All 52 entries tagged BBC

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January 13, 2009

BBC–ITV marriage is probably a good thing

It’s looking more likely that the BBC and ITV are going to merge some of their regional TV news operations.

In a year or two, it’s more than possible that your local BBC and ITV bulletins will come from the same building, using many of the same pictures and one or two of the same staff.

I think this is probably the only way the duopoly of regional television news can be saved.

ITV is trying to shed some of its responsibility for producing public service television. I feel that’s partly because they’ve got a good point that in a country with 700 television channels, the iPlayer and the internet, ITV can’t maintain the level of service they had in the 1970s. But I think it’s also because they’re trying to be a bit cheeky and squeeze more profit out of what remains a privileged position.

This deal, if it goes ahead, could well prop up the status quo, and might even improve bulletins. There should be more pictures to go around. More small-scale events will find a cameraman is available, and you’re more likely to be featured twice on the telly, rather than once.

But some staff – particularly, I would guess – cameramen, will probably go as a result of this.

That’s more bad news for journalism – an industry that’s shrinking faster than Northern Rock’s share price did last year.

But the deal to share resources will give us two competing bulletins until 2016 at least. That’s good news – and should give us better news.

P.S. The technical aspects of this are hilarious. I’d imagine a merger of their operations will only work if they’re using the same systems. ITV use something called iNews. The BBC use something called ENPS. Both are completely different, and I’m not sure they can share things very easily while using two. In the short term, this deal could be more expensive than it looks.

P.P.S. The deal will be a bigger culture shock for the BBC than for ITV staff, I reckon. The number of press conferences that the BBC still sends three teams to is mind-boggling.


January 02, 2009

The future of news… BYOB

Time for a gaze into my crystal ball.

I think I’ve seen the future of television news… and it’s called BYOB.

Nothing to do with beer, though. It’s my acronym for Build Your Own Bulletin.

The more TV news bulletins I watch, the more frustrated I get. There’s next to never any technology news, increasingly little foreign affairs and too much speculative ‘cure for cancer’ health news.

TV news is also frustrating because I’ve got a fair idea how expensive it is to produce. The number of people sat in a room behind Huw Edwards or Fiona Bruce would beggar belief. Running a 24-hour news channel is a mammoth undertaking. BBC News 24 costs somewhere between £40-50m per year, Sky News a little less.

So, what’s the alternative?

Rather than a linear, 24-hour operation with 30-minute showcase ‘bulletins’ at regular intervals, the televisual equivalent of RSS feeds. Seamlessly stitched together in a Flash video (like BBC iPlayer), a series of news reports, pre-recorded two-ways and interviews selected according to your tastes. You choose the type of story you’re interested in (UK, Politics, Health, Sport) and rank them according to importance. Then a broadcaster (let’s call it the BBC) makes stories for each of those categories, and ranks them according to their editorial importance. Some sort of algorithm works out how to order your news bulletin, and with the help of some recorded studio links for each piece, a 5, 15 or 30 minute news bulletin is delivered to your computer screen or TV. The unfussy could just choose a generic ‘top stories’ bulletin.

The best bit of all of this is the cheap method of distribution means there’s more money to go out and do journalism. Lengthy news packages might come back into fashion, and consumers would have far greater choice. Imagine a world where every Premiership football game has its own TV preview, every major speech in Parliament gets the analysis it deserves and every important judicial decision is explained in full.

My idea would have seemed a bit implausible a couple of years ago. But things have changed. IPTV (internet protocol television) is a reality, and works. It’s like YouTube on your telly, and it’s not sci-fi. I’ve got it at home and it’s great. It’ll be popular within a year, and widespread within five.

So after 75 years, linear TV channels could become a thing of the past. But surely the news channel, with its enormous costs, small audiences and one-size-fits-all model to news, should be the first to go.


December 08, 2008

Top Top Gear

Hats off to the producers of last night’s Top Gear. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in ages.

Jeremy Clarkson did a proper review of the Ford Fiesta. It answered questions like:

  • Can I afford it?
  • Will it break down?
  • Is it economical?
  • Is it easy to park?
  • What if I go to the shopping centre and get chased by baddies in a Corvette?
  • What if I need to launch a beach assault with the Royal Marines?

You know, useful stuff.

Cue one of the best Top Gear films of all time. Clarkson roared around the inside of Festival Place in Basingstoke, knocking stuff all over the place. Being a bit of a dive, the mess was actually an improvement.

Watch it here (48mins in)


December 03, 2008

Strangling the Kangaroo

First the BBC’s local video service. Now Project Kangaroo has been throttled by the powers-that-be.

You might not have heard of Kangaroo (its working title), but it’s basically a British iTunes for video, that was put together by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. It would work online (like the iPlayer) and eventually through TV set-top-boxes.

Some of the programmes would be paid for by ad breaks, others would be pay-per-episode (like iTunes).

But the Competition Competition, in its infinite wisdom, has said it would restrict competition in the VoD (video-on-demand) market.

As the five-year-old child in BBC sitcom Outnumbered said last week: “Beeping, beeping, beeping, beeping, beeping, beeping, bollocks.”

Is there something with this country about throttling innovation?

I’ve got the Microsoft-powered BT Vision which is pretty good, but has some flaws that Kangaroo would rectify. For instance, there isn’t the option to watch something free, but with adverts. I’d rather do that than pay my £14 a month subscription.

And surely the presence of services like BT Vision, Tiscali TV and the Sky Player all suggest competition is already healthy? What’s more, in the case of BT Vision, the Beeb, ITV and Channel 4 are all putting their shows on there, with no indication they’ll disappear when/if Kangaroo launches.

I guess Kangaroo’s problem is that it’s too close to the BBC, ITV and C4. If an independent had made it, and licenced programmes from the broadcasters, there wouldn’t be a problem. But we’re only a small country. There aren’t the billions of dollars available to make your own iTunes unless you’re established, and in all likelihood, a broadcaster.

BBC iPlayer took aeons to happen because of competition worries and the anti-innovation mindset at the BBC Trust. It’s still not as brilliant as it could be because of arbitrary limits placed on what it’s allowed to offer.

The likely delay, or perhaps cancellation of Kangaroo, is a massive shame and says something about this country today. Skippy probably wouldn’t mind pushing the Competition Commission down a mine-shaft. And I wouldn’t blame him.

P.S. As if proof were needed that Britain’s losing its innovators, the Project Kangaroo boss, Ashley Highfield, recently left… for Microsoft.


November 26, 2008

What the f**k?

Check out tonight’s Inside Out England on BBC iPlayer later.

How many people must have watched the programme through before broadcast without noticing the ‘f’ word, clear as day, five minutes in?

Lesson One: If sampling Fatboy Slim songs, don’t use this one. (They used the first five seconds of it.)


November 15, 2008

Pudsey's crying on the inside

Children in Need: Great cause. Appalling television.

It really is cringeworthy. It has the feeling of a show that hasn’t budged an inch in twenty years. From dancing newsreaders (I feel sick just remembering it) to D-list soap stars singing worse than Daniel off of the X Factor, it’s a constant stream of bilge.

One of the better segments – Childrens’ Masterchef – was so rushed you didn’t have time to remember who was cooking what or even who the contestants were. But of course there was time afterwards for Terry Wogan (please put him out of his misery) to patronise the children and the two judges.

The Strictly Come Dancing segment was twenty minutes of ‘so what?’ and the only real highlight – Doctor Who was over so quickly you missed it when you blinked. Merlin was unspeakably bad.

I’m not a cold-hearted old sod – the actual charity bits inbetween were as moving as ever and were far more likely to get people to pick up the phone than celebrities defecating all over their careers.

Next year, can we not have some real entertainment? Does it even need to be a studio show? And for goodness sake scrap the local segments – I don’t think anyone cares what nonsense is going on in the ‘local’ (i.e. thirty miles away) shopping centre.


November 06, 2008

John Bolton: Diplomat

I quite like Rajesh Mirchandani – he’s got a brighter future than David Dimbleby after Tuesday night anyway – so I found this rather upsetting.

Remember John Bolton was the United States representative at the UN. This is diplomacy for you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiPuqvO6qT8


October 29, 2008

Swearing on TV

What exactly is the problem with Sachsgate – the abusive message left on Andrew Sachs’ answerphone, or the use of the ‘F’ word on a public service radio station?

If it’s the latter, then there’s a big debate to be had.

Swearing on TV (and actually not radio, so much) has exploded over the past few years.

The Brand/Ross affair went out at night on a radio station listened to almost exclusively by adults.

On the other hand, Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food programme was jam-packed with f-words, c-words and other verbal vomit.

For a programme that’s trying to appeal to as many people as possible – families especially – how is that a good idea?

I think the 9pm watershed should be scrapped – swearing, offensive behaviour, sex, drugs and alcohol should be shown or not shown depending on who the audience really is, not just when the programme’s shown.

Ministry of Food was the sort of programme that should have been played in schools – with the kind of language that Channel 4 left in, it never will be.

==

Listening to BBC Radio 5 Live, it’s interesting how people who support Brand and Ross are flooding out of the woodwork now they’ve been suspended. I’m on their side, I have to say.


October 28, 2008

Should Brand and Ross be sacked?

No.

Well, sort of no.

Brand and RossThe ill-advised broadcast of rude messages left on Andrew Sachs’ answer machine was the fault of the programme’s producers, not its presenters.

The faceless people will probably get the boot.

But Sachs-gate is about more than all of that really.

The whole story has become a media circus (the lead story on yesterday’s PM for goodness sake) because no-one’s sure why these two presenters are on Radio 2 in the first place.

If Chris Moyles had done this on Radio 1, it would have been shrugged off and forgotten about within a day or two, with no real suggestion of sackings.

But Radio 2 is supposed to be the more mature sibling. This incident just proved that the pair are in the wrong place – any non-Daily Mail reader who heard the show would have found it to be pretty entertaining, despite the occasionally offensive content (which was actually no worse than a typical episode of Have I Got News For You).

They shouldn’t be sacked – they should be given a pay cut and put somewhere else.

They’re too old for Radio 1 (which already has an ‘age’ problem – it attracts too many parents), so maybe they should become the main attractions on the already edgy 6Music?


October 29, 2007

Electric Proms

I’m loving the BBC’s Electric Proms. I was half-tempted to get a ticket to something when I heard the line-up, but I just had to make do with the red button and broadband.

I’m watching “Kaiser Chiefs via David Arnold” on my laptop at the moment. I think they mean ”...with David Arnold”, but never mind. It’s still the biggest new British rock band and the composer of the James Bond films.

Needless to say, it sounds like Kaiser Chiefs mixed with a Bond film, and it’s all the better for it.

Bloc Party ”...via the Wessex Singers” wasn’t quite such a success. Some of the singers were desperately clinging to their ear-pieces, and the poor tuning suggested they couldn’t really hear what was going on.

Mark Ronson was really good, with a really great version of Back to Black.

I’ve also just discovered the BBC’s iPlayer. When I say ‘discovered’, what I mean is, I finally got it working after fiddling with my laptop’s DRM controls. If it takes me an hour to fix, I dread to think how many casual users are going to give up before getting that far.

Once it’s working, it’s alright. Very quick and great video quality. But having to switch to Internet Explorer is doing my head in, and the Library keeps going bananas. I hope they fix these glitches before promoting it. Compared with the simplicity of YouTube, it’s a joke.

But it’s weird… the BBC clearly have the online rights to the Electric Proms gigs. I mean, I’m watching it now. Yet it’s not on the iPlayer – you have to open an Electric Proms player. The iPlayer only has the BBC Two edited highlights, which isn’t much.

It all adds up to some unjoined-up thinking.

Someone’s still stuck in a linear, channel-based world, where if it’s not on one of the terrestrial networks, it doesn’t exist.

Hopefully they’ll rectify this by the time it comes out of Beta around Christmas. Especially if the content’s half as good as the Proms.


September 24, 2007

Top–slicing

If, as the Guardian reports today, the BBC wants to produce 10% less content, does that mean a rebranding exercise for BBC News 21.6?


July 04, 2007

Relief

I have to say I’ve never been so relieved to change a poxy bit of HTML.

After 114 days, I can drop the ‘Free Alan Johnston’ banner I had on my blog. I suspect I wasn’t the only journalist who pumped my fists with relief this morning.

It sounds like the experience was pretty traumatic, as you’d expect. I hope he gets some rest and is back on our screens when he’s ready for it.


Am I bovvered, Doctor?

My initial reaction seemed to be from another TV comedy… “Are you havin’ a laugh?”

Catherine Tate’s bringing back her character Donna to be the full-time companion to Doctor Who. She was in the last Christmas special, and put in a performance that many people found slightly, well… annoying.

She screeched through most of it, and her character seemed to have been ripped straight out of her sketch show.

But having thought it over for a few hours, I’ve changed my mind. I think this could be genius casting.

Quite frankly, people were getting fed up with the Doctor/Companion having a bit of a romantic quandary, as witnessed with both Billie Piper and Freema Agyeman. Having an older character – who we know already doesn’t fancy the protagonist – will let the relationship be a bit more productive.

And, despite the vitriol you’ll read on the internet, Tate is actually a classically trained actress with some pretty serious roles behind her.

Russell T Davies, head honcho of Doctor Who, suggested in the past that Catherine Tate’s Donna was too annoying to be a permanent fixture in the series. I suspect this means he’s planning to tone her down.

So I’ll reserve judgement until the new series starts. But unless the character’s made a bit less ‘screechy’, viewers won’t be bovvered for much longer.


July 01, 2007

Concert for Diana… what a shambles!

I didn’t intend to watch today’s Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium, but my Mum and sister had it on, so I ended up catching bits of it.

Eventually it became unmissable.

Technically, this was the biggest shambles I think I’ve ever seen on British television. Constant sound dips (played out on various radio stations as well), massive delays, embarrassing performances from the likes of P Diddy, and a completely rubbish climax.

Many of the faults seemed to be the BBC’s fault – especially the sound dips. Claudia Winkleman and Jamie Theakston seemed to be on a different planet to the rest of the production: they’d simultaneously announce different bands were about to play, and sometimes both got it wrong.

Let’s hope they get it right for next week’s Live Earth, also at Wembley, or their reputation for live events will be shot to pieces.


June 28, 2007

Ode to Tony

I’ve seen bits of BBC Two’s Culture Show before, and despite the nonsense sometimes uttered by Lauren Laverne, it’s seemed pretty good. I mean, it’s got Mark Kermode on it, what the hell else do you want?

But this surely deserves a bigger audience than the couple of million viewers that usually watch the show.

Written by John Oliver – who’s now working on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in the U.S. – and Andy Saltzman, performed by Rory Bremner, and with the animation of the 2DTV team, this is British satire at its very best.


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