All 8 entries tagged Channel 4

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January 27, 2009

Pluck off, Tesco.

Not everything about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “Chicken Out” campaign is perfect.

Getting people to pay more for the same amount of food is a tough ask, especially in a recession.

And he’s only ever persuaded the ‘working class’ to swap to better quality chickens by showing them the inside of a chicken shed.

But last night’s one-off update on his campaign made me pretty angry at my own supermarket-of-choice, Tesco.

Anyone who watched the original series will know they were less than helpful in providing an on-screen interview.

Last night, he finally got one, but it was with Tesco PR woman Darshini David. A former BBC business presenter, she came across abysmally. I suspect her job is mostly to be Tesco’s TV ‘face’, and if last night was anything to go on, she’s rubbish at it.

She claimed Tesco are ‘leading the way’ on chicken welfare.

No, they clearly are not. Sainsbury’s, the Co-op and Waitrose are light-years ahead of them, and it’s clear for anyone to see.

Why won’t Tesco admit on its packaging that chickens are grown indoors (instead of using subtle, yet blatant, marketing speak to imply otherwise)? Darshini: “We don’t want to patronise them”.

Is the nutritional information section patronising? No.

Is it patronising to give us a choice between ‘Free Range Eggs’ and ‘Barn Eggs’? Apparently not.

Is Darshini David patronising? You betcha.

The point Hugh F-W should have made in the interview (but sadly didn’t) is that many people are only aware of Britain’s chicken welfare standards because they’ve seen his show or read newspaper articles related to it.

Unfortunately that’s a very small majority of the British population. Only 2.5 million people watched last night’s show. I would imagine more than half of last night’s viewers were middle-class people who probably read The Guardian or The Independent.

So what of the other 57.5m people in the UK? Tesco doesn’t want to patronise them, but they don’t mind if they’re in complete ignorance either.

I’m seriously tempted to shop elsewhere having seen last night’s arrogant and disgraceful performance.

December 11, 2008

How many TV execs does it take to waste £945m?

Reading Andy Duncan’s (the boss of Channel 4) reaction to the BBC’s post-Media Apocalypse plans, you kind of have to respect the guy’s nerve.

[Their proposals are] overdue recognition from the BBC that it should be using its privileged position to help support the broader public service ecology.

Andy Duncan, you see, seems to view Channel 4 not as a commercial broadcaster, owned by the nation, but as a charity.

How the company makes £945m in revenue each year and only manages to generate a profit of £1.6m* is beyond me. Is it being run like a 1960s cannabis-filled temple of peace and love, or a business?

Its public service obligations aren’t an enormous burden – a few hours on just one of its four channels. So how are they managing to drag the whole company down to the point where it’s only just breaking even?

One possible solution being bandied around is to give them BBC Worldwide. It, in stark contrast to C4, makes £916m in revenue each year, of which £112m is profit.

Based on Channel 4’s financial performance to date, it would be a bit like letting Zippy, George and Bungle take over Google.

*Yes, I know they’re a publicly-owned company and so don’t make profit in the traditional sense, but the figure suggests they’re only just about scraping by.

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.

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.

September 03, 2006

ITV: Buggered

No, it’s not the name of a new primetime reality TV show hosted by Ant ‘n’ Dec. It’s the state of Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster.

Advertising revenues (and many would argue the quality of programming) have been sliding downwards for at least a decade and the financial state of the company is a little risky.

Their solution has been to “diversify”, developing more channels. These include the originally-named ITV2, 3 and 4, ITV Play, CITV and (until recently) the ITV News Channel. They also own Men&Motors – which is essentially the same thing as ITV4.

ITV channels

Entering into the “multichannel world” is supposed to mitigate against the sliding audience figures on the main channel. But it’s not going to work, and here’s why.

Let’s compare ITV with Channel 4 (a comparison that’s been made a lot recently by ITV themselves). Channel 4 also have a multichannel strategy, encompassing E4, More4, Film4 and the truly brilliant (!) Quiz Call.

The key to those channels’ success is that the digital channels branch out from an existing theme on Channel 4. So you can easily spot the roots of each digital channel on Channel 4 (T4/Big Brother = E4; Dispatches/Channel 4 News = More4; Films = Film4; Deal or No Deal/Countdown = Quiz Call).

Channel 4 digital channels

The reason it works (and the reason their digital channels do well) is that they can cross-promote the digital channels after a very similar programme has broadcast on Channel 4.

The reason ITV’s buggered is that it can’t.

Take CITV for instance. You might not have noticed, but since we were kids, the amount of kids’ TV on ITV1 has gone through the floor. There’s typically about 30-60mins a day now, and they’re proposing to scrap it entirely. So there’s no way of cross-promoting the CITV channel to kids. Because they won’t be watching.

Similarly, ITV4 shows intelligent drama (apparently), much of it American. But where is that sort of programming on ITV1? They can’t cross-promote it after Neighbours From Hell XXVI because the people watching that won’t give a toss about the sort of shows ITV4 does.

The saddest thing about ITV is its news, or lack thereof. Their lunchtime bulletin is being cut in half, and their late bulletin seems to get later by the week. The ITV News Channel was scrapped just as it was becoming watchable, meaning at the end of the news bulletin on ITV1 the only thing they can promote is either Corrie (which they seem to do often!) or the fairly pisspoor ITV News website.

The company’s in a mess because it’s trying to be all things to all people, but is managing to be increasingly little to everyone. The potential is there on channels like ITV3 and ITV4, but those channels won’t thrive unless audiences think there’s anything with “ITV” at the front of it that’s worth watching.

ITV might be right in saying that Channel 4 can be a bit tacky (Charlotte Church? Her own show? Brilliant idea!), but they should be more worried about their own future.

July 06, 2006

Deal or No Deal – The Backlash Begins…

You might be in the same situation as me. You watched Deal or No Deal (DOND) when it began and gradually watched it less and less as exams came around. You might also have watched a few shows since Uni finished. Well, are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Deal or No Deal, has in my opinion, tanked. It's over its peak and now it's just becoming daft. Just as Noel's dress sense has steadily declined as the show has gone on (seriously, it has!), the programme itself is becoming increasingly stale and is turning to more random characters to play the game, hoping that they will carry it through.

Today was a fine example. The programme became less about the money and more about the weird guy sat behind the box. He was walking all over Noel, and you didn't know if you were watching a game show, reality TV, an advert for "cosmic ordering" or just a plain farce.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire hit a similar plateau, where the format became tired from being shown night after night after night. We should have seen it coming, but DOND has definately hit the same problem. We all know what the banker's going to do before he does it, we all know how the ups and downs feel, and we all know that at the end of the programme we're going to come away from it thoroughly unsatisfied, much like going to McDonalds, eating everything in the restaurant and then feeling hungry ten minutes later.

I hope Channel 4 have a backup plan because if they're really relying on DOND to carry on giving them good ratings for the next 12–18 months, they're going to be disappointed. It's not Countdown, there's no brain exercise for the elderly and the students. It's just cheap, unfulfilling entertainment and I predict people are going to get bored of it very soon.

The backlash has begun.


As an aside, has anyone heard the rumour that (I think came from Noel), which goes that they're not televising it when people win £250k because they know the audience would stop watching then. Apparently it's been won three or four times, the money's been paid out to the winner, but then they've not broadcast it. If true, I wonder how many of the audience would stop watching as a result?

June 11, 2006

And in better news…

Another great task on Big Brother – getting the housemates/participants/idiots to stand on small podiums.

That's it.

They don't know it, but the person who stays on for longest gets immunity from eviction. But I can help thinking that alternative 'tasks' might make for better television.

  1. Strap all the remaining housemates to a particular device used for killing. We're talking electric chairs, hanging, lethal injection, death by water torture. Housemates have to come to a consensus over which housemate should suffer their impending fate, based on how much they hate each other and who's got the most painful method of extermination.

  2. Starvation. Whichever housemate is first to be eaten by the others wins the series. Have to hope they kept them alive and just ate a finger though.

  3. Toilet bowls contain acid, not water. Don't tell them.

  4. Walls of house move inwards, eventually trapping them in a smaller and smaller space. Only way to avoid certain death is promising never to release a fitness video.

As you can see, there is a certain amount of pain involved in some of these tasks. But they would 1) be justified 2) dissuade people from applying to go in the house 3) make great telly

January 09, 2006

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

Afraid of whom?

Of American evangelicals, that's who.

Having just watched the first in a series of programmes by Professor Richard Dawkins about religion (called The Root of All Evil?), I've yet again been scared by the extreme views that some people hold. Dawkins' examined Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and was amazed at some people's completely blind faith in views which are thousands of years old and often completely at odds with modern society and scientific evidence.

Even scarier than the divide between Israel and Palestine, was the arrogance of an American evangelist, who claimed that evolution thought "miracles such as the eye and the ear…were just 'accidents'" (which is patently untrue). Amusingly, Dawkins said his sermon was something Goebbels would have been proud of. Worryingly, the reverend didn't seem to get Dawkins' full meaning.

Dawkins' programme was illuminating and altogether scary. Throughout, I found myself agreeing with his arguments. But I thought his approach was problematic. While criticising the fundamentalists of arrogance, Dawkins sometimes skipped a few steps of his methodology, meaning he defended science 'for science's sake'. This itself smacked of arrogance (albeit enlightened arrogance!), and some of the balls he threw were too easy to hit back.

The programme seemed to be addressing atheists rather than believers, which seems somewhat futile. Also, he failed to address some philosophical conclusions. For instance, he said the world could not continue with such completely-opposed religions, for it would fall apart. But he failed to show how this could be avoided. Maybe he will do this next week.

Next week, Dawkins will tackle the issue of children who are brought up with fundamental beliefs, an issue that is maybe even more worrying. Because if the 'myth' of religion is being perpetuated through breeding, then the cycle of endless conflicts between people with utterly opposed views will endure.

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