Category: "Media"

Culture change at the BBC

The recent issue over the BBC and Jonathan Ross and that other guy, Russell Brand or whatever his name is, the one who says "like" too much, has continued to be in the news. So I thought I'd just comment on it (makes a break from the endless tech stuff - sorry PDC and WinHEC conferences back to back means there's a lot of tech going on).

Old time readers of my blog will no doubt remember multiple instances that I've said the BBC needs to raise its game. This is largely in relation of the quality of its science programmes which have been steadily dumbed-down.

I think we all agree that the BBC needs to stop the dumbing down and trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, that means not giving people like Jonathan Ross a job, and all the other overpaid presenters who aren't any good. The private media companies can manage that fine by themselves and we shouldn't be blowing money on trying to compete with them on their terms (however tempting that may be).

It also needs to develop more high-quality programmes in-house and stop buying elsewhere, if done right this can help fund the organisation by selling them abroad, I think there is an appetite for high quality programmes especially in the United States where I do believe there is a growing section of the population who are getting fed up with the dire state US television is in, especially from an educational, scientific and news perspective.

The real question is how do we go about this? In the past I've half-jokingly suggested we need to bring together Richard Dawkins, Patrick Moore and David Attenborough and put the BBC's science under their control. The key is we need the people running the BBC to truly believe in raising the quality of the organisation, not to dumb down but to educate and inspire, and of course we need a plan. The BBC has so much potential, and we must find a way to unlock it.

I've also long maintained that the BBC should be funded from central government, I'm pleased that Kevin Davis mentioned how the license fee should be paid in a blog post he did today on the subject.

When it comes down to it, at the moment 10 million or so people need to remember to pay their TV license, let's say they spend 10 minutes per year thinking about it, that's about one and a half million hours per year wasted. When instead we could just get Darling to write a cheque once a year taking 20 seconds.

Let Viacom know what you're watching

As Google have been forced to hand over the viewing habits of every user who has ever watched any video on YouTube. I think it's time to show Viacom that we don't all use YouTube to share "pirate" their crappy (excluding Star Trek which they canned) shows.

So I've got a few suggestions, I hope Viacom love looking through my history, they'll see that I enjoy some good World of WarCraft videos now and again.

Let's start off with World of Offline Gaming, Christmas Time in Dun Morough, Leroy Jenkins, WoW player scolded by parents over Ventrilo, FUNNY Real-Person world of warcraft and of course finally the Rise of the Dragonstar guild's official Alterac Valley battlesong.

If you've got any other suggestions you can use to flood people's viewing histories, feel free to make them below.

The Daily Mail as reactionary and hate-filled as ever

So for those that don't know how right-wing and reactionary the Daily Mail is check this e-mail that one of their writers sent out.

From: rsreply@dwpub.com [mailto:rsreply@dwpub.com]
Sent: 13 February 2008 15:57
To: (hidden)
Subject: Response Source - Diana Appleyard , Daily Mail (Request for personal case study)

PUBLICATION: Daily Mail (Request for personal case study)

JOURNALIST: Diana Appleyard (staff)

DEADLINE: 14-February-2008 16:00

QUERY: I am urgently looking for anonymous horror stories of people who have employed Eastern European staff, only for them to steal from them, disappear, or have lied about their resident status. We can pay you 100 for taking part, and I promise it will be anonymous, just a quick phone call. Could you email me asap? Many thanks, Diana

Now I don't know about you, but I think newspapers should report the news, and not create a story (Eastern Europeans are bad) and then look for evidence to fill in their story, in this case evidence anybody can make up and then get 100. What a joke, of course they all do it, but the Daily Mail has a long history of being among the worst newspaper out there, doing today what they did in the 1930s, pick on an ethnic group, then the Jews, the Indians in the 1950s and etc and blame them for all our ills.

Obviously the concept of a free press is a laughable when the press are controlled by a small handful of individuals - who do have an agenda and do push it with their newspapers.

Beatles crawling about NASA

Why the hell is NASA wasting public money on giving publicity to this group of attention seekers, yes I'm looking at you Paul McCartney.

In case you haven't heard NASA will be broadcasting the Beatles song Across the Universe towards Polaris on the 4th.

Amazing! Well done, NASA! Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul.

Yoko Ono of course had her bit to say as well.

I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe.

As nutty as ever, has anybody told her that Polaris is 400 odd light years away? Wait, she probably doesn't even know what that means. Enjoy waiting 800 odd years for a response, if any, Yoko.

Why NASA are doing this is totally beyond me. There is zero scientific justification to this, all it seems to be doing is wasting US tax payers money on promoting the Beatles. NASA's budget is tight enough, with dozens of scientific programs being cut without wasting money on this nonsense.

If you want to send messages out into the cosmos (we've only done this once or twice before, it is expensive), at least do it properly. Use some mathematical sequence which can only be interpreted as artificial, and send it to high probability targets that are closer to the Earth - and then keep transmitting.

The private exploitation of space needs to stop, yes that means you too Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic - even the name is false advertising! I think its time for a campaign - Keep Space Public.

BBC Watchdog loses the plot over psychics

So I was half watching Watchdog yesterday, and a caught the presenter mention something about proving things about psychics, which sparked my interest.

Somebody sent them in some amulet to heal his aura, whatever that is. To which Nick Campbell said:

"If anyone tries to charge you for this sort of thing, psychic or not, they saw you coming"

That's a pretty crappy attitude to have. You could say the same thing about anything, if you gave a company money for a ticket you never got, they saw you coming. If you gave some company money for product X that doesn't work, they saw you coming. A significant part of the population are way too susceptible to this sort of woo woo, and it should not just be brushed aside.

You're supposed to be in favour of the consumer, no matter if they're handing their money over to so-called psychics with false claims or some greedy company or dodgy individuals.

So I did a bit of searching to see if there was any reason for this just popping up, and as it turns out on last week's episode they did a piece investigating some psychic whackjob who claims to do something or other and charges you thousands of pounds for the privilege.

After the piece was over it went back to the studio where Julia Bradbury said...

"Because of course there are genuine psychics out there"

*Bangs head on the desk*. WHAT?

"Because of course there are genuine psychics out there"

She was speaking to some bloke from the Office of Fair Trading, who strongly emphasised that every investigation they've done has revealed no genuine psychics.

Honestly what the hell.

So anyway, after watching yesterday's episode again to catch what Nick Campbell said, apparently they had a few letters from viewers stating that they think all psychics are "at it", he went on to say:

Proving the authenticity or otherwise of all psychics is slightly outside our area of expertise.

What do I think is going on here? Their legal team are scared of being sued. There have been many cases across Western Europe over the last few years of psychics using the threat of legal action to silence their critics. When it has gone to court, because the legal system so heavily supports the claimant in cases of slander or libel there is a real danger of the defendant actually losing. There was a case in Belgium or the Netherlands a couple of years back where one of Europe's first sceptical societies was ordered to take out a full-page newspaper advert saying that some psychic was actually genuine, simply because they couldn't afford to fight the case and as such disproving the claimants accusation. I'm not sure what happened, but I'd hope they'd close their doors before ever doing such a thing.

This is because here the burden of evidence in slander and libel cases is placed upon the defendant. Instead of in most other areas of law where the burden of evidence is placed upon the claimant.

In the United States you never see this happening, because the burden of evidence is placed where it belongs. It should be up to the psychics to prove they are psychic. Not the defendant to prove a negative (which is impossible).

Three things need to happen:

  • We need to change the law so the burden of evidence is correctly placed upon the claimant.
  • Watchdog also need to stop pussy footing around worrying that they'll upset the woo woo crowd.
  • All psychics, or any other practitioners of nonsense should be arrested and charged with fraud.

Julia Bradbury's bio on the BBC website mentions she's done lifestyle shows, great, the plague of television. And mentions she's coped with John Travolta (Scientology nutjob) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (right-wing Republican asshole). That's a lot of whacky stuff to fit in just one paragraph, maybe there is somebody better for the job out there.

Oh wait, one last thing I'd like to see happen as I've said before, put the BBC under the control of Patrick Moore, Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough. The BBC needs to raise its game, it needs to stop the dumbing down of its science shows and get rid of every ounce of woo woo in the rest of its programming.

Thoughts on the format war - towards one inferior format

For those that don't listen to Gamercast here are my thoughts on where things need to go with the format war.

Paramount, DreamWorks and Universal should begin supporting Blu-ray in a time frame consistent with Warner, so that by the end of the year there is one clear format.

Microsoft should release either a Blu-ray add-on drive or dual BD-ROM/HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 by the end of the year. I don't have any room under my TV for a standalone player, nor do I want to pay the going rate for Blu-ray players.

Unfortunately this situation is extremely bad for the consumer, nor did we get any say in the matter, this was decided by the film studios. They wanted Blu-ray due to the increased control they get from it, region locking and additional copy protection.

This will really hit European consumers (where the recent Blu-ray 1.1 launch was a huge flop). Especially as we're no longer in the same region as Japan, which will further add on confusion where people will expect the regions to be the same as DVD, which they're not. Now we're bundled with Africa and Australia, no doubt film-fans will miss out on many releases that won't make it to Europe and they'll miss out on all the Japanese releases that almost made up for it with DVD.

It will also hit consumers thanks to the insane price point of Blu-ray, at the CES we were seeing new Blu-ray players being announced at $2000 - they're not going to make much progress with price points as high as that.

There's also the matter of scaling production, as HD DVD can be manufactured on existing DVD lines with only a minor retooling so production can be rapidly scaled up on the 400-500 DVD lines in the world. Blu-ray on the other hand has only 14 lines, only 2 of which can produce the 50GB discs.

What I predict we'll see thanks to all of this...

1) Too many Blu-ray films will be released on 25GB discs as demand outstrips the limited manufacturing capacity in the short term.

2) To counter the demand prices will remain high, hitting the enthusiast market and leaving the mass market with DVD.

3) We'll suffer from lower quality films as studios use the inferior and cheaper MPEG2 to counter the additional cost of manufacturing the discs and licensing fees.

4) Different Blu-ray specifications will lead to widespread confusion about which players support what, and what discs support what, further damaging uptake of the new format.

5) Blu-ray will be unable to as successfully compete with DVD as HD DVD would of been able to, and Blu-ray will never win the war against DVD with a decisive victory, leaving the market with both DVD and Blu-ray for well over a decade.

Essentially Blu-ray is the HD format for the film studios, where HD DVD was the HD format for the masses.

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