All 7 entries tagged Media Issues And Debates
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November 21, 2007
UK Broadband Usage Grows Inexorably....Digital Divide... Gridlock....Higher Prices are some of the Possible Outcomes: Can technology ever make us happy?
The BBC technology pages report that:
This is approaching an exponential rise as in Aprill 2003 only 17% of a smaller number of users had a broadband connection. However some members of the industry are worried that this massive rate of growth is set to flatten out dramatically. some even plead a social justice argument to ensure that the development of broadband accessibility will not flag too badly:
"With almost 40% of British households on the wrong side of the digital divide, the social and economic progress of the UK will be stalled unless the great majority of these homes can be brought on to the internet,"
As much as anything this shows how British society has become more and more polarised along class lines despite the New Labour government now in office for over 10 year committing itself to ensuring that there would be full digital citizenship.
Perhaps there is a case for a flat-rate national license fee to be levied just as there is is with the TV license. The fact that the BBC has historically beeen able to deliver a universal service to UK citizens utilising advanced technology shows that it can be done. Of course Gordon Brown's friends in the City might be a little sceptical of this possibility, however where there's a will there's a way. Surely the point of good government is to provide universally accessible infrastructure such as roads so that the rest of the economy can thrive.
Broadband for all at an affordable price. Look what a committment to broadband has done for South Korea - they're all online gaming geeks. OK so maybe Broadband prices should go up after all :-).
In the US they have a more creative use for broadband than the Koreans:
What complexity broadband is leading too...look out for "Bytelock" a word for the future grunged up version of cybersapce.
This worries many that a NetGridlock will ensue so the answer is similar to that of the argumnent about building motorways: create more capacity. Oh well at least the carbon footprint is a bit lower than car gridlock!
Internet services providers, such as Tiscali, say that the raft of recently launched on-demand services will "undoubtedly" congest the network.
Finally Freeview Looks as Though it will Deliver High Defintion TV
A brief article making sure you are aware of likely changes in the British Broadcasting environment.
On the 20th November 2007 the Freeview consortium which includes both the BBC and Sky along with Channel 4 and Five announced that there had now been technological advances which meant that High Definition (HDTV) could be delivered through the current Freeview system without the need for more bandwidth. Previously they had been campaigning for more bandwidth which OFCOM had been unenthusiastic about. As they had denied that it was possible that it would be impossible to do this and that they made the announcement the day before OFCOM was due to announce its future planns for Digital Terrestrial TV some people are likely to be upset reported Ben Fenton in the Financial Times:
The reversal is likely to infuriate Ofcom, which is due to publish its own proposals today for the future of digital terrestrial television - a market that includes Freeview (Fenton FT 21st Nov 2007).
October 29, 2007
Qualifying as a British film & tax relief
One of the puzzling questions for A Level Students is what counts as a British film. It isn't very obvious as the murky world of film financing , tax dodges (sorry breaks) can make very unlikley films "British. Because of this there are several benchmarks that can be applied. Everything below the introduction is taken from the UK Film Council site. Clicking on the links will bring you to the current definitions.
For most normal people rather than international financiers, the so called "cultural test " is the one which we would apply. To pass the cultural test the proposed film must get 16 out of 31 marks. The full table of how to get this can be found by clicking on the appropriate link. This cultural test is largely in accord with the principles of "Cultural Citizenship" which seeks to ensure a diverse set of representations of people within a particular culture at a particular historical moment.
However for the purposes of the exam you will need to be aware of the differing benchmarks and definitions. It is worth pointing out again that the British film industry is much more than British Films. Many people are employed in software or technical positions which are largely dependent upon Hollywood. Thus the British film industry can be doing well when the range of British films produced can be very thin on the ground
Qualifying as a British Film
Qualifying as a British film provides a number of advantages; productions are eligible to apply for UK Film Council funding and for the benefits of the UK’s tax relief structures. Films can qualify as British in one of three ways. They must meet the requirements of one of the following:
- One of the UK’s official bilateral co-production treaties, or
- The European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production
- The Cultural Test (Schedule 1 to the Films Act 1985)
For information on qualifying as a British film via the UK’s official bilateral co-production treaties or the European Convention, click here.
For information on qualifying as a British Film using the Cultural Test, click here.
For information on the UK's system of Tax Relief for British Films, click here.
European Certificate of British Nationality
British qualifying films are eligible for an European Certificate of British Nationality. For information on qualifying for an European Certificate of British Nationality, click here.
July 19, 2007
What Now For the BBC?
Like many users it has come as a shock to me that the BBC has had to admit to such a range of scandals and other shenannigens such as faking phone in results, alongside ridiculous 'errors' such as the trailer of the Queen apparently leaving photographer Annie Liebovitz 'in a huff'. I certainly have a huge respect for the BBC as a media institution and for many decades it has led the World in the concept of public service broadcasting (PSB). It certainly became trendy amongst many media critics to knock the BBC for being elitist, top-down and all the rest of it. Perhaps a case of well meaning left-liberalism being blind to the dangers of rampant commercialism which as Theodor Adorno pointed out realistically many years ago would lead to crass populism in the media. Adorno was of course castigated for being a "pessimist" by naive left-liberals.
Time to support Public Service Broadcasting to the Hilt!
Instead of looking upon this crisis as an excuse to hammer the BBC and ask for "Heads to Roll" along the lines of Daily Telegraph it is time for those serious about quality media to back the BBC and argue for a return to an older system of public service broadcasting which predates the 1990 Broacasting Act. Rather than trying to foist blame on executives in the BBC it is time to lay the blame at the door of the commercialisers.
The 1990 Broadcasting Act, amongst other things, required the BBC to outsource a large per centage of its programming rather than producing everything in house. This was an action to be expected of a Tory government in a move initiated by Mrs Thatcher and followed up by John Major. It was an Act directly attributable to the ideology of neo-liberalism. The editorial of the Financial Times is quite positive about the use of outsourcing however this requires a massive extra input of training to get these outside contributors 'up to speed', it will also require massive extra managerial effort to make these outsiders more accountable. this all amounts to uneccessary time and effort and money to get the BBC back into the state it was in in 1990 in terms of its organisational ethics! Is that really the way to run things? I doubt it!
The use of freelances and independent production companies is now a staple element in the BBC’s output, and rightly so. But this means that the organisation can no longer assume its programme makers have grown up with its values. Now it must communicate its editorial standards explicitly not only to BBC lifers but also to independent suppliers and those on short-term contracts. In addition it must be more rigorous in ensuring they are met.(My emphasis Published: July 19 2007 19:34 | Last updated: July 19 2007 19:34 )
The reality which the Financial Times is hedging around is that the continuous commercial pressure and the drive for ratings is dragging down the BBC to the standards of the lowest common denominator:
Part of the problem is self-inflicted. In pursuing mass audiences to underpin the legitimacy of the licence fee that is the mainstay of the BBC’s funding, the organisation has sometimes lost sight of the need to provide programming and services different from commercial media. This has led it into the territory of premium phone-line contests and wide-ranging digital ambitions that have helped make the Beeb less distinctive. (ibid).
Whilst the pathetic phone-line contest ethos should certainly be criticised and the programmes junked, I'm less comfortable about the comment upon the wide-ranging digital ambitions. It is ironical that the BBC is being used by the government to spearhead the national digital ambitions of turning UK broadcasting into a digital cornucopia by 2012. The government here is clearly wanting to auction off more bandwidth to mobile companies to provide video services such as live Olympics which I assume was part of the bid to win the contest in the first place. No surprises then if Tessa Jowell gets a place on the board of Vodaphone or Virgin Media when she finally leaves office. Of course the Berlusconi empire may beckon given Blair's friendly relationship with him as well.
Under the circumstances it seems natural that the BBC should have wide-ranging digital ambitions, indeed as an aspect of cultural citizenship the BBC should have these ambitions. The problem is that the pusillanimous Blair government watered down the BBC's projects every time some pathetic commercial organisation felt challenged. Look at the furore about limiting the download times for TV programmes for example.
No crocodile tears for failing commercial ventures!
Let's not whinge about failing commercial broadcasters, the market is after all the market. The important issue at stake is that of cultural citizenship and the rights of citizens to have high quality broadcast / narrowcast media programmes. There is little doubt that public service broadcasting is best positioned to deliver this and in the UK this means the BBC. When the market can't compete with high quality public service it cries foul and tries to bring the service down to its own level.
When more equals less
When it comes to commercial broadcasting more seems to equal less if quality is used as a benchmark. Channel Four depending upon wall to wall Big Brother and its 'controversial' bits such as a commercially healthy bit of rascism seems to prove the point effectively. The reality bit about "reality TV" is the comercial reality! The key issue is that there is probably too much media and too little time for consumers to consume it all. The fact that the BBC has such a wide range of archive material, as well as the ability to create excellent new material - look at its world-beating website - means that commercial stations are seriously challenged. The reality seems to be that consumers don't want the pap that they regularly serve up otherwise they wouldn't be so worried. Advertisers are voting with their feet and following consumers to the internet. Lots of consumers like me are using the internet more than traditional media outlets and the BBC has positioned itself very effectively despite complaints from those with little knowledge or vision about emergent media forms.
That the Blair government did nothing to change the situation and that Freeview, which has been a godsend for the BBC and its supporters, emerged out of commercial failure, bears witness to the pusillanimity of New Labour. The fact that Tessa Jowell in the debates around the White Paper of 2006 was discussing subscription services in the next round of Licence Fee negotiations and the possibility of sharing around licence fee monies with other broadcasters is clear evidence of just how in thrall New Labour has been to commercial pressures.
PSB and Cultural Citizenship
Like many others this blog supports the notion of the strongest possible Public Service Broadcasting system. Thank heavens Tessa Jowell has been pushed sideways into managing the Olympics. It gives Gordon brown's government the opportunity to reshape Cultural and Media policy in the interests of British citizens and by extension World Citizens. As leading theorists such as David Held have proposed a key way forward for the globalising world is the development of world citizenship. This blog argues that cultural citizenship is an important component of this concept. The principle of public service broadcasting for all global citizens is an aspiration which can and should be furthered by the BBC. Historically the BBC is something Britain can be justifiably proud of. Look at the case of Alan Johnson for example who is an outstanding example of the BBC's finest. Imagine the deep embarrassement of people like this who could be tarred with the brush of the commercialism coming through the back door. The fact that so many journalists from Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world stood up for him bears witness to just how valuable an asset the BBC is in the fight for genuine global citizenship.
When you are with one side from the conflict, you have got to put to them the very best arguments of the other side - the toughest questions
Alan Johnston's comments which seem to sumon up the BBC ethic of the highest quality journalism.
No organisation is above criticism but the crisis today is not of its making, it is an inevitable product of the crass commercialism which has been espoused by neo-liberalism of all shades from Thatcher to Blair. Let us be clear on that and start to think about how to have a BBC free from both commercial pressures and a licence fee Sword of Damocles continuously over its head. Government can not always be trusted any more than any other institution. The task today is arguably not so much of the BBC having to sort itself out as the Government being rather more committed to principled public service broadcasting than it has been for the last 17 years. The fact that people such as Alan Johnson exist is evidence that there is still a deeply held ethos, but this will become ever more eroded unless the debate is reopened at a deeper level.
July 01, 2007
Contemporary British Broadcasting: Public Service Broadcasting
Please note still under construction
There is still some more legislation to include however the webliography is very useful.
The question of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) is an especially important one in the Media Issues and Debates Unit of the OCR A Level Media specification. The fact that the BBC has been under a cloud in July 2007 because of vaarious breaches of trust around issues such as falsifying phone-ins has lead to demands for high level resignations which accompany a sense of shock that an institution with such a high quality pedigree could have slipped so far to have allowed these infringements to happen. I have given a frank opinion on this matter elsewhere on the blog. Here though it is important to establish what the roots of PSB are and why it might still matter today.
The BBC Brief
The BBC for many decades has developed a formula which has gained consensus from the highest instution in the land namely Parliament. The purpose of the BBC historically has been to provide entertainment, information and education. There have been many criticism of the way this formula was applied particularly in the earlier decades of the BBC when the content seemed to be more in favour of education and information with entertainment coming behind in the hierarchy. The entertainment that was priviledged was often considered to be more on the 'elitist' side of culture. This stemmed from the notion that public service meant bringing in the best work which had been achieved by the greatest artists, writerws thinkers etc and ensuring that these ideas became known to a wider public. This has been described as a 'top-down' approach to culture. A more 'democratic' and 'bottom up' approach was promoted by many of the BBC's critics especially from the 1960s onwards when there was a flowering of popular culture and a loosening of the class system with a corresponding desire for a more meritocratic society.
Brief History of the British Broadcasting Scene /Key Legislation
With the development of the broadcasting infrastucture ITV was introduced. The first ITV broadcast was in September 1955 in the London region. Famously the popular Radio soap Opera The Archers tried to keep audiences away from ITV by killing off a key character Grace Archer. ITV still had a public service broadcasting remit. It was required to entertain, educate and infrom just like the BBC however the balance and style was different and appealed to wider audiences.
BBC 2 was launched in April 1964. This allowed the main BBC channel now renamed BBC1 to provide a different mix of lighter entertainment with a more popular appeal. BBC2 could have more adventurous programming without being so beholden to the ratings issue as Wikipedia points out.
BBC Two is the second major terrestrial television channel of the BBC. It was the second British television station to be launched by the BBC and Europe's first television channel to broadcast regularly in colour, from 1967, envisaged as a home for less mainstream and more ambitious programming.
The beginnings of the breakdown of the BBC / ITV duopoly came from Channel 4 which was started under the insistence of Mrs Thatcher in an attempt to develop more choice for consumers and to challenge the dominance of the BBC.
Channel 4 is a public-service British television station, broadcast to all areas of the United Kingdom Republic of Ireland), which began transmissions in 1982. Though entirely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned: Originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by the Channel Four Television Corporation, a public body established in 1990 for this purpose and which came into operation in 1993, following the abolition of the IBA.
The next big development in Broadcasting was made possible by the 1990 Braodcasting Act. Originally the initiative came from the Thatcher government however after she was removed from office the baton passed to John Major. A summary of the act is available from Screenonline an extract is given below:
The Broadcasting Act 1990 required the British Broadcasting Corporation, all Channel 3 Licensees, the Channel 4 Television Corporation, S4C (the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority) and the future Channel 5 Licensee to procure but not less than 25% of total amount of time allocated by those services to broadcasting "qualifying programming" is allocated to the broadcasting of arrangement adversity of "independent productions". The expressions "qualifying programming" and "independent productions" defined in the Broadcasting (Independent Productions) Order 1991.
As can be seen from the above passage existing TV companies were required to source at least a quarter of their programming from outside companies. This was particularly to effect the BBC as prior to this it produced all its material in-house with exception of films. Whilst this opened the door to commercial companies this didn't entirely revolutionise British Broadcasting. This came about under the 1996 Broadcasting Act which as Screenonline notes below:
The Broadcasting Act 1996 made provision for digital terrestrial television broadcasting and contains provisions relating to the award of multiplex licences. It also provided for the introduction of radio multiplex services and regulated digital terrestrial sound broadcasting.
The next big thing in terms of legislation was the 2003 Communications Act:
The Communications Act 2003 dissolves the Independent Television Commission, Broadcasting Standards Commission, Radio Authority, Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL) and the Radiocommunications Agency, and replaces these with a new body, the Office of Communications (OFCOM). OFCOM is charged with the regulation of the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services, and with furthering the interests of citizens and consumers in relation to communications matters. The Act also liberalises UK media ownership rules and allows for the formation of a single ITV company, subject to existing competition in merger regulations.
Ofcom on Public Service Broadcasting and the News
News is regarded by viewers as the most important of all the PSB genres, and television remains by far the most used source of news for UK citizens. The role of news and information as part of the democratic process is long established, and its status is specifically underpinned in the Communications Act 2003. (Ofcom Report)
Ofcom discussion of the changes within TV in the digital era
What do all of these digital developments mean for the relative health of the
main terrestrial TV channels, and indeed for public service broadcasting itself?
Overall, there appear to be two main conclusions: first, public service broadcasting
has to be considered in the context of a complex, fragmented multichannel digital
world, not a simple five channel analogue one. In this digital world, BSkyB
has established a powerful competitive position. The growth in the number of
channels and the competition between the different digital platforms has brought
substantial new revenues into the television sector: for instance, BSkyB's
subscription revenues now exceed the total amount raised by the BBC licence
fee. The established main terrestrial channels have had to learn to share the
broadcasting space with an aggressive, successful new entrant. (My emphasis: Ofcom Report )
Webliography for Public Service Broadcasting
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)
Ofcom ( Office of Communications) Review of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB)
2002 Speech by Caroline Thompson the Director of Public Policy for the BBC on the future of PSB
A useful academically based page summarising the position of some leading British academics such as Graham Murdock: http://www.cultsock.ndirect.co.uk/MUHome/cshtml/media/peacock.html
The NUJ response to the Ofcom review of PWSB
Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS): Broadcasting
Speech by Tessa Jowell Jan 2007 on the renewal of the BBC Licence fee until 2012 / 13
Guardian Report on Second Ofcom review of Public Service Broadcasting
April 21, 2007
Digital Radio Mondiale: Testing in Devon
Digital Radio mondiale is digital radio for Medium wave listeners.
The first test of this is going ahead in Devon reports the BBC Press Office
This test will start on the 23rd April 2007.
Below the Morphy Richards DRM receiver. Currently this appears to be the only equipment capable of receiving the signal. Lack of receivers could stymie the initiative but the BBC a giving 100 testers a receiver to do the test with. Which is just as well really because as they say on their 'questions answered' page :
There are a number manufacturers in the UK who are planning to produce digital medium-wave capable radios, although none is yet ready to buy in the shops. As they are not yet readily available, we're not able to say how much a digital medium-wave radio will cost.
Whilst nobody seems to be selling the Morphy richards here at present although there is apparently a 'grey market' there is a USB alternative which can link to your laptop or PC. so if you live in Devon this could be a good opportunity. The USB Radio comes from WinRadio. At $600 they will be moving off the shelves fast I'm sure.
What is DRM?
DRM. (Meaning 2) DRM or Digital Radio Mondiale is the world's only, open standard digital radio system for short-wave, AM/medium-wave and long-wave. It has been endorsed by the ITU, IEC and ETSI. DRM is the only universal, open standard digital AM radio system with near-FM quality sound available to markets worldwide. Unlike digital systems that require a new frequency allocation, DRM uses existing AM broadcast frequency bands. The DRM signal is designed to fit in with the existing AM broadcast band plan. Below a Morphy richards DRM Radio.
By comparison with new DAB systems the current technology can be cheaply adapted to transmit digitally on these frequencies. Reputedly the sound quality is very good indeed.
The DRM system uses existing AM broadcast frequencies to deliver near-FM quality digital sound.
It uses compression to squeeze clear digital sound into the narrow radio channels that currently carry crackly analogue signals.
The DRM technology has the potential to make digital radio available in places that Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio or even FM will probably never reach. (BBC Story)
BBC Your Questions answered page on DRM in response to the Devon test. This gives a good range of detail.
Recent Guardian story on Organgrinder's Blog here.
Putting British Digital Radio Broadcasting in Persepctive
Below press releases from Radioscape a digital radio developer
Why is the UK leading in DAB?
There are three things that need to come together for DAB to be successful.
- First, the broadcast infrastructure has to be in place to reach the majority of the population.
- Second, receivers need to be available at consumer price points - sub £100 was the breakthrough price for the UK.
- Third, there has to be different and compelling content.
In many countries, DAB just duplicated existing radio stations so there was no compelling reason to buy a DAB receiver. However, in the UK the BBC pioneered the launch of several completely new DAB radio stations that makes it worthwhile for people to buy a new radio and provides momentum and a critical mass of potential listeners to support the launch of commercial DAB radio stations. As a result, there are hundreds of DAB stations across the UK - more than the number of FM stations.
What is DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) and does it compete with DAB?
DRM is the only global standard for the digitising of broadcasting in the AM (SW, MW and LW) frequency bands. Able to cover great distances and provide near “FM quality” audio using much lower transmission power and smaller amounts of spectrum, DRM is currently being widely adopted around the world to provide new and higher quality broadcasts for both national and international audiences. Over 20 Broadcasters are already broadcasting using DRM across the globe and include the BBC (World Service), Deutsche Welle, RTL Group, Radio Netherlands, and TDF. More information can be found at www.drm.org
DAB is ideal for short range broadcasts of a few dozen miles or kilometers so that a network of transmitters is required to cover a country. By contrast, one DRM transmitter can cover an entire continent and even go from one continent to another. Thus DAB is best suited to areas of high population density with DRM being able to cover these and areas of low population density. DAB is able to provide an enhanced user experience by being able to carry additional data such as EPG (Electronic Programme Guides), information related to the current programme and even video. DRM, however, can only carry a small amount of data.
The future for DAB and DRM is not as rivals but as complementary technologies. At IFA 2005, RadioScape was the first company in the world to show a multi-standard consumer receiver that could receiver DRM, DAB, MW, LW, SW and FM. This fully integrated solution enables the listener to select what he or she wants to listen to from a display of available radio stations and the receiver works out which technology to use. This is the content-driven future for Digital Radio, where the technology to deliver it is transparent to the user.
April 19, 2007
The Changing Nature of TV in an "On Demand" Era
What you want, when you want it, where you want it!
This round up of new technologies from the BBC website gives you an overview of how digital imaging technologies are developing and will change the nature of TV quite fundamentally. Below this piece shows the planned implementation of the UK switchover to digital. There is a BBC case study of how several families now percieve the schedules of TV in the era of media PCs and personal video recorders linked to high speed broadband.
The Great Digital Switchover
The most important change ever in British Broadcasting will start to take place in 2008. This process will set in place the communications infrastructure that will probably make the UK the country with themost comprehensive fully digital broadcasting infrasturcture in the World. Hopefully it will still ensure that underlying these dramatic changes the ethos of public service broadcasting is maintained against the onslaught of total commercialisation. Below is a map of the planned process. Presumably it is something more than a coincidence that the system is due to be finished in Olympics year.
The digital switchover from analogue starts next year (2008) and is due to be completed in 2012 (just in time for the Olympics!)
Family Case Studies
Family 1: The One TV Household
We could get a digital video recorder, and maybe we will. I'd rather do that than have a fragmented family where we don't see each other because we're all watching different programmes in different rooms.
Family 2: Owning a Media PC
Now, we hardly ever watch live TV - when we do it's either the news or sporting events.
Family 3: Owning a PVR (Personal Video Recorder)
The coming technology is even better. Currently, a PVR can only record what a channel transmits.
Broadband will change the broadcasters' role. Producers will put their catalogues online, on a pay-per-download basis, allowing intelligent broadband-connected PVRs all over the planet to browse and directly source material that matches our tastes.
Changing Content Provision for New Technological Vehicles: Ricky Gervais on his internet work. This includes a video link to Gervais
Whitehaven: Reactions from Residents about being first fully digital town in the country
The Guardian had their reporter on the spot in October when the BBC 2 analogue service was switched off here are some of the comments:
Andrew Davies, who runs a guest house in the Cumbrian coastal town, said the process of becoming the first place in Britain to have its analogue TV signal switched off had been ill-thought-out and expensive.
It cost Mr Davies - who runs the eight-bedroom Glenfield guest house with his wife Margaret - around £1,000 to convert his business to digital. Initial estimates had put the cost as high as £5,000.
"We did not want or need digital TV," said Mr Davies. "It is a financial burden that has been put upon us without any consultation whatsoever.
"I am very cynical about why they chose to do this first in Whitehaven. Perhaps they thought we were a small town with a poor infrastructure who would not make a big fuss if it went wrong. If it was Kingston-upon-Thames there would have been riots on the streets."