All 37 entries tagged BBC

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June 27, 2007

Not the best day to launch an exciting new product.

BBC iPlayer That, there on the right, is possibly the most highly anticipated bit of technology this year. Screw the iPhone. That, there, is the BBC iPlayer, and it’s going online a month today. It’s about to make every VCR completely redundant.

It looks like the ad slogan will be “Make the unmissable unmissable”, which is pretty good.

Shame they picked today to announce the date though.


May 13, 2007

Crazy Mother Hubbards

Scientologists… I know berating someone’s “beliefs” isn’t very politically correct, but what a bunch of nutters!

This Monday’s Panorama looks like being a bit of a humdinger, as John Sweeney confronts the people who believe the teachings of an American sci-fi writer. Only Tom Cruise… you might think.

The best bit about Scientology is that it’s only open to the wealthy. And if you hand over enough cash, you get told the baffling stories of Ron L. Hubbard secrets of the cult religion:

Xenu is introduced as an alien ruler of the “Galactic Confederacy” who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living. The alien souls continue to do this today, causing a variety of physical ill-effects in modern-day humans.

It’s like Toy Story, albeit scarier.

The documentary’s already causing controversy, after the reporter John Sweeney lost his cool – to put it mildly – while interviewing a Scientologist. The situation wasn’t helped because the Scientologists were filming everything the BBC were filming – standard procedure for arguing against common sense.

Of course you can watch the Scientologists’ version or the BBC’s version. I know which I believe.

Panorama’s on BBC One, Monday at 8.30pm.


May 11, 2007

Worth sharing

In my last blog entry, I pondered whether Britain really is the best nation in the world. But then I saw this, and remembered: “Who cares? We’ve got the best sarcasm in the UNIVERSE!!! And that’s all that really matters.”


April 11, 2007

Strangled at Birth?

Are you an insomniac, unemployed sports fan? Good! Because there’s a new TV show that seems to be just for you!

BBC News has for months been working on a sports news show, now called Inside Sport. It’s probably going to be a little bit like a UK-focused Trans World Sport, and it sounds great.

Except the schedulers have stuck it precisely where no-one’s going to watch it: Monday, 11pm.

Probably the least exciting night of the week when it comes to sport, and after the weekend newspapers have come out with their beefy sports sections. Not to mention it’s ludicrously late for a weeknight. What’s wrong with 10.35pm, straight after the news? Or at 10pm on BBC Two?

There’ll be a daytime repeat, but that’s six days later, on Sunday morning. When, er… people are still in bed. You’d think they don’t want anyone to watch it.

P.S. Irony note: Mihir Bose left his Telegraph column to become BBC Sports Editor. His column’s name? ‘Inside Sports’.


March 30, 2007

Listen up viewer – we don't care about you

Two bits of news out this morning, both of which suggest the TV viewer is low down the list of priorities when it comes to deciding what to put on the box.

Firstly, the FA look set to award the rights to the FA Cup and England home games to ITV and Setanta. This despite the fact that the BBC’s coverage has been credited with making the Cup exciting again after several years of rubbish. Would ITV have to show the lower-league cup ties that the Beeb have loyally provided over the past few years? And if they’re paying so much more (£400m+) will they have any money left to make the coverage half-decent? The deal leaves the BBC with no live football outside of the Euro 2008 and the next World Cup, which with their range of talent must be pretty annoying. Gabby Logan – who moved from ITV recently – must be kicking herself.

Secondly, the BBC are mulling plans to show EastEnders five nights a week. I don’t think they understand why people have stopped watching the show over the years (it used to get around 16m people regularly, now it gets about half that). People stopped watching because it’s too big a commitment. Ask viewers what they really want and they’d probably ask for fewer episodes of higher quality. Even the show’s producers are against it, but the Beeb want to squeeze some more milk from the ratings cow. Laughably they’re undertaking a “feasibility test to assess the impact on the production schedule”, but don’t appear to be researching what the viewer actually wants.

Media 2, Viewer 0.


March 10, 2007

Tinkering with the television

I’ve just joined a new Facebook group. It’s called ‘I Hate BBC Wales’. True, this is the organisation that brings you Doctor Who, and for that we should be grateful. Their news isn’t too bad either, even if it suffers from the tedious banter associated with all local news programmes.

But what winds me up – and considering the existence of a Facebook group, it seems to annoy others too – is the constant tinkering with the schedules on BBC Television. You sit down to watch Top Gear on a Sunday evening and they’ve replaced it with the Welsh Open snooker. Even though there’s no-one Welsh in it and eight million people watch Top Gear (presumably some of them in Wales). You try and watch the first round of University Challenge, but you can’t because in their infinite wisdom, BBC Wales have decided not to broadcast it. Are the questions too hard for Welsh people or something? I think not.

Then there’s the sport. Whenever there’s an FA Cup match on a Saturday evening, BBC Wales ignores the pre-match build-up and cuts across (mid-sentence) to what people in England are watching seconds before kick-off. For anyone wanting to know anything about the game, it’s useless.

By far the worst example of this spectrum abuse is the torrent of programmes about ‘Welshness’. Instead of University Challenge you get a biography of a Welsh bloke you’ve never heard of, in which you learn how Welsh he is. Or perhaps, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a programme in which Huw Edwards goes to London and … wait for it … tells you how Welsh it is! I kid you not, this last show was stretched over a whole series.

This would be fine if it was occasional. But with the exception of the snooker, I can’t think of a programme that BBC Wales has crammed in the schedule that wasn’t a documentary about Welshness. It seems the place is run by Plaid Cymru!

Imagine the uproar if BBC Two featured nightly programmes about the exceptionalism of the English!


March 02, 2007

Breaking: Injunction slapped on BBC over Cash–For–Honours story

Breaking NewsFrom BBC News Online:

The Attorney General has obtained an injunction against the BBC to stop it broadcasting an item about the cash for honours investigation. The injunction was obtained on Friday night at a hearing which lasted around two hours at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The Attorney General was successful in obtaining an injunction against the BBC. The BBC said its reporting of the story is a matter of public interest. (Link)

It hardly needs to be said the Attorney General is not exactly an unbiased observer to proceedings in the Cash for Honours investigation.

Interestingly, the BBC accompany this story with a picture of Ruth Turner, the head of Government Relations who has been arrested in relation to the Cash for Honours saga.

It sounds like something big could be brewing.

Edit (22:20): I’m convinced the story’s to do with Ruth Turner. The photo’s disappeared.

Edit (22:38): Benedict White suggests the banned report was about a leaked e-mail concerning Lord Levy.

Edit (06/03/07): So it was about Ruth Turner then. You read it here first.


February 17, 2007

Bad TV

I’m watching a BBC News report on 0870 numbers and how much they cost. It’s awful.

Check out this bit: “But at over seven pence per minute they can be a very expensive way of complaining… They can be expensive. More than a national rate call. And the longer you’re kept on the call, the more you’re spending.”

Erm, no kidding.

The report then goes down a strange route, meeting a vicar “who spends much of his time flying to Eastern Europe to help children who’ve been abused…”

He spends lots of money booking flights on British Airways. This is bad. But it seems so much worse because the bastards are taking money from a man who’s helping abused kids! It’s very odd, especially as the report admits the BBC is just as bad as BA in using these phone numbers.

The report has a few other clangers in it. Like introducing an interview clip by using the same words as the interviewee. They must think no-one’s watching cos it’s the weekend.


February 07, 2007

Professionalism and Jack Bauer

So the sports correspondent, Garry Richardson, is reading the sport on BBC Radio 4. He’s still on the top story – the cricket umpire Daryll Hair’s accusations of racial discrimination by the ICC – when his phone goes off..

Probably not the first time.

But not only does he have the CTU ringtone used by Jack Bauer, he answered it live on air to see if it was Daryll Hair.

Of course it wasn’t.

Brilliant. As my sports-geek friend Paddy said, it doesn’t do much for the reputation of sports journalists. But then it can’t get much lower, can it?


January 31, 2007

BBC iPlayer a step closer

The BBC iPlayer might revolutionise television. It’s potentially bigger than Digital TV. And it’s coming. Because today the BBC’s Trust approved the software.

You’ll be able to watch all of the BBC’s programmes online, live. And then you’ll be able to download them to your computer for 30 days. You can set series links and keep hold of series like Doctor Who and watch them all at once.

They’ve made a few changes, some good and some bad. You won’t be able to download some classical music, or keep hold of certain radio plays. But it will have to be content neutral (initially it was Microsoft-only). This is great, but might delay the product launch. It’s already looking like late-2007, early-2008.

It’s what broadband was made for, and I can’t wait.


January 25, 2007

Huw says political 'argy bargy' is a gigantic switchoff

I’ve just met Professor1 Huw Edwards (right). Lovely man. But he’s worried.

The audience is changing. We need to know what the audience thinks and why they may or may not be watching.

Because while big news stories like the Suffolk Murders get big ratings (the same audience as big stories got in the 1980s), there’s been a large general decline in TV News watching.

Huw Edwards, speaking at Cardiff Journalism School, 25th January 2007Since 2001 there’s been a drop of 16% in the number of 16-34 year olds watching BBC News bulletins. It’s been worse on other channels and no, they haven’t all been going online.

By 2012, if current trends continue, only around two-thirds of the UK will see any BBC News. It’s currently over 80% each week.

Huw’s worried because the licence fee – which pays his wages – depends on the BBC being seen by as many people who pay for it as possible. If they stop watching, people will wonder what they’re paying for.

Another worry – for politicians, and for me as a budding political journalist – is that the public are fed up with what Huw called “political argy-bargy”. It’s a “gigantic switchoff”. And yet that’s what political reporting seems to have become. Because we care about ‘human interest’ stories. So Gordon Brown’s home life is more interesting than his five economic tests. And yet we hate seeing stories about him and Blair having a tussle. Hmm…

Audiences are fickle. And so Huw’s message was that if you watch the news and think “Why are they doing that!?”, then the answer is that it’s because – often – that’s how you want it. Their very expensive research says so.

Listen to some of what Huw had to say (1m10):

1 Professor? Yup, that’s right. He was in Cardiff to give his inaugural lecture as a Professor in the Journalism School.


January 05, 2007

Mears and Snow

I spent last night glued to BBC Two, which at last provided a night of TV worth watching (a rare event recently).

First up was Ray Mears’ Wild Food, in which the cameraman seemed to be having the time of his life. The Australian outback provided incredible scenery and the Aborigines who Ray was meeting filled their stage with ease.

There was a lot of deviation from the show’s purpose – i.e. food – but I didn’t care too much. It was the most beautifully shot programme since Planet Earth.

Dan and Peter SnowNext was a one-off featuring Peter Snow, his son Dan, and some shiny graphics that follow the former around like a loyal dog. It was ninety minutes of pure, unadulterated economics, wrapped up in the cotton wool of individual stories about how Britain’s changing economy is affecting the country. The Times said the graphics resembled something leftover from Torchwood, but I reckon it made the show so accessible that it ought to be shown to every secondary school pupil as part of careers advice.

And then there was Newsnight, which was a mixed bag. The report on healthcare in Sierra Leone was fascinating, but the story on food labelling looked like a boxing match where the two opponents had no interest in making any punches.

Thank god there’s an alternative to Z-List Big Brother.


December 08, 2006

Equal pay for newsreaders?

From today’s Independent:

Female correspondents working on the BBC’s flagship television news bulletins earn £6,500 less than their male counterparts on average, according to figures released under the corporation’s freedom of information scheme…according to an answer to the Freedom of Information Act question, the average female news correspondent working for the One, Six and Ten o’clock news broadcasts is paid £59,050 – compared to £65,625 for a male correspondent.

But… it doesn’t mention that the Beeb’s main news anchor (Huw Edwards) is a man. As well as the 10 O’Clock News, he also presents an hour of BBC News 24 every day. So his wages alone probably push up the average a fair bit. Fiona Bruce is his female equivalent. She typically presents the news three days a week, which with a young family could be through choice.

So does this mean unequal pay? Yes. But is this evidence of a ‘glass ceiling’ for female journalists? I’m not so sure.

There are big problems about equal pay in Britain. But any attempts to end them aren’t being helped when organisations jump on dodgy statistics and don’t reveal the whole picture behind them. Sometimes you can’t compare like with like, as much as they’d like to try.


December 06, 2006

How dare Michael Grade offend the proletariat journalists like John Simpson?

John SimpsonJohn Simpson has criticised Michael Grade’s defection to ITV, saying he saw the BBC as “just another organisation” rather than as a principle or ideal:

We tend to be freer and more creative than other outfits, but that’s not why we endure the low pay and the infuriating bureaucracy and the sometimes ludicrously difficult conditions…

Now hold the phone a second…

that’s not why we endure the low pay…

Er… how much is John Simpson paid and could it possibly be described as “low”?


December 02, 2006

Radio 1's Live Lounge on Tour

I’m often critical of BBC Radio 1’s output. At times it’s lazy, a bit dumbed-down even for its target audience and its weekend schedule is still rubbish.

But credit where credit’s due. This week Jo Whiley’s been travelling around the country with her Live Lounge while hosting other gigs in the evenings.

The Live Lounge is essentially a cupboard in the bowels of Radio 1 where bands go and play on Jo’s show. But this week she’s been going to the bands’ houses and hosting the gig in their house. It started on Lily Allen’s house boat (which made a long journey down the M6 go quicker) and ended with Noel Gallagher playing in a competition winner’s house.

Live Lounge CDBest of all, they’ve filmed the mini-gigs and put them online. Also in there were the Kooks, Lostprophets and the Ordinary Boys.

It’s a shame Radio 1 doesn’t do more of this sort of thing. The phenomenal success of a Live Lounge compilation CD should show just how popular live music is. Again, their recent gigs as part of the Electric Proms were brilliant, especially Kasabian at the Camden Roundhouse.

Now if they could just get rid of Vernon Kay…


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