January, 2011

National Portrait Gallery Workshop

National Portrait Gallery Workshop-6
Back in November I visited the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The museum had also put on a number of talks and events surrounding the prize, and on Saturday I was part of a small workshop group there to learn a little more about what makes a good photographic portrait. The session was led by Anthony Luvera, an Australian who teaches as well as being a working professional photographer.
It was a practical day, and so after another look around the exhibition itself, we were soon set loose onto the streets of London for a couple of assignments.
The first was to take photographs of people without consent. This isn’t a million miles away from street photography, and just to be clear, as long as the place you’re taking photographs isn’t private property and you’re not causing an obstruction, this is totally legal.
Now I’m not saying that this is always a comfortable experience. I preferred the up front and honest approach rather than holding my camera at waist height or something. I was using my old Sony A100 since my more recent camera is sadly still being fixed. But it was interesting and not to say, quite liberating going out on the streets and doing something like this.
I took many of my photos around Covent Garden which is a tourist area, so people with cameras are everywhere. But with mostly just using my 50mm lens, it was clear I wasn’t taking the scenery, but people.
The second assignment was further outside my comfort zone. That entailed going up to complete strangers and asking if they would allow me to take a photo – i.e. with consent.
National Portrait Gallery Workshop-11
Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard, and I’d guess with repetition it’d become easier. Again, part of me wonders that if you’re in central London with many people being visitors, that makes it easier, but people generally didn’t mind posing for a few seconds. Only one group of three men sitting having coffee in a café turned me down.
National Portrait Gallery Workshop-12
I was a little more selective about who I asked, avoiding young children and young women largely, but it was an interesting experience. One to repeat?
More photos here.
National Portrait Gallery Workshop-15
National Portrait Gallery Workshop-3

John Barry

It’ll be for others to write proper obituaries, but I wanted to acknowledge the wonderful John Barry, who’s death was announced this morning at 77.
From James Bond to The Persuaders, Born Free to Dances With Wolves, and The Ipcress File to the Midnight Cowboy, Barry’s music was exceptional, and reached hundreds of millions. He’ll forever be associated with James Bond, working on 11 of the films, but there was plenty more to his oeuvre. Anyone who’s ever seen films like Midnight Cowboy or Born Free, will understand how important his score was to those films. And perhaps most successfully in latter years, the same is true of Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves.
He won five Academy Awards and was made a Fellow of BAFTA. He wrote musicals, and had his work feature in the singles chart.
I can recommend Themology as a good introduction, and at just £3.99, you should jump at it. Although this version seems to have a couple of fewer tracks than mine does. Nonetheless, everyone should have some John Barry in their CD collection or on their iPod.
More at the BBC and Reuters.

True Grit

In 1985, I won two tickets in a local newspaper comeptition to see the new Clint Eastwood western, Pale Rider, at the ABC Enfield (now Tesco). It was the first time I’d been in a cinema to see a western. That was partly because westerns didn’t appeal to a 15 year old boy, and partly because they simply weren’t being made any more. Westerns were something you ran into when BBC1’s Grandstand or ITV’s World of Sport didn’t have anything worth watching on a Saturday afternoon – probably horse racing on the former, and “all-in” wrestling on the latter. BBC2 would probably be showing a western. I’d either return to the horse racing, or probably just go out.
That archetypal Saturday afternoon western almost certainly starred John Wayne. It seemed to be the law. I wasn’t interested. In later years, I’d come to appreciate films like Rio Bravo and High Noon. The former even stars John Wayne. But I wasn’t a fan. Perhaps at some point in the future I’ll reappraise Wayne, but I’m not there yet.
One of his most famous roles is as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. While I can picture Wayne in his Marshall’s uniform and wearing an eye-patch, I think that’s more from stills and clips rather than actually seeing the film. I have no memory of the actual story.

I always look forward with great anticipation to any new Coen brothers film, but in this instance, I decided that it was worth reading the original Charles Portis novel. It’s a short book, and tells the tale in a first person narrative from the viewpoint of the 14 year old Mattie Ross.
The opening paragraph is one of those gripping ones that just stick with you as soon as you’ve read them:
People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.
That pretty well lays out the story of the film in a simple and effective manner.
The edition of the novel I read with a film tie-in cover, comes with an introduction from Donna Tartt for whom this is a favourite book (Incidentally – she’s not the fastest writer is she? It’s been a while since The Little Friend). But I could immediately see what she loves about the book which incredibly went out of print for a while. At least that won’t happen again – in a digital ebook age anyway.
Getting back to the Coen brothers’ version of True Grit – it really is another exceptional piece of work. It sticks rigidly to the narrative of the book, introducing only a couple of minor elements of difference which don’t affect the flow especially. I loved it.
Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn, the marshall that young Miss Ross believes shows the most “grit” and is therefore the right man to avenge her father’s murder. He has such a drawl, that to my British ears, it took a little while to attune myself to his dialect, but he’s a terrific character and Bridges’ performance is excellent.
When I first saw the trailer to this film, I watched it intensely and then reached the end where the stars’ names appeared on-screen. Suddenly Matt Damon’s name appeared. Huh? I didn’t recall seeing him in the trailer. Perhaps he hadn’t featured very much. But he had. He plays the supercilious Texas Ranger LaBeouf (“la-beef” as opposed to the way Shia pronounces his name). He swaggers around in the most enormous spurs ever seen, telling tales about how proud he and his fellow Rangers are. Anyone who’s seen Damon cameoing on things like 30 Rock knows that he can do comedy well, and it’s a fine turn here.
Finally there’s Hailee Steinfeld who plays the young Mattie Ross. Her character is the very epitomy of head-strong as she’s determined to accompany Cogburn on the manhunt that she has hired him for. She’s great in her first film role. What I do find extraordinary is that even though she’s essentially in every scene of the film, she’s only been nominated in the Supporting Actress category in the Oscars. According to the LA Times this is purely Paramount playing the odds game. They didn’t think someone so young could ever win Best Actress in Leading Role, so they put her in the Supporting Role category. Utter nonsense. Her role is the equal of Bridges and Damon. BAFTA are somewhat tougher about such things, and she’s nominated in the Leading Actress category. For what it’s worth, I suspect she won’t win in either awards as they’re both tough categories.
Anyway, the film is excellent. The book is excellent. And you should definitely read or see one of them. You should probably do both.

The BBC and Marketing Speak

player
Yesterday a BBC blog entry from Daniel Danker, the Programme and On Demand General Manager at the BBC, caused something of a stir.
It referred to a new “product” and there was much gnashing of teeth and concern as a result.
I’ve got to say that I think that this probably isn’t the clearest communication I’ve ever read. You only need to read listener comments and Tweets to realise that this has confused a lot of people who are concerned that Listen Again might not be available in the future, or they won’t be able to hear BBC Radio on their internet connected devices.
Currently, if you stream a live BBC Radio service, or “Listen Again” to a previous programme, you do it in a player that’s branded “BBC iPlayer”. Because, in the future, iPlayer is going to be for television services only, keen radio listeners are suddenly concerned that features and functionality they currently enjoy will be lost.
However, if you read carefully, and cut through some of the language, aside from changes on some websites as a result in the cuts to BBC Online, overall services will actually improve.
For live listening to BBC radio services, the Radio Player which is being developed by the BBC alongside commercial competitors including Global Radio, GMG and Absolute Radio (my employer!), will become the default platform if you’re streaming from a BBC website.
But what of this new “product”?
“Yes, we do plan to build a new product for radio but this isn’t to cut corners, or downplay what we do for radio online – as with everything we announced yesterday it’s because we want to make the service better, not worse. In the case of radio and music, we think this means giving radio its own home.”
Well I think this is another unfortunate case of “marketing-speak” being used in consumer communications. And, yes, I’m aware that I’m using a certain amount of that language in writing this sentence. But this is slippery slope that we’re already well-down in some areas. Back in 2007 I talked about “premium” being used far too much in the mainstream. “Content” is another word that has also strayed out of the marketing and management arena, and into widespread usage.
The issue here is that if somebody talks about a “product”, I think most people expect a “thing.” If that “thing” is just a revamp of websites, and that’s what I really think that the BBC is talking about here in essence, then “product” is the wrong word to use.
That’s why some people are half expecting the BBC to build another pop-up player to sit alongside the Radio Player. But I’m certain that’s not the case. I think that the BBC is essentially going to be doing a lot more behind the scenes to build social elements into its websites, be cleverer about using metadata attached to programming to build links between different parts of stations’ sites and link together similar programming across different networks, and simplify the “Listen Again” experience.
Disclaimer: I could be wrong about the above. I’ve not directly talked to anyone at the BBC about this, but this is based on feedback I’ve seen online, and from other conversations I’ve had.
Further Disclaimer: These are my views and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer.
And finally a plea: Can someone please get Frontier Silicon to update their list of on-demand BBC programmes (referred by them, using rather unhelpful nomenclature, as “podcasts” irrespective of whether they’re downloadable), on a DAILY basis? As things stand, you get a sometimes rather random list of recent programmes including broken links to some programmes to which listen-again rights have expired, while recent editions are missing. Ideally, this list should be generated hourly.
Oh, and finally, does anyone really think visitors to the BBC Radio entry page can really tell the difference between the two Five Live logos they’re presented with?
radiobar
Yes – I know that one is for Five Live, and the other for Five Live Sports Extra. But I can’t tell that from the logo. Indeed, it’s unclear to me why Extra needs its own website at all [Correction: It doesn’t have it’s own website, but the carousel page from the button above does include links to things like it’s schedule].
[Update] Chris Kimber’s comment below is well worth reading. I think I may be wrong in my suppositions here about what the BBC is working on. What’s clear is that it’s a way off. And I guess what really intrigues me is how, if at all, it fits in with Radio Player…

Sexism and Sky Sports

Tonight Richard Keys has resigned from Sky Sports following a last ditch attempt to apologise in the form of an interview on Talksport this afternoon (Kudos to Talksport for getting that interview). He joins Andy Gray who’s already gone.
There are lots of interesting question raised in this affair.
How sexist is the regime at Sky Sports? I think this piece in today’s Guardian sheds a lot of light on how things operated there. And all three clips that have so far emerged were not broadcast. That means at least one individual, and possibly more, who works at Sky Sports, has been incensed enough to dig out the footage. From Sky’s point of view, this is can’t be acceptable in the workplace. The writing was on the wall as soon as the clips emerged. I wonder what will happen internally at Sky Sports? Is there a hunt on for the leaker?
But Sky management can’t be completely blameless. What place to “soccerettes” really have on Soccer AM? And there was undoubtedly a policy of hiring a certain kind of presenter on Sky Sports News. Remember this video from last summer promoting the channel’s move to HD? Low-cut leathers for the female presenters while the men get sharp suits. Hmm.
I wouldn’t like to pretend that sexism in football is limited to parts of Sky Sports though. I suspect that if you look around enough, you’ll find it in plenty of areas of the game. But this whole incident might drag a few individuals kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
I suspect that Rupert Murdoch is fuming right now. While he tries to use all his influence to ensure that Jeremy Hunt doesn’t refer his desire to buy the remainder of BSkyB that he doesn’t own, he’s also facing the ongoing mobile phone hacking row that will not die. The Sky Sports issue is completely separate, but all told, there’s far too much of Sky being the news rather than reporting the news.
The phone hacking story is clearly going to run and run, with more individuals at the News of the World surely being implicated. The suspended Ian Edmondson has been sacked, and I wouldn’t surprised to see more. I also think that it’s highly likely that a lot more about the “dark arts” is going to be revealed, and it won’t be limited to the News of the World. If phone hacking was happening there, it was happening elsewhere, and that’s almost certainly why the other tabloids have been reluctant to report this story fully.

[As ever, these are my own views, and don’t represent those of my employer. Not that my employer is sexist. Our HR team might have something to say if it were.]

10 O’Clock Live

So what to make of Channel 4’s new “it’s not The Daily Show that we just cancelled” comedy current affairs series?
Well it’s not all bad, and it’s not all good. There seemed to be quite a few first night nerves and a generally quite disjointed feel to the programme, but that’s something that will probably have come together much more later in its fifteen week run.
In general it just about walked down the news/comedy line OK. It was unfortunate that the really big news of the week was the following day, but they took on Tunisia and the Alan Johnson resignation fairly decently.
I think I was most disappointed in Jimmy Carr who was there purely to make gags. His style of rapid-fire jokes doesn’t really lend itself to a more in-depth look at what the stories really mean. And it was odd that Carr made a series of just silly jokes about Tunisia without getting into what it actually was about. Yes, superficially most people know that tourists have been leaving the country because there have been riots. But it was left to Charlie Brooker, in an entirely different segment later in the show to try to explain the context of Tunisia.
It’s that careful weaving of both news and comedy into The Daily Show that means that it remains on the pedestal that it sits.
When I said that I was most disappointed in Jimmy Carr, I lied. TheIone truly bad sketch was the “World News Now” piece that featured Lauren Lavergne. It was simply awful, and it’s best not to think about it any more.
David Mitchell was given the interviewer role and it did feel a little uncomfortable. I suspect that he’ll get better in time, and he clearly knows what he’s talking about. The live aspect of the show meant that he had little time to breathe, and both of his big set pieces about bonuses for bankers and student fees, the conversation came to a crashingly violent end when time ran out and we had to go to a commercial break.
And that was the other flaw, the show had no real theme. So we lurched backwards and forwards from Sarah Palin to bankers’ bonuses to Tunisia to student fees to Alan Johnson and so on.
I thought that perhaps they could have done with a few more pre-recorded pieces, and a thematically stronger structure rather than just desperately trying to cram in every gag that could as though they were at a recording of Have I Got News For You.
In the closing roundtable amongst the presenters we got a few random Tweets or emails scroll past in a way that I’m sure David Mitchell has railed against in Mitchell and Webb. Hmm. The pointless unscientific and otherwise worthless survey should be dropped immediately. Even in a comedy show about news, if you can’t do a survey properly (robust samples weighted across the population – not an opt-in one on their website) then they shouldn’t do them at all. And they probably don’t need to desperately try to make gags about the next day’s newspaper headlines at the end. Or if they do, make them good ones.
As an aside, this was the first time I’ve seen those fancy new Capital Radio ads “in the wild” rather than on YouTube. Obviously I saw them a 32x speed, but it’s nice to see them getting an airing. I’m not 100% certain about the targeting, although I’m sure that C4 has been selling 10 O’Clock Live as 15-34 buy.
Perhaps the programme’s biggest issue is its scheduling. At 10pm, it’s up against the two main news programmes which means that it’s already losing some of its audience – people who care what’s actually happening. I know that survey after survey in the US shows that x% of people actually get their news from Jon Stewart. But the reality is that many will also watch network news broadcasts. In the US Stewart is up against the local news shows at 11pm.
Not only is this up against the main news programmes, it’s also up against Newsnight and Question Time. Some news junkies already have to make an unenviable choice at that time about what to watch – both with their competing Twitter hastags – and Sky+ can only record two shows at once (And for younger viewers, E4 is showing the new series of Skins at 10pm on Thursdays too – they even promoted it straight after 10 O’Clock Live).
It’s not terrible, but not great. The scattergun attitude to subject matter needs refining, and undoubtedly confidence will come in the future. If I was C4, I’d move the programme to Friday night where I notice they’re already carrying a late night repeat. Give David Mitchell’s interviews more time – this is an hour long show after all – and I’d add in a couple more pre-recorded bits.

Groupon’s Having a Laugh!

A report in the New York Times recently revealed that Groupon, the social buying site, is looking at generating $15bn in a prospective IPO.
We’re surely back in internet bubble days with valuations like that! If Facebook’s valuation of $50bn is questionable, then it’s surely not even remotely credible that a business built around coupons is worth $15bn.
So why is there so much news and hyper surrounding Groupon? Their business model is built around offering daily discounts to their subscribers. The discounts are normally very healthy, and the basis of the model is that the special offer will drive footfall (or web-clicks) to the business in question. Customers will do repeat business, and like any loss-leader or promotion, initial losses will more than be made up for in the long term.
But, as this very good piece at the Columbia Journalism Review points out, there are some serious flaws in the long term viability of the model.

  • The losses sustained by your offer are considerable. In the CJR piece linked above, Groupon takes 50% of the discounted price. That means that if you offer 50% off, you only get 25% of the price. If you run your own promotion, you’re at least limited in your “losses”.
  • You need a significant local sales force. While some offers can be “sold” (or perhaps “negotiated”) at a national level, making them relevant to subscribers everywhere, the major product categories that Groupon deals with are smaller local businesses or groups. So I might be able to do a deal with a London based chain of restaurants, but I need to do further deals in Manchester and Glasgow. That means people on the ground in those locations. Other media are much better placed since they already have local sales forces.
  • It’s not a unique business. When Google failed to acquire Groupon, CJR says they set about building their own version. We’ll have to see. In the meantime, there are already competitors out there such as LivingSocial.
  • Repeat business. Most sales teams spend most of their time going back to their regular customers. Yes, there are new clients to bring on board, but mostly you’re serving your existing clients. Groupon has to effectively develop a new client every day in every area it works. If I’m a local restaurant chain, I might do a deal with them once, but I’m not likely to want to work again with them the following week. Even if I do repeat business, it’s a law of diminishing returns.
  • The business opportunity seems finite. Restaurants and spa treatments – which are the mainstay of businesses like Groupon – have relatively “nebulous” values. What I mean by that is that the difference between raw materials costs and purchase price is quite high. If I spend £20 on a meal, I know that the actual cost to the restaurant in raw ingredients is probably less than £5. I’m paying for the premises, the people, the ambiance and so on. Similarly, if I have spa treatment, the only real costs are the premises, the people, and perhaps some cosmetics (which have their own ridiculous mark-ups). What that means is that there’s a lot of leeway in my pricing model before I actually lose money on each transaction ignoring for a moment, fixed costs. Beyond those areas, there are few services or products that have such room to manoeuvre.
  • The coupon culture damages businesses in the long term. We’ve always had coupons, although in the UK they’ve not really attained the levels that they have somewhere like the US. Indeed until relatively recently, I’d suggest that there was actually an unwillingness to use coupons. But that has changed. Businesses like Pizza Express and Gap have gone so far in the other direction that I now feel like I’m being ripped off if I’m not using a coupon. In some circumstances I’m sure that new customers have been generated by offers through Groupon, but I tend to believe that many will treat them as one-off visits. Because don’t forget, Groupon is going to email you another offer tomorrow.

Is Groupon a sustainable business? I’m sure it is. There’s more growth to be achieved in locations that it operates, and the number of subscribers it has. And like any coupons or gift-card business, the levels of coupons that remain unredeemed add to the business’s profitability. That’s not always for the right reasons of course. A couple of colleagues of mine redeemed a coupon for a lunchtime meal recently and the queue was so long, they didn’t actually return to the office within the lunch hour. As a result, even though they still have further coupons to redeem, they’ve yet to return to the outlet.
One way or another this is a business area that’s only going to get tougher – a lot tougher. That’s why putting ridiculous valuations on the business when it’s still very young just seems utterly mad.

Local TV

Today, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt gave his backing to a new network of local TV stations built around the hub of a national spine. In other words, it’ll be a national service with local opt-outs at various times of the day.
Hunt has been talking about this for ages, often with hackneyed references to Birmingham in the West Midlands not sustaining a local TV service, but Birmingham, Alabama sustaining several. That particular argument is specious. US network (i.e. non-cable) television is built around a patchwork of local affiliates to networks. Major local stations affiliate themselves with a major network and take that company’s programming in exchange for handing over much of the advertising inventory. They get to keep some, but if they want to make money themselves locally, they’re largely reduced to their local news shows. That’s why stations that often carry nothing but re-runs, might still have local news and weather.
Anyway, this has been Hunt’s bugbear for some time. He wants local television, even though it’s uncertain that it can be sustained. For starters, there’s the spectrum. Channels on Freeview (and in a post 2012 world, TV will be 100% digital) are sold for an awful lot of money. A full 24 hour space can retail for upwards of £10m a year. That’s before you’ve kitted a studio anywhere or shot a single minute of programming.
Everyone is convinced that there is local advertising money to be found. That is, money that’s not already being taken by other media – local press, local radio, the internet (which is becoming ever more localised) and outdoor. I’m just not certain that it’s there. Yes, there are advertisers in somewhere like London who can’t afford to go on television because the prices are just too high. But if they go on a local “channel 6” then that money is going to come from somewhere. Will it further damage local press that has already lost vast chunks of its classified revenues to the internet? Or local radio, which is largely going in the opposite direction, removing as many local responsibilities as possible and broadcasting in national or quasi-national networks.
Indeed, if I was a local media owner, I’d be distinctly unhappy that a government sponsored new entrant was entering my market to compete with my privately owned business. There just aren’t advertisers kicking around with cash burning a hole in their pocket that would otherwise be unspent. It is fair to say that some of those local media owners might want to apply for these licences. Indeed, I find it very hard to determine how the services might be achievable were the news gathering operations not serving multiple media.
Hunt seems to have adhered to the findings of the Shott Report which placed a far more conservative limit on the number of sustainable services than someone like Greg Dyke. Shott talks about 10-15, whereas Dyke thinks more like 80 services is achievable, a notion I find laughable.
It’s unclear to me how Hunt is going to force digital EPG like BSkyB’s and Virgin Media’s to place a new local network high up their respective guides. For one thing, there are some substantial costs to having upwards of ten additional channels being broadcast by satellite. And only this week BSkyB unveiled its new revised line-up of channels that’s obviously been years in the making to get some bigger services into higher EPG positions. Do they really want to bump everyone back down a position? For years, BSkyB has battled everyone before it to give credence to the notion that Sky1 is channel 6. And Virgin Media’s infrastructure will take some significant, and therefore costly, upgrades to cope at a sub-regional level.
The real problem as I see it is that the national spine of the channel – those parts that aren’t bargain basement hyperlocal news segments – is going to surely be pretty poor. There is going to be barely any money for new programming, so look forward to a schedule filled with cheaply acquired US programming; reruns of sitcoms and action series. I’d expect it to mostly be US programmes. There might be the odd gameshow if a format can be created cheaply enough. And given that two of our current three “terrestrial” commercial broadcasters already fill their night-time schedules with gaming and teleshopping, you can expect vast hours handed over to those occupations.
If a channel is as unappealing as I’ve just highlighted, then why would a viewer ever turn to it? While television is “appointment to view” and we switch to a programme when it’s scheduled, we’re far less likely to even discover the programme if we never watch that channel in the first place.
And how will these local channels be measured? Television is set-up on a regional basis at the moment, and the BARB panel is built to reflect those ITV regions. Going smaller than that is not an easy thing to do. Indeed, it’s very expensive. But without BARB, you don’t know who’s viewing. And that’s what determines ad prices. Of course in the US, they still have “sweeps” periods which use paper diaries to measure viewing. Is that we’re going to have here?
While this idea is nice in principle, I’m not sure that it’s practical. And at the worst end of the spectrum, it could actually be harmful to other local media providers. If local TV services in London and Manchester have failed – even if they were trying too hard to fill a 24 hour schedule with locally produced programmes – then I fear that even more local television will fail much faster.
The answer is surely to ensure that ITV maintains its local programming requirements and to stop backing down every time they make demands about reducing the levels they must produce. The notion that they could cut their hour of national and local news down to thirty minutes for example. CRR probably does need looking at as a quid pro quo.
In the meantime, I expect we’re going to see a few years of licence fee payers’ cash being wasted – because that’s where the money comes from.

World Cup 2018 Redux

IMG_4519
Broadcast magazine has a really interesting story relating to England’s failed bid for the 2018 World Cup. The story is here (behind a paywall).
In summary, it seems that in its bid proposal, England agreed to remove the 2018 World Cup tournament from the Listed Events which would have effectively let companies like Sky and ESPN bid for the tournament. It seems that neither the BBC nor ITV were aware of the inclusion of this in the England bid.
The excuse made is that this, along with plenty of other legislative amendments, or “Government Guarantees”, that FIFA would demand, were required in order to stand a chance of winning. The government was seemingly going to try to seek a compromise with FIFA in the event that it won the tournament. There’s a good list of those guarantees on Andrew Jennings’ site, released publicly as a result of the Dutch government’s joint bid with Belgium.
What this could have meant is that despite UK taxpayers footing significant bills for the honour of staging the event, UK viewers might have missed out entirely on seeing the finals played free-to-air.
In a post-digital TV switchover world, more channels than just the BBC and ITV would be eligible to broadcast World Cup games under the current listed events. But this story suggests that it’s not just the ability of a channel like Sky or ESPN, both of which have space on Freeview (albeit ESPN is encrypted and Sky’s is in the form of Sky News, Sky 3 and Sky 3+1), to broadcast free to air, but to actually end up with the game purely on pay per view television.
And while this list of 2010 World Cup TV broadcasters suggests that free to air dominates, there’s plenty of pay television in that list too. And in some cases more matches are on pay television than free to air.
Anyway, much as I’d love to experience a World Cup in England during my lifetime, the more I learn about FIFA, the more I’m relieved that we’re having little to do with them.
Yes, I’m well aware that the picture above, while being of Wembley stadium, is actually taken at one of their annual NFL games.

Ed Reardon’s Week: Series 7

Ed Reardon
Photo: BBC Radio 4
Have I mentioned that Ed Reardon’s Week is back for a new series? I have? Oh well, there’s no harm in mentioning it again. Every Monday at 11:30 and then on the iPlayer. In The Current Climate is available until Monday.
And a single episode will be available in Radio 4’s new Monday comedy podcast next Monday. Sadly “for rights reasons” – i.e. because we plan on selling these shows later – only a single episode will be available. But one is better than none.
In the meantime, Ed’s also “penned” another Radio 4 blog.
That is all.