UK Media Blog

Watching, Listening, Reading, Commenting.

Archive for the ‘BBC’ Category

BBC iPlayer – Don’t Hold Your Breath

Posted by Daniel on July 29, 2007

BBC iPlayerOn 27th July, the BBC iPlayer was finally launched, after a series of rumours, blunders and false starts dating back to 2003, when the project was first announced. Except, actually, it hasn’t launched. Again.

The iPlayer is currently in another beta stage, meaning that the previous 1000-user beta which launched on 15th November last year simply wasn’t good enough and nor was the beta before that of 5000 users from October 2005. So, cue a mad rush of those ‘in-the-know’ to start toying with the new technology, as soon as the floodgates opened last Friday. However, those who got to the site were welcomed by a friendly piece of text, stating that memberships are to be handed out on an application basis. You apply, wait to be accepted and then the fun allegedly starts.

With disappointment comes a sense of reasoning, initially, where the frustration subsides and one realises that, maybe the BBC do need to tinker around with it one last time to get things right before a full public launch. However, after taking a look at the beta myself, there is a lot left for them to develop.

When you’re approved to enter the program, you’re given a username and password which consists of randomly generated letters and numbers respectively (therefore difficult to remember). But then, to use the iPlayer, you have to enter in a second, and separate, username and password which is the normal one you use to log into the BBC’s forums. So far, so bad, with two different logins required. After deciding I wanted to take a look at the last Doctor Who episode which I unfortunately missed, I was asked to install the iPlayer onto my computer, which I did right away… after being asked to sign in again. Upon installation, I refreshed the page as instructed but clicking ‘download’ just brought up the same request to install the iPlayer, despite having it open and in front of me.

As it demanded, I was in Windows, I had the recent Media Player and I opened the site in Internet Explorer. Do you think Mark Thompson and Bill Gates are having an affair behind our backs? iPlayer won’t work on Macs or Linux and it won’t work on Firefox or, in fact, any other browser, operating system or media player. This, the BBC says, is set to be in development by the autumn but knowing their regard for deadlines, who actually knows?

4oDIn fact, there already exists a very simple program which downloads popular programmes legally and with just a couple of clicks. 4 on Demand (or 4oD as it’s fashionably known) has been delivering programmes quite successfully, with a minimum amount of problems since last November. The worst bit is, they use the same technology as the iPlayer but the BBC still can’t pull it off, despite the gargantuan development time. Sure, 4oD is not perfect – it only runs in Windows and they don’t have further plans to extend it and some programmes cost money to view – but it actually works. As does ITV’s offering and Five’s odd CSI-only service – in fact the BBC run a report on their news site which seems to trounce the iPlayer in all ways. It seems the new application is losing popularity already.

Audience apathy isn’t the only problem, however. This beta (or gamma or even delta) test is extremely buggy, with users experiencing system crashes, delivery errors, failed logins, program conflicts, security problems… a cabbage could probably download BBC programming better than iPlayer. It desperately begs the question:

What the hell have the BBC been doing for the past four years?!

Let’s hope that by the full launch in the autumn, it actually works for everyone. For a look at the iPlayer from someone who did get it to work, have a look at the Guardian’s review. At the moment though, as far as I’m concerned, those re-runs of Chucklevision will have to wait.


Does the iPlayer work well for you? Is it a disastrous overinvestment of time and money or is it a godsend to audiences in the UK? What should we see from on demand television services in the future, in order to make them more accessible to audiences? Drop me a comment and tell me what you think.


Posted in BBC, iPlayer, On Demand, Online, Television | Leave a Comment »

Madeleine McCann – Welcome to the Media Circus

Posted by Daniel on May 23, 2007

BBC/APThe search for Madeleine McCann goes on and, unfortunately, so does the media coverage. Whilst I’m sure we can all agree that the media can be used effectively in order to find a missing person, there is a sense of going overboard in this case.

Take a few cute photos, a shocking ‘snatched from her bed’ plot-line and two humble, loving parents in grief and you have the recipe for a media orgy, all falling over each other to catch on to what little information can be garnered from this event. Despite the fact of thousands of British children missing, politicians walk round with a yellow ribbon adorning their sweaty jackets ‘for Madeleine’ along with The Sun, dressing their website’s masthead for all to see and generally slapping every half-baked story about her on the front page.

Naturally, it’s not a point on its own to simply say “there are thousands of people missing, why is she so special?” because it’s obvious why. It makes a great story and I agree, it should certainly be in the news as it does have a high news value. However, there comes a point where the newsers turn to users.

As BBC’s Newswatch reports (yes, I am aware it’s the Daily Mail of news criticism), there have been as many as 5 live reports from Portugal within an hour of BBC News 24 and all with different reporters. ITN has been even worse with their wall-to-wall coverage and, in my mind, ITV news is about as tabloid as TV news gets, making them as bad as The Sun in my opinion. Lots and lots of reporting… yet no developments. The nature news media dictates that celebrities must also get involved in order to raise their profile and so consequently there’s been an auction for the person who can donate the most to the reward for finding her, with media attention sold to the highest bidder. Incidentally, the reward fund now stands at £2.6 million and I’m sure the National Missing Persons Helpline can only dream of raising such a large amount of money so quickly.

After the news coverage, the celebrities and the donations come the moral public reaction. Not only have there been websites, blogs and other general online ‘help’ as well as the much-reported offline support too. Cycling along Sunderland’s high street today I even saw a poster asking us to report any sightings of her, stuck to a phone box.

Put simply, there is nothing more special about this little 4-year-old girl than there is with any other British child. The family are certainly lucky to get this media attention and would be fools not to use it – and the media are right to report it. However, now that her face is out there and everyone knows what she looks like and what happened to her, the reporting should slow down to a trickle until there is actually something new to report.

It must be considered though, that this is news and newspapers thrive on it, obviously. So wouldn’t they be stupid not to capitalise on this? Your comments are much appreciated.


Posted in BBC, ITV, Journalism, Madeleine McCann, Print, Radio, Television | 1 Comment »

Sweeney Snaps – Scientology & the BBC

Posted by Daniel on May 15, 2007

BBC/PAJohn Sweeney is well-known in journalistic circles for his bold-and-brash approach to his reports. Whether it’s drinking moonshine/knock-off vodka in Russia (and risking a serious liver disease doing so) or exposing knock-off paediatricians to the General Medical Council, he certainly does what he can to stretch his reporting to the limits, something which you can certainly admire the man for.

However, in a recent ‘documentary’ for the BBC, John Sweeney investigates Scientology and, despite his unblemished track record for the truth, he loses his cool in what he terms an ‘exploding tomato’ moment. Who wouldn’t end up shouting for all they’re worth, after being stalked relentlessly for days by the mad professor of Scientology in the USA, Tommy Davis. They filmed interviews and confrontations and made their own videos which they posted on YouTube as a counter stratagem.

Scientology is a religion like no other and I mean that in a negative sense. Whilst they don’t go round claiming holy war on everyone they see like some clichéd ‘Islamic extremist organisation’, they are clearly the blind leading the blind. What the hell do they think they’re doing, stalking a prominent British journalist?

I don’t say this in defence of John, rather, how stupid do you have to be? Surely if you stalk someone in a blacked-out car, block access to key churches and criticise the journalist in question, then your religion is going to be seen as some oppressive, flighty and insane organisation, intent on quashing negativity from the outside. Doesn’t it make sense to fluff the reporter as much as possible, with posh dinners and friendly meetings in order to make Scientology seem like the quaint, expensive social club that it is, rather than some fascist cult? They shot themselves in the foot twice over, not only by denying a perfect vision of the sci-fi fantasists’ way of doing things but they forgot the Golden Rule of news – bad news is good news (for the channel broadcasting it, at least). Panorama achieved a 19% (4.4m) share of the viewers for that time, a boon for the programme’s editors.

As for the BBC, I can understand Tommy’s concerns after the previous ‘neutral’ and ‘unbiased’ documentaries that have been coming out of the BBC News tosh factory of late. Anything from the BBC that claims to blow the whistle on something or investigate malpractice I take an instant disregard to. I’ve yet to see an episode of Panorama that genuinely allows the other side a chance to exercise their right-to-reply beyond being shouted at by a Paxman wannabe in a suit two sizes too big. Either that or a ‘serious reporter’ in the new style of poly-skilled female newsreaders who overcompensate with glasses way too big for her face…

Sweeney will undoubtedly get a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again but, thankfully, be back to bite the head off some other jumped-up figurehead or other. The pay-as-you-go religion, as Sweeney describes it, has a lot of lessons to learn if anyone is going to take them seriously but, with millions under their belt already, they’re laughing.

Taking a quick glance at ‘Sweeney Panorama’ search results on YouTube brings up a startling anti-BBC response. Do these stupid defenders of the faith need reminding that, as in Scientology, the BBC is an organisation of individuals with varying opinions and reactions? You can’t say he is representative of the BBC.

Still, I wonder who came off looking stupid here, the BBC’s irratic journalism or Scientology’s censorship tactics? BBC, one. Scientology, nil. The BBC wins over any whinging, money grabbing fabulists.


Posted in BBC, Television | 4 Comments »