March, 2011

Radioplayer

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Radioplayer is finally here!
Indeed, if you listen via the internet, you may have already spotted it, since it has been live for a few hours now.
I’ve got to say that this is a really exciting development for the UK radio industry, and I don’t just say that because my employer is one of the founder members.
So what is Radioplayer? There’s three key parts to it:
– A common interface across all participating radio stations and groups’ players.
– A search facility that let’s listeners search for programming across both commercial and BBC services.
– Personalisation of the player with presets letting you save your favourite stations.
In the same way that you use a single radio set to listen to lots of stations, Radioplayer will use a single backbone to let listeners choose all the radio they want to hear in a simple and easy to use manner.
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The search functionality means that listeners will be able to discover programming that perhaps they never even knew about.
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And the personalisation means that it’s easy to flip between stations and programmes at will once you’ve added them as presets.
Together, there’s a strong belief that this will lead to a vastly increased amount of radio listening via the internet. Currently the internet only accounts for 3.1% of radio listening, and surprisingly, while the average listener tunes into an average of 2.7 services, those who listen via the internet only listen to an average of 1.6 services a week.
Why is that? Well in many instances it’s been quite hard. Those who’ve been using the internet for more than the last five minutes might well remember the pain of having to install RealPlayer or ensuring that their Windows Media Player is up to date. The players were at times very user-unfriendly. Since every station essentially went away and built their own players nothing was consistant between different services’ internet offerings.
Radioplayer offers consistancy. And like your physical radio, if you want to tune into a different service, you can painlessly. Commercial stations can run advertising and pre-rolls. And every station can personalise itself so that it’s relevant to that station’s listeners. There can be links back to websites, and “listen again” or podcast material can be made available within the player.
This is a genuinely exciting piece of technology. And it’s remarkable that so many stations and groups have agreed to come together to promote this service. Listeners are going to explore and discover more radio which is a great thing for everybody.
The one thing that groups will need to do is to ensure that they have accurate, up to date and relevant metadata for the search engine.
In the meantime, head over to a radio station that’s a launch partner (and plenty more are coming on stream very soon), like Absolute Radio, or the Radioplayer site, and launch the player to have a play yourself!
And there’s a nice piece on Paid Content.
Source for all data: RAJAR Q4 2010

Sony Radio Academy Award Nominations 2011

Well the Sony Radio Academy Award nominations were announced earlier this evening (in a much nicer venue than previously) by Classic FM’s Margherita Taylor and BBC 6 Music’s Huey Morgan. They fairly rattled through the categories, with Morgan in particular entertaining us even if he mispronounced the odd nominee.
Once again, Absolute Radio (my employer!) did especially well coming away with a total of 15 nominations in total. BBC Radio 4 leads the pack with 24, but Absolute Radio’s haul is bigger than that of any other station. So please allow me my moment of pleasure.
Standout nominations must surely go to Annabel Port in the Best On-Air Contributor category as well as Geoff Lloyd’s Hometime Show – on which she appears – in the Best Music Programme Category. Frank Skinner is up for three awards, as is Ronnie Wood. Most entertainingly, he’s a nominee in the only category that’s voted for by the public – the DAB Rising Star Award. I should admit that I find this category a tiny bit disingenuous since although all the nominees are new to radio, they’re not exactly new to the entertainment industry. Last year, the little known Jarvis Cocker won in this category (he’s up for another award this year too). Wood is up against Robbie Savage, who many might know more for his footballing skills, currently at Derby County. However, he’s undoubtedly a radio talent as anyone who heard his commentary of the New Zealand v Italy fixture will attest.
Elsewhere, it’s wonderful that Matt Deegan is up for station programmer of the year. Victoria Derbyshire is up for three, and has certainly put out some powerful radio over the last year. There was enormous amusement at Jeremy Vine’s Gordon Brown interview getting a nomination. You will recall that this was the place where brown had to apologise for calling Gillian Duffy a bigot!
While A History of the World in 100 Objects might be a shoe-in for Best Speech Programme, as it was superb, I’m personally delighted that Brian Cox and Robin Ince’s The Infinite Monkey Cage has been nominated.
In the podcast category, The Guardian’s Francesca Panetta is up against herself again, as The Guardian’s London Walks Podcast with Iain Sinclair is up against her own Hackey Podcast. I don’t live in Hackney, but I certainly listen to her terrific pieces of radio. That category also features the Answer Me This! podcast, again up against many of last year’s nominees.
It’s always wonderful to see Danny Baker nominated – even if he’s up against Frank Skinner. I certainly look forward to his return to the airwaves.
The one award I always find a tiny bit disappointing is the Comedy Award. That said, I listen regularly to three of the five comedies nominated – The Unbelievable Truth, Just a Minute and Tom Wrigglesworth’s Open Letter to Richard Branson (he’s had other “open letters” since). I’d like to see the odd actual sitcom get in. And yes, I am thinking of Ed Reardon’s Week.
I’ve not heard any of the dramas, although I did read the book that Murder in Samarkind was based on. And that brings me to a plea to the awards’ organisers, and the stations involved. I’ve asked for this before in vain, but I’ll ask again.
Could the nominated programmes please be placed online somewhere so that we can either stream or download them?
Yes I know there are rights issues. But it’s a terrible shame that many of these programmes simply won’t even get another broadcast. In some instances, the podcasts are freely available. But even the carefully edited pieces of nomination audio would suffice.
The big national Station of the Year award will be between Radio 3, Radio 4 and talkSport. How difficult will it be to compare those services?
Anyway, a fine selection of nominees with lots of really good radio programmes showing the vibrancy of the medium. Now if only there was a way to easily listen to all that radio online in a much easier manner…
Read more about Absolute Radio’s nominations here, and there’s a full list of nominees at Media Guardian.

How I Ended This Summer

I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not too up on Russian cinema. Although to be fair, there’s not a great deal that makes it to the UK. What we do get tend to be the more commercial films like Nightwatch and Daywatch alongside the odd fantasy title like Wolfhound. Then there’s the odd breakthrough arthouse pieces, and, er, that’s about it.
How I Ended This Summer is nothing like any of those. Any film set somewhere near the Arctic circle at a remote weather station is always going to get my attention. So this film ticks all the boxes.
Sergei and Pavel are the lone pair of workers who have to monitor the various weather related measurements in quite simply as a remote a weather station as you can find. They are so cut off from the outside world that their only communication is a shortwave radio. At regular intervals they have to broadcast the latest data to a faceless voice thousands of kilometres away. For the rest of the time they are completely self-sufficient.
The film opens and we observe them carrying out their work. The older Sergei (Sergei Puskepalis) is in charge and he’s trying to shape up the younger Pavel (Grigory Dobrygin) who spends his spare time mucking around, eating his stash of sweets and playing first person shoot-em-ups.
They are in a wilderness as wild and barren as any committed to film. We get long shots of the beautiful, and yet desolate vistas. At times, the gorgeous cinematography shows us these panoramas over long timelapse periods. And as the title suggests, events take place in the summer. So while it’s not exactly warm, it does mean that the sun never truly sets and it’s always daylight.
Then one day Pavel is on the radio and gets a piece of bad news that he needs to pass on to the absent Sergei. How should he go about this? From this one small germ, things begin to break down and we get into the heart of the film.
It’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that director Aleksei Popogrebsky is a psychologist by training, since it’s the human condition that this film is really a study of. The interplay of the two main characters is key to the piece, as is how they react to what’s going on.
Time is almost unimportant in this kind of self-sufficient environment. And it’s clear that it takes a certain kind of person to man one of these bases. In a post screening Q&A, Popogrebsky told us how Arctic tales of derring-do from times gone by inspired him. In one instance a ship that was already on a year long expedition got stuck in the ice, and the captain calmly told his crew that it meant they’d be there for another year. He compared this to a Twitter generation where we have few seconds and even fewer characters to make considered judgements (Popgebsky’s not a fan of Twitter or Facebook, although he is making his next film in 3D. We shall have to see…)
The cinematography of this film is simply stunning. The remote location, where the crew of twenty made the film over three months meant that film was out of the question. Transport was so irregular that they’d never be able to see what they’d shot. So they used the RED camera, and it’s terrific. You wouldn’t actually know it was shot digitally it was that good. That said, we saw a print that was very much film, and disappointingly scratched. It didn’t diminish the experience however.
There’s one shot that totally stands out for me, and it’s a shot that simply could not have been planned. At one point in the film, Pavel is out walking in search of Sergei and he has a flare in his hand to try to attract a helicopter that has been sent for them. But thick cloud cover means that he’s not seen and the helicopter leaves. In a single shot we see Pavel drop the dying flare on the permafrost, and walk away. As he does so, the cloud cover lifts, falls again, and lifts some more. All the time, it’s changing from just about no visibility to kilometres of visibility. The shot lasts at least a minute and possibly longer. It reminds me in many respects of that famous shot of the desert horizon in Lawrence of Arabia.
And it’s not just the visuals that make this film. The sound is simply exceptional. At times we know something is coming because we can hear it, slowly, but inevitably. It’s beautifully put together by someone who really cares about their craft. It makes you realise how dreadful and overbearing so much sound is these days.
Overall, this is an exceptional film, and I’m delighted to have seen it. It’s out in about three weeks, and although I can’t imagine the distribution will be too wide, it’d be a shame not to see it on the big screen. Now I’ve got a list of other Russian films that I need to find on DVD.

The Killing


Like many people, I’ve been obsessively watching The Killing for the last ten weeks, and Saturday saw the denouement. Fear not – no spoilers here. Because if my friends and colleagues are to be believed, there’s going to a be a significant demand for the DVDs which are released a week today.
I first learnt about The Killing when I heard the US TV (AMC to be precise) was going to remake it. Indeed, that remake starts airing in the US next weekend, and I’d be amazed if Sky Atlantic doesn’t buy the UK rights to it. But my reaction to any remake is to turn to the original. At the time, only SBS in Australia seemed to have shown the series with English language subtitles, and as I was humming and hahing over whether to fork out for the DVDs, BBC Four announced it was showing them!
Recently, Saturday nights have been Euro-cop nights. We’ve had two different Wallanders (as well as our own Kenneth Brannagh version), a few Inspector Montalbanos (although there are plenty more that have yet to be screened), and Spiral. The latter starts its third series next weekend with the first two episodes in a twelve part serial.
But what was it about The Killing that kept me on the edge of my seat week after week? It was the depth of characterisation you’re able to get when a single case lasts twenty episodes. In Sarah Lund, we have a really interesting police inspector, who, as the case unwinds, becomes obsessed almost to the point of madness. Her pairing with Meyer is delightful, with Meyer only ever just about putting up with the person he’s actually supposed to be replacing.
The oily machinations of Danish politics are believable, with everyone being essentially untrustworthy to a greater or lesser extent.
And most of all, the utterly convincing characterisation of the victim’s family. At first, I was a little disappointed that we kept cutting back to the grief stricken parents of Nanna (the victim). But they all became incredibly real people, and were beautifully portrayed.
Overall the series was terrifically put together, with a care and pacing that’s not really achievable in a standard police procedural (Irrelevant side note: In Holborn yesterday, they were filming an episode of Law & Order: UK. Either that’s for the next series, or ITV is really working on tight production deadlines for its dramas these days). Even Morse’s relatively leisurely two-hour episodes, feel rushed and unbelievable by comparison. We’re more used to the characterisation coming from watching multiple stories rather than a single event. The only remotely similar series I can think of is perhaps Five Days, in which we dip and out of an ongoing case in a still short five episodes.
In format, the real comparison that needs to be made is with 24. While the real-time aspect is only partially similar – each epsiode of The Killing being roughly over twenty-four hours – The Killing maintains the same brooding cutaways of characters, and usually manages to find a plot twist at the end of each episode to make us groan as we realise we have to wait another week.
But it also reminds me a little of the first series of Steven Bochco’s Murder One, where over twenty-three episodes, a single murder case was examined, with the requisite reveals and red herrings along the way.
Some have been disappointed that there are perhaps plot holes and things that don’t make sense. There’s a great list of them over here on Marie’s site (warning – plot spoilers ahoy). But I’m not sure that this matters. There are always loose ends in real cases. And I don’t necessarily want everything neatly tidied up.
Anyway, if you’ve not seen it, I suggest you get yourself your DVDs as fast as your fingers can click the Amazon link above. While the US version will undoubtedly be good – and in Michelle Forbes, they have cast one of my favourite actresses – in the end a remake is unnecessary. Roll on series 2, for which we got a bit of a trailer at the end of the series 1 credits!

On a related note, thank goodness that we have a channel in BBC Four that shows non-English language European dramas on TV. It seems an incredible shame that we don’t get to see more of it. Aside from BBC Four’s sterling work in this arena, no other channel at all shows any television drama from Europe. I simply don’t believe it’s all dreadful – and while we’re undoubtedly getting the creme de la creme in the series mentioned above, there’s undoubtedly more where that comes from.
The BBC is essentially under instructions to buy less imported drama, yet that absolutely should not include non-English language drama.
What is clear is that if you want to watch programmes like The Killing or Spiral, you can’t do it idly. With the whole “dual screen” approach whereby we can graze on our laptops or tablets, perhaps commenting on Twitter or Facebook during a live programme, we’re just not concentrating properly. You can’t pay attention to demanding drama and be sending an email at the same time. Well that’s certainly the case for something that’s in a language you don’t speak. You have to read those subtitles. But that’s no bad thing.
Anyway, I’d like to see a little more experimentation of channels in broadening out what they acquire (and that doesn’t mean Sky simply outbidding the BBC for series 3 of The Killing – which isn’t due until 2012 in Denmark anyway).

Where’s The Gambling Commission When You Need It?

We learn that Swoopo has filed for bankruptcy.
Good riddance.
In case you’re unaware, Swoopo and similar “penny auction” websites work on the basis of selling so-called “bids” to their “auctions.”
Say there’s a laptop on offer worth £1000. Bidding might start at £0.01, but prospective bidders must first buy their bids for – say – £0.15 each. Bids are usually sold in volume, and discounts for bulk might apply.
The first bidder places their £0.01 – actually costing them a non-refundable £0.15 – and the auction price rises to £0.02 as the length of the auction is extended. And so it continues, as new bidders come in and place their bids. The price rises slowly, and for every addtional penny bid, the penny auction site earns £0.15.
So if the winner of the £1000 laptop ends up getting it for, say, £400, the website has already earned £6000 in bids (40,000 x 1p bids at £0.15 each). Add in the £400 end price (which isn’t always payable), and there’s a healthy profit to be made on that £1000 value item.
And even if you’re the lucky winner, you might have spent several hundred pounds to reach the point that you win. Indeed, most gambling works on the basis that once you’ve lost, many try to neutralise their position and minimise their losses by gambling some more. With the result that end up losing even more still. A vicious cycle.
Unlike auctions on somewhere like eBay, this is gaming, pure and simple. When you place your £0.15 bid, you’re effectively buying a lottery ticket. You’re hoping that nobody will come in after you bid and that the auction will close.
And lotteries should fall under the aegis of the Gambling Commission in the UK.
The people who run these companies claim that tactics do come into play, and therefore skill is involved and not just chance. But I don’t buy this argument. If a subset of people do understand how to “game” the system and win, then that’s even worse! Mugs who are spending many pounds on buying batches of bids, have even less chance of winning than if they were participating in a random lottery.
But, thus far, the Gambling Commission seems not to care.
A certain major penny auction site buys full page ads in newspapers, and can be seen all over digital television. There’s money to be made.
Indeed I’d hypothesise that these sites can only continue as long as new blood enters the pool of players. While there are perhaps some players who’ve worked out systems to maximise returns, penny auction sites only work when there are “suckers” playing the game.
I have no problem with lotteries – except even lotteries usually have to give you some idea of the odds. Penny auctions mean that your chips are stacked against you, and you never even no to what extent they are.
That’s why they need regulation.

Queuing

We’re told that queuing is a very British thing, although as much as anything, that might be because other countries use their own words like “line” in the US.
But what’s clear to me is that it’s not something I enjoy doing. I do it only when I need to. That might be paying for groceries in a shop, or getting money out of the cashpoint. Waiting to get on public transport is never fun, especially buses and at airports.
Queues are things we endure rather than relish. We participate in them because there’s something in it for us in the end. It’s a practical way to meet demand, but still causes frustration.
In most instances those queues move quickly. But sometimes, we have to get in queues early, because there’s a finite number of goods available. Examples might be tickets to events or limited sale stock. These days you’re more likely to be forced into a virtual internet or telephone queue for a limited supply of tickets. If I want day tickets to Frankenstein at the National, I may need to arrive as early as 1am, I’m told.
Getting there early can be a sensible strategy nonetheless.
But when that item is a piece of consumer electronics, you have to ask what the point is?
Yes, early stocks might be limited. But there’s no need to queue.
As I walked from Oxford Circus to work this morning, I cast an eye towards the Regent Street Apple Store and was pleasantly surprised to see so few people queuing – just a dozen or so corralled into a pen to keep Regent Street clear for other shoppers. Then I noticed that the queue actually had a gap, and continued in a much larger penned-in area around the corner. Hundreds were queuing.
I realise that it’s probably great fun chatting with fellow enthusiasts. And at least today is a lovely day. It probably wouldn’t be as nice if it was raining.
But really – why? If you want the device, just order it online. Or pop back tomorrow – or next week. Reserve one to pick up later. Don’t waste a day. You don’t need it today.
Similarly, what would really possess someone to stand outside a game store at midnight to pick up a new gaming device? Couldn’t you just wait until the morning. Or pop back tomorrow – or next week. Reserve one to pick up later… You get the idea.
I realise that it’s now part of the rite of passage of any geek that they need to queue to get the first device. Then post a video of themselves “unboxing” it. And then generally get terribly excited in the way a music fan might purchase a new album on the day of release.
Yet it seem unhealthy, and ultimately pointless.

Frankenstein

I had plenty of opportunity to book theatre tickets for Frankenstein, even going so far as to look at seats. But for whatever foolish reason, I decided against it. The production was a hit, and all the tickets sold out.
So last night it was off to the Odeon Kensington – the only cinema carrying the NTLive relay that I could buy tickets for – to see the second of two live transmissions. The previous week, Johnny Lee Miller had played Frankenstein while Benedict Cumberbatch was his monster. I saw the reverse casting, with Miller spending the first ten or fifteen minutes learning to become the monster, until he’s finally befriended and taught to speak and read. As he later says, he can assimilate information very well.
The performances are both very strong, although Frankenstein really doesn’t have much to do until the second half of the play.
The staging is fantastic. I was impressed with The Most Incredible Thing the other night, but this outstrips it entirely. There are seemingly thousands of lights strung from above the stage, and the Olivier’s turning stage is used very cleverly. At one point a remarkable “steampunk” train appears, and we experience both rain and snow.
The script is witty, although the play charts a relatively inevitable course. Whether that’s because we know the story so well or not I couldn’t say. I’ll admit that although I’ve seen possibly dozens of versions of the story – and have the classic Universal versions on DVD at home awaiting a watch following Mark Gatiss’ recent History of Horror – I’ve never actually read Mary Shelley’s novel. So I can’t really comment on how close Nick Dear’s writing is. But this is clearly Danny Boyle production with strong use of music and visuals.
I must admit that technical considerations did taint the experience for me. The pictures were out of sync with the audio all evening with the sound coming a little earlier than the pictures. I find that unnervingly distracting, but I suppose that at least a certain proportion of the play was shot quite widely. If the play had been shot as a film, with full close-ups all the way through, then it’d have been worse. The camera did zoom in a certain amount, but this was certainly directed as a covering a stage play – not a film.
The other problem was the aspect ratio. I’m not sure exactly what they did wrongly since the performance was clearly shot in 16:9 ratio, but nonetheless, everyone was stretched on the screen. Again, I find this irksome and highly noticeable.
I should also mention that we heard extraneous sounds at one point – the director? And the audio died entirely for about 5 seconds in the final scene which was not a good time.
Overall, I’d do the same again if there was a play I really wanted to see, that I couldn’t actually get along to the National for.

The Most Incredible Thing


There seems to be a lot of ballet around at the moment. We’ve just had the awesome Black Swan, and on BBC Four at the moment, we’re two thirds of the way into a great behind the scenes documentary about English National Ballet (“Unprecedented access” and all).
Sky Arts has been showing a series of ballets from the Royal Ballet, and BBC Two put its annual Christmas ballet on, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella.
Then at the weekend, BBC Two showed The Red Shoes as part of a Powell and Pressburger double bill. Whenever that film’s on, I can’t fail to watch a large chunk of it, even though I have it on DVD.
That all brings us to the Pet Shop Boys’ new ballet – The Most Incredible Thing. It’s based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale that I only very vaguely recall. Helpfully the programme reprints the story in full, but it’s a simple story about a contest to win half a king’s kingdom and the hand of his daughter in marriage.
The Pet Shop Boys, of whom I’m a fan, have written this ballet’s music and Javier De Frutos has choreographed it. I went to last night’s preview – with the opening night being tonight. Overall it was a good evening, although I do have a few reservations. The music is very much what you’d expect from the Pet Shop Boys. I couldn’t see into the orchestra pit from my position in the stalls, but although there were live musicians, much of the music sounded like a typical Pet Shop Boys’ concert, and therefore could have been driven by Chris Lowe’s keyboards.
The lighting and staging was superb. This has always been an area in which the Pet Shop Boys have excelled, and the production makes good use of a circular LED screen which acts as the Act 2 clock.
Because the story revolves around a competition, it’s natural that in 2011, this should be realised as a television talent show. There are also plenty of filmed inserts and interludes which are very eye-catching. And I did like the odd nod to PSB hits of the past. In when it looks as though the princess is about to married, we hear thunder reminiscent of the beginning of It’s A Sin, and the minister who is to conduct the procedings looks as though he’s stepped straight out of that song’s video.
I suppose the area I was left a little wanting was the actual dancing. Where ballet and modern dance converge is a tricky area, and I wouldn’t like to determine one from the other. I certainly don’t expect ballet to just be women in tutus. But while it was proficient, I’m just not sure it was exceptional. The staging certainly seemed to overpower the dance element.
Still, I good evening out, and you come away humming some of the musical numbers. But for dance, I’m more inclined to put my Red Shoes DVD on.

1000 Cranes

My brother teaches ethics, and he also spent a year teaching in Japan some years ago. If you’re involved in education, you might want to read a great suggestion he has for how school children might respond to the Japanese tsunami.
It is linked with the story of Sadako Sasaki, the girl who wanted to make a thousand cranes as an act of peace after the dropping of the atomic bomb. In Japanese tradition a crane lived for a thousand years and it was said that if you made a thousand cranes your wish would come true. Sadako wished for a nuclear free world of peace. She died of leukemia, from the bomb, before she finished her task so her school friends finished it for her. Now every school in Japan participates in this act of peace in her memory and in the hope of peace.
I would like to inspire some schools in England to take up this tradition as an act of solidarity with the school children of Japan and in the hope of peace for them and for the world. If stories were to reach Japan of school children from across the seas making cranes for Japan then it might just give them a little hope.

There’s a PDF here with more details.

Ten O’Clock Live

This week’s Broadcast magazine has an article entitled “C4 leaps to defence of Ten O’Clock Live as ratings plummet.” The audience has fallen from what they probably thought was a disappointing 1.4m at launch to 691,000 last week. C4 point out that this increases significantly once repeats and playbacks are added. But to be honest, there are still plenty of things wrong with this series – a series I’d love to see succeed.
I’ve been watching it every week – although no longer live. I even met someone who does a bit of writing for it this week. I do want it to succeed as I say.
But here’s what needs changing:

  • First and foremost, it’s very badly scheduled. Now we’re going through a period of time when for those who care about what’s going on in the world (and that includes everyone likely to watch this programme), the news every night is simply unmissable. Since the start of the year, North Africa and the Middle East have featured nightly as events unfold in a dramatic fashion with the Air Force going into Libya. And last week there was the devastating earthquake that led to a tsunami in Japan. With an escalating nuclear story unfolding as well, the news is a crucial watch.
    Ten O’Clock Live is up against three of the four flagship news programmes, as well as Question Time where the rights and wrongs of the UN Resolution can be debated. It was always going to lose out.
  • Secondly, it’s too long. It feels like a half-hour programme – or at best a forty-five minute programme – stretched to an hour. Shortening the programme would tighten up things. We could lose one of the interview segements – most likely the round-table debate chaired by Mitchell, which thus far have been a little lacking. I really like Mitchell, but sometimes these debates have the air of a sixth form student debate – or even worse – Sunday morning’s “The Big Questions.”
    In a week when the news has been utterly dominated by Japan and Libya, neither of which are full of obvious gags, 10 O’Clock Live has to turn to Silvio Berlusconi for light relief, but that’s only marginally relevant. Cut the entire thing and concentrate on relevant stories.
  • Thirdly, it doesn’t need to be live. Indeed it shouldn’t be. Channel 4 says that the live nature of the programme allows them to react to things right up to deadline. But the programme simply isn’t in a position to do this. There’s no real journalists working on camera, and the shortcomings were brought into sharp focus in the most recent programme when the UN Resolution on the no-fly zone was passed during transmission. Lauren Lavergne struggled with the news coming through her earpiece, and only David Mitchell seemed truly aware what this might mean. (I should point out that Kirsty Wark on Newsnight hadn’t been exactly smooth in passing the news on, but she did have journalists to explain what it might mean in full detail).
    By recording the programme even a few hours earlier, they wouldn’t be flailing around trying to cover breaking stories. They’d be able to hone the material that they do have. And indeed, they’d be able to cut items that just weren’t working when they ran through them in studio.

As it turns out, the start of 2011 hasn’t been the easiest time to launch a comedy news programme, since the news night after night is unmissable, and there isn’t a great deal of humour to be had from tens of thousands dying in Japan, or Colonel Gadaffi bombing his own people.
Jon Stewart and The Daily Show team have the same issues. Sometimes they just ignore the big horror – perhaps even saying that there’s nothing they can add to the matter. And sometimes, they almost forget the fact that they’re broadcast by “Comedy” Central and just run at the story anyway. It’s a balancing act, and one that takes time to master.
But I think those three “small” changes I’ve mentioned would help put the programme on an even keel. It might have to change its name completely, but unless someone at C4 has ordered 500,000 mousemats with the logo on it or something, that’s not impossible.
And no, I didn’t make it through a piece on 10 O’Clock Live without mentioning The Daily Show. Damn. (Come on: somebody wants to broadcast this in the UK? Surely?!)