October, 2006

Football and Gambling

Five Live had a report today about how gambling, and to a lesser extent porn, are becoming quite serious addictions amongst some young footballers. You can listen to the report here. It’s ironic, then, that so many shirt sponsors in the British leagues are now tacky internet gambling companies. Step forward Aston Villa, Blackburn, Middlesborough and Spurs. And of course, pretty much every club has their own “gambling partner”.
It’s not unusual for sponsors to supply products to the players in their teams, so do the players at Villa et al get free lines of credit at their internet casinos?
And of course then there’s the alcohol adverts that appear on shirts. Do they take the advertising logos off the kidswear? No. No. No. Although I do read that because of religious sensibilities, you can buy an “alcohol free” Celtic shirt.
I was thinking about this when for the first time today, I realised that Barcelona were now sporting a shirt sponsor. Except that they’ve selected Unicef who of course aren’t paying for the privilege. I may still see if I can buy an unsponsored Barcelona shirt.

Warning about Hostess Bars

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Following the photo the other day, this time around Westminster council “City Guardians” were leafleting last night at the intersection of Brewer Street and Great Windmill Street in Soho yesterday evening. Nonetheless, just metres away three tourists were being tempted into such a bar by a tall brunette. Evidently there’s a concerted effort to close down these places, and while leafleting and putting signs outside the premises are no doubt effective, they’re not as good as shutting down these places permanently.

W1 Clip Joint

Since I actually took this photo I thought I’d comment. I still find it amazing that the police acknowledge the existence of what it obviously some kind of clip-joint. They even put a man and a sign outside it, yet they can’t close it down.

DTT – Loads of Space

One of the other things it mentioned in that Broadcast article about C4 getting out of Quiz Call is that although it’s giving up the channel, it’s hanging onto the Freeview slot. The worrying thing about that is that Quiz Call on Freeview has to be the most overcompressed channels on the platform. I certainly wouldn’t want to watch a proper channel with so little bandwidth allocated to it. It’d be like watching a YouTube video on the net. Fine in a small 320 x 240 box, but rubbish blown up to full size.
In other news, BBC Parliament is going fullscreen on Freeview. Currently it shares a channel with the News 24 on demand service with BBC Parliament, and two news streams using a quarter of the screen each. So my question is this: where is the extra bandwidth coming from? Are they stopping using one of the two permanent interactive channels? Unlikely. Or are all the other BBC channels on the same multiplex (B) getting compressed a bit more to make space? We’ll find out at the State Opening of Parliament.

More Illegal Clips on YouTube

Following on from the FA the other day, Media Guardian today reports that a rights protection company called NetResult has got YouTube to remove over 1,000 clips for copyright violation. The article goes onto report that NetResult believes that there are “as many as 10,000 more illegal clips on the website.”
Right. I think they’ll find that there are many more than that. And there are lot of rights agencies that Google/YouTube will have to deals with beyond four major record giants to clear themselves. Indeed, given that if I video the Hollywood sign or the Eiffel Tower at night I’m infringing copyright if I don’t pay, the infringements are likely to be endless.

Quiz TV Investigations

It was interesting to see this evening, that now MPs are looking into the phenomenon of quiz TV. Of course the name itself is misleading because the programmes work on the basis of “questions” that don’t have certain answers – they’re largely guessing games.
Last week, Broadcast magazine reported that Channel 4 is planning on selling its channel, Quiz Call which is good to hear. What I hadn’t realised until I saw the Broadcast piece is that Quiz Call has been the subject of a Sunday Times investigation into alleged misbehaviour on the part of the broadcaster. The paper reports that the channel has used its own staff to pose as winners with large cheques, and sometimes ensures that nobody could win prizes for up to 40 minutes.
Earlier in the year, a channel called Big Game TV was raided by police following complaints by viewers to You and Yours – you can hear the piece here.
So now there are investigations into these channels by Ofcom, ICSTIS, the Gambling Commission, and now MPs. As Evan Davies pointed out in his Ten O’Clock News report, TV companies are seeing advertising revenues dropping off, and this has been a nice little earner. But they’re lotteries pure and simple – so give 20% to charity and publish the odds of getting through.

Footie on YouTube

The latest company looking at copyright violations on YouTube seems to be the FA. Unsurprisingly, along with any music video of any note, most of the key goals from around the world and other football incidents (Defoe’s arm chewing for example), quickly find their way onto YouTube.
All this is copyright of course, with Sky and the BBC paying lots of money for the rights in the UK. But a 1 minute goals roundup of a match is perfectly suited to the internet, and those videos are going to end up somewhere.
What’s strange about the story is that the FA is going after a blog rather than YouTube for hosting the goals.
Anyway, it’s really working, because the site links to many of the goals of significance from this weekend including Arsenal’s demolition of Reading, and Real Madrid’s defeat of Barcelona. None of the Saturday games are up, and no doubt by the time you read this, the Premier League goals with have been taken down.
So what happens next? Does the FA sue YouTube? Or do they strike some deal with Google to allow goals to be played and get a stake in Google as a consequence like the record companies? I suspect that neither will be the case.
Of course, if they were really smart, they’d look at the example of Major League Baseball. The World Series is underway at the moment, and they let you watch a “fastcast” which is a short, neatly produced free video package. The highlights of last night’s game – in which the Detroit Tigers tied the series up at 1-1 against the St Louis Cardinals – are already online. But if you want, there’s a competitively priced package of full game streams available to buy. Sadly, while there is video on thefa.com, there’s no Premier League action, relatively little England footage, and even the U21 stuff is out of date (no Germany v England from the other week – just the first leg).
Surely the best way of combatting pirates and video sites is to make something even more compelling available for consumers? That’s certainly what happened with music and the like of the iTunes music store.

List Shows

I hate list shows.
I mean, I really hate list shows.
Weekends are forever full of four hour shows counting down whatever in a pointless way. And a selection of non-entity Z-list celebs spout off about the clip they just watched on a screen seconds before the cameras rolled for their contribution.
Armando Iannucci parodied it all quite well in his recent series.
But having said that, I still watched a good chunk of Greatest Ever Comedy Movies on Five tonight. Sadly the full list isn’t up on the web, and I only saw it from 12 or so down. But it just really disappointed me.
The thing is that this programme did seem to have some budget. A lot of the writers and directors involved had been interviewed, and the majority of the other talking heads were film critics like Barry Norman and Derek Malcolm. OK, so we did have Michael Winner too.
No. The real problem is slightly alluded to in the previous paragraph. They were able to interview most of the salient personnel. That means that they’re alive. What that really means is that no old films got a look in.
Sure, the overall winner, Life of Brian, was made in 1979, but I’m talking about really old films. Movies from the thirties, forties, fifties and sixties. I didn’t see the whole show, and maybe some did make it. Perhaps a few of the Ealing comedies, the odd thirties screwball comedy. Buster Keaton? Laurel & Hardy? I don’t know.
What I do know is that the only film of any age that I saw was at number 11, and was the incomparable Some Like It Hot. A true classic.
What a shame then, that the number 10 film was Mrs Doubtfire.
I’m not sure who ever decided that Giles Coren would make a decent TV presenter because I find him just about the most irritating person on television – and include every “cast member” of reality TV programmes in that list. But at least he had the decency to blame us. Well not me obviously, but you. The British public. Well those member of the public who ticked a few pre-selected films on the Five website at some point earlier this year.
So what we end up with is effectively the comedy section in the local Blockbuster Express (By the way, why are they called “Express”? It’s not like they’re any faster. What they really mean is that the branch is tiny). The range is pitifully small and just represents all the really obvious films you can think of, have seen a million times before, and quite probably own the DVDs of a few of them.
I think what annoys me is that there isn’t a proper film programme on TV at the moment. Film 2006 is fine for reviews, and Paul Merton made an excellent series on silent stars earlier this year. I miss Moving Pictures, or those intros that Alex Cox or Mark Cousins used to do for Moviedrome (complete aside – I’ve just noticed that Alex Cox has put a PDF of his book on spaghetti Westerns released under a Creative Commons licence). Still The Cinema Show starts again on BBC Four next week.