Archive for April, 2009

I’ve stressed for eighteen months, to anyone who’ll listen, the glories of Zattoo for those who love a bit of ‘linear TV’ but don’t actually own a big telly box in the corner; get a decent broadband connection and you can quite happily watch terrestrial/digital TV at home. In the UK, the only downside, for me, is the lack of More4.

Until now – low and behold, Zattoo seems unable to cope during football matches – citing a busy server. Going a long way to prove that those picking up new technologies and web apps are often young males, Barcelona vs Chelsea last night was one crash after another. On relaunch, it wouldn’t reconnect, and I was left longing for a good old 1-metre thick telly.

What did I do in the end, you ask? Well, straight to where a suitable channel enabled me to watch ESPN’s stream, thereby doing my buit in bringing down the immorally high (and currently media attack-proof) wages of professional footballers. But I digress.

It was exactly the same two weeks ago for Liverpool vs Chelsea, in fact, so if you’re streaming Zattoo or other legal ways to watch telly – be warned – they still cannot be relied upon for what people claim weil always need ‘TV’ (or at least certain TV companies) for – Sport.  And for sport, read football!

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Happy 1984
Image by Diodoro via Flickr

The Numerati is the name of Steve Baker’s new book, and frankly, I wish my perception of the new class he terms the ‘numerati’ were as relaxed as his.

In this piece in the New Statesman, entitled The Rise of The Geeks, Baker lays downhow the data-monitors and number-crunchers of the world, from the websites that insert cookies in our browsers, to location-data start-up Sense Networks (analysing the behaviour of groups, for marketing purposes, via the use of mobile-phone data), are increasingly important players. And here’s silly me thinking geeks were still the good guys!

Whether or not that’s the case, this is a fascinating topic. Of course, you may or may not find the implications of this level of data-manipulation worrying. Large corporations are well onto it, while governemnts seem to be someway behind (let’s hope I’m not being too naive – nah, I bet they can’t afford it). Anyway, I have a feeling the ‘numerati’ will be slipping into my vocab.

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Just felt I had to share my thoughts on Armando Iannucci’s new politcal comedy In The Loop which I caught last night at the Ritzy in Brixton.

As a huge fan of The Thick Of It, there was always going to be a little doubt that In The Loop might not be up to scratch. For the first 10 minutes I was a little worried, but soon enought the gags were flying, and Peter Capaldi is masterful as the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker. James Gandolfini is also brilliant as the Colin Powell-esque general, and their showdown towards the end of the film just wasn’t long enough. Once or twice it did just feel like an extended episode of the show, but otherwise it was perfectly done. No softening down of Malcolm for the American market (the word ‘cunt’ makes itself heard throughout), no over-exploitation of Steve Coogan, who is also very amusing in his role, and no t00-heavily-produced feel to the film. Best of all, and most importantly, the script is killer.

Afterwards, Iannucci was on hand to answer questions from the audience. Unfortantely, the answer to whether he’ll be working with naughty Chris Morris anytime soon came back negative: What with the BBC being a target for the (unmentioned) Daily Mail brigade, hiring Morris is not an option. Shame, he’s a funny bastard. Verdict for In The Loop, 4.5 stars!

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BBC Television Centre autostitch
Image by ➨ Redvers via Flickr

Former Guardian editor Peter Preston is indeed ‘on the money’ in today’s Observer, voicing opinion on arguably the issue in PSB (public service broadcasting) right now – that the UK’s controversial TV licence-fee, which pays for the BBC and other public service content, will have to make the move online.

Currently, you don’t need to fork out for a TV licence to watch iPlayer content, but you do need one if you watch live content as it’s being shown on TV – meaning live streams of the BBC’s digital channels, available from the  coporation’s site, already do fall under the current system. However, it’s the iPlayer that is the big one, and as more and more people switch to watching purely online content, the Beeb is quickly going to find all those people claiming they don’t need a licence, really don’t, legally, need a licence.

But when it comes to the crucial role of journalism in a liberal-democracy, Preston’s final point rings very true indeed. ‘The best things in life can’t be free’, he says. When it comes to journalism, good journalism, meagre advertising rates will not be enough to support this costly exercise in a world where no-one wants to pay for their news. It’s surely only a matter of time until a radical reworking of the licence-fee is undertaken.

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What will I do? Well, I suppose I will promise to denounce, for the rest of my living days, any media organisation that called for war on the basis of lies, resulting in the deaths of untold Iraqi civilians,  British, American and other military personnel, and that has the temerity, a few years down the line, to cynically exploit that act, in order to sell their paper. What will you do?

Some real fans of Britain’s top-selling daily.

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I was very interested to read that the Press Assocation is cancelling its multimedia training scheme for this year.  As part of  fine trend of navel-gazing, the media is full of stories of newspapers that will struggle to make it through the current downturn – and so it probably should be.  After all, it’s not only local newspapers where journalists are in trouble – radio and TV journalists are in the same boat as advertising money dries up.

Of course, the first thing that needs to be done in this instance, or so the prevailing logic goes, is to cut costs. And unfortunately for promising young journalists at the start of their career, investing in new talent is not a good idea in the financial short term.  So, no investment from the PA, while I too have experienced something similar, breaking into Channel Four News last year via  a new talent scheme, but now told in no uncertain times I can’t take it any further with my degree of experience when hundreds of older, more experienced journalists are hungry for work as well.  After being made redundant when the  start-up media outlet I was at cut all non -revenue-generating staff,  I’ve been extremely lucky to recently pick up work as a freelancer on some More4 News projects – but let’s say no one in that position is in for the money or job security.

The point is, while it has always been hard to break in to a job that a lot of people simply would like to do, without the blessed hand of nepotism (I could point to some sickening recent examples), it is nigh on impossible now.  But while all the talk seems to be about news outlets making it through the recession, what state are they going to be in for the following ten years? It might be bad for new journalists who cannot break in due to the knock-on results of spending cuts, but in reality, it’s pretty bad news for media companies too.  Not investing in talent is a dangerous recipe for the future.

Some interesting articles on similar topics here, here and here

Google Street view Car en la Costa del Sol
Image by montuno via Flickr

Personally, I’m a little concerned that this government seems intent on forcing through ID cards, with scant regard for the probability that they won’t do any good in preventing terrorism or helping stop ID theft. It seems they’ll make that situation worse, actually. But many English folk are seemingly unconcerned, in that they’d be unlikely to go out on the streets and protest.

Mainstream media sources, with a few exceptions, were frothing with excitement earlier in the week at the prospect of violence at the G20 protests. It turned out that what occurred was a first-rate PR campaign by the Metropolitan police – not only was the violence minimal (when compared to how the capitals of other European countries fare when such events take place), but only several thousand protestors showed up, ring-fenced by almost as many journalists, who were reportedly promptly booed. Why do the English not care enough about the issues affecting them? Surely  if one issue would rile people it is this one, when personal savings and wealth are on the line? Apparently not. There is faith in the system.

Well, it seems there is one issue that can get an entire village to stand hand in hand. It isn’t rampant morality-free capitalism, or even a government insistent on erasing the civil liberties that Britain has so proudly kept for centuries. It’s the Google car again!  There they stood, adamant that their little houses would be burgled if a photo was posted online, hand in hand. Not only should the bigger concern be the dozens of other things that Google knows about us (addresses, every email we send, surfing habits, shopping habits, credit card details, friends, the tv you watch…), but the continous encroachment of our liberties by the government. You can get the English on the street to protest, but the metrics for making this happen do seem a little odd.

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