Sunday, March 29, 2009

Electronic time

So the clocks have changed here in the UK ( we lose the hour we gained in the autumn).

Time is a strange old thing and generally relative .. when I worked in TV broadcasting I became aware of how long 10 seconds (for example) can be and when I was a child I became aware of how long a boring Sunday evening could be. We are all now obsessed with time minutes and seconds are a relatively recent aberration and we all think we're on tight schedules but waste time watching nonsense on TV.

I had always thought that e-mail was pretty reliable and fast, if something failed to arrive it was either miss-addressed or the spam filters were over zealous but this week I've witnessed a strange occurrence where an e-mail took two and a half days to arrive and it's replacement came far quicker than that!

Looking into strange delays in e-mails there was surprisingly little information on my searches regarding delays in e-mail but I did find that

" E-mail delivery is affected by Internet traffic. This means that if the Internet as a whole is busy, it may take longer for your messages to be delivered. Many companies and servers process e-mail messages before they are delivered. To further investigate, provide a full message header of the delayed e-mail. Here’s how:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Copyright and the media.. - this idiots guide..

I went to hear a very clever guy speak yesterday, his name Hubert Best his subject some of the legal issues around media content copyright in the satellite/Internet on demand universe.

And to quote Johnny Nash from that surprisingly deep I can see clearly now song .. 'the more I find out the less I know' (which is so often the case).

Copyright goes back a long time (hundreds of years) and was originally related to written materials only, but it is important to view Intellectual materials as you would any other product that requires labour to construct, it is important to recognise that the property has value which can be sold given away or bequeathed.

Copyright law used to be territorial i.e. English Law was sovereign in England -not so simple now and we have 'long arm statutes' and the 'Berne Convention' (most countries are signatories)

A few points related to the media age that I noted are:

Satellite transmissions violate country borders without any effort - in terms of the law the place of emission is where Royalties should be paid.

You might think the Internet is for e-mail and sending funny pictures in fact even in 2006 around 75% of Internet traffic was a result of file sharing.

There is a gap between the Anglo Saxon(UK & US) world view and European (this might not be news to you) - Europe considers the author as supreme in all things creative -- hence the fact that the French believe colorising should only be allowed if the director says so and the US reckons if its okay with Turner Classic movies 'no problemo'.

US law also favours First amendment (free speech rights) pretty much to the detriment of all other rules - which means it can take bits of films without the copyright owners permission and stitch them together into whatever they like (this in law was highlighted by Yahoo sale of Nazi memorabilia which French law objected to and US courts overruled.)

US also permits what some might consider as violations where the use is 'transformative' (case was Barbie in work of art - Mattel unable to protect the doll)

There used to be two types of rights that went with a piece of 'creative content' the copying bit (mechanical) and the performing bit - what is the Internet - well it's both in that it can carry a performance (near live) but along the way all sorts of copies exist (in all those Cisco boxes and things).

Now the distribution rights for things like books and DVDs actually exhaust - this means I can buy a copy of Harry Pottter and the temple of doom' read it and then sell it on e-bay as a used book.

But I can't do a copy of the previously mentioned book and sell it on e-bay (unless I want to get into legal hot water).

This leads to a sort of kludge for the web where you have a form of copyright that is known as a 'making available right' this covers
1) copying and
2) a kind of distribution that doesn't exhaust (I can't pass it on).

Now these are just the tip of the iceberg - if you're going to get involved in copyright get advice it's a minefield

Digital Britain report will have some thing to say about rights (but probably unlikely to simplify things).

(hope this hasn't given you a headache)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Politicians - making Estate Agents look good...

Political Rant

Great, following hot on the heels of our home secretary Jacqui Smith taking the taxpayer for all she can we have Tony McNulty extracting gratuitous amounts of the 'Michael' by claiming around £60,000 because (as far as I can tell) his parents happen to have a house in his constituency - (BTW seems that he and his wife earn between them about one third of a £million per year) .

Outrageous just doesn't begin to describe the behaviour that politicians think as reasonable, thankfully this type of 'grabbing all you can' is now exposed and we might get some MPs who when given a severe reminder of who pay their wages will see sense.

Shockingly many of the happy band see the exposure as a reason to campaign for an extra £40,000 per year-apart from the many MPs that have second incomes or partners who manage to gravitate to well paid state sponsored jobs they also manage to have eye wateringly long holidays - if they don't like the job and the terms they shouldn't apply for it, and perhaps we'd get people who genuinely care about the nation they're meant to serve.

Oh yes and don't get me started on the MPs who manage to get away with employing their own family members.

(end of Rant)

Monday, March 23, 2009

conflicting stories on ITV's strategy ..

What a story on ITV in today's Daily Express - now it is important when viewing press reports on TV to realise that there are often issues that the proprietor rather than the paper's editorial team wishes to push but this is a new angle.

The idea that ITV should move to a subscription business model does have some logic and is worth further investigation, key concerns would be:
* How does it reach its audience (would it be platform neutral) ?
* Does it keep a minimal Free to Air offering to retain the PSB privileges it currently enjoys ?

* What do its advertisers think?
* Would this be socially divisive/ what would the Government's view be? Consider over 75s already get their TV license paid.
* How would it play out with Sky and their share of the ITV business?

Advantages are that the revenue stream becomes less turbulent and that advertisers are more likely to get the upmarket viewers they so often desire.

Elsewhere on the 'net' there are stories of the importance of Project Canvas to ITV's future as a free to air broadcaster - not sure if the two stories are connected and the 'scare' of a non- universal ITV is being floated with the hope that it will help to bounce acceptance of Canvas? (which Virgin and Sky are both opposing)!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Work and Exploration

One of my favourite non-fiction writers is Alain de Botton, as well as being at the approachable end of the philosophy genré he has an unerring ability to hit the zeitgeist when it comes to selecting topics.

Although I've not yet tackled the architecturally angle book 'The Architecture of Happiness' I can hardly wait until April 2nd when the latest work The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is published.
Gather from the rather egg-headed one's website that he's also involved in a rather exciting enterprise called the school of life to me this sounds like a truly admirable idea and surely worth a visit.
On the subject of books I've had my first experience of Waterstones on-line which has been very good, though I'm a little worried that they might be undercutting their retail presence by offering such good discounts and free shipping - having seen the book at my local shop I find it much cheaper online!

The book in question is How to be an explorer of the world by Keri Smith which I think might be aimed at a much younger audience than
myself but which looks fabulous fun (although not all the reviewers at Amazon seem to see it the same way) - hopefully I'll update the blog as I carry out the tasks within.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Marketing Man takes helm at ITN

The new man heading up ITN is former Disney European TV boss John Hardie and it is most unlikely that he's been recruited to preserve the Status Quo at the financially challenged commercial TV news provider.

The current ITN shareholders (including ITV the DMGT and UBM) do not see ITN as key to their future success and one of the big challenges for the new boy will be to bring in investors committed to the expansion and diversification of the Grays Inn Road based outfit.

Former journalistic type Mark Wood had joined ITN from Reuters and his reign of running the operation through challenging times has been sure footed. Wood is said to be leaving the MD post to pursue other opportunities although he'll remain as Chairman until the transition to the new guy is complete and a replacement chairman has been chosen.

Hardie like many of TV's rising stars has a marketing rather than broadcasting background his skills were shown at ITV where he rejigged much of the diverse ITV's 'regional branding to a less confusing single entity.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Setanta in final seconds of extra time?

News International Media Supremo Rupert Murdoch is on record as believing in the importance of Sport for Pay TV but the idea that you just bid and bid to capture sports rights is not the way to run a lesser bouquet of sports channels.

Setanta the other sports pay tv operator on the UK dominant multi-channel platform is looking in danger of finding itself on the 'subs' bench (and we don't mean subscribers).

In time Sky might regret what they've done to their upstart competitor which now looks like it might have to throw in the towel- it seems hard to believe that OFCOM or the competition commission will be able to continue to ignore the elephant that's in so many viewers front rooms for too much longer.

So expect BT and Virgin to up their sideline whingeing and some sensible changes to be unveiled.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Here are 3 Good things to do?

Tesco is often attacked for its dominance of UK retail activity but they do seem to be working on a number of green initiatives - the idea of awarding ' clubcard points' for recycling hard to dispose of plastics seems particularly worthwhile. Over 100 articles recycled today!

I've got some spare time so have volunteered to assist in one of my local Oxfam shops.

When you think about how much spectacles cost it's worth passing on unwanted pairs why not give away your unwanted spectacles? I delivered 2 pairs to my local Dollond and Aitchison.

501 Must See Movies

A Christmas or so ago I got a couple of books of the must do/see genré, I've also accumulated a vast library of free DVDs courtesy of the great British Press.
So recently when there's not been anything appealing in the schedules we've viewed what seem to be regarded as 'Good Films' to be honest I've been a little disappointed - the two films were

A Touch of Evil from the all round Smart Arse Orson Welles - bit melodramatic and a very strangely made up Charlton Heston (meant to be Mexican) in an over long black and white story.

The second film was Glengarry Glen Ross, and this was powerful, (lots of effin' and blindin') and well acted but a bit of a downer reminding the viewer to stay away from financial slaesmen of all varieties.

I'm not sure if it's partly because I really like to films at the Cinema rather than on a TV (perhaps I need a big screen, BlueRay and Dolby 5.1).

I'll probably try and work through some more of the reccomendations of great movies I've not seen and if you have a particular favourite please let me know.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The perils of trojans and the like

Beware of Trojans etc. I went to an IET lecture this week that focused on "Information Security and the Law" it was given by that rare beast a" techie" lawyer- even rarer Dai Davis is a legal type capable of making the subject engaging.

Seems that we have a law that is able to send someone to prison for 10 years or so for fooling around with another persons phone but (perhaps) fortunately we don't have suitably equipped forces to deal with what could be severely draconian laws.

One of the persons who is to blame is Emma Nicholson who framed and introduced legislation when she was an MP (a little knowledge being a dangerous thing) the rest of the trouble (of course) is from Europe.

The US and Europe are where most of the attacks stem from- not as I thought Russia and the "emerging states" watch out for South America in the future..

Dai also explained that its worth getting onto banks regarding "phishing" attacks (those scams where bank masqueraders want you to update your details online) as they are able to pressure ISPs to take action. (Dai thought that RBS of course were one of the banks who did not take their responsibilities seriously). A good background item on the nature of the problem here.

Don't respond to spam e-mail from sources you don't know saying you wish to be removed - this merely confirms your existence.

Strangely the day after attending the lecture I got the Trojan "Hamweq A"I seems to have managed to remove the little devil but the experience shows that IT security is a subject that deserves consideration.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Channel 4 - interesting times (may you live in)

That famous Chinese curse "interesting times" might be relevant to the past and present toilers at Horseferry Road.

Seems that Sky have gone on record with some questions on the governance of C4 - saying pretty much that the company has been profligate and careless with what are to all intents and purposes public funds.

Now in what could be a spooky parallel with the scandal of the politicians Jacqui Smith and Caroline Spelman do we have in Mark Thompson (the former C4 boss who now heads BBC) and Michael Grade (the former C4 boss who now heads ITV) a similar awkward situation where they can't slag each other off?

The two politicians give the impression that their problems with expenses mean that neither Labour nor Conservative can snipe at the other creating a Tory Labour standoff that owes much to a Mutually Assured Destruction scenario and the largesse they have both been extracting from the poor old Tax Payer doesn't get the airing/debate it should have in the mother of all parliaments.

Let's hope that a full disclosure of any extravagance that went on at C4 Towers is exposed, perhaps Kevin Lygo will let the cat out the bag much as he has over the acknowledgment that he's being paid too much and effectively bounced other senior Channel 4 luminaries into taking salary cuts (all be it smaller ones.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Channel five continues the TV jobs cull - but where can the channel go?

While most of the press have been going on about ITV for the last week or so the company that's really having a hard time is poor little C5.

With a squeeze on commercials and audience fragmentation the most hard hit victim of the TV advertising downturn has announced job cuts that mean a quarter of its staff are going to be looking for new ways to occupy their time.

With a limited multi-channel strategy and a lack of identity there seems to be little hope in the short term for the last analogue channel to be launched in the UK, it's best bet would be for Sky to buy it from RTL (the current owners) but this is unlikely until Sky's appeal against its ITV holding is resolved.

The other alternative is for C5 to absolve itself of PSB requirements, ditch the analogue service and make a dramatic break from the past - offer a real alternative to what's on offer and see where it takes the channel.

Some ideas of what it might show here

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Virgin media's exit from TV content business can help C4?

Press today as well as running stories about ITV's glorious past has conjecture on the future of Virgin Media's actual TV interest (as opposed to it's broadband cable business).

The wisdom of selling at a knock down price might stall the 'for sale' signs but the sale could offer possible assistance to the BBC Worldwide C4 joint operation.

Currently under the content umbrella of Virgin Media sits a 50% holding in UKTV channels with BBC Worldwide owning the remainder - if C4 can get the cash together for the purchase then the BBC Worldwide C4 solution would look even more feasible.

Not sure how the curious mish-mash of programming that is the Virgin 1 channel would fit in with any future buyer.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

ITV results... and the future

So ITV results are out and not good, predictably with the news that they won't pay a dividend ITV have to show some evidence of belt tightening and the folks at the Leeds studios are in the front line with many paying by losing their jobs.
Questions on the future include of course Can Grade survive?

Where does it leave ITV?

Bu there's not too much real change so far at ITV and no clear answer to the financial pressures causing the grief. the pressures aren't going to disappear anytime soon so rather than ploughing on into the rocks some changes need to be made.
I'm afraid I see some logic in separating the two businesses within ITV that we can describe as Production and the transmission chain. Where production does a fine job making premium content for broadcasters that include Channel 4 and BBC and ITV transmission tries to put together a schedule that delivers viewers to paid for messages.

Some have already suggested that an ITV production company could be attractive to Sky (and it would not materially affect competition) ITV transmission could then move to a Publisher/broadcaster model with the ability to commission where it wishes to maximise those important audiences and keep a low cost structure for getting suitable content to air (perhaps using Red Bee).

The idea that ITV should be all about managing decline is negative and the concept that ITV can once again be a ' licence to print money' is unrealistic - as they say the drama continues.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Take it to the bridge (Spotify)

While I was trying to complete some drawings this afternoon, I was abducted by aliens ...
No that's not actually the case but what happened was I discovered the joys of spotify which is currently a free application (there are some paying versions for those who can't put up with the odd advert) that lets you play from a vast library of music with a minimal scattering of commercials. It had much the same effect as me leaving the planet a far as useful endeavours are concerned but at least I can share it with you dear reader.

I 'm not sure how the business model is structured having heard all the problems of pandora (not available in UK now either) I hope that it is sustainable as it seems pretty good to me.

ITV woes

talking of business models that aren't sustainable we're close to hearing the latest financial results from ITV and if they're half as bad as the rumours then some fairly tough cuts will be made. The share price has gone freefall (even more than other media stock) and stories of 'sell offs' of various parts of the business are doing the rounds but selling assets at the bottom of the market does not seem to be a good option.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Canvas the way forward for iPlayer etc.

What I'd like to see is a Platform neutral Set Top Box that can aggregate content (SD and HD -Free -to-Air and premium) from broadband, Freesat and Freeview with all the clever facilities that Sky+ offers and it seems that project Canvas will be delivering quite a bit of this. Hopefully there'll be quite a few bells and whistles to start with and the solution will be sufficiently open to allow for the possibility of others developing it even further.

So far Virgin have been getting great appreciation from their users for the iPlayer service that is available to your telly and ITV content will be having the same sort of option too.

Worries are that BT, ITV and BBC will try to limit what can be downloaded to Canvas, or that the BBC Trust or competition commission may get involved and slow the rollout.

Talk is of a 2010 launch but tt seems that Sky will be unhappy if it looks like Canvas will be giving their TV rivals (and BT) a lead.

Some more info on what we may get here and a nice backgrounder from here