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Tellyhead… Back So Soon?

17 Jan


Tellyhead: We need the BBC.

I’ve just read this rather good blog post on the BBC. Most interesting perhaps is the first paragraph, that the BBC is too big, and needs cutting down to size.

This blog disagrees. The BBC is the standard to which commercial television and radio should aspire to reach, and whilst it can be argued that the BBC have an unfair advantage in being funded by a compulsory levy for anyone who owns “a device capable of receiving live television broadcasts”, by no means is this a BAD thing. If anything, it encourages innovation. And you know what, if it wasn’t for the economic downturn, it would have worked (but more on that later).

This isn’t to say that the BBC is perfect. There are plenty of TV and Radio shows that make one wonder “What. The. Fuck?”, and there are some articles on the BBC website where the interest value is, at best, questionable. The question I would like to ask is, how bad would the media in the UK be if it wasn’t around?

First of all, I point to the BBC’s new-media presence. According to Alexa, the interwebs hit counter of choice, the BBC is the UK’s most read news web site, and 5th most read after Google (twice), Facebook and YouTube. Whilst I accept it’s going to be difficult for it’s commercial news rivals to ever catch them, I note that The Guardian and The Telegraph aren’t too far behind, easily in the Top 20. It’s also of note that these two sites are the two most similar to Auntie Beeb in terms of layout and content, not to mention the fact that they are updated throughout the day, rather than just reprinting an electronic version of that mornings print edition. Whether or not the BBC copied from their commercial rivals or not is a moot point here – without the BBC’s online presence, I would posit that the newspapers websites would be a shadow of their current selves.

The same thing can be said with radio as well, to a degree. Once upon a time, the BBC had its arse kicked by its rivals in the commercial, and before that, pirate radio sectors. The modern day success of Radio 1, for instance, could be credited to the existence of Radio Caroline, Capital FM et al, which forced the station to drop its rather bland output and aging DJs in favour of radio that was (gasp) relavent to is target audience. These days, it’s the other way round. Take Absolute Radio (formerly Virgin) as an example – the commercial, AOR rival to Radio 2. The BBC hire presenters such as Dermot O’Leary and Russell Brand to appeal to younger listeners, and start playing a bit more new music than they used to. Absolute hire Iain Lee, Frank Skinner and Dave Gorman, and play noticably more new music than they did under the Virgin name. Coincidence?

Similarly, an ambitious project was launched by Channel 4 in 2007, the publicly-owned-yet-privately-funded television station, to take on the BBC Radio dynasty with it’s “Channel 4 Radio” project. By winning the auction for a new set of UK wide Digital Radio stations, C4 were to take on Radios 1, 4 and 6music with their own rivals, whilst giving space for Talk Radio and Sky News to take on 5 Live, along with some other stations. Sadly, due to the economic downturn and it’s effect on advertising revenue, these plans were never realised. What is indisputable, however, is that without the BBCs current monopoly on these stations, this radical plan never would have happened. Hopefully, when the conditions are right, Channel 4 or someone else will give it another go.

Leaving the biggest part of what the BBC do till last; Television. Much like radio, I would argue that the BBC, far from being innovators, have been playing catchup over the last few years. Whilst the Beeb were first out of the blocks in the Digital TV era by launching supplementary channels before its terrestrial rivals, Sky have indisputably lead the way. First network to launch a rolling news channel? Sky. First network to introduce red-button interactivity? Sky. That red-button BBC programme with Gabby Logan giving you up to the minute scores? Sorry, Jeff Stelling and mates have been doing that now for over 10 years. On Sky. First network to run a dedicated Arts channel? Sorry BBC 4, Sky again.
However, let’s leave the firsts and last out of this for a second. What the BBC have achieved, and it is no mean feat, is to have bought all of these innovations to the masses. Don’t get me wrong, if I was James Murdoch I would be rightly peeved at this state-sponsored technology grab, however it does leave Sky in the position whereby they do continually need to push forward and offer new things – which in the end will be good for the punter, i.e. us.

One thing the BBC have bought us, and which has undoubtedly changed the face of television, is the BBC iPlayer. I won’t say too much about it as I’m sure you the reader will be fairly well versed in how it works, but this innovation not only means that I can catch up with Eastenders whenever I want, because it’s forced it’s rivals into the same market, it means I can watch The Bill whenever I like, or Father Ted, for instance. And just to think, if the BBC wasn’t around, would we have this luxury? Maybe, maybe not.

The more observant amoungst you will have noticed that a large part of the above is conjecture, but there is an important point to take home. Yes, the BBC is a behemoth, yes, the BBC is jack of all trades, master of some, but most importantly, the BBC is an organisation whos very existance is beneficial to the media industry at large. The BBC and it’s commercial rivals are like Tom and Jerry – they may hate each other, but they complement each other and it would be hard to imagine a world where you had one without the other. Suggestions are that the next Government may look to slash the license fee. Clearly we are in an economic situation where money needs to be saved – I would suggest savings can, and must, come from elsewhere. Cutting the BBCs budget would be short-sighted and wrong. What is clear, however, is that public service broadcasters like ITV, C4 and Five are in need of more funding to compete. Their challenge is to find it from advertising under existing rules. A tricky task I’ll admit, but not an impossible one.

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Web 9.0 – what the internet of tomorrow should offer.

26 Jul

Before I start this update properly, I ought to tell you now that whilst this is clearly a flight of fancy, and in no way a prediction of how future technology will unfold, you can bet your bottom Euro that I will do everything in my limited power to make this future a reality.

The internet, as those of you who’ve used it for longer than a week will know, is an ever evolving medium. Back when it first took off, not as a mainstream concern but as a curiosity for computing enthusiasts and Scandinavian funk-masters, the web consisted purely of text characters, consisting of A-Z, 0-9, the usual punctuation marks and some odd characters, for instance ┳╠▒◔♻♣♜♚➋➼to name but a few. Although the web did initially allow for different colours to be used, along with fancy ASCII blocks, it was basically just a tarted up version of teletext. Nope, teletext was probably quicker. And definitely cheaper – remember dial-up induced phone bills? Ouch.

Luckily, from a tiny acorn a mighty oak will grow, and in this metaphor, the acorn is the text-based stodge I mentioned then. Around about 1994-ish, this basic form of content sharing was given a boost when the first popular browsers hit the market – namely IE3 and Netscape 3. Not only did they offer a nicer visual experience to the home computer user by offering more colours than before, images that could be embedded in a text article (y’know, like in a newspaper), but they also allowed for background music to be embedded. Y’know, I once visited a website that had a MIDI file of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” playing in the background, it made me so angry that I punched a hamster in its kidney. With the introduction of universal content platforms such as Java, Flash et. al. it soon became possible to play games on the internet, and some multi-player. I once got grannied on Yahoo! Pool , as a result I got quite angry and lobbed a grenade at a cat. Indeed, as the internet was getting more and more advanced, I seemed to be getting both angrier and more complicated in my animal abuse methods. We’ve now reached the stage where it’s common practise to have video clips on websites, and flash adverts that take over the whole screen, and you really don’t want to know what I do to horses whenever I see a flash advert. But what of the future? What’s left to be done? As the title cleverly suggests, this blog post is about what the internet should offer in the medium to long term. I am of no doubt that a lot of what I suggest will not be feasible, let alone possible, but should that stop any self-respecting scientist from trying? Should it balls.

The web should be more seamlessly integrated with mother nature
Long Term

Now, as far as this pundit (hello) is concerned, recent developments in making the internet more accessible are to be welcomed. We can now get the internet on mobile phones, we can get laptops that can be hidden under a folded up copy of the Metro, and one can get free Wi-Fi internet at the pub, supermarket, even on the bus. However, it is just a start, and with devices getting smarter, wi-fi getting stronger and more devices getting some sort of online connection, I would speculate that in the very long term, possibly about 100 years from now, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the fields in which our grandchildren will gaily dance will all be online. Somehow. I’m not really sure on the specifics but I’m fairly sure water conducts electricity, and I know that you can transmit internet wirelessly, and the fields could be an internet of sorts… obviously the specifics need working on a bit, but I’m convinced that the basic premise is a goer. Besides, I saw an episode of the New Adventures of Superman where they done this. That, and above all else I really want a future where any act of gross stupidity or misfortune is instantly rewarded by an 80ft floating ghostly cat in the sky, playing a tune on a keyboard.

Get Paid To Surf

Short Medium Term

You will have to forgive me a bit of reminiscing here, but I remember a by-gone era when companies would pay you money for surfing the web. It was easy money, all you needed to do was spend literally hours and hours glued to a screen attached to a bit of wire that cost 4p a minute, and after a couple of months doing this you’d get a cheque through the post for about a fiver. More, they say, if you encouraged friends and family to sign up. Oh yeah, and you had to have a window with adverts open, or occasionally click on a link, or fill out a survey, or sell your soul. Thems were the days. Sadly, in the case of the ad-sponsored programs (such as All-Advantage), their demise was swift, presumably because they were paying more money to people using their software than they were receiving from advertisers.

Moreover, I believe that these business models failed simply because they required people to go out of their way to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do – filling out a survey takes time, and watching adverts is… a bit weird, truth be told. What if there was a way of obtaining revenue from folk who were doing what they do anyway?

Naturally, ones first reaction to a proposition like that would be a confused one. Surely, if you’re doing anything that involves using the fruits of someone else’s labour, you should be paying them, right? True enough. But what about when the fruits of your labour are used without remuneration? Comments left on websites, photos uploaded to social networks, etc. often have a financial value to them – why cant the authors/creators benefit from this? Fucking hell, I’ve gone all serious. It’s probably worth mentioning that I haven’t the foggiest how this would happen, and who on earth would be silly enough to pump money into a venture like this, but you never know – will@xcos.eu if you have more money than sense, yet more business acumen than I do…

Make it a bit more like telly:

NOW!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I propose that the interwebs best and worst features are that anyone can use it – in fact an old adage about monkeys, typewriters and infinity springs to mind. Because the internet is ultimately created entirely by its users, it means that all manner of things, both wild, wonderful and completely inane, can be found. Go on, try it. I’ll wager that out there in the world wild web are such diverse things as Tom Hingley from the Inspiral Carpets being eaten by the French, and Captain Beefheart playing cricket with a shoe, and possibly some obscenities too. The reason such things (probably) exist on the internet is because there is no filter; no censor who has the power to force idiots off the internet for posting cats that look a bit like Dale Winton. In many ways, I should be grateful there is no internet censor, as I’d most likely be one of the first to be banned. Possibly shot, I don’t know how lucky I’ll get. Anyway, my point is that the internet should be made more like telly – in that we should have a choice of a few pages to visit, and that’s it. lMum gets to watch a webpage a bit like The One Show, and for Dad, GardenersWorld.com. The kids should be forced into only being able to go on CBBC’s website, or possibly Habbo Hotel. Oh yeah, and while I’m at it, only one computer per household please. Squabbling over which website to look at can only strengthen the modern family, man. As an aside, I don’t want to be Draconian over this. I still would encourage freedom of discussion and debate on message boards, newsgroups etc. However, for the safety of the internet as a whole, I really do think that people who disagree with my point of view should be beaten up. Not hospitalised, or anything serious, just roughed up a little. Maybe a little kneecapping, who can say.

Anyway, that’s just my 2ps worth. For legal reasons I am required to let you all know that I don’t routinely get angry and cause animals harm, not do I espouse fascist views, nor do I condone violence towards people with differing views. Often. Until next time!