BBC And Need For A Chairman Of Trust

BBC And Need For A Chairman Of TrustDevelopments in the last week at ITV have brought into focus the challenges the BBC faces in keeping alive Mark Thomson’s view of a 360 degree future where the BBC can dominate the UK media scene.

Grade will be a formidable figure, who can question the right the BBC has to be in on every new development and we can expect the issues around the BBC’s desire to launch British equivalents to Google and MySpace to be aired in sections of the UK press.

Following the double headed departure of Dyke and Davies after controversial reporting on the Government’s policy on Iraq, it was essential to restore normality to the ‘much loved institution’ and Michael Grade was the reassuring figure who became Chairman, but over two years have elapsed and the times have changed. To prove the BBC Trust is at arms length from the BBC management, a change of focus is expected.

The BBC is not in the position it was and having sold what some consider as key assets, its IT and engineering is now managed by the German company Siemens and its presentation is serviced by Red Bee owned by Australian investors; the move towards the publisher broadcaster model has gone far further than many expected.

BBC And Need For A Chairman Of TrustThomson and Grade made the case that it was vital to the BBC’s continuance as a independent voice that a strong licence fee settlement was agreed to ensure the BBC’s vision was maintained. The Problem though, is that one of the few things Blair and Brown are in absolute agreement on, is that there is a strong case for limiting the BBC’s licence fee and exercising stronger financial discipline on the ever extending ambitions. Thomson’s high risk strategy of calling so strongly for a five year above inflation settlement is now looking a little like he may have overplayed his hand.

The BBC continues to fight to maintain its involvement in all areas of media and its ambitions to provide a free 7 day window for its on demand ‘catch up TV’ may not be the BBC Trust nod through that the Governors would have provided in the past, both Five and Channel 4 are giving their viewers the chance for online downloads at a price and a free version of a similar type could be considered to affect the business of commercial operations. HD too is a service the BBC considers it must offer to viewers but the cost of super serving a large screen owning elite could be costly and politically questionable.

Leading favourite to be the head the BBC trust is David Dimbelby, but some observers say he is too much associated with the old regime to offer the independence that the government would like to see in the new body. Chancellor Brown is sure to favour someone who he feels will limit the BBC’s ever widening ambitions and offer a prudent steer on the corporations finances.

AE17 16B Acoustic Energy WiFi Radio: Review (49%)

AE17 16B Acoustic Energy WiFi Radio: Review (49%)To me, there is something about the pleasure of listening to radio that is intrinsically linked to a discrete box that is a radio, and the PC experience does not quite match up, but the chance to tune into thousands of radio stations from the four corners of the world is something that excited me.

Over the last few weeks I have had the chance to use one of those new fangled Wi-Fi radios – the Acoustic Energy AE17 16B. I hoped it would deliver the best of both worlds. It looks like a radio, but when you fire it up on your wireless network, it gives you a window on that plethora of choice that the Internet has given to listeners of online radio stations.

The idea is that you ‘turn on’ the AE and pick either from one of ten pre-set stations, choose geographically, down to country level or from one of a range of genres that includes my own favourites, 70’s and Comedy.

After spending time listening around the world, my top channel so far is RTHK, which coming in strong from the other side of the world, instantly takes me back to happy days in Hong Kong with Lynx Disco Classics to remind me of my time in a few dodgy 70’s discos.

Audio quality is dependent on what the station pumps out to the Web. Virgin offers a respectable 128kbp/s, the same as you’ll hear on a DAB radio, while BBC Radio 4, which is mainly talk, seems to just about remain acceptable down to about 40kbp/s. You can listen to this audio either through the radios adequate built in speaker, or via the provided headphone socket.

Listening to channels isn’t always a dream. Rather annoyingly, there seem to be various conditions that drive the tastefully designed box to silence and a buffering message on the radios’ LCD display. This shows the potential problems of a producer of hardware that listen to Internet radio station – as you can’t reply on the delivery of the audio streams, listeners will blame the device.

The Wi-Fi radios get their channel lookup list from a Reciva gateway on the Internet, which keeps a record of the stations available and if you know of a station that’s not there, you can fill out the details online at the Web site at

As well as letting you navigate to on-demand content, the radio has a useful feature allowing you to access mp3 tunes stored on your PC, but I’ll be straight with you, I’ve not managed to work out exactly how to do that as yet. I will persevere, but like some of the features on the radio, it’s not intuitive or easy to use.

While it does perform well once it’s running, there is a problem with getting to that point.

Although the AE looks simple enough, with just a mains power supply to plug in and a headphone socket, it’s not something to confront a technophobe with. There’s a maze of pull down menus and you’ll need to put on your anorak to enter a hexadecimal address or two if your network is a secure one.

I really wanted to like this, so I’m afraid this is only a middling 49% on the score sheet until a more simple interface is developed. Currently this is a Christmas present for the geek in the family not your ageing maiden aunt.

Overall 49%

Acoustic Energy WiFi Radio

Happy ‘Birthday TV’ To Me

Happy Birthday TV To MeNo it’s not the time for you to throw me a lavish surprise celebration ‘do’ (mark 9th August in your diaries for that one), it is time to tell you about the gift for those who have nearly everything … or nothing.

Hidden away in the schedules of the Wrestling Channel (where else?) is another sign of the converging of old and new medias .. Birthday TV.

As they say in their schedules.

Birthday TV is the brand new, magical TV channel that lets you celebrate your friends’ and family’s birthday by broadcasting your special messages to them on live TV.

The Wrestling Channel has identified that the User Generated Content (UGC) so successful for the guys behind YouTube, is the key to getting their cash registers ringing. As well as inviting viewers to submit (legal) wrestling-related material for ‘my TWC,’ it’s decided to sell off some of its airtime for celebratory purposes.

Happy Birthday TV To MeThe intention is that this new programming will start with Birthdays and then open up into other anniversary days to help it fit its ongoing remit ‘as your big day tv’ and it’ll also put the content on the Web for further targeted enjoyment. Merry Christmas TV and Happy New Year TV are already in planning.

There’s been a market in TV airtime for quite a while but buyers have generally used their slots for TV Infomercials. Channels like Open Access on Sky Digital have also experimented with making time available to purchase in their schedules, as channels look at alternative revenue streams expect to see more of this type of programming.

Happy Birthday TV To MeBirthdayTV prices start at the pretty reasonable level of £30 for 15 seconds, with a minute coming it at £100. Booking is via an online form, with video being sent in by post, at least ten days before broadcast.

Birthday TV

A Revolutionary Address – 18 Doughty Street

A Revolutionary Address - 18 Doughty StreetNow there’s been much talk of the death of traditional linear TV and it appears that the demise of the traditional broadcasters in the UK is taking a little longer than some expected. Perhaps hidden behind the excitement of Google buying YouTube and the UK start of two further channels on the Freeview platform; Five US and Five Life is a channel that could be the harbinger of how TV channels in the future will launch.

So what is 18 Doughty Street? Well it’s both the name of a new Internet TV channel and the address where it’s produced. It’s target audience appears to be a group of right leaning Political Anoraks and the content is unfettered by the UK broadcasting regulator OFCOMs requirement for broadcasters to show political even-handedness across the left/right spectrum. To be fair it is upfront about it’s partiality, declaiming others for not coming quite so clean about what it sees as their undeclared biases.

One of the guiding lights and also taking presenting duties is Iain Dale, Ian is well known both for standing as an unsuccessful Conservative candidate at the last UK general election and as one of the bloggers who exposed details of Labour’s deputy leader John Prescott’s extra marital affairs on his blog.

The channel is starting with a four hour per night Monday to Thursday schedule, the programmes, once broadcast are available for download to the politically fixated.

A Revolutionary Address - 18 Doughty StreetThe relatively innocuous content is lodged somewhere between the fashionable haphazard Zeitgeist of UGC (User generated Content) and the bland professionalism of the big broadcasters, time will tell if there’s a hole there that this will fill.

It might be that this sort of channel will appeal to viewers who shy away from subscribing to video Podcasts via iTunes but it again exposes the need for a simple method of getting TV type content from the home PC to the traditional TV.

There’s no guarantee that future examples will be quite so innocuous and this new channel exposes the issues around how Europe’s TV without frontiers may need to be revised to include what is effectively TV delivered by the Internet.

Ofcom Should Force Sky To Open Its Platform: Opinion

Ofcom Should Force Sky To Open It's Platform: OpinionIn an ideal world, waiting near the top of the new OFCOM boss Ed Richards’ in-tray, there should be a folder marked ‘Sky Monopoly’ and on it a brightly coloured post-it with the words anti competitive clearly inscribed.

Digital Television is a standards based system with the majority of the world using a system called DVB (the Americans have something called ATSC but that’s a story for another day), the UK’s Sky TV uses the DVB standard in most respects.

Pay TV operations rely on a system of Conditional Access (CA) where channels are encrypted, viewers with a suitable viewing card can decrypt the services they subscribe to, those who don’t subscribe don’t get.

To enable the pay services to operate with the use of ‘viewing cards’ the DVB system has a standard, the standard allows for different viewing cards to co-exist and for TV services to be encrypted by more than one encryption method at a time, the so called Simulcrypt (Simultaneous encryption, get it?).

Ofcom Should Force Sky To Open It's Platform: OpinionThe area where Sky has decided not to use DVB is for its Conditional Access encryption.

Sky TV which is controlled by News Corporation, the large multinational media company with Rupert Murdoch at the helm, uses a special tailored version of Conditional Access a variant of Videoguard which is produced by a company called NDS that is in turn, majority owned by News Corporation.

Now you might be curious to know why this matters, well as the majority of UK householders who watch digital TV, watch via a Sky TV satellite ‘digibox’ and to have a channel that can be easily received via Sky TV the channel must contract with Sky TV to appear on the Sky Electronic Programme Guide, commonly referred to as the EPG.

Ofcom Should Force Sky To Open It's Platform: OpinionIf that TV service then wants to charge the subscribers to their service they have to use that special version of Videoguard CA.

So what can be done about it? Well OFCOM can and should mandate Sky TV to open up its platform to other DVB CA systems and new entrants can then offer smaller niche services and a new competitive platform to Sky should emerge.

The BBC has for some time been promising a Freeview alternative to the UK’s dominant pay TV operation Sky Digital, but with it’s struggle with the government to secure a long term above inflation licence fee settlement and its desire to start a High Definition TV service, this cause has been relegated to the back burner.

As the government ordained switchover date looms ever closer, viewers who can only receive digital TV by satellite should be able to choose a non Sky alternative even at the risk of upsetting a powerful media mogul.

Jamie’s ‘Cooking’ On The Web

Jamie's 'Cooking' On The WebIn a sure sign that TV content on the Web is going to be as important as TV content on the TV, AOL has signed up everyone’s (in certain parts of the UK at least) favourite ‘geezer’ cook Jamie Oliver.

The deal, which will see Oliver going a step further than David Cameron’s kitchen sink webcameron, by hosting a live Webcast family cooking session from his home on Friday 12th October at 7:00 pm UK time . AOL reckon that it’s a first for delivering a celebrity cooking strand to the PC and we confidently expect pizza munching geeks to be severely unimpressed by the whole idea.

Jamie's 'Cooking' On The WebBut it’s a ‘win win’ scenario for Oliver and AOL, Oliver will be able to plug his latest book and AOL are expecting non-subscribers to sign up for their free Webmail accounts.

The clever sparks at AOL have also got a competition going, with the winning entrant’s family joining Jamie’s live Friday evening cooking japes. In what we suspect is a sneaky bid for hilarious UGC (user generated content), the AOL blurb tells us,

“All you have to do is send us a video (up to 5 minutes long) of you and your family, showing just what you get up to in the kitchen. Whoever appears the most in need of Jamie’s help will win”.

AOL’s UK operation currently has a ‘for sale’ sign up and it’s not clear what this initiative will do to the price.

Expanded Euro Regulation Repudiation By UK’s OFCOM: TWF

Expanded Regulation Repudiation By UK's OFCOMThe UK’s broadcasting and telecommunications regulator OFCOM last week made clear its opposition to potential EU regulation. It fears it will straight-jacket the emerging new wave industries aiming to propel high tech growth in the EU zone over the coming years.

Currently regulation of broadcasting in the EU lies within sovereign states but the overriding policy is subject to the famous 1989, Television Without Frontiers Directive which is likely to be updated and widened in 2007. At the time of the drafting of this legislation, TV was considered as a linear broadcasting method of distribution. The danger is that now the bureaucrats have an inkling of what convergence means, they want to manage its development.

OFCOM commissioned the respected Rand Corporation to look at how the proposed changes would affect Europe’s emerging IPTV networks alongside new-fangled mobile multimedia and online games. The findings mirror the concerns of OFCOM.

The report, “Assessing Indirect Impacts of the EC Proposals for Video Regulation” makes a powerful case for the online games industry to be excluded from the new legislation, seeing a risk of the development of fresh gaming, moving to countries unfettered by cumbersome legislation, ie. Outside the EU.

Expanded Regulation Repudiation By UK's OFCOMThe study also makes clear its’ worries that excessive regulation could mean that countries outside of the EU would benefit from the expected growth in non traditional delivery of multimedia content, before it has established itself in Europe.

The model of broadcast intervention could impact much of the new wave Internet traffic; judging Youtube and Myspace by similar criteria to traditional linear broadcasters

Lobbying is expected to continue with the entrenched traditional media industry hoping to protect dwindling revenues and state players keen to politicize the situation. Some solace can be taken that the UK regulator has at least identified the danger of over regulation.

Skype Hits The Pleasure And Pain Of The Mainstream

Skype Hits The Pleasure And Pain Of The Mainstream: IFAThe news that OFCOM is to review its position on Voice Over IP services (VOIP) – the way we can make low cost or free phone and video calls currently from our PC’s generally using call centre-type headsets – is part of the evolution of these types of service from guerrilla geek to middle class mainstream. Now that Tesco’s are marketing VOIP services it’s fair to say that it’s a ‘regular’ service/product.

VOIP service providers are predictably angry over OFCOM’s meddlesome intervention and have asked why such a code of practice is needed. OFCOM will try and tread a fine line between existing heavily regulated voice service providers and the new upstarts who hitch a cheap ride on the existing infrastructure.

Skype Hits The Pleasure And Pain Of The Mainstream: IFAAlong with the news that VOIP is likely to face some of the requirements that traditional telcos have to deliver on, comes the announcement that Philips Electronics are bringing to market, for year end, a cordless DECT phone. If anyone asks you, DECT is the rather nifty acronym around Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications.

News of the new DECT handset, the Philips Voip841 broke at a recent consumer electronics show in Berlin. The phone will allow callers to use Skype’s service without being connected to a PC and is likely to hit both landline and mobile companies. The Phone will access your regular home line and broadband and allow you to call other Skype account holders for the grand sum of nothing.

Skype Hits The Pleasure And Pain Of The Mainstream: IFAPrices for the new device are not yet released, but industry observers are talking of a figure around a £100 to make this potentially cost saving purchase.

TV’s Annual Scottish Play: EITF Roundup

Last week was the annual get together of TV ‘luvvies’ in Edinburgh and this year, as for the last few years, the current moguls felt it necessary to behave like Scrooge, reflect on their previous misdemeanours and take a bit of a look at TV to come.

TV “yet to come” was epitomised by Ashley ‘Zeitgeist’ Highfield, who managed to appropriate the Long Tail in his round up of what the future has to hold (just to prove we can jump on bandwagon too – don’t forget there are still copies to be won at Digital Lifestyles).

There was a rapprochement between the Blair and Brown of the TV world, that figure of Calvinistic integrity John Birt and the once swashbuckling radical Michael Grade acknowledge the existence of one another. After 20 years of cold shouldering they’re talking again, so John deliberately avoided mentioning possible ‘top slicing’, where Channel 4 and any broadcaster with Public Service credentials might receive a portion of the BBC’s some say generous, licence fee take.

The spectre of Banquo’s ghost in the shape of everyone’s (now) favourite caterer, Mr Charles Allen, was there and delivered the keynote address, he of course blamed all and sundry for the mess ITV is in – ‘nothing to do with me guv’ should have been the title.

And of course there was the figure of fun brought down this time by Sir Alan Sugar, poor Simon Shaps, the man who brought us Celebrity Love Island was asked by the UK’s cut price Donald Trump in a festival remake of The Apprentice “Why do I get the feeling that you’re the kind of fella you find hiding behind the bushes?” Simon should be so lucky that he can find some bushes in the barren terrain of ITV primetime.

In a sign that TV executives are at long last spending some time staring into their crystal balls, rather than monitoring the value of their plummeting share options, talk was abound that the annual get-together could have a makeover and become a media festival in 2007.

BT Vision Buys From BT/Entriq

Entriq Gets Into Bed With BTBT Media and Broadcast the business to business outfit within BT’s Global services division has announced an alliance with Entriq.

It’s a change for BT Media and Broadcast (BT M&B), who’ve in the past received coverage at Digital Lifestyles for their efforts to offload their satellite TV interests to have some positive news to announce.

The BT Media and Broadcast/Entriq combination has already landed an important customer in the shape of BT Vision, who as well as planning to roll out of a ipTV customer proposition to the home at the end of this year, have a live ‘download to own service’ at

Barry Bonnett BT M&B’s CEO, aware that some cynics may think BT signing with BT rather convenient, noted that the tender was “highly competitive,” and that, “BT Vision recognised the quality of service and cost effectiveness of our overall network based capability.”

Entriq, who are in the business of developing and managing Pay Media infrastructure, is part of the South African publishing and media conglomerate Naspers. Naspers, as well as having the successful consumer TV platform Multichoice in South Africa, has technology interests that include the Conditional Access company Irdeto.

Entriq Gets Into Bed With BTHeadquartered in San Diego, California, Entriq have offices dotted around the world and have a host of existing big name broadcast customers that includes MTV Networks, NBC Universal and the UK’s Channel 4 television.