October, 2011

RAJAR – Q3 2011

New RAJAR brings with it some big digital changes this quarter.

This chart shows that digital listening has pushed through to 28.2% which is up a decent amount from the previous 26.9%. We usually get the big digital jumps in Q1 each year, when people start turning on their DAB radios after Christmas, but is this the start of something a bit more? It’s too early to say. But we’re moving closer to one third of listening being digital.
Digital reach has also grown by a decent amount, and we’re up to 48.4% of all listener using digital as some part of their platform mix.That’s a number that’s going to push over 50% within the next year I’d imagine.
One number to look at is the internet listening number. There were a few people who noted that internet listening had fallen last quarter and wondered what it meant. I argued that it meant absolutely nothing and that like one of those annoying financial qualifiers, numbers can go down as well as up – especially within the margin of error. So this quarter, the number rose to 3.7% – an all time internet listening high.

Of the actual number, we should be wary. As ever, it’s overall trends we need to watch. And in this instance, the trend is clearly upwards.
Here are a couple of charts showing how listening to digital platforms varies by station. They’re updates of charts I published last time around:

The differences between different stations’ levels of digital penetration remain starkly different.
So Radio 1 is still well below the BBC’s average for digital listening – although it’s internet listening is ahead of average. DAB is where it’s let down, and historically DAB has been more popular amongst a slightly older audience.
On the other hand Radio 3 and Five Live soar ahead of other BBC national services.
Absolute Radio does really again (and is now up to a massive 69% of all network listening now being digital), while Talksport’s digital listening has actually dipped a bit this quarter.
Among the big station groups you have standouts like Gold which is broadcast in various parts of the country on AM, but has just short of half its listening on digital now (with DAB being the main platform). Whereas strong FM brands like Capital and Heart are well below the average. That said, Capital has a significant internet listening figure, while Heart seems to be preferred on DAB – again reflecting those stations’ relative ages.
I see that Matt has also highlighted digital, and looked at relative group differences by platform.
One final digital statistic – 3.3m people only listen to the radio via a digital platform!
Otherwise, what else is there to say? Well there are the usual ups and downs. The BBC has gained a little back on share, after commercial radio had such a good Quarter 2. The BBC now has a 54.5% shared compared with commercial radio’s 43.3%. That said, Global, Bauer and GMG all saw gains in hours. The latter, in particular did well, while Absolute Radio, Orion and UTV all lost share (not surprising in our own case since the number grew so much last time, it had to come down this time – it’s RAJAR law).
Radio 1 and Radio 2 did especially well amongst the BBC’s services. I think Radio 3 will be disappointed with its fall though – particularly set against the Proms season which makes up much of the quarter.
A relatively “light” summer for sport saw both Five Live and Talksport take hits, while Classic FM also fell a bit.
There was the usual jostling for positions in London, with Capital and Heart both being able to say that they’re number one in London with Capital being the largest in reach (and doing especially well at breakfast), while Heart does best in hours.
The losers are probably Bauer’s Magic and Kiss, which see a few falls.
However London’s always “vibrant” in RAJAR terms, so it’ll be interesting to see if those leads are maintained. Capital, in particular, had their Summertime Ball in this period, and a massive TV campaign coming off the back of it.
The BBC’s digital services tended to do modestly, will Radio 4 Extra’s stellar “debut” numbers under its new name, falling back a bit in reach, but growing in hours.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Absolute 80’s excellent performance. It’s now bigger than many much older digital services like Planet Rock and 1 Xtra. Indeed, with over 1m listeners for the first time, it’s hot on the heels of 6 Music!

Some of you will be pleased to see that I’ve updated my big interactive RAJAR Chart. Go and play with it here. Maximise the screen, and read the notes I wrote about it before explaining its shortcomings and weaknesses.
A technical note worth mentioning is that this is the first quarter in which there’s been some digital diary measurement. At the moment it’s a relatively small amount, and RAJAR isn’t breaking the percentage out.
All the numbers are available on the RAJAR website – click on the Quarterly Summary.
Read about Absolute Radio’s performance here.
Here’s Matt’s blog again.
Paul Easton has a piece on London here.
And Nik Goodman has some thoughts here.
Source: RAJAR/Ipsos-MORI/RSMB, period ending September 2011, adults 15+.
Disclaimer: These are my own views, although they’re based on work I’ve done for Absolute Radio, and through whom I get access to the data. I also sit on the RAJAR Technical Management Group representing commercial radio. Just so you know.

US Sport on BBC Radio

A few days ago, the BBC press office put out a press release detailing some of their US sport coverage. In particular, coverage of Major League Baseball’s World Series, and NFL coverage ahead of the International Series game at Wembley as well as other regular season games.
The sport is broadcast on Five Live Sports Extra and is produced independently by USP Content.
For some unknown reason the BBC’s press release only ended up in their RSS feed on the 24th October, whereas the release was actually published a few days earlier on the 21st. I mention that, purely because the first two World Series games had already been broadcast when the release was published.
Anyway, I took part in a little Twitter discussion on the subject of this as a result of the BBC release (Their RSS feeds are invariably ingested into other systems and republished by a variety of automated Twitter-bots).
An overall question being asked by some was why the BBC was broadcasting US sports at a time when so many cuts are being made.
At this point, it’s worth noting that the BBC has been broadcasting US sport for a number of years now – both the NFL and the World Series. I’ve actually no idea what it costs them, but I’d be willing to guess it’s some of the cheapest radio they broadcast. That’s because it’s provided readily by the US sports organisations either free of charge or for a nominal fee. Yes, some additional production and editorial is required to take account of the relatively frequent in-game breaks, but we’re talking about a couple of individuals in each instance. Throw in a producer, and the cost must marginal at best.
Both the NFL and MLB are keen to grow their respective sports – they always have been (I expect that they’re looking at the international success of the English Premier League with enormous jealousy – that’s why US owners have been coming over here). So is the BBC being a stooge by broadcasting this programming? No more so than when it broadcasts any sport. All the major sports organisations are major businesses. When we get coverage of the World Cup, the BBC (and others) are contributing directly to FIFA. And that’s a body we know has – well, let’s say “issues”, at its centre.
OK. But isn’t this US sport of marginal interest to US listeners. Well I don’t think it is. Aside from the 190,000 or so US citizens (most of whom will be licence payers), there is actually quite a demand for US sport – and I don’t mean because you see NY Yankees caps everywhere. ESPN manages to run a full sports channel 100% devoted to US sport. And Wembley stadium was pretty full at the weekend when the NFL staged their now annual International Series game (It wasn’t completely full though, whatever you might hear. Tickets were available just about up until the kick off).
The Five Live Sports Extra service licence does say that Five Live can:
exploit sports rights owned by the BBC that cannot be accommodated by BBC Radio Five Live or Radio 4 Long Wave. However, it should not provide an additional outlet for which the BBC would bid for rights against commercial broadcasters. It should offer commentary based coverage of all the events and matches it covers.
So one charge is that the BBC is acquiring additional rights for Five Live Sports Extra. The main station has broadcast both the World Series and NFL coverage in the past. Perhaps the BBC is treading a fine line here, but I’m not aware that any commercial stations are bidding to cover these sports. If Talksport wanted to broadcast NFL on a Sunday evening or baseball through the night, I don’t think the acquisition would be hard at all. Whether such coverage would beat their pretty decent late-night and overnight figures, is doubtful. That’s probably why they don’t.
I think the broader question is whether listeners are gaining something from this sport being available? Unqualifiably yes. Not everyone can afford premium sports channels like Sky and ESPN where the television coverage resides (although C4 still has an overnight Sunday game), and as such it’s a driver to digital. No bad thing in my mind.
Is it wasteful broadcasting American sport overnight? Not at all. There’s lots of listening to the radio overnight. 7.1 million people listen to the radio between 1am and 5am every week.
I will declare a hand here. I really like US sport. I used to watch NFL on Channel 4 when it started, and it’s still fun to watch on Sunday evenings on Sky (Redzone under the red button is excellent). More recently, Channel 5 used to broadcast baseball on a regular basis overnight, including the World Series. That was before everyone handed their overnight capacity over to gambling outlets.
I pay for ESPN as much for the baseball on ESPN America as I do for the extra Premier League and FA Cup matches over on the main channel. As I type this, I’m watching highlights of the fifth game in the World Series.
When I was younger I would seek out a very flakey AM signal from the US armed forces radio in RAF Lakenheath (some 60 miles away), tuning in to listen to US sport overnight. I’m wasn’t alone.
Do we complain when Radio 3 broadcasts classical concerts from Germany supplied by the EBU, or live opera from the Met in New York? These are arguably more important culturally to Germans or Americans than they are to British audiences. Yet some UK production is added to either live streams or pre-recorded concerts, and they’re appreciated by audiences in the UK. One of my highlights of any year is the live New Year’s Day Concert from Austria, and only the other day there was an EBU Liszt day on Radio 3 with music from around Europe. In the commercial world Real Radio repurposes Ryan Seacrest’s US show, and Planet Rock does something similar with Alice Cooper’s US show.
We live in a global environment. And giving listeners otherwise unavailable programming, can’t be anything but a good thing.
As ever, these are my own views, and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer.

National Newspapers on Friday

I’ve had a couple of days to think about this, but here’s the response I wrote to a piece Andrew Collins published on his blog in reaction to media coverage of the death of Gadaffi. I refused to buy a newspaper on Friday, because I found the editorial judgement of many of our newspapers – tabloids and broadsheets alike – to be seriously lacking.
This isn’t about human rights. I’m not going to make a moral judgement here about whether or not Gadaffi deserved it. In the context of this imagery, that’s irrelevant.
This is about the our society’s lack of moral judgement in deciding that it’s perfectly acceptable for publications that appear in shops, supermarkets, on the mat by the front door across the country, to portray imagery this shocking.
Was Gadaffi being killed the biggest story of the day? Of course.
Should the story have appeared on the front page? Certainly.
Did we need to see massive full-colour photos of a man either dying or dead? Certainly not.
Let’s be clear – if this imagery and video had been in a feature film, the BBFC would have rated it 18. Many of the papers that were happy to publish this picture on the front page would have been fulminating at the mouth if children had been able to a fictionalised version.
The next iteration of the Grand Theft Auto video game (or some similar title) will inevitably re-open a debate about the end of innocence of our children. But video games have age ratings. Newspapers don’t.
And this isn’t just about the protection of children. This is about what we, as the supposedly civilised West, think is appropriate. Once upon a time entire famillies would have gathered to watch criminals hung at Tyburn – it was a day out. We probably consider ourselves a bit “above” that nowadays. But I wonder…
I note that most of the coverage I’ve seen has been about the right and wrongs of the TV broadcasters on Thursday. I didn’t actually see any TV that night. But I did walk into a newsagent’s on Friday morning.

The Booker Prize 2011

Yesterday, Julian Barnes won the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending.
In the past, I’ve read some, but by no means all, Booker Prize winners. And of course I’ve read a fair number of the nominees. But this year, I made a concerted effort to read every novel on the shortlist. And I finished the last title on Monday evening.
Anyway, here are my thoughts, for better or worse, on the shortlist, in the order that I read them:

I read Snowdrops a while ago on its original publication, and it’s a great book set in modern day Moscow written by an author who used to be The Economist’s correspondent there. In tone, in greatly reminds me of Andrey Kurkov’s novel’s in the sense that anything can and will happen. That said, there are no penguins.
Not a novel to make you want to book your next holiday to Moscow, but nonetheless a fascinating portrait of the city.

For whatever reason, I’ve never entirely got on with Julian Barnes before. Arthur and George remains unfinished (even though it’s a subject that fascinates me), and while I did read A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, I could tell you nothing about it now.
I had no such problems with The Sense of an Ending, but then that’s hardly surprising given that it’s only 160 pages long. Indeed, frankly, it’s actually a novella. Other book awards would place it in that category. I’ve nothing against short-form fiction, and indeed it’s much maligned. (As an aside, I’ve recently been reading some superb short stories by Elmore Leonard – When the Women Come Out to Dance – sadly out of print).
The story is compelling, and the conclusion is moving. I did like it very much. But I’m not sure it’s truly the best on this list.

Jamrach’s Menagarie is a great tale of a young boy who lives in the East End of a Victorian London, and his early life as first learns to look after animals captured around the world for sale to zoos, and then embarks on a voyage around the world. The bulk of the book is formed by this voyage, and to say that the last third is tough going would be an understatement.
Not in the sense that you aren’t thoroughly gripped by the story, and excellent writing, but the
I thought that this was excellent.

Half Blood Blues follows the lives of a group of black and mixed-race jazz musicians plying their trade in Berlin as the second world war approaches. The book opens in Paris, where they’ve fled, and where one of their number is arrested. Then we hop back to Berlin, and also see events from the early nineties, where a letter has appeared out of nowhere.
What follows is an incredible insight into a group of people I suspect few of us had really ever thought about – black people under Nazi occupation.

The Sisters Brothers is essentially a western. But a western with a wonderful tone of voice. Eli and Charlie Sisters are hired killers. Ending a man’s life means very little to them, and they perform their tasks with alacrity. They work for the Commodore, a powerful man who dispatches people who cross his path. The book opens with the pair heading out from Oregon to the goldrush of California, where they have a man they need to kill.
What makes this novel so enjoyable is the dialogue the pair of them have. We follow events from Eli’s perspective. He’s slightly less violent, although he has a temper. And really, he wants to give up the whole “hired killers” thing, and settle down to open a trading post somewhere. Highly recommended.

Pigeon English is one of only two books in the shortlist that’s set completely in the present day. We explore the word from the perspective of the 11 year old Harri, a recent immigrant from Ghana who lives with his mum and sister in a council block in London. Another boy has been murdered, and as the story unfolds Harri and his friend begin to “investigate” the murder.
The dialogue in this book is wonderful. Even more that Room, I really felt that the author, Stephen Kelman, had truly got into the head of this young boy. It all rang true, and the things that delight and amaze small children from any culture are truly reflected in this book.
Harri likes making lists, and at times the novel is broken up as he presents a list of things that fall under a particular category – the rules of school or people who are “Vs” other people. Again, thoroughly recommended.
There really was a lot of nonsense surrounding the Booker this year talking about what should and shouldn’t have been included. I’ve read neither Alan Hollinghurst nor Philip Hensher, but then reviews of their most recent titles don’t especially appeal to me.
In any case, this struck me as a pretty worthwhile list of titles, and I enjoyed them all.
I think I’d say that Jamrach’s Menagarie is the book I liked the most, but The Sisters Brothers came a close second, and I can’t complain about a single title on the shortlist at all. If nothing else, the list did shake up my fiction reading beyond some of the usual suspects, and that can’t have done me any harm.

Holiday Video

While I was on holiday recently, I made a short film…

It’s a Super 8 film shot on the island of Syros. The camera is a Canon 318M, and the music is from the film Le Mépris and is composed by Georges Delerue.
The camera’s filter was misbehaving so I’ve colour corrected a bit. The zooming isn’t smooth, which is a shame, and is generally due to sloppy camera work from me. And I’ve used cutting to the sun a bit too much – less is more.
Other than that, I was already imagining which music I’d edit this to while I was out there. And the Super 8 does make you think that this holiday took place 30 or 40 years ago rather than last month.

DQF – Some Initial Thoughts

And so it came to pass. The BBC’s “Delivering Quality First” aka “What We’re Cutting To Save 20%” has been published.
It’s worth
Since I work in radio, I’ll start there, but I’ll offer my thoughts on other services too.
To a greater or lesser extent, radio escapes the brunt of the savings. Radio 4 in particular, is considered so core, that it’s not seeing any additional cuts. But there are no services being closed down, which in general I think is a good thing.
Radio 1 will share overnight programming with 1Xtra, which is probably sensible. Radio 1 will lose its Nations output, which John Myers recently reported as being expensive. Another Myers recommendation was that Radio 1 and Radio 2 should share backoffice staff, and that seems to be being adopted.
News bulletins will be shared, outside of breakfast, between Radio 1 and 1Xtra, as they also will be between Radio 2 and 6 Music. I’d imagine that this will require some slightly different news production, since Radio 2’s news currently, does sound very Radio 2. And it’s good to hear that 6 Music retains its music news, which doesn’t exist anywhere else as far as I’m aware.
Radio 2’s most expensive programme, Friday Night Is Music Night, will get more repeats. Radio 1 and Radio 2 will also see reduction in talent costs. Over on Feedback, you got the feeling that the cost of Alan Titchmarsh was one of the reasons that Melodies For You was scrapped (although I do think that Light Music is now very poorly catered for by the BBC, and this is exactly the sort of thing that Radio 2 ought to be doing).
Radio 2 will lose some comedy, which while much loved, feels right. Radio 4 and now Radio 4 Extra should probably be the BBC’s home of comedy in formatted half-hours.
The Proms will be safe on Radio 3, but other live music will be cut.
Perhaps more disappointingly, drama on the network is to be cut. Some reports are suggesting that it goes altogether, but from what I can see, they mean occasional dramas in The Wire strand are going, while much of the current Sunday night longer form drama is remaining on the network. That’s really important since the only other longer-form drama slot on BBC radio is The Saturday Play, which offers no opportunity to explore adult themes. Radio 3’s Sunday drama slot is also the only place you could regularly expect to hear the classics. Lenny Henry’s Othello is the only Shakespeare I can remember on Radio 4 in recent years for example.
Radio 3 is also seeing shared news with Radio 4, which is probably as sensible move.
Although not part of radio, the BBC’s orchestras are going to see a separate review. It gets more complicated since they do form part of UK culture.
Five Live will perhaps feel most of the cuts through the reduction in BBC sports rights which are being cut by 15%. Comedy will also get cut – whether this includes Fighting Talk, I’d hope not – but it does mean the end of the various Sunday morning comedy offerings (my employer would at this point perhaps like me to mention Dave Gorman on Sundays 1000-1200!).
In any case, Five Live looks like it will be more aligned to news and sport, and away from entertainment – not that I can see this explicitly mentioned. We’re still awaiting the results of a current BBC Trust consultation on the service, but this perhaps indicates the way that will go.
They’re going to try to work better with BBC Local Radio rather than maintaining lots of regional reporters which is smart.
The BBC Asian Network is getting some dramatic cuts. Like 6Music, it escaped closure by the skin of its teeth. But all the more expensive programming is going, and they’re going to focus clearly on 25-45 Asians (whether that’ll make the commercial Asian stations happy is another discussion). What’s clear is that they’re going to have to find some significant savings. Seemingly, the station will actually go off-air between midnight and 6am. Surely it’ll rebroadcast something during those hours? The BBC World Service perhaps?
BBC Local Radio is in for some really significant changes. Although the percentage cut is only 4.2%, the on-air sound will be quite different from what I can tell. There’ll be some significant programme sharing between neighbouring services in the afternoons, and between 7pm and 10pm all stations in England will come together except when broadcasting sports commentaries. In other words, we’ll get a weekday evening “BBC England” service. In reality, sport will use up quite a lot of that time with football and rugby league commentaries in particular meaning lots of opt-outs of the service.
In particular it seems that BBC London is going to bear the brunt of some cost reductions since its costs are out of kilter with the rest of the country according to the report. And in particular, that could mean the end of either Robert Elms or, God forbid, Danny Baker. If BBC local radio is to share programming in the afternoons locally, perhaps Baker could be shared across other south-eastern BBC services?
The BBC is supporting DAB rollout. However, at some point LW will close down – probably when the kit fails. The BBC Trust consultation says that BBC management is commiting to making those current LW-only programmes available on analogue radio at such a time. While that’s reasonably straightforward for the Daily Service, it’s unclear where Test Match Special might go. It certainly won’t end up on FM as Dan Sabbagh suggests, not unless Radio 3 wants to shut down during daytime for large chunks of the summer (and winter). Radio 3’s MW frequency was where TMS used to be broadcast of course. Perhaps daytime BBC local radio will be used? Or Radio 2 daytime?
But the BBC is also guaranteeing continued carriage on AM (or MW as they put it) for a variety of services inclulding 5 Live.
There are a variety of smaller changes to BBC nations services, although the Scottish services are getting significant cuts. BBC Scotland has the highest cost of any nations service.
I won’t go through this in detail, but BBC One cuts seem largely sensible. In particular the note that programmes made for regional services are shown nationally. The recent showing of The Field of Blood seems to be a case in point. It was shown in Scotland earlier this year in peaktime, whereas it only got shown in England around the August Bank Holiday, with the second episode going out at 10.35pm on a Monday night – not ideal for a new drama series.
BBC HD will become BBC Two HD which is probably sensible. Although in the nations, viewers won’t get opt-outs like “Newsnight Scotland”. Expect some complaints from the various Parliaments and Assemblies.
Aligning BBC Two and BBC Four seems sensible. While I dearly love BBC Four, I’m not sure that producing expensive dramas and then “only” showing them on BBC Four is smart use of cash. On the other hand, I don’t want to see BBC Four’s output diminished in any substantial way.
BBC Four acting as a home of foreign language films and television is maintained. I’d still like to see some foreign language programming – films especially – reaching BBC Two. And I’m pleased that BBC Four is not losing all its comedy. I think it acts as a good nursery slope for more intelligent television comedy, and that needs to be protected.
The move of all children’s programming from the main BBC channels – in particular BBC One – is worrying. While the entire country will be able to receive CBBC (and CBeebies), having some child-oriented programming on the main channel remains important. It gives those programmes additional credibility – particularly as children get older. “Ghettoising” programmes by leaving them on kids channels will undoubtedly mean a loss of audience, especially amongst kids who think they’ve outgrown the channel. It also diminishes the shared family viewing experience. I think this needs to be readdressed.
BBC Three is a channel that I’ve long been critical of. It gets a disproportionate budget compared to BBC Four – continuing to have a budget of £30m more than BBC Four – and it pulls its ratings from repeats of popular BBC One/Two programmes, not least Eastenders, Top Gear and Doctor Who. It looks as though it will share more programming with BBC One, while seeing some reductions in services. I think it needs to reappraise its entertainment offerings in particular which are mostly fatuous, and can exist in the commercial sector on the likes of ITV2.
I still find it hard to understand how its budget is so high, and I think it needs to be looked at again.
It’s disappointing that the red button service is shutting down. While I’m not sure that specific programming should be produced for it, and we’re not going to see cuts until post next year’s Olympics, this will hit those amazing Wimbledon or Glastonbury services. At least one channel will be available for “spill over” programming..
Overall – it could have been worse.
And for those 2,000 people losing their jobs, it is as bad as it might have been.
In the longer term, more questions than ever are likely to be asked surrounding the circumstances of the licence fee agreement being reached.
I know that more details will come out of the woodwork, and some individual tough choices are going to need to be made.
Elsewhere, Media Guardian, as you’d expect, has comprehensive coverage, and there’s a pretty comprehensive BBC site too. John Myers was on the Today programme this morning alongside a Guardian journalist discussing the cuts. While Chris Patton was the World at One. Victoria Derbyshire and Feedback will both be worth a listen. And there’s Radio Academy RadioTalk podcast too where I think Lisa Kerr of RadioCentre makes a very good point about how the savings that BBC Local Radio has to make seem to have a disproportionate impact on output. Really worth listening to.
And of course, this is actually the start of a BBC Trust consultation. So licence payers can have their say. This is a consultation, so it’s only right that licence payers do have a say.
Also worth reading are the thoughts of Orion Media’s David Lloyd. Although he’s very experienced in commercial radio, he did recently work for a while in BBC Local Radio, and what he saw… Well, I’ll let you read his thoughts.
Finally, these are my own views and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Sometimes it’s nice that we can agree to disagree.

Foreign Language TV Dramas

I think that it’s safe to say that if there’s one thing that BBC Four has given to UK audiences (and there certainly isn’t only one thing), it’s introducing British audiences to much more non-English language TV dramas.
Historically, we’ve been an export-only country, with imports not finding a home here unless they come from the US or Australia (and for those with long memories, New Zealnd for kids TV – Children of Fire Mountain anyone?).
Most recently we’ve had The Killing, with series 2 imminent. Prior to that there was Sprial, a handful of Inspector Montalbano episodes, and of course Swedish versions of Wallander.
Not since the mid-eighties when Channel 4 showed Châteauvallon and Black Forest Clinic, while late night ITV ran the likes of Derrick, has there been so much international television on British screens.
We also have another Danish series – Borgen – to look forward to, which, like The Killing before it, has already been optioned for an American remake.
Until now, it’s been BBC Four leading the vanguard, so it’s good to see that Sky Arts is getting in on the action broadcasting Romanzo Criminale from this Tuesday. Based on a bestselling Italian book, and previously made into a film, there’ve been two 11 episode series that have aired in Italy. The series was made by Sky’s sister organisation in Italy, but nonetheless, it sounds like it was quite well received, so I look forward to seeing it.
But there’s still plenty more out there. French TV might major on crime series – policiers – and they mightn’t all be of the quality of Spiral, but I’d like the opoertunity to see some more. There are certainly plenty of French historical series – yet the last one I can remember airing was The Count of Monte Cristo with Gerard Depardieu, which dates from 1998.
Germany must certainly have produced worthwhile TV dramas since the last one I recall hitting UK screens – Heimat (1, 2 and 3), which eventually finished in 2004.
Scandinavia produces more than Wallander, and I know that there are worthwhile dramas in countries like Spain and Russia. So wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see one or two more? So I hope that Romanza Criminale is successful for Sky Arts and they import more. And More 4 might want to look in the same direction too. I bet they’re not even expensive to buy!
[Update] And because it’s Mipcom at the moment, the BBC has just announced a couple more imports: The Bridge set on the Danish/Swedish Øresund Bridge, and Sebastian Bergman which is stars Swedish actor Rolf Lassgård and is described as having a “dark Scandinavian mood” but is made by German company ZDF, so I’m not clear if these are actually in Swedish or German.
[Update 2] And FX UK is about to start airing a French cop drama called Braquo! Goodness…

London Soundscapes

White Sound
Currently in London there are two audio exhibits – of sorts – taking place in London. And they’re only about a five minute walk apart.
At the Wellcome Collection on the Euston Road, passers-by are currently being exposed to White Sounds: An urban seascape.
Bill Fontana is bringing the sounds of Chesil Beach in Dorset to the Euston Road. Essentially a live audio feed from the beach is being fed to a series of massive speakers installed outside the front of the Wellcome Collection building. I’ve passed by it a couple of times now, and while it’s almost certainly inaudible to anyone driving by, pedestrians walking by are regularly stopping to listen. Different speakers seem to be broadcasting different audio elements from the beach.
Obviously you’re listening to this against the backdrop of heavy traffic on the Euston Road, but that’s the point of it. There’s also film footage (recorded) available to view inside the building. I’d suggest it’s worth a detour to experience. It’s on until 16 October. And it’s worth noting that the café inside the Wellcome Collection is a lovely tranquil place away from the noise of Euston. It even has free WiFi.
St Pancras-1
A little further down the Euston Road is St Pancras Station – gateway to Paris, Brussels, and St Albans. It’s currently home to a piece called Audio Obscura by Lavinia Greenlaw. This piece, which has already appeared at Manchester Piccadilly Station as part of the Manchester International Festival, is a 30 minute long audio soundscape/drama.
You collect a small mp3 player attached to a pair of noise cancelling headphones, and you’re left to wander the majesty of St Pancras while listening to fragments of conversations which could be coming from people as they pass by.
The effect works incredibly well in a busy station like St Pancras. I found myself standing in an unused part of the station, staring at passers by imagining that they might be saying the words I was hearing.
Again it’s well worth catching before it finishes on the 23 October.