BBC iPlayer (Summary 3)

29 02 2008

This is a summary of this article, written 26/2/2008.

ITV’s online video service was launched in August 2007.  It reached its peak popularity in November.  Since then, it has experienced a decline of about 200,000 views.  Naturally, ITV chiefs are worried, especially since only 40% of views (about 1m) are full-length programmes.

Compare that to the BBC iPlayer, which had 11m programmes streamed or downloaded this January.

However, Internet research firm comScore assessed all ITV websites, including xfactor.tv, itvlocal.com and citv.co.uk and found that a much more promising total of 8.1m videos had been streamed from those sites.  That’s still less than in November, and still less than the BBC iPlayer, but it’s more than 4oD.  In addition, the number of users streaming videos from ITV websites has actually increased since November.

The BBC’s success with the iPlayer may in part be down to the marketing campaign they launched, featuring big names like Jeremy Clarkson and David Attenborough.  The fact that the BBC’s website was already popular before the iPlayer got launched is probably also a factor.  The BBC iPlayer also has a significantly bigger budget than ITV’s video player.

Ian Maude, of the research firm Enders, said that the BBC iPlayer is “off to a good start”, but that other broadcasters are “struggling to get traction”.  He also pointed out that the ITV video player is very good – yet very few people seem to be using it, for some reason.

Maude also said that YouTube is still the most popular video site, suggesting that Internet users prefer short clips to full-length television shows.





BSkyB, Virgin Media, ITV and the Competition Commission (Summary 2)

28 02 2008

The second summary is of this article, published 27/02/2008.

Virgin Media surprised everyone by appealing against the Competition Comission’s decision to merely reduce BSkyB’s shareholding in ITV instead of making them give up their entire stake.  This is particularly odd since they claim that they don’t want to buy ITV anymore, and that they aren’t acting out of revenge either.  Naturally, plenty of people are suspicious of the notion that Virgin Media are acting on principle, but nobody can see what Virgin Media are getting from the case otherwise, so their motives are unclear.  For now, all people can do is accept that Virgin’s intentions are indeed honourable.

This case is likely to be costly for all concerned, and could have significant impact on media ownership.

The case raises the issue of plurality.  Virgin argue that BSkyB’s shareholding is a threat to media diversity.  John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise, disagrees on the grounds that ITV themselves don’t have much control over their news broadcasts, which are supplied by ITN and are, after all, subject to the same regulations as every other TV news source.

Virgin also argue that even a 7.49% stake would still allow BSkyB too much control over ITV’s output.  ITV, however, don’t seem to want to make a fuss about this, which makes Virgin’s behaviour seem extremely odd, although Michael Grade did point out that Murdoch would probably not be happy if ITV were to suddenly acquire what amounts to nearly a fifth of BSkyB.  He has a point; after all, Murdoch was not at all happy when John Malone’s Liberty Media bought up 19% of News Corporation.

It has also been claimed that the Commission built their decision upon “implausible hypotheses”, but then the Commission did have to imagine what might happen in the future.

The Commission intends to defend its decision “vigorously”, but the airing of its arguments is sure to benefit the media and the public.





TV switchover (Summary 1)

28 02 2008

This is the first of three summaries set as homework by Adam.  I’m going to do my best.

First up is this article, dated 27/02/2008.

MPs warn that there could be £250 million left over from the digital switchover.  The money (£603 million) is funded by the BBC using the licence fee to help over 75 year olds and people on disability allowance with the switchover.  However, they have to play a £40 fee unless they recieve pension credit or income support, which may explain why so many people are declining the offers of help.

According to a report by the National Audit Office, almost a third of the population don’t realise that they will need digital equipment to watch TV in 2012.  Nearly half the population are still buying analogue TVs, and nearly 60% don’t realise that they won’t be able to record one channel on a video or DVD recorder whilst watching another.  Ethnic minorities and non-English speakers have particularly low awareness of the switchover.  Despite all this the report’s tone was mainly positive.

Of course, it was unlikely to have been positive enough to be any comfort to the hundreds of BBC employees that got sacked following the government’s reduction of the licence fee.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that the decision of what to do with the remaining money will be made towards the end of the switchover, but Lib Dem Culture, Media and Sport spokesman Don Foster wants them to “either invest the leftover money back into public sector broadcasting or return it to the licence fee payer”.  Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt worried about all that still needed doing, and basically demanded that the government get their act together.

 Apart from that, everything’s going as planned.  The digital switchover will be ready in 2012.





I’m back

26 02 2008

..and better than ever.

So, this is my first blog post since I got back from the Costa del Sol.  I would have written one earlier, but I’ve been very busy, what with homework and taking up A2 Early Modern History again.  Plus the amount of TV catching up I’ve had to do since I got back.

I thought you might be interested in hearing what I got up to over the holidays.  And, if you’re not, tough luck; I’m going to write this anyway.

We set off on the Saturday, thus depriving me of the penultimate episode of Primeval (but I set a video, so that was OK) and my last chance to see Cloverfield at the local cinema (I’ll probably catch it on DVD).  We set off really early (about 3:10 am), and drove to the airport.  Before we even got there I found myself wishing I’d remembered to bring some music; I was missing Oasis and Pulp, for some reason, despite having not listened to either of them once in the previous week.  It was the late afternoon by the time we actually reached Spain.  The first thing we noticed was that it was really cloudy and gloomy (well, it is February).  The second thing we noticed was that it was so warm anyway that this didn’t actually matter.

One thing that was kind of cool is that, in the Spanish time zone, my watch is only 5 minutes behind, as opposed to 55 minutes early like it is in England.  Yeah, I know, I ought to set it properly, but it’s really confusing and I’ve lost the instructions. o_o;

Nothing much happened in the first half of the week.  Sunday was mostly spent indoors, contemplating (but not actually writing) my English essay.  The weather was pretty bad, with some quite heavy rain.  There’s no escaping it, is there?  Monday was pretty much the same.

During that time my brother and I watched some random TV.  As one might expect, most of the channels were in Spanish, although we did find a channel that showed Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Scrubs dubbed into German (not very well – the words didn’t fit the mouth movements).  We also eventually managed to find an English language channel which was showing Stormbreaker, a movie I was curious about, having loved the books as a kid.  Sadly, although largely true in spirit to the books (possibly because Anthony Horowitz wrote the screenplay himself), it had a totally unnecessary added fantasy element to it which I found annoying (a pen that controls people?  Why not just threaten Mr. Grin with a gun, like in the book?).  I was also very much irritated by the inclusion of a character named Sabina Pleasure (who bore very little resemblance to the character with that name who was introduced in the third book, Skeleton Key), especially since Sabina’s willingness to believe that Alex is a spy will make adapting Eagle Strike impossible without changing fundamental parts of the plot – although I don’t expect the film was successful enough to make three sequels feasible.

Wait a minute… why am I ranting?  What was this post supposed to be about?  Ah yes, my holiday.  Forgive poor Bobby G; sometimes I have the fury.  Anyway, one good thing about that film was that its soundtrack did at least include Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.”, which was comfortingly familiar.

On Tuesday I realised it was time to face up to the fact that I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do about the essay.  I managed to find a computer with Internet access, although it was slow and expensive, and read a few interviews with Margaret Atwood in order to find out what she had in mind when she wrote Oryx and Crake.  I also caught up with Gunnerkrigg Court, checked my emails, and fully intended to listen to some familiar music, but had to settle for “Canon Rock”, since I totally blanked on how to get music, and there was only time for one track.

That afternoon we went out for a walk in the sun.  We took the camera, and took a couple of photos, but it turned out to be very low on power, and we didn’t have any means to charge it.  That evening we went to see a show called Show Stoppers.  It consisted of various songs from musicals, including Fiddler on the Roof, Evita, Matador, The Lion King, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, Porgy and Bess, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Sound of Music, Chicago, Cabaret, Oklahoma!, Calamity JaneGuys and Dolls, Les Misérables and probably more that I’ve forgotten.  It was actually a very good performance, well acted as well as well sung.

On Wednesday we went out to el Torcal de Antequera, which is quite a good region for walking in, with some impressive landscapes; sadly, it rained again, and we all got very muddy!

On Thursday, the weather was sunny, and we went to Sevilla.  Unfortunately, we made the mistake of assuming that the cathedral and the palace would close for a siesta and reopen in the afternoon.  Wrong.  They close early in the afternoon and don’t reopen until the following day.  Whoops.  So that was a disappointment.  We then had a tour of the city in a horse-drawn carriage, which was cool, and we got to see all the monuments, from the outside at least.  Sevilla has some awesome architecture.

Friday was another rainy day.  We had booked a Jeep safari, but of course the rain covers had to be down.  Our guide was a tall, cheery bloke with a London accent.  Somewhere along the route, the safari turned into a kind of nature trail, because every now and then the guide would get out and pick us various fruits and herbs.  These included oranges, lemons, carob, aloe vera, sage, rosemary, thyme (but no parsley), lavender, olive branches for the women and girls, pepper, grapefruits, tangerines, and a number of other things I’ve forgotten the names of.  The roads were very bumpy – I’m sure they were roads, but they were plainly not intended for cars – and I was feeling rather sick by the time we reached our last stop.  This was kind of unfortunate, since this last stop was for lunch!  The trip was great, because we got to see all the non-touristy villages and countryside; it was like seeing the real Spain, as opposed to the theme park version tourists normally see.

And then we came back on Saturday, almost missed the plane but didn’t, got back to the car and found someone had pinched our left front indicator light, and returned home to watch the recording of Primeval, in time for the spectacular season finale (if you’ve never seen Primeval I recommend checking it out.  The first series wasn’t really anything special, but the second has been family TV of the highest quality.  Well, apart from Doctor Who).

Then I realised how much work I still needed to do for my English essay, which occupied the rest of my weekend.

 So yeah.  Media studies relevant posts will return soon, I promise!





Half term holidays

15 02 2008

It’s half term, and tomorrow morning we’re heading off to the Costa Del Sol for a week, during which I’m unlikely to be able to access a computer, so there won’t be any more updates for a while.

Well OK, technically it’s not half term but the end of a term, since they recently changed the way the year is organised, but it comes to the same thing: a week off school.

I’m hoping to see some Spanish culture, and enjoy the sunshine (please let it be sunny!).  Of course, it won’t all be fun and games; I’ve got an English essay to write, to be handed in first day back.  I’ll also probably go into CD player, webcomic and piano withdrawal, and I don’t know what I’m going to do about the two episodes of Primeval I’ll be missing.  Yes, I know, this is a really exciting holiday, so I shouldn’t worry about trivial things!  *Shakes head in dismay at own nerdiness.*

In the meantime, I feel I should leave you with some media-studies relevant material.  Here are the Wikipedia articles on Public Service Broadcasting and PSB in the UK.  The latter provides an answer to Adam’s homework question of whether digital channels are required to provide some PSB – apparently not, since Wikipedia specifically says that it’s terrestrial channels.  Of course, that’s only in the UK, so other countries might require digital channels to provide PSB.

In the news, the BBC report that net firms are rejecting the government’s suggestions that they monitor Internet use to reduce piracy, both on legal and technical grounds.  All stations monitor how much is downloaded, but the 2002 E-Commerce Regulations define ISPs as “mere conduits”, which means they aren’t responsible for what is downloaded; on the contrary, there may be laws preventing them from being so.  The confusion continues, and the war on piracy rages on.

 Current listening: Iron Maiden, “Aces High”.





“St. Valentine’s Day Card” – by BobbyG

14 02 2008

I wanted to do a special post for Valentine’s Day, but unfortunately I’m not really a Valentine’s Day person, so I didn’t know what to put.  Then I had this brainwave, inspired somewhat by Will Rhodes‘ recent brave venture into the world of creative writing blog posts.  These are the lyrics to a song that I wrote a little while ago.  I haven’t put any of my creative writing on this blog before now, but this seemed appropriate to the season, so I thought I’d share it with you.

St Valentine’s Day Card

I am such a useless teenage
Waste of my precious time
Trying fruitlessly to pretend
That I’m not a waste of space
But I watch you pathetically when
You’re chatting with your friends
Trying to convince myself that
I’m not being really creepy

I don’t want to follow you
And I don’t want to talk to you
It would be cool if we were friends
But you’re too cool to really like me

I think that you’re wonderful
I’ll even dare say beautiful
I’m ashamed of laughing at you
Like a gormless primary schoolboy
Some days I sit near you
Admiring your homework and I
Adore everything about you
I’m just terrified to admit

I don’t want to kiss you
And I can’t imagine you naked
And you’ve probably got a boyfriend
Who could kick the stuffing out of me
I guess I’d like to hold your hand
But I don’t have the guts to hug you
So I’m writing you this card
Just to let you know I love you

by Bobby G

 

Copyright Bobby G, 2008.

I hope you liked it.  It has a tune, but that exists only in my head, since I find scoring music tedious.  Oh, and sorry if it was a little depressing.  All my songs seem to end up that way!  o_o;





The Searchers

13 02 2008

Yesterday, I finally got around to watching The Searchers.  It’s a classic Western that frequently ranks highly in “best film ever” charts.

The Searchers contains many of the elements you expect from a classic Western.  OK, so there’s no showdown, but you can’t have everything rip off High Noon, or all films would start to look rather similar.  Everything else is present and correct (or politically incorrect, as the case may be, but it is a ’50s classic, and it’s set in the 1860s) – lone hero, post-civil war backdrop, “Indians”, guns, horses, desert, a revenge motive, you name it.

The plot is a familiar one (spoilers for early parts of the film follow).  A group of Comanche raid a farmhouse, killing the occupants, burning the building to the ground, and kidnapping a young girl, Debbie.  Debbie’s uncle Ethan (John Wayne) and her adoptive brother Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) join forces to rescue her and revenge themselves upon their family’s murderers.

What is interesting about this film is the way in which it handles race issues.  Ethan, on face the hero, is initially somewhat hostile towards Martin because Martin is one eighth native American, and is shown to hold the Comanche in contempt, doing all he can to diminish their number.  Martin, by contrast, is a much more traditional hero in terms of morals.  He is determined to rescue his sister from the Comanche known as “Scar”, and concerned that Ethan’s hatred of all things native American will cause him to put Debbie’s life in danger.

OK, so the Comanche are still vilified, but it’s not clear that Ethan is in the right either, although he does get a moment of redemption, and remains a sympathetic character.  In this way, he’s something of a deconstruction of the classic Western hero.

Visually, the film has aged well, although the fight scenes may look a bit silly to viewers raised on Star Wars lightsaber-duelling, The Matrix and Jackie Chan movies.  There is some hilariously hammy acting from Ken Curtis as Charlie McCorry, but whether intentionally or not, the result is funny enough to avoid getting on one’s nerves (much).

For me, the film’s key strengths lay in its portrayal of families, and in the epic scale of the adventure.  This is a film which will provoke emotions.*  You really do get drawn in by the drama, which is what makes it such a good film.  If you haven’t seen it before, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

I already think I understand the popularity of Westerns.  Sooner or later, I’ll be watching revisionist Western Unforgiven (fingers crossed, anyway), and I’ll be able to write a comparison and see what elements are universal to both films.  Of course, that’ll be after half-term.

*If watched in the ideal environment, which is perhaps not a media studies class.

 Current listening: Deep Purple, “Super Trouper”.