Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning Initiative

Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning InitiativeThe Training Foundation has launched its Ready for Work online training programme, an employment-awareness course free to all young people in (or recently in) full-time education and those in modern apprenticeships.

Warmly welcomed by leading education and industy-based bodies such as HTI, Confederation of British Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce, the scheme is aimed at ensuring that fresh-faced young ‘uns arriving at the workplace know how to become responsible employees.

The Ready for Work program will give young workers an idea of what employers might expect of them as they start out on their working lives and, is it hoped, make the transition to employment a more pleasurable experience (I’m still waiting for that bit to happen).

The training programme consists of 12 online courses designed to raise awareness on employment issues of major concern to today’s employers.

The “interactive and engaging” programme covers subjects such as “showing respect at work, embracing diversity, being enterprising, managing workplace stress, health & safety, following drugs & alcohol policies, sensible email and Internet use, data protection and being a responsible employee.”

Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning InitiativeEach self study course ends with a short test to check the learner’s understanding, with an 80% or better grade qualifying the student for an optional Ready for Work Certificate and Ready for Work Handbook.

Certificates are awarded by ABC (Awarding Body Consortium), a leading UK awarding body with full Qualifications Curriculum Authority (QCA) recognition.

In April 2005, The Training Foundation became the first ever training organisation to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Innovation, and its new scheme has had industry bigwogs falling over themselves to lavish praise on the initiative.

Sir Richard Branson was first in the queue; “We need our young people, on which the Country’s future prosperity depends, to be equipped with an appreciation of business, so that they can set out with a spirit of enterprise. I welcome the Ready for Work programme. Co-operation between employers and educators on initiatives like this can do nothing but good.”

Sir Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI wanted to hug the Ready for Work program and take it home: “We need more employable young people understanding the world of work, trained in the most relevant areas and able to add value to their employer. The Ready for Work programme will help to bridge this gap.”

Training Foundation Launches National Online Learning InitiativeDavid Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce roared his approval: “We need initiatives such as Ready for Work, which can help to ensure that young people leaving full-time education and training are equipped with skills that are both relevant for the workplace and will help advance their careers.”

Roger Opie, HTI Trust Director, also sprinkled the scheme with love: “The partnership between business and education is critical in raising the employability stakes for young people. An understanding of the skills and behaviours required in the workplace is a shared responsibility. This free programme provides both the content and motivation to complement existing initiatives.”

The course is accessible over the Internet at The Training Foundation’s online learning portal

Electoral Commission Supports o2 WAP Site To Boost “Da Yoof” Vote

Electoral Commission Supports o2 WAP Site To Boost Da Yoof VoteThe Electoral Commission is supporting efforts to get the UK’s young voters well up for the forthcoming election by encouraging them to get down wiv their mobiles.

With voting turnout fairly miserable among 18-25 year olds, mobile operator o2 has tried to get “Da Yoof” interested by adding an election section to its O2 Active WAP portal.

This will include information on postal voting, how to find the nearest polling station, how to vote, how to obtain a postal vote and answers to frequently asked questions about politics.

Voter turnout fell to an all time low of 59% in the 2001 General Election, and recent polls have suggested that turnout in the coming general election may slump as low as 55 – 56%.

Turnout was lowest in 2001 amongst the younger generation of voters and a recent poll of 3,000 O2 Active users around the 18-24 mark revealed that only 38% intended to vote.

Electoral Commission Supports o2 WAP Site To Boost Da Yoof VoteBecky Lloyd, campaigns manager at the Electoral Commission rapped: “It’s important that we communicate with the younger electorate in particular through a medium with which they are comfortable and familiar and mobile phones are a good way of doing this.”

Russ Shaw, Marketing Director at o2 beat boxed, “The Electoral Commission is trying to increase participation in the General Election. O2 Active provides a perfect mechanism for doing so by putting a simple tool for learning more into the pockets of 3.8 million people. This is just one way that this new, instant, always with you communications medium can be utilized by organisations and businesses trying to reach more people, particularly amongst younger audiences.”

It’s not the first time o2 have promoted the use of their mobiles for political discourse – in November 2004, the company hosted a “live text chat” with Prime Minister Tony Blair.


The UK’s mobile users are among some of the earliest adopters worldwide. According to new research by MobileYouth, a British child will own its first mobile at age eight, compared to a US child, who will own theirs at 12.

o2 WAP portal
o2’s “live text chat” with Tony Blair.

UK Students Peruse Porn And Study Online: Research

Students Logging Onto Adult WebsitesA government-backed study has revealed that more than one in 10 UK teenagers frequently use the Internet to look at “adult-only” Web sites.

Interviewed by the National Foundation for Economic Research, some 12% of 13 to 18-year-olds admitted that the quest for saucy titillation was one of their main reasons for going online.

However, homework was the most common reason for Internet use, with just over three-quarters using the Internet for research (and, in some cases, to plagiarise!)

The NFER study discovered that 52% used the Internet for Instant Messaging (IM) services and 36% logged on to shop for goods or services.

Some 18% looked up news and current affairs sites on the Web with 9% visiting discussion forums.

Students Logging Onto Adult WebsitesWhen it came to trusting the media, television was seen as the most trustworthy form of mass communication, with 48% trusting it completely or a lot.

Older students – already building up a healthy head of cynicism – were less convinced than younger ones of the level of honesty in the media, with newspapers faring worst overall, trusted by just 13%.

The eight-year NFER study was carried out on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills, and involved 6,400 pupils in 237 schools and 50 colleges in England.

National Foundation for Economic Research
Department for Education and Skills

JFK Reloaded Described as ‘Despicable’

JFK ReloadedOn the eve of the 41st anniversary of John F Kennedy’s murder, a dramatic new ‘docu-game’ brought the tragic assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald to life for a whole new generation. However, a spokesman for the president’s brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, called the game ‘despicable’, but has not commented on whether the family was taking any action to stop the game’s release.

JFKReloaded ($9.99, ~€7.70, ~£5.40), recreates the last few moments of the President’s life and challenges participants to help disprove any conspiracy theory by recreating the three shots that Lee Harvey Oswald made from the infamous sixth floor of the Dallas book depository.

The game promises to accurately recreate the surroundings and events of 22nd November 1963 in downtown Dallas, using information from the Warren Commission report, and has taken a ten-man team seven months to research and six months to program. The reconstruction enables players to examine the challenges that faced Oswald.

‘This new form of interactive entertainment brings history to life and will stimulate a younger generation of players to take an interest in this fascinating episode of American history,’ commented Kirk Ewing, managing director of Traffic and the creator of JFKReloaded. ‘We’ve created the game in the belief that Oswald was the only person that fired the shots on that day, although this recreation proves how immensely difficult his task was.’

Regardless of the continued passion in the US surrounding the death of one of America’s greatest heroes, Traffic is determined to promote the title respectfully whilst encouraging as many people to play the game as possible. The company has also offered an incentive of up to $100,000 (~€77,000 ~£54,000) for the first person to most accurately recreate the three shots made by Lee Harvey Oswald. A cash reward of this size is the first of its type for a game.

“We genuinely believe that if we get enough people playing the game we’ll be able to disprove once and for all any notion that someone else was involved in the assassination. The computer ballistics model says it’s possible, but players will discover just how hard it is to place those three bullets in exactly the same way that Oswald did.” The site goes live at midnight on the 22nd November 2004 and will run for 3 months.

It’s more than likely that this game will raise the issue in the press of video games containing violence, as was last seen with ‘Manhunt’. Last time the press got the wrong end of the stick and blamed a killer’s obsession with the violent computer game ‘Manhunt’ for the death of a schoolboy, although it actually turned out that the game was present in the victim’s home, not the killer’s. Some are wondering if the release of JFK game around the anniversary of the incident was a calculated move by the development company, Traffic, after watching the sales of Manhunt go through the roof during the last press frenzy.

London Schoolchildren to get Broadband Learning at Home

Soon, too soon for some, there will be no excuse for not having your homework done as London education authorities are planning to install broadband in the homes of London schoolchildren. , This initiative by the London Education authorities is timely in the light of a recent OECD report that identified “Disappointing” the use of ICT (computer & technology) in upper secondary schools, even in the most advanced countries, despite major investment outlays over the past 20 years.

With broadband already in more than 80 per cent of London classrooms, the plan now is to extend the initiative and allow pupils at primary and secondary schools, access to high-speed Internet services at home. That means a portal that supports a million people, who will have a personal log-on, 25MB of space, their own email and of course, access to a cornucopia of online learning materials.

As we’ve previously reported extending learning to the home has been very successful in trials in Kingston Upon Hull in the UK where, using the KIT TVIP service, pupils are able to work on the school’s servers using a keyboard, a Set Top Box and their television.

It looks like there will be very few excuses left for not attending class either, unless you are at death’s door, since the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) has created an education network that shares IT resources through classes held via video-conferencing, virtual field trips and personalised pupil programmes. Virtual field tripe, eh?  Looks like you won’t even be able to say the damp brings on an asthma attack when the tree identification trip can be done from the comfort of that lovely classroom. The personalised learning feature will facilitate a managed learning environment, through online facilities.

When you put the words children and Internet together the result sparks fear in the hearts of many parents, so readers will be relieved to learn that the content filtering and managed access in place on the machines in schools is being extended to the children’s homes.  In fact a service called ‘LGfL at Home’ will filter the home broadband service.  Parents can have a password to circumvent the filtering while children can access the online learning resources.

Last April Digital Lifestyles looked at Kingston Communication’s collaboration with an East Yorkshire school that has led to an exciting project to engage pupils in interactive learning, both at home and in the classroom. (story link)

London Grid for Learning

Ashley Highfield, BBC – The IBC Digital Lifestyles Interviews

This is the sixth in a series of eight articles with some of the people involved with the Digital Lifestyles conference day at IBC2004.

We interviewed Ashley Highfield, Director of New Media & Technology and the BBC on the need to make content easily available to the public, and the platforms they might use to obtain it.

Ashley oversees BBCi services on the internet, interactive TV, and emerging platforms. He’s responsible for the BBC’s Technology portfolio, encompassing IT strategy, Research and Development, and technical innovation looking at the content forms of the future.

Can you give our readers some background to BBC’s interactive and new media operation and what you do here?

I’m responsible for all the BBC’s non linear output – so anything that is on the internet at, which is the world’s largest content website. It’s used by over 10 million people each month in Britain, and has a global user base of probably around 30 million. It covers news, information, education, entertainment … everything.

It is supported by our interactive TV service BBCi, which is available on satellite, cable and digital terrestrial Freeview. That too has an monthly audience of over 10 million in the UK alone. It offers a range of services, for example, the Olympics with multiple video screens that you can choose from – as well as information and education, things like GCSE Bitesize. I’m responsible for our mobile offering as well. I also look after the Technology Portfolio at the BBC and Research and Development.

Would you like to tell me a bit about your two IBC sessions this year and the sort of things that you are going to be covering?

The overall framework is that 50% of the UK have digital television, 50% of the UK has the internet and that’s been the easy bit in a way. I think history will come to look at that as actually having been the lesser task than the next 50%. The two sessions actually fall into quite neatly into “What are the technological solutions?” and “What are the content solutions?” So, what broadly are the solutions that could help drive us towards a digital Britain?

And what are the issues?

There has been a lot of work done by bodies like the Digital Inclusion Panel and by ourselves and by the Broadband Stakeholders Group and by Ofcom that are starting to come to some agreed conclusions about what are the barriers to adoption.

They are many and complex and the barriers are around “I don’t know it’s available” through to “I know it is available but I just don’t want it”; through to “I can’t afford it; I am frightened of it; it is not available in my area; I don’t even understand the language it is in; I can’t use it physically for some reason” and so on. There are a range of reasons.

I think that the interesting angle for these sessions, particularly the second one on content, is not just to ask “What are your whacky ideas for the future?”

If we know that the future is going to be held up by these different barriers, what are the contents initiatives to address these specific barriers? That for me would be “What tangible impact do you think it is going to have to drive take-up and get us to a digital Europe?”

That would be I think a much more gritty session rather than one that just goes off into the usual cyber bullshit.

Quite right.

I can give you an example.

Imagine I am someone living in a high rise block, I am thirty-eight but I am a single father bringing up two kids they’re thirteen and I have got digital Television because I have forced to by the Government.

I really never use anything other than the old five Terrestrial Channels. I can’t afford to get my kids a PC and I certainly can’t afford to subscribe to the internet or broadband, and they are getting teased at school for being behind the curve.

They are struggling in their lessons because all the other kids have got the digital curriculum available to them at home. Now, what if we could offer a content solution that got the digital curriculum into that home without any subscription charge? What if we could find a way of beaming that content service over digital terrestrial television into the home and getting it onto a cheap box for storage? If I could do it overnight so that my kids could actually have access to the digital curriculum in their bedroom through a £50.00 Freeview box with a hard drive, that would make a big change and impact on my life and would force me, as this single father, over some of the barriers.

It would be for my kids’ education. If it was simple enough to operate by just using the four coloured buttons, it wouldn’t break down and it was cheap – there was no subscription cost – then that would do it for me.

What are the content solutions, the content technology hybrid solutions that would breakdown all these barriers to leaving us with a non-digital underclass?

Do you see the BBC offering a Broadband content service, and perhaps even its own set top box?

It is not a specific plan – the set top box is not a specific plan, but it does strike me that we are not thinking about these problems laterally enough at the moment. The content people are just looking at the content solutions and the hardware people are just looking at the hardware solutions and what you end up with is hardware being put into the market like DTT boxes with PVRs in them.

Like HomeChoice and Sky+?

I think Sky+ is a platform driven solution where they want to drive subscription up to their platform. That’s very clever, but it is coming at it from their perspective. They haven’t actually thought too much about what kind of content could you start to download onto a Sky+ box. They are just going to start offering that service at the end of the year, downloading movies and letting you consume them when you want to consume them.

HomeChoice has a slightly different angle, and then you have the hardware manufacturers who are just making free-standing Freeview boxes with PVRs in them.

No-one is actually saying “Well, what is the content solution that is going to drive demand?” It is all a bit fragmented at the moment.

So yes, I do think that the BBC has got a role to play in starting to create content solutions that will start to shape the way that people look at the hardware.

The united broadband platform – the equivalent of a set top box like that – has lots of advantages for production houses and people who produce content. You write it once and it can run on several kinds of boxes. How serious is the BBC about getting involved in a project like that when you have people like N2MC trying to work on a single European standard for interactive content? Is there some duplication there or does what you are doing fit in with what the European Broadcasting Union is doing?

I know of a number of initiatives that have tried to set single standards – let’s say interactive TV MHP. I am sceptical because there is installed base in Britain – how many set top boxes do we have, 11 million? 7 million Sky boxes, 3.5 million cable, 3 million Freeview … in fact, well more than that now.

And at least 5 interactive TV platforms across Europe as well.

Right – it is not going to happen. It is better to actually focus either at a higher level of abstraction like putting a Java engine into every set top box or even a higher level just putting tools into the broadcaster to enable us to create content once and then using multi-platform authoring tools.

Again, it is a technological solution that often doesn’t wake up to the reality in the commercial market. Why would Sky ever use any other solution? Let’s assume that Sky is forever going to have Open TV as a legacy in 7 million homes. In which case let’s deal with that reality and therefore try and find solutions in the real world.

That’s what I am interested in – finding solutions in the real world for this last 50% of people who haven’t got Digital Television.

The worse thing is to try to dumb interactive content down to a common technology platform.

The lowest common denominator with the worst functionality.

It is not going to happen.

How much content will be on the Interactive Media Player when it launches?

The vision is quite clear – the vision would be all programmes up to a week after transmission. Then you are into practicalities, everything after that is practicality. Therefore, what can we put in or rather what can’t we put in? I would like to start with everything until somebody gives me an absolutely convincing reason why we couldn’t.

Now, clearly that is going to take a while, when we launch it as a real product, if we launch it – you know we have only just finished the trial – there is no guarantee that we will. If there is no demand for this thing, no matter how cute a technical idea it is, we won’t do it. But, if the demand is strong and we can find solutions to the rights issues and the distribution issues then we would want to set a route map towards all the content.

What rights issues and distribution issues do you see?

A plethora. Everything from encoding the stuff in the first place, to storing it here, to checking people have the right access to get it in the first place: i.e. they are within the UK, right windowing and so on, to how we actually physically distribute it, that it doesn’t make our service fall over, to quality control when they get it, to download and streaming technologies. You may know that we are looking at least three technologies to lighten the load of distribution.

I’ve heard peer to peer mentioned…

Peer to peer. We are doing that for IMP. We are doing multi-casting where we send it once to the service providers who then distribute it on, and store and forward and storage serving.

We are looking at a number of different technologies to lighten our distribution load. That’s the technology issues.

The rights issues are broadly around trying to find a framework similar to the one we achieved with the radio player which is a bulk rights clearance framework because it won’t work trying to clear things one by one by one.

What about Creative Commons? Lots of people are very excited about the Creative Archive and its use of Creative Commons. What’s the feeling inside the BBC about using Creative Comment as a licensing?

Too early to tell. I mean, it is an idea. It’s one that we therefore want to test but as to whether it will provide an effective enough rights framework, I don’t know.

So it is not set in stone yet?


What sort of DRM will you be employing with the Interactive Media Player and will Creative Commons material be DRM’d and will it be your own BBC codec, the source for it or will you be going to Microsoft?

Yes – all those are being evaluated at the moment! Those are the questions. The trial at the moment that separates the download from the DRM I think is very clever. It allows peer to peer, and the file is encrypted and can only be viewed when you come to view it by checking back with the BBC to confirm your rights at that time.
That isn’t going to necessarily work for Creative Archive where we give you the content to view and manipulate in perpetuity. There will be different DRM solutions for different content and that’s why at the moment we are running a separate initiative from Creative Archive – because they are actually testing different demands and different modes of usage. One is about catch up TV, and another is about actually keeping the content forever and doing things with it. They are going to need different rights approaches.

You are looking at using two difference rights systems for content that is used in two different ways.

Yes, currently.

When the public buy content they have copied protected CDs, they have Fairplay protected tracks from iTunes, they have WMA protected tracks from OD2 – and they can’t move content between devices. As awareness increases of the fact that people are locked into devices and DRM systems, where do you think that’s going to end? Do you think there will be a shake-out in the DRM market or will consumers say “That’s enough”?

There’s money in them there hills and competing formats are going to be around for a while. Whether the shake-out would happen such that you end up with the ubiquitous single framework a la VHS or whether you end up with a number of slightly different formats like DVD, or whether in this instance an organisation like the BBC could help to create an open framework remains to be seen.

Clearly, one of our objectives would be to ensure that our content was available, free at the point of consumption – and that is what we are here for as a public service broadcaster – and not intermediated by other gatekeepers. That is the primary strategic drive behind implementing the Creative Archive. It is to be able to get our content to our audiences with the minimum encumbrance.

As far as your audience goes, will the Creative Archive be limited to the UK or will other countries be able to access it by buying a licence?

It’s something that is up for debate. The licence fee extends just to the UK and therefore it is a completely legitimate framework for us to have pay models outside the UK.

Obviously BBC Worldwide exploits extra-UK rights for all of our content. They sell those rights packages to other broadcasters, not to individuals. What we have never done is to offer our content direct to the consumer a commercial B to C model. We have always done B to B to C. So could we start offering pay per play, pay per view for international users off the back of the Creative Archive. It’s something we can look at, but it can never be and will never be the major driver for the products. We can’t have a commercial tail wagging a public service dog.

We are seeing an increased demand for our narrowband streamed content, like our radio services. Also, the Proms is popular in Japan. That’s probably one of our Global roles. Increasingly as the content gets richer and more bandwidth is required, the cost of distribution increase – how do we recover these costs?

The perceived value increases, too, as the content becomes richer and so we get more guarded, a bit more jealous. There is certainly a huge demand around the world for content that is being funded by the Licence Fee.

We need to be careful. The Olympics is a good example where we do not allow Broadband access to the Olympics content from outside the UK.

We have got the rights to all the broadband content on the web but only within the UK. So if you try from abroad you just can’t get it.

The BBC’s efforts for the Olympics this year are phenomenal – you’re providing much more footage than has ever been done before by anyone and you’re covering it in very different ways. There are on-line statistics completely updated, people can watch the five interactive feeds at one time on broadband and on interactive. Do you see this as just the tip of the iceberg for new types of content that are enabled by new technologies? What sort of types of content are you looking forward to in the future?

That is where it starts to get interesting, the question is “How will content change to meet this need?”

My clichéd example is still the best one I can think of: snooker. Colour television, a change in technology made the sport.

Clearly people played snooker before colour telly, but it wasn’t a broadcast sport and suddenly about 1969 it was. What does this broadband and interactive TV technology enable that wasn’t before? The Olympics is a really good example. The viewing figures for minority sports, we imagine, will go up considerably.

So that makes the Olympics a better proposition, but it doesn’t change the nature of the Olympics. What sports could actually be fundamentally changed or created by new technology? An example might be a long form sport that currently doesn’t work terribly well in a broadcast schedule, like the Round the World Yacht Race. You could use GPS graphics – there are websites that enable you to track the yachts, but could you then use some clever interactivity and so on to make it a much more compelling sport, and therefore take it out of a niche activity and propel it into the mainstream.

Yes, almost certainly are there sports out there waiting to be transformed into mass spectator sports, like fishing. That’s where we haven’t got to yet, because we are only four years into interactive TV and probably only about four/five years into entertainment content over the web. We have not yet moved forward into totally new forms of content.

It certainly is an exciting area.

It is and you just see some emerging things like “Big Brother”. “Big Brother” would have just about worked as a television programme just on its own – “Test the Nation” you would have struggled to make Test the Nation work if you couldn’t have actually tested the Nation. If they couldn’t have joined in via interactive TV and the web you would have a bit of a lemon of a format, but, you know, where do you go from here?

Another good BBC example, of course, is “Come and Have a Go if You Think You’re Smart Enough”.

Right – totally doesn’t work.

It would never exist unless there is participation through the use of technology. Actually those kind of content, I think, we should set up at the beginning. Probably those are the ones that we want to show that we are on a journey here from enabling existing content to be shown in new and interesting ways to increase Region consumption through to totally new forms of entertainment that this technology allows.

Just thinking about “Come and Have a Go” and that sort of integration of different content platforms. Where do you see mobile content services moving? Will the BBC be adopting things like DVB-H?

We have been in a world where mobile content is not able to be distinctive enough to have made it appropriate for a large scale investment by the BBC. We are meant to be by being public spirited, we are meant to provide content that is distinctive and that is where its public value outweighs its market impact.

I think it has been very difficult with a tiny screen and text to let the values of the BBC through. I think it changes once you start to get 3G more broadband video, more meaningful video onto mobile phones.

However, I still don’t think that would then be enough if all we were doing was duplicating the audience that were already using us on-line. Then is that the best use of the Licence Fee? The question I’m asking is: What audiences are we not getting on interactive TV or the web that we could reach through the mobile?

Let’s take teens, a clear audience that are watching less television – certainly less BBC1 prime time Television. What kind of services could we offer to that audience through mobiles, and how can we make it high quality and distinctive? Now that is really interesting, and we have done some stuff like that – like GSCS Bitesize. I think it is too early to call at the moment the mobile market because it has been ostensibly a text based information service.

As it becomes a richer service – an example would be GO – IP based services i.e. how rich could it be for the BBC to offer you a content service to your mobile phone depending on where you are. Now have already trialled some of that where you can go on a walk around London and using information from our History website – will know where you are and tell you through the mobile phone historical facts about where you are actually standing at the time.

How could we use our network of Where I Live regional sites to maybe give you the news and information in radiating circles around your mobile phone? That for me starts to become really exciting. Once we start to move into that world I think that value of what we can do on mobile will increase exponentially.

Would you charge for a mobile service like that? If you are trying to get into every area to offer services it means that you are slicing the Licence Fee thinner and thinner.

Well, not if there is no marginal cost of distribution.

If we cut up all our content anyway, my vision would be a world where all of our content is meta-tagged with its location. On Interactive TV you could give me the news in a five mile radius round Humberside but you could also do that on your mobile phone. It’s not just news content – all our content – you could show me say on the Nature website, give me all the sightings of Greater Crested Plovers within a five mile radius of where I am, i.e. that all of our content – give me any entertainment you’ve got, any comedy clips from the Fastshow that are set in Wales. You can just see a whole BBC centred around location – now if we did that if we meta-tagged all out content then there would be no marginal cost of distribution to the mobile phone.

What resolution will Creative Archive material be in?

We’re testing that.

The content ranges from about 400 KB a second – news stuff – a bit more than that like 500 on Top Gear and so on right the way through to trials at 4 megabits for high definition. I have a Media Centre at home so I was able to use IMP to download the HD stuff and then watch it through my plasma telly – awesome!

That then, puts you in an interesting space where we could get HD out to people’s television sets without the need to rely on Sky and Cable to upgrade their Networks. At the moment can’t – it doesn’t matter if I shoot something in HD you can’t get it on your Television set, whereas through the Creative Archive we could. It is interesting but what we don’t know is, is there any demand?

Steven Carter, Ofcom said it wasn’t broadband until it was 10 megabits per second. When do you think that will be happening in the UK?

I don’t that is a terribly meaningful definition anyway. I think we are far too hung up on technology. The right question should be – when can we deliver enriching engaging content through these devices that doesn’t, because of its quality, diminish the experience? That is the question. It doesn’t matter if you come up with amazing encryption technology. Get me Eastenders down 500K and I get just as much out of it because the graphics aren’t blocky, then that is fine.

We are not there yet – jerky, slow video – we are not there yet but I don’t think it is 10 megabits. It is probably useful to try to understand it because it is certainly more Bandwidth than we have got with them at the moment. But understanding what – here is a good example – in Hull we found that local news people were willing to take it “lower quality” and yet to the audience it wasn’t lower quality at all – we thought lower quality meant lower picture quality, but actually for them it was higher quality because it was local.

It was immediate and although it was user generated, that for them was their perception of quality. The fact that the picture was shaky didn’t matter. So we are putting our perceptions of what quality is onto this equation.

I suppose it has a higher value to them because it is local and, in fact, when you see footage coming back from Baghdad you don’t mind that it’s jerky because you expect it to be.

Yes – because the important thing is that you want it now.

What impact will Charter renewal have on new media services on the BBC because obviously you are becoming very intermingled with traditional programme production?

It is fundamental – if you go through Building Public Value, there are 42 major initiatives in there – of which 25 are new media, so we have go to move from a position of still being, to some extent on the boundaries of the core BBC to being absolutely its heart. That’s going to be a big shift in everything.

Ashley is a chairing the ‘New Platforms, New Content‘ session between 09:30 and 11:00 at the IBC conference on Sunday, 12th September in Amsterdam. Register for IBC here


AOL’s Optimised PC

AOL have launched the AOL Optimised PC – a cheap PC that gets the AOL brand into homes and under people’s noses.

The base US$300 (€246) cost of the system is subsidised by the AOL subscription purchasers also have to buy with the PC. That adds a further US$23.90 (€19.60) a month for a year to the total cost.

The base unit is built around a 2GHz Celeron processor, 256Mb of memory and a 40 gb hard dirve. The PC comes with a 17” monitor, printer and speakers and AOL Office – which is essentially Open Office. Naturally, the PC is preconfigured with AOL’s suite of tools and applications with parental controls, Computer Check Up and internet access ready to go.

“We’re addressing the needs of the millions of Internet intenders who are first-time PC buyers or novice computer users,” said Kenn Turner, Senior Vice President and General Manager, AOL Key Audiences.

“They’ve told us that affordability and an interest in making one simple buying decision for everything they need to use the computer and get online is important to them. We think the complete AOL Optimized PC solution delivers unprecedented value, while maintaining performance and quality.”

AOL are supplying the computer in with English and Spanish language options, and it can be easily swapped between them.

“Fifty-five percent of English language dominant Hispanic households have Internet access at home, compared with only 20% of Spanish language dominant households, according to the Synovate 2004 Hispanic Report,” said David Wellisch, Vice President and General Manager, AOL Latino.

“The AOL Optimised PC is one of the only widely available PC plus internet solutions that makes it easy to select and switch between language preferences. Combined with an affordable price and a comprehensive PC bundle, we hope to empower these consumers to take advantage of all the resources the Internet has to offer.”

AOL is also hoping that the PC will raise awareness of their brand and get it into more homes, as Disney has demonstrated recently with their mouse-eared Disney PC.

The AOL Optimised PC

Duke University Gives Away iPods

There was a time the idea of handing out a device capable of holding 5,000 MP3s free to students would have caused sweating, outcry and at least a couple of writs from the music industry, but Duke University have made this into a unique opportunity.

New freshmen at Duke will receive a 20 gig iPod loaded with course information, calendars, and maps – and students will be able to download language lessons, music, recorded lectures and audio books from the university’s website. They’ll even be able to buy music from their own music store. Students get to keep the iPod, but will have to pay for its replacement if they lose it.

Duke will be handing out 1,650 iPods on August 19th during the freshmen orientation sessions.

Apple have long had a relationship with academia, from donating Macintoshes and equipment to schools to offering iTunes on Campus. This new version of iTunes dissuades students from downloading music illegally by giving them branded alternative whilst at the same time giving academic institutions another communications channel with their students.

iTunes on Campus

BBC May Launch Broadband Service

The BBC had planning meetings to explore the possibility of providing a cheap broadband service to UK homes. Ashley Highfield told the Guardian newspaper: “A few people have come together to see if we could put a low-end connected PC into the market. Could we do it? I don’t know, but we would have to be clear about why.”

This is something that’s obviously been on Ashley Highfield’s mind as he hinted at a service in response to a question from our own Simon Perry at the FT New Media and Broadcasting conference back in March.

Mr Highfield is determined to overcome the UK’s perceived “digital divide” by perhaps offering a low-cost terminal and connection, in a similar fashion to the successful Freeview service.

Highfield also has plans for a new BBC search engine, to help break up the American dominance of the search engine field. With all major search engines owned by American organisations, a British internet search funded by the license fee was welcomed by the Graf report.


The Guardian

UK Film Companies Launch New Anti-Piracy Offensive

“Piracy is a Crime” is the new UK£1.5 million ( €2.25 million) campaign from the UK film industry, launching today.

Film makers have grouped together with retailers like Asda and HMV to form the Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness, and have predicted an annual loss of about UK£1 billion (€1.5 billion) to the film industry in 2007.

To combat this, the new campaign has a tough new message for the public.

A new trailer seeks to educate the public that film piracy has links to organised crime and funds terrorist activities. By issuing posters featuring a gunman, the ITIPA is hoping to capitalise on the public’s fear of terrorism to discourage the public from buying dodgy DVDs down the market.

The majority of public opinion seems to be that piracy is a “soft crime” with no real victims, whereas low risks and high returns are making it an attractive option for criminal gangs – raids to premises involved in piracy have also unearthed drugs, pornography and weapons.