Friday, February 27, 2009

Meida stuff


ITV has been making news by floating its' own version of 'blue sky' thinking which amounts to creating a Terrestrial Television advertising monopoly by bringing Channels Five and Four under an enlarged ITV umbrella. The idea would be that this would provide a PSB balance to the BBC but some suspicious minds have been suggesting that the story has the sole purpose of drawing attention away from the anticipated poor ITV results which'll be out soon.
AND keep an eye out for news on Channel Five's plans to minimise losses which will be coming soon to.

BBC and outside companies

I was at a recent RTS session on BBC HD service and what I saw and heard made me want to go and get a box and a great big flat screen (of course the problem seems to be as alaways getting the sound right).
What really shocked me was how much of the BBC transmission chain is now handled by outsourcing, a typical service could involve as well as BBC resources, SIS Link (doing the OB/satellite links) and Siemens (doing engineering stuff) and Red Bee (the fancy presentation stuff) , I wouldn't be too surprised if an outside auditor looking at the way the BBC is operating would suggest taking some or all of this work in house.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What a great idea

Saw this story in the press the other day -The weirdest 'Beatles' band ever?

Someone or other said fairly recently that they couldn't play the Ukulele without smiling so it seems entirely appropriate that the entire Beatles oeuvre (or at least the ones they wrote) should be recreated featuring the Uke by performance philanthropists Roger Greenawalt and David Barratt -seems they're releasing a new one every Tuesday until the Olympics start 1n 2012 here's the site where you can listen and download the tracks. The performances (to my ears) so far are great fun and there are about 180 or so more to look forward to.

John, George and Paul were all keen on the instrument - with George actually attending a George Formby convention in Blackpool.

Be interested to learn more about these guys and the project, it seems like a good constructive thing to do in difficult times - e-mail me if you know something...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Salvador Dali - ahead of the gang

Went to the Dali gallery on London's South bank today. What an amazing guy in his 84 years he did so much, makes one feel quite humble about not putting up some shelves or whatever.

Also took from the exhibition how much homage Dali paid to his precursors (as is also the case with the similarly daunting Picasso).

Ahead of Koons, Emin etc he was a great self publicist and a genuinely complicated character certainly able to ride the zeitgeist working with Disney and Hitchcock and dealing with Freudian notions too.

I was surprised at how many different skills he had and the different mediums he was able to work with.

Check out more of his work with a google search

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ITN needs a new settlement.

Now that ITV, DMGT and UBS have all indicated that they'd like to be shot of their holdings in ITN concern is growing that they could either be swallowed up by a larger group or lose their credibility as an alternative to the BBC News.

The challenge for ITN is to continue to box above its weight, in a world of media giants where CNN is part of a much larger AOL Time Warner how can a small UK based news organisation effectively compete with the mega resourced BBC News?

As an independent ITN will be forced to compete for the contract for ITV News it already tenders for Channel Four News and some years ago lost the contract for the news programmes on Channel Five to Sky News.

News as a former colleague Prof. John Jirik was always keen to stress is a part of the entertainment industry and TV news bulletins are competing with so many easier to digest media offerings, should it have special treatment?

Well there are times when we all switch to news, be it a national disaster or a royal wedding and when we do surely we should have an alternative to what in all honesty is a state broadcaster - I'd like to see a healthy UK based competitive news business to keep the "beeb "on its toes and if this has to be under the auspices of the legendary OFCOM alternative PSB so be it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How far are we from the TV IP tipping point ?

Today I made a flying visit to the Broadcast Video Expo which as the years go by is becoming a more and more worthwhile ticket.

Few things were apparent to me..

* this show is growing and it really does have a lot of seminars.
* there are a lot of people eager to do business..

Which leads me to ponder on thoughts about how TV/broadcast will change when IPTV starts to deliver.
I reckon that there'll be seismic explosions just as soon as there is either a neat STB that allows users to stream media with ease from the web to their main domestic TV device or when Apple and/or Microsoft provide most of what we need on their home platforms in a way that a non geek can drive it.

Timewise my prediction is that this is going to start happening in a major way in less than 5 years in the UK (I expect countries with good broadband will experience sooner or are already getting there).

If you've got a view please let me know!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sky to remain the dominant pay TV player in UK for the foreseeable future?

BskyB have recently unveiled remarkably good figures ahead of the UK going into a full blown recession, arguments that economically challenging times encourage households to concentrate on domestic living (watching TV and enjoying M&S meals at home) may give the company further comfort but in the longer term is there going to be a more competitive for home entertainment?

Sky has recently signed a £1.7bn new deal for UK Soccer and remains strong across the sporting spectrum but competitors are unhappy with the media giant's dominance in Sport and Film rights and OFCOM has already warned over its' "Market Power".

While Sky can be applauded for their efforts to create a UK HD TV market and their interest in a 3D service should earn them further brownie points a 2 way high speed connection to the home will offer yet to be fully envisaged wealth of virtual excitement.

If and when home connection speeds are sufficient to deliver full motion live HD content over cable perhaps BT or Virgin Media (or perhaps it'll be google?) will be able to gather sufficient content to provide a viable alternative then the limits of satellite delivery may become rapidly apparent.

At this time homes will be able to browse across all forms of media and download music, books and movies as well as watch live sport in breathtaking detail. To hasten this new dawn UK competition authorities need to widen the market for media content and ensure that a realistic wholesale market exists.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The metropolitan media elites' views on OFCOM's PSB review

A London RTS session held yesterday (11th Feb.) and chaired by the well respected front man of Radio 4's Feedback Roger Bolton had the distinguished speakers Prof. Steven Barnett (University of Westminster) and Lord McNally (Lib Dem Media expert) one might thought it a good place to start a debate on the OFCOM considerations of the future of 'Public Service Broadcasting in the UK' but in fact the closest the session got to controversy was over the question of if 'Mock the Week' was providing a more illuminating insight into current affairs for the younger generation than the US TV offering The Daily show with John Stewart.

The problem is that the two protagonists are very much part of the establishment and are unable to provide the critical analysis which is so badly needed.

The fact that the printed media is able to produce a diverse and dynamic offering to the public without a single public body dealing with 'market failure' seems to have eluded those comfortable employees of the BBC and C4 who consider minority audiences (and awards) to be so much more important than those hard pressed folks who provide their secure havens. To a certain section of the great and good the electronic media appears to be an industry like no other.

Just as the launch of Sky 20 years ago extended audience choice so will the exciting technological developments around iptv expand the public's horizons.

My personal belief is that in the next 5-10 years such beliefs as those that are currently considered 'truths' by some DCMS mandarins will be challenged, and that ultimately a more democratic and diverse bill of fare will be made available to audiences in the form of a broadcast 'long tail' is close to inevitable.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going with the flow

Stays in cabled or satellite’d hotel rooms tend to alter ones diet of telly viewing – I’ve seen the ‘best of channel’ UK Gold too much of late.

UK Gold has a load of BBC TV comedy shows and watching them as a channel I’m reminded of 3 things:

1) UK TV comedy with some notable exceptions is not terribly good and doesn’t age well

2) BBC programmes are deliberately constructed to not have ‘ natural breaks’ when they’re retro fitted the overall effect is uncomfortable and the fact that a 30 minute comedy then comes out in a commercial schedule as being 40 minutes gives the whole diet an inelegant appearance with a lack of junctions between the other channels

3) Some US shows that seem incredibly (and the incredible is used advisedly) fast paced are put together to overcome the horrendous burden of carrying an excess of commercial messages. US T V has been described as a ‘flow’ and the producers of shows like CSI have put up in a magnificent effort to contest the worst excesses.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Death on the rock..

Gibraltar has one of the oddest airstrips I've seen - you can just about see on the photo' that there's a road that goes through it- traffic is stopped; planes land - but this is not the only odd thing about Gibraltar ..

I'm recently returned from a long w/e on the Rock of Gibraltar and it took me a few days to remember how events on this strangely British territory had shaped the TV we now watch- It's almost 21 years since the assassination of 3 IRA members was undertaken by British security forces.
Following this ITV produced a special programme ' Death on the Rock 'documenting the events - this gave Mrs T a serious attack of the vapours and probably put an end to Thames TV franchise hopes.

What a great magazine wired is...

Another thing that happened on my w/e away was I read (once again) Wired and realised despite it's terribly high UK cover price that it is a super magazine full of great articles and nicely laid out - don't know if it's worth subscribing to but as a bit of a treat once in a while I'd recommend it.

Monday, February 09, 2009

ITN back on the sell off agenda?

Now just a few days ago I was all in favour of an expanded ITN looking after a regional news service in competition to the BBC; now though I'm not so sure.

A Times report today suggests that ITV would be able to live with a News service that was not under control/ownership of the (currently) leading commercial TV service and it could also do something about the supply of a regional TV news service to the third channel.

While I think a real alternative to BBC (or Sky) TV news should be welcomed I have concerns that a TV news service without a strong independent backer could be of limited value -if it did come to pass I'd be far happier if it had some clever constitution that tied it into the BBC competitor PSB that OFCOM is so keen on seeing rather than a straight commercial deal.

ITN's "best" customer currently is C4 and keeping a balanced contract between theC4 and a free market ITN while not simple at the moment could be even more complicated with a for profit organisation.

Not only should ITV be concerned about getting a fair market price in these challenging times but how will the jolly old Daily Mail feel about all this action?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Tree Fellas (and two girls)

Here are the ND students (2008/9) in Gunnersbury Park standing behind a tree they've just planted (I'm the one in the middle)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Please note ITV,Football isn't played by robots!

Poor old ITV - they must be sick as parrots, talk about a game of two halves.

Michael Grade's streak of bad luck continued last night when the only goal of a rather boring FA cup final replay between Everton and Liverpool came during the time ITV's automation system switched to a Tic-Tac advert. Timings did not allow for a goal in injury time!

TV broadcasters over the last 10 years or so have moved to increasingly high levels of automation removing the chance of human errors and reducing the number of highly paid TV technicians, it's all well and good when the material going out is pre-packaged drama and films but actual human activity doesn't always run to the second as was demonstrated last night.

The problem is (as always) more about perception than reality but it makes ITV look like a 1st division performer and not a premier one, they need to keep the football authorities onside to make sure they're taken seriously (as of course SKY is).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Competition commission's kangaroo court acts as spoiler to UK TV's web catch-up player

So the seemingly viewer friendly solution of a single catch-up web TV application for the main UK terrestrial channels has been ruled out by the cc.

It reminds me of the joke about why is there ony one monopolies commission?

How though does it leave boss Rod Henwood (clever old Ashley Highfield managed to get out and secure a premier role at Microsoft after less than 6 months as leader of the project) and his cohorts at Kangaroo HQ?

Surely if the gang can come to some form of words about sharing their code/working with others then this impasse can be negotiated away.

Seems like a shame to throw away the idea that would have reflected so positively on British TV technology.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

An end to regional non-BBC news?

One of the things that now seems to have been accepted is that regional news if not finished on ITV is going to be a far poorer offering.

OFCOM has already accepted that the sub-regions that were championed by a previous regulator are a thing of the past and talk is now of ITV sharing BBC 'footage'.

Is this a good thing is and is local news too expensive to be of benefit to regional commercial TV audiences?

Already the ITV HD via red button carries National Advertising (not the regional stuff) and if ITV could send its local advertising via other means (perhaps download to an intelligent STB for replay at the appropriate time) it could save a whole load of dosh by using less satellite capacity to deliver to freesat/SKY.

Will the new PSB package/solution that OFCOM is talking about provide a local (or at least regional) news programme?

Isn't there a whole that 'citizen journalism' can combine with local news providers (freesheets or paid for local papers) to fill?

Or could ITV news be spun off to look after national and local/regional news?

Monday, February 02, 2009

A nice dusting .. London has Snow!

Just near where I live there's a former church that is now flats here it is in the heaviest snow in 18 years