Watched some Pat Troughton era Doctor…

Watched some Pat Troughton era Doctor Who. Dudley Simpson’s incidental Radiophonic Workshop music was very good. Pat looked very Iggy Pop.


Les Revenants

ImageGot round to watching the first two episodes of The Returned (Les Revenants) being shown with way too many advert breaks on Channel 4 (zip zip fast forward) in the UK. So far so very mesmerising. A kind of modern French Twin Peaks with music by Mogwai. Beautifully filmed and truly wonderful how much you fill in the plot yourself without explicitly being told what’s possibly going on in mere words. Now that’s a classy combination of script,direction and the art of film making.

The official website is very stylised too.In French obviously and sadly massively flash based (bites edge of table to the point of leaving teeth marks). In my world of very cherry picked telly watching I’m heartily recommending this one. Would dearly love to see the original 2004 French film this series is an adaptation of.

A Second Bite Of The Apple TV?

Back in the mists of time when all computers were beige except for the ones that were black Apple computer made an all-in-one affair called the Mac TV (or Power Mac 5500 for the model number obsessives). It had a TV tuner. It could record video. Some even had an FM tuner. Oh it had a modem too which slotted in the same place as the tuner so if you wanted to watch TV and be online you were out of luck.

It was a hernia inducing heavy. The kind of object that would be guaranteed to cause serious damage if hurled by a passing rock star from a hotel window (when did rock stars stop hurling TV sets from hotel windows?).

At the time nobody really wanted to watch TV on their computer or vice versa but sometimes you’ve got to try these things especially if people still think beige or black is pushing the choice envelope as far as it can go.

Many former owners say it was the worst Mac they ever owned.

Now the rumour is that Apple may want to release a TV. In a world of increasingly interconnected media devices it could be a good move especially if it has iOS built in. Heaven knows it might even revitalise the design of TV sets (even Bang and Olufson sets are just black these days).

Wikimedia image courtesy of Ben Boldt

What you know is not all there is but that may be of no comfort

BBC1 1970's

Image via Wikipedia

When my paternal Grandad was alive and we had him up for the day my parents would put the telly on for him. If there was something on the box that he didn’t recognise he’d give a suspicious look before gruffly asking “Is it BBC1?”.

For my Grandad telly meant BBC1.Nothing else was tolerated.For him television was BBC1. The other two (yes there were only two) channels were just pretenders in his eyes. It’s what he knew and presumably what he trusted. Comfort in the familiar or an avoidance of confusing choices?

The Cost Of Viewing And The Value Of Less

TV licence

Image by James Cridland via Flickr

The perennial argument over the television licence fee was brought to mind again recently after a friend  was dithering over whether to pay the £145 for a TV licence. They are from the Ukraine which doesn’t have a TV licence so it seems like an extra payment too far. And that’s the main bone of contention with the TV licence in that it’s a very visible ‘tax’ (in the minds of many).

Now that are many taxes that we have no opt out over. We can’t dictate how our taxes are spent. National Insurance is paid in case we fall ill and need free medical attention even if we rarely use the service. If the government instead payed the BBC out of general taxation then maybe it would feel less like a tax we could opt out of but would give the government of the day much greater control over the withdrawl of funds. At the moment the licence fee money goes straight to the public service broadcasters and isn’t handled by government. Would such a move quell the licence fee carpers?

Another option would be to allow the opt out of the licence fee for those that genuinely do not watched the stations funded by it. I include radio stations in this arrangement. This leaves the need for a complicated way of blocking the reception of public service stations on Freeview, Freesat, satellite and cable boxes unless you can key in some kind of authorisation code gleened from your payment of the licence fee. Another solution that reduces the income to the BBC and pushes the price up for those that opt in. A divisive and petty solution?

Others have argued for a tax/levy on television sets sold. Well we don’t buy a TV set every year and if we take 2009 as an example of recent peak TV sales then around 10 million sets were sold during that year. What sort of levy would provide an equivalent sum to that currently provided by the current licence revenues? Surely that would require a considerable levy unless we merely used a token sum to help lower the current yearly fee to more politically acceptable level.

Perhaps a licence fee and government grant hybrid would be a compromise. Slash the visible fee to say £65/£70 and make up the rest from direct government support or take the controls off the profits that offshoots like BBC Worldwide can make in order to help subsidise the reduced income from the collected licence.

There is an argument for just cutting back on the digital channels. BBC Four is accused of an output similar to the old BBC2 whilst the latter has somewhat diluted its identity.

The BBC has also considered the unthinkable by suggesting they decimate their local radio presence by syndicating radio 5Live and retaining only local options for breakfast and drive slots. Maybe they could be sacrificed to local media and commercial radio who constantly complain that they can’t compete.

I’m all for reducing round the clock broadcasting. I remember the days when some hours of the day were merely filled with the testcard. Many digital stations only start at 7pm. Do we really need so much daytime programming especially if all we’re going to do is fill so much of it with so much property obsessed programming.

The Uk certainly does not have the highest TV licence fee in Europe. Germany has a higher TV licence fee than the UK but has concessions for the very poorest and and the availability of a radio only licence. Food for thought.

I’m old enough to remember the days when TV content wasn’t always available and the testcard filled the screen. Maybe its time to embrace the less is more mantra. These are times of austerity.

iPlayer For Freesat Imminent

Image via Wikipedia

There are, believe it or not 600,000 Freesat users in the United Kingdom. In the run up to Xmas there will be a renewed awareness campaign for the free-to-air satellite cousin of Freeview (the free-to-air via your TV aerial digital service).

Xmas Bonus

Freesat owners will be getting an early Xmas present with the arrival of the BBC iPlayer service for Freesat boxes that can connect to the Internet. Mostly this tends to be for HD boxes that already have the requisite ethernet socket.
Also a small number of (OK two) locations will be enabling HD content for Freeview itself as the first generation HD capable Freeview boxes go on sale. Expect to see existing non HD set top boxes and PVRs drop in price as old stock is cleared.

Blank Canvas

Meanwhile the BBC trust has been told that Project Canvas, the joint venture between BBC,ITV, Five and BT to bring on demand content to viewers via  suitably enabled TV sets and Internet enabled set top boxes will likely cost more than £115 million in the first fours years of its operation with £17 million recouped via revues the service will bring in at the end of this period. Questions remain as to what extent ITV and Five would be in a sound financial position to afford the estimated £25 million a piece that they’d be required to put into the funding pot.

Project Canvas has been a contentious undertaking in that it allows non-public service broadcasters to become partners with the bbc which was not the case when originally conceived. BSkyB would be welcome to provide services on the platform but cannot become a partner in the project.

Kangaroo Court

Canvas also has to walk carefully in the shadow of the now defunct Project Kangaroo which proposed a consolidated video on demand (VOD) platform with content from BBC Worldwide, and Channel 4’s 4OD which was planned to launch in 2008 but was eventually blocked by the competition commission this year.

Back To The TV Future


Cutbacks are everywhere.In the workplace, the public & private sectors. Value for money is the new watchword. Television budgets are being cut in both the public service broadcasting and commercial sector.

Cynics will look at the recent announcement re BBC programming cuts a merely an expedient way of reclaiming the pensions hole of many of its employees but as we’ve seen over many years the BBC is everyone’s favourite scapegoat that constantly needs to justify how the license fee is spent.

Television audiences have been falling for some time as viewing habits are more fragmented. Gone are the days of the three main channels and that’s your lot.

Personally I find the almost old fashioned output model of many digital only channels such as BBC3 and BBC4 a welcome reminder of the past. In ye olden days there was no breakfast TV and minimal daytime TV output. The test card was a common filler during these off peak times.

Many digital TV channels have limited broadcasting hours because they share a channel slot on Freeview (OK technically it’s called a Mux) which means that say CBBC uses the same space allocation as BBC3 but they broadcast at different times of the day.One channel that just looks like two.

Personally I’d have no problem with a more frugal hours output across all channels if it helps them save money and helped place the emphasis on quality.In this age of PVR’s, iPlayer and Video on Demand do we really need to fill up the day with so much television. Perhaps the budgets would be more focused on quality if we returned to reduced hours rather than spreading it more thinly across the current number of hours.

The so called golden age of television had the luxury of less channels and less hours to fill. Maybe an austerity television era could reap some benefits.

Picture by marksmanuk under this creative commons license