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Stephen Fry on the iPlayer and the digital arms race

Stephen Fry on the iPlayer and the digital arms race

By any stretch of the imagination, Stephen Fry is one of the very few people who totally understands and gets the digital revolution ™, and also has the eyes and ears of most of the population. More importantly, people like him and he is inherently likeable.

So it’s interesting that in a recent speech on the future of the BBC, he apparently declared that:
– the BBC should not be ghettoized
– he regularly breaks the digital lock on the BBC’s iPlayer
– the very existence of the iPlayer is making a lot of enemies for the BBC

It would be very interesting to find out whether he thinks the iPlayer lock should be beefed up (thus perpetuating the digital arms race), or whether he (as a rights provider of some considerable length) would be prepared to let his content loose online. Or whether it should be shut down entirely.

Am I to blame for Ashley Highfield's departure? ;)

Am I to blame for Ashley Highfield's departure? ;)

The first and last time I bumped into Ashley Highfield (former head new media honcho at the BBC), it was early on a Wednesday morning and I was a wee bit hungover.

So when I meandered over to my designated table for a day of brainstorming, I was a little astonished to find Ashley Highfield sitting there, prodding around with some digital device or whatever. I said Hello, and mentioned that I indirectly worked for him at BBC Wales as a content producer. He grunted, said Hello, and then made his excuses and left.

Fast-forward about half a decade, and I’m back at the BBC, in the heart of the Media Village. I don’t work indirectly for Highfield at all any more, but he must have seen me lurking around the corridors of power, because less than two weeks later, his resignation has been announced…

If you’d like other fascinating stories about how I indirectly caused Kurt Cobain’s suicide and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s death, please ask. 😉

(This is a very tongue-in-cheek post, brought to you in a desperate attempt to see if opportunistic blogging will raise viewing figures. Just, y’know, to see…)

Do the BBC understand how online polls work?

Do the BBC understand how online polls work?

In the current broo-hah surrounding the BBC and “faked” competitions and votes, apparently Richard Marston (the former Blue Peter editor) was sacked because he was advised that the poll to name the Blue Peter cat had been rigged by outside voting, and therefore decided to choose the top result before the online rigging started.

If this is true, then this is frankly amazing. Online votes of all levels have been deliberately rigged by outside parties since the dawn of the Internet, from naming a cat to voting in a UK political election. Surely if you had evidence that a vote had been rigged, you’d take steps to counteract that rigging, and deal with the result – or make it clear that the vote will only influence the decision, not decide it outright.

If this is what happened with Mr. Marston and he’s been sacked as a result of taking a proactive effort to restore balance, that’s positively wrong.

But it’s oh-so-British, isn’t it? To flog yourself silly and beg for forgiveness from a public who either don’t care or are just laughing in the street.

What Has the BBC Ever Given Us?

What Has the BBC Ever Given Us?

For those of us who thought the BBC’s mammoth selfmarketing campaigns were one of the symptions of modern marketing excess, a trawl on the Internet has turned up this John Cleese-presented advertisment on What Has the BBC Ever Given Us?. And it being the BBC, Spitting Image have the right of rebuttal

Hark back to a golden age when the licence fee was only £55, alternative comedy was cool enough to be mentioned on mainstream television (albeit from the toilet) – and more importantly, pubs weren’t decked out in steel chrome.

For all us TV archivists, can you tell me what year this was from? Bob Geldof witters on about Live Aid, so it’s certainly post 1985…

A right Royal cock-up

A right Royal cock-up

On a day when the BBC is rightfully whipping itself over pretending the Queen was throwing a tantrum at the prospect of sitting for a photographer, perhaps it’s a good day to remind ourselves of the numerous gaffes Prince Phillip has made in the name of promoting the British abroad, and at home.

I particularly like the one just after the 1988 Lockerbie plane crash, when 250+ died in a plane inferno, and Prince Phillip sympathised, saying: “People usually say that after a fire it’s water damage that’s the worst. We’re still trying to dry out Windsor Castle.”

Getting back to the BBC debacle, surely you’d expect the head of BBC One at least to read his speech before reading it out to a bunch of assembled media journalists. Surely the phrase “Annie Leibovitz gets it slightly wrong and the Queen walks out in a huff” should ring at least a couple of alarm bells – you are, after all, working for the BBC, not Channel Five or Babestation. Or does no-one read what they say before they say it any more?

A new look for the BBC…

A new look for the BBC…

So I was at the cinema with Miss R seeing You, Me and Dupree – and as part of the trailer/advert mix was a cinematic advert for the new series of Robin Hood *1 from the BBC. And I sat there thinking what a great advert it was – just a shame about the butt-ugly BBC ONE logo prominent on the bottom-left of this huge screen.

So the news that the BBC ONE logo and idents are getting redesigned is quite a welcome one from my perspective. Plus, (going into typography geek mode) the new font certainly looks much friendlier and less authoritative than the previous one, which smacked of “THIS IS THE BBC. YOU WILL BOW TO US”.

Mind you, I’m not sure about the ident itself. Like the Channel 4 idents, they’re very clever visually – but it doesn’t actually remind you that you’re watching a TV channel. It feels more like a cool and glitzy advert for a washing machine. Then again, I never liked the BBC One dancing idents either, and much preferred the balloon ones. They were fantabulous.

The Young Ones … shouldn't be afwaid…

The Young Ones … shouldn't be afwaid…

Ahhh The Young Ones. That “classic” British TV sitcom about four young students which inspired me to create one of my first websites and FAQ back in 1994. 12 years ago. *gulp*

That website got me to where I am today. Lying in the gutter looking at the Star Bar and dreaming of a time when I was namechecked by Microsoft, Yahoo, Future Publishing and it got my foot in the door at the BBC. Amazing how I still, to this day, get the odd £10/US$50 voucher for sending people to amazon to buy the videos. It probably made more money than most of my dotcom employers in the late 90s.

The Young Ones was the Trojan Horse that allowed alternative comedy to sneak into British television sitcom land, and television comedy was never the same again. Indeed, one can argue that The Young Ones started the process by which traditional sitcoms have now apparently been killed off.

Ironic really, that when you watch The Young Ones again 22 years (!) on, it’s *so* horribly dated in a way that even older sitcoms (eg Fawlty Towers) just hasn’t.

Anyway, that short quick trip down memory lane was just an excuse to link to these video clips – one from the show itself:

An advert for the Young Ones computer game from the mid-80s. The graphics are amazing, the voiceover is an astoundingly bad impersonation of “Vyvyan” – and I still have no idea what you do in the game.

UPDATE: You can download the game, although you will still need a handy Commodore 64 emulator to get it to run on your PC. and there’s a walkthrough on how to play the game – although on the C64 version, there’s a bug which means you can’t win as Rik. That’s what you get for voting Tory.

On with the video clips. This is an MTV commercial for the accompanying album Neil’s Heavy Concept Album. A horrible mash-up of oh-so-British nostalgia and heavy American selling techniques.

(Found via screenhead.com)

And finally,

Thank goodness for Blair's defeat

Thank goodness for Blair's defeat

I’ve been too busy to blog about this all day, but thank goodness for Blair’s defeat over terror laws, and in particular the preposterous notion that the police need to have a suspect in custody for 90 days without charge, before they can prove whether there’s any reason to have said suspect in custody in the first place.

The omens were bad this morning when I woke up to BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, and in the space of a short news bulletin, they managed to squeeze in two soundbites from people who supported the draconian terror legislation – one from a policeman, and one from a victim of the 7 July bombings.

Now obviously both parties are going to very understandably support the legislation – but isn’t the BBC supposed to be balanced, especially on contentious issues? What about voices from, say, Liberty or people against the legislation? Where were their voices this morning?

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