of the bright young things in attendance at the session that there’s also great potential in ‘porn image searches’ too!

Currently image searches tend to rely on the tags (meta data) attributed to images rather than an actual analysis of the images, the use of images is intuitive for humans and if someone can get the search engine to do the job well it could be of great use (and commercial value).

Be interesting to see if Google acquires this company or if it has already created a tool to achieve the same goal itself.

Issues for me are how the images index out from an 'optimum' handbag (or whatever the image class is) - to meet other criteria (colour, size material etc.) - I imagine the real 'holy grail' would be around faces as human beings are so incredibly good at differentiating here (be a great way of online dating too).

Having stayed awake for most of the session I now at least am able to drop the Turing Test into conversation to impress my peers.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Come along to a great Free Royal Television Society Event in London on Wednesday 28th January

It's being held at The London Television Centre, Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9LT

and it's called 'THE DIGITAL TELEVISION LANDSCAPE IN EUROPE' it'll start at 7:00PM

The Speakers will be : GRAEME PACKMAN, Principal Broadcast Consultant, Futuresource Consulting


BILL FOSTER, Senior Technology Consultant, Futuresource Consulting

"The UK has long blown its’ own trumpet as being at the centre of the transition to digital TV, is this really true?

Other European countries have switched off analogue signals and, while the UK is saddled with millions of legacy MPEG-2 boxes, later entrants to DTT have been able to go directly to the latest MPEG-4 technology, allowing for a simpler transition to HD.

Throughout Europe there are a variety of platforms with a mixture of Pay and Public Service Broadcast service models to challenge the consumer electronics and broadcast hardware manufacturers that sell into this market."

e-mail your intention of attending to

Nearest Underground and Train Station – Waterloo

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don’t touch that knob (BBC boss pimping for Channel 4?)

The stories of BBC’s current DG Mark Thompson in attempts to broker a deal between Channels Five and Four must be worrying for those who believe in plurality for the UK TV market.
It is likely to raise concerns for Stephen Carter and the DCMS who probably think it’s the sort of thing that is better left to politicians. I’ll be fascinated to see how it pans out and if the BBC can make sure that 100% of the licence fee remains with them.
Nice article covering the story from The Independent here.
I agree somewhat with C4’s Andy Duncan (he's covered here) who doesn’t think the answer at this time is a shotgun wedding between two such different animals. Unlike Duncan though I don’t think that answer is necessarily global deals seems to me that to ensure UK media remains dynamic less consolidation would seem preferable rather than a solution which gives short term succour to the current dinosaurs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ealing comedy? The closing of its remaining cinema -

Now many people who don't actually know Ealing have heard of its famous comedies and the link with film is something that's been going for over 75 years - so isn't it rather sad to see the remaining picture palace being demolished to make way for goodness knows what?
The picture on the right was taken on Tuesday no notice explainswhat will replace this fine old building!
Perhaps we (people who value Cinema/Live in Ealing) should lobbby groups like Save Ealing's Centre ?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Did you miss me? (while I was away)

As you'll see I've been away but I'm back now and there'll be an occasional post as we motor in to 2009. Principal concerns will be the resumption of my career and passing judgment on life in general.

Webacam I've got a webcam less than £10.00 seems amazing that when I worked at ITN I was excited about getting hold of a vidicon caption camera and CCU which I hooked up in Prince's Road, West Ealing. It weighed a ton was black and white, my how technology has moved on. You might not be able to see the camera but you can see the 2" helical scanAmpex VTRs I bought from Bob Tebbut. And there's an out of focus Bob on the Moped I sold him in Prince's road playing the giddy goat ..

Anyway if you want to skype me tjbourne is what I'm down as.

IRAN resistance needs your help.
Visitors today from Iran Liberty Association
I sympathise with the cause and feel moved by their plight but note that they wanted a load of money off me and they're not even a charity so I will consider again when I'm a bit flusher. The guys told me that UK sells arm to Iran gov't which I don't think is strictly true either-still things like this are not good.