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Time’s Up – After much horse trading and secret deals the top eurocrats have agreed – probably – on who will become the next EU presidents. The changes are – at the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker is to be replaced by Ursula von der Leyen; at the European Council Donald Tusk is to be replaced by Charles Yves Jean Ghislaine Michel; at the European Parliament Antonio Tajani is now replaced by David Sassoli; at the Eurogroup Mario Centeno has been in post since 2018 and at the European Central Bank Mario Draghi is to be replaced by Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde.

Surely all those Grandads who believe in continued EU membership will know all about the excellent qualities of these fine presidents – but for the rest of us it’s more like … Who? or How did they get that job? Interestingly there was no news about the future role of Michel Barnier even though he was lined-up for a top job only a few weeks ago.

BBC Sinks Even Further – Despite clearly expecting plenty of negative feedback on the plan to means test TV licences the BBC has continued to fire more and more bullets at its own feet (snowflake warning; metaphorical language – no BBC staff or members of the public were physically or mentally harmed). The announcements of the salaries of both on-screen talent and senior BBC staff triggered plenty of reaction. And not much of it was in support.

Then the sheer pointless waste of sending the main evening news presenter to Lyon to interview the BBC sport presenter also in Lyon seemed to go over the heads of the executives responsible. Apart from the benefit of providing Clive Myrie with free tickets to the football match and a stay in Lyon on expenses the whole segment was just one more source of ammunition (another metaphorical). Given the situation the BBC might also have reconsidered the need to relocate morning weather forecasts to Wimbledon during the tennis – but it is likely that Carol is a tennis fan so would have resisted missing her days at courtside; with pay.

And as this posting was being prepared came the news that the BBC is facing a legal challenge over its impartiality and biased coverage. It’s hard to see how this can succeed – given the resources that the BBC can throw against it. But having threatened millions of pensioners with a loss of benefit every unjustified expense and biased report is going to be jumped on – by lots of critics.

BBC Sinks Even Further

This afternoon’s announcement that from 2020 UK residents over 75 will have to loose £154 from their pensions to pay for BBC excesses will not be greeted with much joy or support. Especially when the BBC clearly makes little attempt to produce quality content in the most cost-effective way.

Man1902

Even live sporting events have excessive numbers of pundits and reporters before, during and after every event. Some of these pundits taking away millions for just asking other pundits what they thought of the game. A game that the viewers had most likely just seen for themselves.

Meanwhile the BBC’s lead TV channel – BBC1 – is full of tired shows like Escape to the Country – which today has reached Season 17 Episode 37 for the second time – or daily quiz shows like Pointless; where today we have a repeat of Season 19 Episode 33!

To quote the BBC’s own blurb – The BBC is the world’s leading public service broadcaster. We’re impartial and independent, and every day we create distinctive, world-class programmes and content which inform, educate and entertain millions of people in the UK and around the world. And that means that UK tax payers – including pensioners – are funding television, radio and online on [in] more than 40 languages.

Coming so soon after that disastrous last place in the Eurovision Song Contest – where the BBC paid more that any other broadcaster to take part – the Beeb’s claim of world-class content has again been put into perspective. Australia’s public service broadcaster – SBS – has consistently produced better for less; much less. But then it does have to try harder – with no licence fee income to pay for programmes that are unappealing or expensive.

Now the BBC may not be any better if the channels presently paid for by the TV tax were switched to commercial funding. But the Corporation is, in effect, operating a business model that looses over £3,500 million per year – the amount it gets from taxation to make the books balance. Much of that loss is down to corporate obesity. Time for a corporate slimming plan …

Seeing Clearly

Today the Grandads Technology Centre (GTC) received its latest upgrade. A DVD player with the ability to play Ultra High Definition (UHD) blu-ray discs and Super-Audio CDs via its sole UHD television.

This technological advance at the GTC comes at the same time as the BBC are streaming UHD versions of some FIFA football matches from Russia. And have just announced that much of this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships will be shot in UHD (2160 pixels high) with access via iPlayer.

UHDAdventure1However this technological advance only serves to show the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the world’s largest broadcaster. Most UK broadcast channels are transmitted as standard definition (576 pixels high) and even though the BBC’s (and ITV’s) main channels are available in HD (up to 1080 pixels high) the vast majority of the channels on Freeview are not; including those part owned by the BBC. Worse still some of the programmes, for example the never-ending repeats of Dad’s Army, are so old that they are in the square format used in the days of analogue television.

The problem for the BBC is its scale and scope. At one extreme it is using the latest technology – for a very limited audience – while at the other extreme it is providing most tax-payers with broadcasts using standards that are long past their best. Low-tech may be justified for transmissions to distant countries – but not within the UK.

For example, to enjoy the optimum experience of Wimbledon in UHD the BBC says audiences need a 40 megabit per second Internet connection. A speed much beyond what is actually available for most UK viewers at present. And sadly the UK seems extremely unlikely to have a powerful enough broadband network able to provide the capacity needed for everyone to watch Eastenders or Corrie in UHD at 40mps in the foreseeable future.

So for now getting something new and appealing, that will test our 4K TV, will have to be sourced via UHD blu-ray discs – despite them retailing for around £20 each. At least then we can repeat some new material rather than shows that have already been repeated ad nauseam on TV.

News Selections

It’s summer – the schools are closed, families are on holiday, politics is off the boil, artists and critics are in Edinburgh and, this year, the top sports personalities and their followers are in Rio. All of this is reflected in the stories that made it through the selection process and into the mass media this week.

From today, for example, we have the BBC handling multiple, live Olympic sports streams from Rio (on a four hour time difference) while also covering the hundreds of events that make up the ever-growing Edinburgh Arts Festival. And it is hard to work out if the BBC sports reporter from the Look North studios is in Rio because there is a shortage of BBC staff available for Brazil – or because money is still no object for the corporation.

DExpress_Heatwave1In politics time is ticking away since the surprise Brexit vote and it looks like August will pass without any meaningful progress. That could be a good sign that more planning is taking place. However it could also mean that we are simply seeing a political replay of the Battle of the Somme. With the opposing sides making no headway for month after month while both suffering massive losses. Others say this is just a phoney war – a lull before the real conflict where nothing much changes. Either way it seems that the destiny of the nation still hangs in the balance.

At least the Daily Express maintained a degree of normality by today publishing yet another one of its wildly-unscientific weather forecasts …

Knowing When To Quit

StopHere1The BBC have made millions out of Top Gear over the years – and are still making money from repeats all around the world. But the Jezzer, Captain Slow and Hamster show had been in gradual decline for years – with a best before date that has been slipping further into TV history.

As is so often the case the BBC were reluctant to stop such a popular show – probably because they had no replacement. So when a major revamp was a forced upon them their only plan was to repeat the format – but with a new cast and crew.

The actual outcome will not be seen until this reincarnation hits our screens later this year – possibly in May. But, even without the coordinated attacks from some sections of the UK press, the show’s chances of success are fading fast. Take the most recent leaks. The headlines were all about the disrespect shown by burning rubber near the national war memorials in central London.

But this was not the only black mark recorded against just this one segment.

HooniganMustangWhy would any BBC show want to feature a one-off US publicity vehicle – complete with advertising – burning up public roads anywhere in the UK? How does this 845hp Hoonigan Mustang conversion – sponsored by Monster Energy – breaking so many traffic laws fit with our public service broadcaster’s declared objectives? And how does Chris Evans’ claim that he was not involved in the Cenotaph stunts fit with his supposed lead role in the show? Surely shipping a one-off car and support team from the States, closing roads and booking actors for a sham marriage at St Paul’s Cathedral in a segment estimated to cost £100,000 would have needed his personal approval? If not then who is taking the lead role? And why would Evans not know what was planned in some detail even if not in charge?

Now all of this publicity might just be a cunning plan to generate interest in a new show. But I doubt it. More likely it is another example of the BBC not knowing when to quit …

Rebuilding the East End?

Eastender1w200Next Wednesday will mark the 29th birthday of the BBC’s favourite soap opera – EastEnders. It started out in 1985 as 2×30 mins episodes each week but today airs as 4×30 mins (plus each episode is repeated twice). Throughout its run it has stayed one of the BBC’s most watched shows. Its current UK TV audience share is around 30%. And it is widely available overseas – mainly through the BBC’s commercial channels – where, for example, BBC Entertainment will be showing episode 4788 this coming Wednesday (along with three transmissions of episode 4787!).

Despite the show’s popularity yesterday’s news that a new EastEnders set is to be built at the BBC Elstree Studios – for an estimated £15 million – caused headlines in the anti-BBC media. But this seems a bit harsh. Considering the low-lying nature of London’s East End and the unstoppable effects of climate change on both rainfall and sea levels the relocation and expansion of the show’s set seems both reasonable and unavoidable. And since the new set could have built-in variable water levels the script writers could include dramatic new story lines that are presently restricted to the real life residents of the Somerset Levels.

However the programme’s glowing audience stats do not seem to equate with few Grandads being fans. Everyone asked did not rate the show much better than terrible. Its distinctive theme tune being the signal to either change channels or move to something more interesting online. At first this seemed that the Grandads were out of line with the average audience. But more thought showed that having 30% audience share for EastEnders means that the other 70% of the audience must be watching something else.

And it is no surprise that the time and numbers spent watching live TV has declined tremendously since the show started back in 1985. With viewing stats being collected from just 5,000 households (or about 0.02% of the population) this 30% audience figure hides the fact that the total viewer numbers have collapsed. After all, if those 5,000 stats-collecting households were the only people in the country still watching TV then the 30% figure would still hold true.

That’s the problem with statistics; they can be true and misleading at the same time.

Hasn’t This Been On Before?

The BBC TV’s UK repeats of shows have reached farcical levels … for example five broadcasts of the Chronicles of Narnia in a month. Last night was the 18th overall showing for the first and Saturday night prime time viewing will be the 10th showing of the second of these movies.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion,
the Witch and the Wardrobe
BBC One Fri 26 Dec 2008 17:50
BBC HD Fri 26 Dec 2008 17:50
BBC One Thu 24 Dec 2009 14:15
BBC Three Tue 5 Jan 2010 19:50
BBC Three Sat 9 Jan 2010 20:00
BBC One Thu 23 Dec 2010 15:50
BBC HD Sat 25 Dec 2010 20:00
BBC Three Sat 25 Dec 2010 20:00
BBC HD Wed 29 Dec 2010 20:00
BBC Three Wed 29 Dec 2010 20:00
BBC One Sat 24 Dec 2011 17:50
BBC Three Fri 30 Dec 2011 19:55
BBC Three Mon 2 Jan 2012 19:55
BBC Three Wed 12 Dec 2012 20:00
BBC Three Sun 16 Dec 2012 19:50
BBC One Tue 24 Dec 2013 13:30
BBC Three Sat 18 Jan 2014 20:20
BBC Three Wed 22 Jan 2014 19:50
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
BBC One Fri 24 Dec 2010 17:15
BBC HD Sun 16 Jan 2011 20:00
BBC Three Sun 16 Jan 2011 20:00
BBC Three Sat 22 Jan 2011 20:00
BBC One Sun 1 Jan 2012 14:50
BBC Three Tue 3 Jan 2012 19:00
BBC Three Sun 8 Jan 2012 19:00
BBC One Mon 24 Dec 2012 14:00
BBC One Tue 31 Dec 2013 13:20
BBC Three Sat 25 Jan 2014 20:15

If enough complain then the Corporation may act – but probably by removing the previous showing dates from the BBC TV web site. It’s not as if these movies are not available elsewhere – or viewers have lost the ability to record and time-shift programmes of interest.

Now the BBC may not be any better if the channels presently paid for by the TV tax were switched to commercial funding. But the Corporation is, in effect, operating a business model that looses over £3,500 million per year – the amount it gets from taxation to make the books balance. Much of that loss is down to corporate obesity. Time for a slimming plan …

Cheers

Bombardier_Myall_DaveBrewers Wells and Young’s are spending big on advertising their Bombardier beer. Most of their £5 million budget going on TV ads featuring Rik Mayall as a stereotypical, over-the-top British army officer from the Napoleonic period. These ads are appearing on the Dave digital TV channel five days a week for a full year.

A nice little earner for Dave – and significant revenue for the BBC. But how come the UK’s public service broadcaster is involved in advertising on commercial channels?

Because Dave is 50% owned by the BBC through UKTV. They own Dave – along with Alibi, Blighty, Eden, Gold, Good Food, Home, Really, Watch and Yesterday (and all their +1 and HD channel variations). This probably explains why there is so much BBC content on these digital channels – and perhaps why the BBC was so keen to promote digital TV. Certainly the move to digital enabled these channels to reach a much bigger audience than was possible via satellite or cable alone.

The big temptation here is, of course, for the licence-fee part of the BBC to pay for creating new programmes (so taking the financial risks) and for the commercial part of the BBC to buy only the successes. Leaving the others as repeats on the BBC.

Safeguards are, or should be, in place to stop any cross-subsidies of commercial programmes by licence fee payers. But one day someone may well bend the rules  .. and they may even get caught. Then the BBC may well become a candidate for break-up like the banks.