What Should a Kids’ TV Channel Show When Kids Should Really Have Gone to Bed?

If your child likes watching CBeebies or CBBC in the UK, then you will know that both channels have cut-off times. At 7pm, the broadcast spectrum used by CBeebies is re-purposed as BBC Four, while CBBC’s spectrum will soon become a BBC Scotland TV channel.

Either way, there’s nothing to watch on the broadcast stream once the channels go off air.

In the commercial world, that’s not usually the case. Nick Jr is showing Peppa Pig in the small hours of the morning; Boomerang is showing LazyTown; and while the Disney Channel does shutdown, it waits until midnight after an 11.15pm Hannah Montana and an episode of Groove High.

When I was in Denmark recently I noticed that the main state broadcaster’s kids channel, DR Ramasjang, aimed like CBeebies at 3-6 year olds, did something amazing at night.

The service broadcasts until 8pm each night, and then it goes into an overnight mode. Essentially it runs a video of all the characters that appear on the service tucked up in bed and asleep!

A camera pans across each character’s “bedroom” in a way that lets kids see that each of their favourite characters has gone to sleep. The implication being that if they’ve gone to sleep then you should go to sleep too. It also reinforces this message should any errant child sneak out of bed and turn on the TV in the middle of the night.

It’s a simple, yet really clever thing. I assume that you only need to make an hour of footage and then loop it. And all you really need to do is plan to shoot a short “sleeping” sequence whenever you commission a new show for the channel. All the sequences are shot in the same way, the camera panning from darkness, left to right, to allow for easy editing.

Judging from YouTube, they’ve been doing this for quite a few years. Anyway, here’s an hour of DR Ramasjang’s “godnat” sequence from 2016:

Women’s Tour 2017 – Stage 5 – London

Following Saturday’s Nocturne, I headed back into town to watch the final stage of The Ovo Energy Women’s Tour, which was concluding on a circuit not dissimilar to previous years’ Tour of Britain finishes. (This year, the men are finishing in Cardiff instead).

Taking in lots of iconic London streets including Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and The Strand, there were plenty of vantage points. At roughly ten minutes between laps, you had time to walk the course a bit, and in some places see the racers twice a lap.

While the racing was great, the overall winner was never in doubt after Katarzyna Niewiadoma won the opening stage by nearly two minutes. This year’s race was longer and harder than previous editions, but there were plenty of other things to keep an eye. Not least of which was which of the Barnes sisters, Hannah or Alice, would take the overall best British rider (For the record, it was the older sister, Hannah. But Alice showed support from the top of a van with some friends at the final podium as can be seen below).

The weather was good, and the racing fast. A fine way to spend a Sunday.

Many more photos over on Flickr.

Rapha Nocturne 2017

This weekend saw the return of the Rapha Nocturne, with Rapha resuming sponsorship. These days, the event has moved from Smithfield Market to an area around St Pauls near the Guildhall. While I have no problem with the route, it’s a shame that it no longer covers an area with bars and pubs like Smithfields did. Most places in the City are closed at weekends, and I would suggest that Tesco Express was probably the biggest winner.

Still the racing and fast and frenetic, and it comes into its own as the sun sets later in the evening. I only arrived in time to see the end of the fixie race and the final two races of the evening.

I took photos…

Plenty more photos are over on Flickr.

Vote Tellers

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If you’re British and live in the UK, you will hopefully be voting today. Indeed you may have already done so!

My constituency is considered marginal – it could go one of two ways. And marginals are key to any election win, so parties target them.

As I went into my Polling Station this morning, a man approached me authoritatively outside the polling station itself. He was wearing a blue rosette without any other clear identification and asked me for my polling number. This is printed on the card that you get sent through confirming your eligibility to vote.

Now you don’t need to bring your polling card with you when you vote. Lots of people know that, but not everyone.

But if you do, the tellers would quite like to right down your number. And if there are tellers from multiple parties, they’re likely to share the numbers between them. The reason is that back at the local party base, members have big electoral lists where they’ve marked down voters according to likely preferences and likely voting proclivities, based largely (but perhaps not solely), on doorstep interviews and so on.

Later on in the day, they’ll start ringing up or knocking on the doors of homes of people they expected to vote for them, but haven’t so far.

Tellers don’t actually know which way you voted.

However the key point here is that just because a party might like to know whether or not you’ve voted, you absolutely don’t have to tell them.

And I genuinely don’t think a lot of people know the rules, and more to the point that you can completely ignore tellers.

As I was leaving the polling station this morning a lady entering in behind me was asked for her voter number. She looked a little surprised and slightly apologetic: “I’m sorry. I didn’t think I needed to bring my card with me.”

The teller told that, no, she didn’t. And because she didn’t know, he left her on her way.

But people widely think that they have to pass on their details.

We’re British. We’re polite. “Of course you can see my card.”

There are rules on what tellers can and can’t do. They can wear rosettes (although not all do), but they shouldn’t be spreading any particular message.

However they’re unofficial, and you can politely say, “No thanks,” as I did when asked for my number this morning.

In a world where political targeting is getting more sophisticated, I’m not inclined to pass on any information to the parties. I’m not a member of a party, and perhaps if I was, I might feel different.

This election, for the first time, I’ve been targeted on a massive scale online. No longer do I see posters beyond those put up by people inside or outside of their homes. I’ve not seen any newspaper ads. But I have seen a lot of advertising across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And it’s all for one party. They know I live in a marginal, and they’d like me to vote for them. (The advertising is all negative, incidentally. It has all been about why I shouldn’t vote for the other lot. Well, if you can’t stand on your own policies, then I’m definitely not voting for you. Simple as that. You can take your US election tactics and keep them.)

There’s a lot of talk about how “big data” is being used to tightly target voters. and indeed put off some people from voting at all. While I’m not inclined to believe that these database-driven campaigns are as powerful as they’re sometimes portrayed in media reports, I’ve certainly come to the view that I’m not contributing to these databases.

Daytime TV Killed the British Bank Holiday

What do the following film genres mean to you?

  • War films
  • James Bond
  • Carry On films

To me they all scream Bank Holiday TV. You may have had plans to go out somewhere, but an annoying drizzle meant that you’d rather stay at home and see what’s on the box.

But in fact, that’d be wrong.

Maybe the Bank Holidays of yesteryear were like this, but these days you’d be hard pressed to differentiate a Bank Holiday’s output from any other Monday’s programming. No longer do we get much in the way of specials, one-offs or film premieres. There’s relatively little live sport left on free-to-air TV, and instead, the regular daytime schedule is extended into the Bank Holiday regardless.

Is the family at home? Or are you having a bit of a lie-in? No longer do you get to feast your eyes on anything different. It’s the regular diet of Jeremy Kyle, Homes Under the Hammer, Escape to the Country and Loose Women.

Indeed flicking through the dreary line-up during the recent May Day Bank Holiday, I had to sense-check that I hadn’t somehow taken a standard day off work by accident. It was wet outside, and if I wanted some actual entertainment, it’d be either be a DVD or Netflix.

But perhaps I was wrong? Was Bank Holiday TV that good in the past? I decided to find out by exploring previous listings.

I’ve taken a look at the TV on Spring Bank Holidays – the last Monday in May – over the last forty years by looking at the Radio Times every ten years from 1977 to date. (I didn’t have access to the TV Times, so ITV and Channel 4’s listings only start in 1997.)

1977

I said above that the last Monday in May is the Bank Holiday, but in 1977 the Spring Bank Holiday was the following week because this was also the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebration weekend. The Radio Times featured an embroidered image of the Queen on the cover of their Souvenir Issue.

BBC One’s daytime schedule was sport focused. Following a Laurel and Hardy film, it was one-day England v Australia cricket and then Frank Bough presenting a Bank Holiday Grandstand that also featured Powerboat Racing (Murray Walker on commentary duties), Racing from Chepstow and Athletics from Leicester.

BBC Two opened at breakfast for some Open University programming, before closing down at 7.55am. It opened again briefly for Play School (Julie Stevens and Brian Cant), before closing down once more. It only reopened after lunch for the film Holiday in Mexico, before showing the end of the cricket.

The BBC One early evening started with Disney Time presented by Noel Edmonds, a showing of the film Scott of the Antarctic, The Music of Morecambe and Wise and a regular Starsky and Hutch. After the news, it was Silver Jubilee: Fires of Friendship, featuring live coverage of beacons being lit spreading out from Windsor up and down the country. Raymond Baxter presented it, and the Radio Times carried a handy map of all the bonfire sites. The evening ended with the film I Start Counting starring Jenny Agutter and Bryan Marshall.

BBC Two was also showing a patriotic film that evening with Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. That was followed by Neil Diamond, an episode of Women at War and a short play under the banner of Second City Firsts.

1987

In 1987, Noel Edmonds was the Radio Times cover as host of the SOS Star Awards on Saturday evening. But we’re going to concentrate on Monday’s TV.

For BBC One, that meant a Monday edition of Grandstand featuring England v Pakistan one-day cricket, the golf PGA Championship and coverage of The Milk Race cycling (with Phil Liggett and Hugh Porter on commentary duties).

BBC Two’s daytime saw You and Me, followed by several hours of Pages from Ceefax, before a Walton’s TV-movie spin-off, and continued cricket coverage took over.

Later in the evening, BBC One had Wogan, Bob’s Full House, Ever Decreasing Circles and then the film Staying Alive. After the news, there was an all-star celebration of 100 years of Hollywood.

BBC Two gave over the entire evening to the opera Turandot, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House and simulcast on Radio 3. It ended the evening with highlights of some the day’s earlier sport.

1997

In 1997, the cover featured Lenny Henry.

BBC One had Herbie Goes Bananas, followed by Disney’s Robin Hood. After a brief visit to Ramsey Street for Neighbours it was three hours of Spartacus.

Over on BBC Two there was Steve Rider presenting the PGA Championship from Wentworth for much of the day. But there was still time for Teletubbies, The Phil Silvers Show, and the film Rancho Notorious.

ITV was basically showing films all day. A fantasy film called Master of the World, starring Vincent Price and Charles Bronson (together at last?), Captain Ron with Kurt Russell, and then a true classic in Rio Bravo.

Channel 4 had a series of repeats including Bewitched and The Crystal Maze, before the film Challenge to Lassie and then Racing from Sandown Park. They did find space for Fifteen to One and Countdown.

Channel 5’s schedule looked more normal than most with regulars like Leeza, The Bold and the Beautiful, Family Affairs and Sunset Beach. But it did have the premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III in the afternoon (Strong competition for that I’m sure).

Into the evening and BBC One had Red Nose Awards, Auntie’s TV Favourites, and Here and Now, with Sue Lawley interviewing The Spice Girls. A regular Eastenders was followed by Radio Times cover star Lenny’s Big Amazon Adventure and the start of a new series of Birds of a Feather. Following a later than usual news, it was the premiere of the film Staggered with Martin Clunes. Carry on Camping rounded off the evening.

BBC Two had Computers Don’t Bite with Carol Vorderman and Adrian Chiles, Mr Bell Goes to Westminster following Martin Bell taking on Neil Hamilton in Tatton, The Antiques Show with Francine Stock and Tales from the River Bank. The big film was Lorenzo’s Oil with Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon.

ITV had regular episodes of Wish You Were Here…? and Coronation Street. Then it had A Royal Gala for the Prince’s Trust, hosted by Sir David Frost and Joanna Lumley and featuring Gary Barlow and Jennifer Aniston.

Channel 4 was celebrating Sitcom Weekend all that evening, including Desmond’s, George and Mildred, Rising Damp, Father Ted, Cheers, and the film Up Pompeii.

Channel 5’s evening saw the premiere of, er, Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love, and an episode Jack Docherty’s chat show.

2007

In 2007, Daniel Craig (as James Bond) was the cover star, and the magazine included a free “Giant Springwatch Wallchart.” It also asked the question of the latest Doctor Who episode: “Is this the scariest episode ever?” (Talking about the episode Human Nature).

By now, the schedules were feeling a little less special. BBC One had a morning of Animal Park, Homes Under the Hammer, To Buy or Not to Buy, Cash in the Attic and Bargain Hunt. Not that different to 2017 in some respects. After lunch it was old episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo!, Keeping Up Appearances and Murder, She Wrote. Then we got films of The Parent Trap and Father of the Bride Part 2.

BBC Two began with blocks of CBeebies and CBBC programming before running the popular TV movie High School Musical. This was followed by the John Wayne film, The Comancheros, followed by regular episodes of Living in the Sun, Escape to the Country, Flog It!, Eggheads and Weakest Link.

ITV was also now running a nearly normal schedule of The Jeremy Kyle Show, two episodes of 60 Minute Makeover, Loose Women, half an Inspector Morse repeat (part one had been the previous Friday), and For the Rest of Your Life. At 4.00pm it ran the 1983 film, Agatha Christie’s Sparkling Cyanide.

Channel 4 broke up its regular morning block of sitcom repeats with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: the Movie, a Pirates of the Caribbean 3: T4 Movie Special and the film Alaska with Thora Birch and Charlton Heston. It ended the afternoon with Countdown, Deal or No Deal and The New Paul O’Grady Show.

Channel 5 was showing a standard set of The Wright Stuff, Trisha Goddard, House Doctor, House, and then the films/TV movies, The Madness Within and Perry Mason: The Cast of the Lost Love.

BBC One’s evening was basically a standard issue Monday evening with Celebrity Masterchef, an Open All Hours repeat, EastEnders, Panorama, New Tricks and Not Going Out.

BBC Two’s evening was also standard fare, with a new series of Springwatch, the third in a documentary series Power to the People and only The Pledge with Jack Nicholson being an unusual film addition. At midnight viewers could spend two hours with Springwatch Nightshift.

ITV’s evening was mostly identical to any other, with Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Airline, more Coronation Street, and then the film Ocean’s Eleven. The evening was rounded off with The Championship featuring play-off highlights.

Channel 4 at least had a film in early peak with the premiere of Star Trek: Nemesis before the documentary Brits Get Rich in China. Then it was ER, Sport’s Dirty Secrets and late night repeats of Sex and the City.

Channel 5 had Airplane! Before highlights of the cricket (long gone from free to air TV), Fifth Gear, Paul Merton in China, Prison Break and the film Anaconda.

2017

Which all brings us right up to date, and I’m embedding some of my patented* (*they’re not patented) annotated Radio Times pages into this blog. This week’s edition has a The Beatles and Sgt Pepper because, er, there’s a re-issued CD boxset out?

(Click through if you can’t read what it says)

Radio Times 29 May 2017

This is near enough a completely usual Monday. All the daytime staples are there. The tiny amount of sport consists of highlights packages. The PGA golf, long a Bank Holiday tradition, now finishes on a Sunday like every other tournament, and is live on Sky, like every other tournament.

Only Channel 5 actually makes an effort, running a classic film in the afternoon (The Searchers), and launching their new mini-series sequel on The Kennedys.

The only way you’d know it was a Bank Holiday from these schedules would be to notice that the news is either shortened or completely missing from the schedules. Otherwise, it’s as you were.

Summary

The shift away from holiday programming to regular scheduling hasn’t been a fast one, but in recent years it feels like it has sped up.

In the 70s and 80s we didn’t really have daytime TV – indeed channels might actually shut down for a bit. But that left space for sport, for which there was no satellite competition. And the end of the football season meant that there was a range of sport available. There have always been films, but truth be told, they’ve not always been great. There have been some titles here that the best film critic would need to go away and look up.

Yet today, we’re almost at a point where the most you can expect is that the news might get shortened a little, BBC Two might run a film in place of Newsnight, and that’s about it. We don’t get special events, or one off specials any longer. Daytime and evening schedules run year around, and make little to no account for anything else. Certainly, if I’d been examining the May Bank Holiday, I’d have included the World Snooker Championships, long a staple of BBC TV over the period. But it feels like schedulers don’t really make the effort any longer.

Undoubtedly, Britain’s Got Talent and Springwatch are big draws for their respective channels, but there’s not even a non-soap drama to be found (unless you count Channel 4’s Loaded which is more drama-comedy).

It is true to say that we don’t get nearly as many repeats as we used to (a curious Guardian piece recently asked if the age of repeats was at an end. I would argue that this has long happened). Most drama on the main channels is first run in primetime. Even massive hits like Line of Duty or Poldark don’t get peaktime repeats.

And it’s also true that we have more access to entertainment. In the seventies, you’d have to wait until ITV showed Jaws before you got a chance to see it. Only with the rise of VHS, satellite TV, DVD, downloads and Netflix, did the audience gain control. However, ITV will still run one-off Maigrets, while the BBC and Channel 4 can have premieres of some of the films they’ve backed.

We’re said to be in a golden age of television; indeed “peak TV.” There’s so much good stuff, or “must-see TV” that we struggle to keep up. Are you watching the new seasons of House of Cards? Or The Leftovers? Or American Gods? Or Twin Peaks? Or The Americans? Or Doctor Who?

Season 7 of Game of Thrones is coming soon, perhaps you want to binge watch the previous six seasons? Or seven seasons of The Walking Dead?

Instead of moaning that ITV hasn’t bothered to change its Bank Holiday schedule from a normal one, perhaps I should understand that they know beyond their regular audience, anyone else watching TV will be doing so on their own terms. Watching iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, ITV Hub, Now TV or Walter Presents boxsets.

Bank Holiday TV is a thing of the past.

BBC Store is closing; Streaming v Ownership

Back in 2015 I took a look at the then new BBC Store. It had opened in a blaze of publicity after a relatively long gestation period. Visitors could buy to own BBC catalogue programmes as well as some of the latest dramas and comedies. Since then, announcers have mentioned the ability to buy programmes from the BBC Store (and other outlets) regularly over the end credits of series.

In 2015 I wrote:

“And of course everything is full of DRM meaning that long term, I can’t be certain I’ll have continued access. From the help section:

We cannot guarantee that you will be able to stream or download content that’s in My Programmes forever. However, when our right to make content available is due to expire, we will do our upmost to inform you of this by email so that you have the opportunity to download and then continue to playback the content through the BBC Store Download Manager.

“If I had DRM free copies of course, I could make them part of my back-up regime, and should the BBC Store ever close down, I wouldn’t lose anything, or be reliant on technology that might have limited or no future support. This is the key issue with all DRM-d media, and it’s why for the most part I continue to purchase physical copies ahead of DRM-filled downloads. Even though there is encryption on DVDs and Blu-rays, they can be ripped, and I can maintain access once players become redundant (I confess, I’m not looking forward to days of ripping however).

This week we learnt that the BBC Store is closing down in November after around two years in operation. Those words about DRM have proven to be prescient.

The first series I bought from the BBC Store was Tender is the Night, a 1985 Dennis Potter dramatisation of the F Scott Fitzgerald novel. This has never been made available to buy on DVD. It may have been on VHS for a period, but the only streaming version of the novel is a 1962 film.

After November, I will lose all access to this TV series. The DRM locked version that I bought will no longer play.

Now it’s true that the BBC Store is giving me a full refund, or slightly more if I accept Amazon vouchers. But the problem is that there is no DVD for me to buy.

The chief reason given for the store closing is that ownership isn’t the preferred model for consumers. They prefer the all-you-can-eat offers from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

But while that works for popular fare, that leaves a vast proportion of the longer tail of TV and film out in the cold.

A site called NewOnNetflix reckons the UK version of the site has 4,228 films and TV series across all genres. That sounds like a vast figure. But actually it’s a drop in the ocean. Go to the page that lists films by year and you will quickly discover that prior to 1941 whole years are missing.

In 1939, for example, the following films were released:

Gone With the Wind
Mr Smith Goes to Washington
Goodbye, Mr Chips
The Wizard of Oz
Gunga Din
The Women

Classics all, yet none are on Netflix. Now I can certainly buy all of those on DVD, and Amazon Prime may have one or two, but the point is that both Amazon and Netflix are offering highly curated – and limited – catalogues. Films and TV series come and go from the platforms. Aside from programmes they funded themselves, they acquire the rights for limited periods of time. I can’t be certain with rental that I can absolutely watch Gone With the Wind on any given day.

Now of course I can go to somewhere like the iTunes Store, or the Google Play Store, but even there, the range is surprisingly limited. Google Play doesn’t have Goodbye, Mr Chips or The Women, for example. (I will in fairness note that Amazon doesn’t carry a region 2 DVD of The Women, but does make it available to stream or own digitally, while Goodbye, Mr Chips is available as an inexpensive DVD, as well as digitally to own or rent).

In the end, its market forces that determined that the BBC Store needed to close. If not enough people are using it, then the business model doesn’t work. But I do dispute the idea that a Netflix or Amazon subscription is a complete solution. So while bona fide hits like The Night Manager, Line of Duty or War and Peace are available on the various platforms, other series very definitely are not. At this point in time, physical media is still the providing the greatest depth of range – with a significant number of specialist labels ranging from Network DVD to Second Sight and beyond, offering a vastly greater depth of catalogue than streaming is currently offering.

Streaming may well be the future, but right now I wouldn’t be without my DVD/Blu-ray player!

Meanwhile all of this is another case to prove that DRM is fatally flawed in the longer term. While I may be getting a full refund, I’d have preferred to have kept the programme.

iTunes 12.6.1.25 and Windows 10 Creators Update – A Possible Fix

This is really here as both to potentially help others, and for me to moan about the incompatibility of the current products of two of the biggest companies in computing.

I don’t really use iTunes any longer. I don’t have a personal iPhone, and my iPod Classic is now resting in retirement. These days my music collection (yes – I own, rather than rent) is stored on Google Play Music. They let you store up to 50,000 tracks. But I retain iTunes to rip the occasional CDs I buy (Yes – this is something I still do), and as a handy offline backup of all my music. My iTunes library sits on an external hard drive.

Now because of my low usage, I hadn’t recently opened iTunes. But a newly purchased copy of Burials In Several Earths by The Radiophonic Workshop meant that I needed to rip my new CDs. In this instance I usually fire up iTunes, and then grab the digital copy to upload to Google Play Music. Nice and simple.

But iTunes really wasn’t playing fair with me. It did load slowly the first time. But it then hung. I force shut the application and tried to relaunch it – without success. New Tasks were appearing in the Windows Task Manager but iTunes wasn’t working.

Eventually, after several reboots and failed attempts, I went for the uninstall option. For the record, despite iTunes installing with a single installer, you have to uninstall six separate applications. Then I reinstalled.

Still no luck.

I did notice that if I opened as an Administrator by right hand clicking, I could open iTunes. But that wouldn’t see my library which is stored on a network attached (NAS) drive. But I had succeeded in creating a new local library. Furthermore, I wasn’t now able to change library, because I couldn’t see a way to both launch as an Administrator, while holding Shift which is necessary if you want iTunes to open a different library. (Why, after so many years, you can’t choose to open a new library inside iTunes, I don’t know.)

By now I was Googling for solutions. But of course there are thousands of people who’ve had problems with iTunes over the years. I did find some suggestions to try an older version of iTunes. One person seemed to have had success with 12.5.5.5 from January. But having uninstalled and reinstalled it didn’t work for me. Furthermore, it couldn’t even open a library from a more recent version of iTunes.

More Googling finally showed that it seems to be a problem with the recently released Windows 10 Creators’ Update. Now while this hasn’t been pushed out to most machines yet, I had recently downloaded it from Microsoft. This is, after all, the big Spring update. And they’ve already announced a second update for later in the year. It’s been through the beta channels and is theoretically ready for prime-time.

But that doesn’t seem to be true.

For me, the solution came from this page on Microsoft’s site.

You have to kill the Bluetooth Tray Application (BTTray.exe). I did this just by launching Task Manager (Ctrl – Alt – Delete > Task Manager), finding the application and closing it. I should point out that I use both a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with my laptop. Closing this application didn’t stop them working. However if I permanently disabled the app, I’m not sure if this would help. In any case, I do like to be able to use Bluetooth.

Fortunately for me, I use the hated iTunes little enough to be able to cope with this small inconvenience. But clearly something isn’t right if the current versions of iTunes for Windows and the latest version of Windows 10 don’t work together.

I assume that it will be sorted in due course. But in the meantime, perhaps this will help someone or other.

RAJAR Q1 2017

RAJAR

Once again, this post is brought to you in association with RALF from DP Software and Services. I’ve used RALF for the past 9 years, and it’s my favourite RAJAR analysis tool. So I am delighted that I continue to be able to bring you this RAJAR analysis in association with RALF. For more details on the product, contact Deryck Pritchard via this link or phone 07545 425677.

It’s RAJAR time again, when the UK radio industry releases a new set of listening figures. And this is the first release of 2017, featuring a smattering of new stations.

In overall terms, there are a few declines this time around. Overall radio is down 2.4% in terms of listening compared with the previous quarter, although it is up 1.7% on the same time last year. Reach too is down slightly on the quarter but up on the year.

In particular, BBC radio seems to have taken a bit of a hit this quarter, being down 2.9% in reach and 3.6% in hours; whereas commercial radio is only down 1.2% in reach and down 0.8% in hours.

In reach terms, the BBC and commercial radio remain very evenly with matched with commercial radio just edging the BBC with 64% reach compared to the BBC’s 63%. While in share terms, the BBC has 53% of radio listening compared with commercial radio’s 45% (the other two percent or so is non-RAJAR measured radio services).

Overall 89% of the population continue to listen to the radio at least once a week – a figure that has remained constant for many years now.

Digital share is something everyone in the industry pays attention to, and it’s now up to 47.2% of all listening being digital – that’s a big jump in the post Christmas RAJAR period. And it’s really closing in the symbolic 50% digital level.

National and Digital Services

It hasn’t been the best quarter for Radio 1, with reach down 4.8% on last quarter and down 8.1% on last year. It now reaches 9.1m people a week. Five years ago it was reaching 11.1m a week. Obviously its target audience is the most challenging of the BBC’s radio services to target, as I’ve said on many occassions before. While listening was again down on the quarter, it was actually up fractionally on the year. Again, Radio 1 will look to its iPlayer and YouTube footprint.

Radio 2 is also down a little both on the previous quarter and the previous year in terms of reach. But it’s nothing to write home about, and the station remains vastly larger than any other in the country (and many other stations in the world – although I would point to the BBC World Service English service reaching 66m a year…). Hours are very strong though, and although it they’re down slightly on this time last year, those were record numbers then. Radio 2 is still a beast of a station.

Radio 3 had what can only be described as a disappointing quarter, down 11% in reach on both last quarter and last year. Hours were particularly poor, down nearly 20% on last quarter and 15% down on the year. It’s not clear to me what’s happened, but the current listening levels are within the bounds of what it has done previously over the last few years.

While Radio 4 has fallen away from it’s Brexit high a couple of quarters ago, it’s still 5% up on the year in reach and nearly 6% up on the year in hours. This is a good set of numbers, and the station has had a reach of over 11m for four quarters in a row now, when historically 10m was more its norm. Sister station Radio 4 Extra has also had decent numbers.

Five Live has had a disappointing set of numbers too – perhaps not able to capitalise on such a fairy tale Premier League season. It’s down 6.5% in reach on last quarter and down 7.5% on the year. While hours aren’t as bad, it’s interesting that in these highly politicised times, Radio 4 continues to do well, but 5 Live doesn’t.

6 Music, needless to say, confounds all of this. It’s up in everything meaning that it has also once again set record reach and hours figures. It has 2.351m listeners spending 23.4m hours a week with it.

As with Five Live, Talksport hasn’t done so well this quarter, being down 9% on the quarter and 12% on the year in terms of reach. Hours are much better with even a slight uptick on the quarter. Although with less than 3m reach and 20m hours, they will want to do better. Sister station Talksport 2 showed a slight dip on this quarter still hovering around the 250,000-300,000 range for its reach. Hours are a bit more concerning being 10% down on the quarter.

Talkradio got a bump in hours, but is down a little in reach to 238,000. While I’m convinced that there’s room for more speech radio, perhaps it needs further tweaking. Meanwhile Virgin Radio was up in reach and up in hours. While it has yet to return to the levels of the first set of numbers it posted, this at least is encouraging.

Classic FM ticks on by, flat in reach on the quarter, but up nearly 5% on the year. Hours are down slightly on the quarter but up nearly 7% on the year. It comfortably stays north of 5m listeners and has around 35m listening hours putting it in a good place.

Absolute Radio is up slightly on the quarter, and essentially flat on the year in terms of reach. Hours is much better story, with something of a bounce back from last quarter, being up 12%. Across the entire Absolute Radio Network, reach is down a little, but hours are up, and the brand has 4.2m reach and 33m hours (similar to the size of Classic, but with a much more valuable target audience for advertisers).

Radio X is making solid progress nationally up 5% on the quarter in reach and up 6% on the year. Hours are also up, and with a fair wind, it should break 10m listening hours within the next quarter or two. It certainly seems to have some traction.

LBC nationally is performing outstandingly well. it has just short of 1.8m listeners (up 6% on the quarter and up 16% on the year), while hours are closing in to 20m. Listening is up a whopping 27% on the year! This is one station aside from Radio 4 that really is prospering right now.

Capital is doing decently across its whole brand. While reach and hours are down a little on the quarter, they’re up on the year, and the brand still has 8.3m listeners spending 47m hours across the various Capital stations.

The Heart Network and Brand’s listeners (the latter includes Heart Extra) have drifted away a little in recent quarters and this is no exception. Nothing stunning, but still downwards. It’ll be interesting to see if a recent new TV ad does much to turn its fortunes around.

The Magic Network got bolstered this month (see below), but it was still down a little in reach. Hours are better, with now more than 20m Magic hours across the network. Magic too has recently invested in a TV ad, the results of which won’t hit until next quarter.

The Kiss Network has fallen back a little for the second quarter in a row, with a reach still just ahead of 5m, while hours have fallen back below 30m. The brand has done really well to maintain its audience when you compare it with the difficulties Radio 1 has had.

The Smooth Brand is not one I think about a lot, but it’s a real performer for Global with 5.4m reach and nearly 40m hours. It dipped a little this quarter but is a very solid performer if it can hang on to that listening.

Finally a couple of new stations. Union Jack, which has been on the air for several months now, has posted a reach of 71,000 with 265,000 hours. It’s a low cost station (broadcasting at easily the lowest bitrate of any DAB music services), but it probably needs a larger audience in due course.

Meanwhile Magic Soul, which began as a summer pop-up, has a reach of 242,000 and hours of not inconsequential 1.3m. A decent enough start for the service from Bauer.

Finally there’s Share Radio. It has just announced that will be coming off DAB soon, continuing as an online-only service. It posted its first set of numbers, with 17,000 reach and 40,000 hours. The difficulty the station has is that it’s demographic target market is far too specialist for RAJAR to accurately capture. It’s analogous to Bloomberg TV which previously came off BARB in the UK because although the service is definitely on in the right offices and on the right trading floors, it’s not something that the BARB panel can easily pick up.

Breakfast

I’ll leave others to spend more time on breakfast, but Nick Grimshaw saw his show fall as the overall station did. He’s down 4.2% in reach on the quarter and 5.4% down on the year. Unfortunately for him, that’s the lowest Radio 1 breakfast show figure since the current RAJAR methodology started back in 1999.

Over on Radio 2, Chris Evans put on nearly 2% to his audience this quarter – that’s nearly 9.4m listeners. Down a little on this time last year, but still a very successful show.

In commercial terms, Bauer has the top two shows in the Kiss breakfast show with Rickie, Melvin and Charlie with 2.1m listeners, while Christian O’Connell across the Absolute Radio Network is just behind with 1.9m listeners.

London

Who’s number one in London? Well of course it’s actually Radio 4. But you probably want to know how the commercial rivals stack up.

Capital can still shout loudly about that position. With 2.2m listeners, it’s jumped a frankly unlikely 30% on the quarter bouncing back from last quarter’s low. Looking back, that really does look like a freak quarter. Kiss is the next closest in reach with 1.8m listeners.

However in hours terms, LBC gets the crown with 11.5m hours (up 28% on the year!). This compares with 10.8m for Capital and 9.2m for Heart.

(Sorry, I’ve just realised I managed this report without a single chart. I promise to do better in future!)

Further Reading

For more RAJAR analysis, I’d recommend the following sites:

The official RAJAR site and their infographic is here
Radio Today for a digest of all the main news
Go to Media.Info for lots of numbers and charts
Mediatel’s Newsline will have lots of figures and analysis
Paul Easton for more lots analysis including London charts
Matt Deegan will have some great analysis
Media Guardian for more news and coverage
The BBC Mediacentre for BBC Radio stats and findings
Bauer Media’s corporate site
Global Radio’s corporate site

Source: RAJAR/Ipsos MORI/RSMB, period ending 2 April 2017, Adults 15+.

Disclaimer: These are my views alone and do not represent those of anyone else, including my employer. Any errors (I hope there aren’t any!) are mine alone. Drop me a note if you want clarifications on anything. Access to the RAJAR data is via RALF from DP Software as mentioned at the top of this post.

A Few Thoughts on the Ransomware Attacks

I’ve found a certain amount of the coverage surrounding the WannaCrypt ransomware attack really quite annoying, and the responses in many cases quite pathetic. So here are a few thoughts of my own:

  • The NSA, and other governmental bodies, have an awful lot to answer for. Governments love to collect operating system ‘exploits’ to use themselves. They have teams of people either trying to find ways to crack commercially available operating systems, or they go onto the black market and buy them from hackers. These shortcomings aren’t reported to the software producers like Microsoft. But if I spot a vulnerability and say nothing about it (because I may attack my enemy with it later), then so might you also find it. And you may be more nefarious than me. In this instance, the leaky sieve that is the NSA, actually let this and other exploits be stolen from them earlier this year. It was as a direct result of this theft from the NSA, that this attack took place. Although Microsoft had patched this hole in March, we know hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of users don’t keep their systems up to date. Nonetheless, if the NSA had alerted Microsoft much to the vulnerability rather than sit on it for their own means, then more people would have avoided being infected. There is a real issue of responsibility here, as Microsoft itself points out very firmly in a blog published over the weekend.
  • It’s frankly criminal that important infrastructure is still running on a deprecated operating system like Windows XP. This is an OS that launched in 2001 and for which extended support ended in 2014. Microsoft gave seven whole years notice that support was ending. Yes, it’s understandable that in parts of the developing world, people are still using these elderly systems. But first world hospitals? It’s no excuse to say that some bespoke piece of software requires this now legacy OS. With that amount of notice, that equipment should have been upgraded if necessary.
  • The Government must take some responsibility for this. After Microsoft stopped support of XP, the Government Digital Service chose to pay £5.5m to Microsoft for extended support. But in May 2015 this was not extended despite thousands of Government computers still, somehow, running XP. This Guardian report from the time made clear that this was a massive security vulnerability. While some individual departments may have paid for extended coverage, many clearly did not. At that point they were massively vulnerable. In the absolute worst case, you’d have expected a rapid transition to newer OS’s within months. Instead, here we are, two years later.
  • In particular, the National Audit Office published a report in 2016 into the NHS’s sustainability. The report included these paragraphs:

    “In February 2016 the Department transferred £950 million of its £4.6 billion budget for capital projects, such as building works and IT, to revenue budgets to fund the day-to-day activities of NHS bodies. Of this, £331 million was exchanged for revenue support for 93 trusts, to fund healthcare services. The Department did not assess the long-term effects of transferring this funding to cover day-to-day spending. This means it does not know what risks trusts may face in future as a result of addressing immediate funding needs.

    “This was the second year that the Department has used money originally intended for capital projects to cover a shortfall in the revenue budget. In 2014-15, the Department transferred £640 million to help mitigate the trusts’ deficit. In the coming years, the Department plans to continue transferring capital funding into day-to-day spending under 2015 Spending Review agreements.”

    In other words, a shortage of NHS cash meant cancelling major IT projects amongst others, and instead using the money to maintain a day to day service. IT upgrades aren’t always just “nice to have’s.” They’re often essential as this attack has shown.

Yes – of course the evil hackers are the most responsible people here. And anyone tasked with maintaining IT systems should be ensuring that critical security software patches are applied as soon as they’re released.

But a combination of state-sponsored one-upmanship in cyber warfare, and a willingness to allow legacy IT to be used for critical services is frankly criminal.

When your actions are leading to hospitals being closed down, the repercussions could easily mean life or death. I trust that a lot of people are taking a long hard look at some of their decisions.

Fortunately…

The first ladies of radio, Fi Glover and Jane Garvey have a new podcast out that’s really quite essential listening: Fortunately…

Glover and Garvey are fantastic radio people, and to a large extent, the joy of this podcast is just to hear them in fairly casual conversation with one another. Episodes are recorded in various non-studio places around the BBC in London.

In fact, the purpose of the podcast is to guide the interested listener to other things they might like across BBC Radio 4 and its sister station Radio 4 Extra (more on this anon). Each presenter takes it in turns to recommend something that they’ve listened to over the last seven days. Often these are current programmes, but sometimes they delve deeper into the archive. The key thing is that they have collated links to all these programmes and you can go back and listen to them in full at your convenience.

Since the primary medium of this programme is as a podcast (it’s not being broadcast on the radio), it’s very easy to either add a new podcast or find something on iPlayer Radio while you’re actually listening to their recommendations.

Now you might think that there’s already a Radio 4 programme that does this – it’s run for years and is called Pick of the Week. And you’d be right. Sort of.

Glover and Garvey are careful not to use the words “pick of the week” in any context where they’re too close together. But I suppose their point of difference is that as people many of us have come to “know” after hearing them so much on the radio, we’ll know the kind of things they’re likely to choose. You do need to know a reviewer to help determine whether what they’re saying will chime with you. Conversely, if I know that your tastes are markedly different from my own, then I will treat your recommendations with caution.

While I’m sure that every presenter of Pick of the Week assiduously listens to vast amounts of BBC Radio output, you do get the feeling that some editions are a little scripted, and that the presenter may not always be quite as diligent as they present themselves.

Fortunately… exists in a podcast-only format, and I suppose it’s a slight shame that three episodes in, they seem to be restricted to national BBC radio output – more specifically the Radio 4 network. Such is the wealth of good radio, guiding listeners to otherwise unknown gems around the various networks is a worthy service, but adding in some third party podcasts might be interesting too.

At one point in an episode, Helen Zaltzman’s name came up, initially described as someone who does a lot of crafting. This was quickly elaborated upon as not being the only thing we’d know her for (she’s a regular guest on programmes like Woman’s Hour, where she has indeed talked about crafting). But it felt like they were avoiding the obvious – she’s actually rather famous for making popular podcasts like Answer Me This and The Allusionist, to the extent that she’s been doing a two-hander live show with Roman Mars of 99% Invisible fame.

I’d hope that perhaps in due course Fortunately… expands its remit to include other radio stations and particularly podcasts. One of the main issues facing both podcast creators and listeners, is discovery. How do you find out about new shows? Some of the broadsheets make a good effort to alert readers, but for the most part, it feels that successful podcasts breed successful podcasts: This American life begat Serial. Serial begat S-Town. And so on.

While the cream is said to rise to the top, I’m not sure that’s always the case if the cup is incredibly deep, and the cream goes rancid before it gets a chance to reach the surface – to enormously overstretch a metaphor.

Incidentally, was I the only person left a little disappointed by the discussion about podcasts on The Media Show a couple of weeks ago? There was a pre-recorded interview with Brian Reed, presenter and producer of the excellent S-Town, before a short state-of-the-nation discussion about UK podcasts with Caroline Crampton of The New Statesman’s SRSLY and Ellie Gibson of Scummy Mummies.

The tenor seemed to be that the UK couldn’t do big podcasts like S-Town because it’s expensive and there’s the BBC here which cripples the opportunity. But I’m not entirely sure that we were comparing apples with apples here. As Reed had pointed out in his interview, much podcasting in the US is still a few people sitting around a microphone plugged into a laptop. A massively successful podcast like Marc Maron’s WTF, for example, is still recorded relatively simply in his garage.

It’s only the very top layer of podcasts that is are at the heavily produced and expensively made level of This American Life, Gimlet, Panoply or Radiotopia. And yes, US scale, and a less well funded public radio system means that there’s more space for podcasts to breathe. But neither of the podcasters in the studio was really in the same market as those big beasts. Indeed, I’m not sure that even the BBC could have put through the resources that went into something like S-Town, where the story germinated for a number of years before finally being made as a standalone series.

But, the aforementioned Allusionist is part of the successful Radiotopia family and is made by a Brit, and the podcasting output of organisations like The Economist, The Guardian and The FT is first rate by any measure, utilising sophisticated sound design and first rate production. However, it’s clear that the UK podcast advertising marketplace has not yet developed to as significant an extent, which means that nobody is getting rich (or even moderately wealthy) just yet. Spin-off live events, books and other merchandising are still a requirement.

There are high quality podcasts being made in the UK. Many of them will be celebrated this weekend at the first British Podcast Awards, and I’m just not sure that was entirely reflected in the piece.

Disclaimer: I am one of several producers on The Cycling Podcast, which is nominated in the sport category at the awards.