Friday, 22 December 2006

Psiphon, Slingbox & Democracy - UK TV Channels Live on the Net for everyone?

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Psiphon is software that I was thinking of for getting around Geographical IP problems as it might be a method by which overseas viewers can receive UK-only BBC web content? . It "allows citizens in uncensored countries to provide unfettered access to the Net through their home computers to friends and family members who live behind firewalls of states that censor."

Broadcast TV (ITV, BBC etc) Live on Democracy Player
And of interest is a recent posting on Backstage which hypothesises how this software along with slingbox could be used by someone, anyone with 10k and a some techy know-how, to take the live BBC TV broadcast and make it available to anyone through the Democracy Player.

"One 3.5m satellite dish with a four way LNB, connected to four Sky boxes with four Media
Sling boxes attached to four Macs, because that is what I like, each with a couple of "realtime" Automator actions, stream the whole lot to Democracy from behind Psiphon. Perhaps £10K for the lot. I believe that it will happen by the end of February, BBC1-4 live'ish on the net." - IMPRESSIVE!!

- Paul Williams

Thursday, 21 December 2006

User Generated Networks and BBC News

Please click here to comment, led by Al Gore, is leading the way in the UGC or VC2 (Viewer Created Content) area providing a 24 hour network. The audience can see submitted clips online at and "green-light" them for TV by voting for their favourites. offers cash for content upto $1000 per video but viewers can earn upto $50,000 by producing adverts for the networks sponsors, the rights to the content is held by current for three months.

I've heard that Al Gore may be working on a similar proposition for a network, or at least a slot on, showing UGC on issues around Climate Change - using UGC to champion a specific cause.

User Generated Content - Now BBC News 24 are at it!

BBC News 24 has launched the first all user-generated news programme, ‘Your News’, featuring new stories made up from material sent in by the public. "Your News will reflect the stories catching the audience's eye, and will talk to them directly about the issues they feel really matter." - Kevin Bakhurst, controller of BBC News 24

‘Newsnight’ encouraged viewers to make short videos but it was considered a failure as very few people sent films in. Peter Barron, Newsnight editor, said: “What’s surprising is that while many viewers are prepared to sit down and create lengthy and thoughtful blogs about what we’re doing on ‘Newsnight’ - or what we should be doing - which will be read by about 50,000 hardened blog watchers, almost no one seems to want to commit those thoughts to video, with a potential audience of a million viewers.”

Will the new model of using UGC in the news be more successful?

- Paul Williams

Lost - audiences down, or moved to Myspace?

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Staggered global release is slowly becoming less of a problem for avid fans of overseas shows. No longer are fans restricted to illegal downloads we can now get see our favourite shows legally as more services go live.

Myspace is moving into the broadcast arena! What will that do to the TV audience of the show - I keep hearing that the audience to Lost etc has declined, but we need to bear in mind that the audience has not necessary declined it has just shifted.
- Paul Williams

In Broadcast online (the TV industry newspaper) today:
Social networking website MySpace is to stream free episodes from the new season of Lost.

Following a deal with Sky, the first two episodes of the US drama's third season, which began airing on Sky One last week, will be available to view on demand from today (24 November).

The deal makes MySpace the only place that non-Sky subscribers can legally watch the new season of Lost in the UK.

Visitors to the MySpace LostOnSkyOne page will also be able to view season updates, cast interviews and other features.

The deal with Sky was announced by MySpace's managing director for UK and Europe, David Fischer.

Also today, Sky will launch its rebranded legal downloads service, Sky Anytime (formerly Sky By Broadband). Sky One subscribers will be able to pay £2.50 to download and keep Lost episodes as soon as they've aired on TV.
Jane Hoskyn

DEMOCRACY - a revolution in TV on the net (Now with added BBC)

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The democracy player is a brilliant piece of software helping to unlock the power of TV on the net - and its free and open source!

I've been using the VLC player for a while as this is a great open source media player, but the democracy player really takes us to a whole new level with its multi-compatability, allowing everything from RSS to Bittorrent to be managed through it. You can view YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video very easily and download films from these services.

Now with added BBC

RSS's are used to create "channels" - I recently added the BBC Video Podcasts and the Nat Geo Video Podcasts as "Channels" on the Player so these can be easily viewed and downloaded (without having to turn to iTunes).

NB: Don't install on your BBC desktop as it won't be supported by Seimens, but if you want to get the best out of TV on the net then install this at home. The current version is Beta, so work in progress, but its worth playing with.

- Paul Williams

"Want to see the future of Net video? Download the open source Democracy Player" - Wired Magazine

"Television is the most powerful medium in our culture, and it's moving online. There's a huge oppurtunity to hear new voices. But if video on the internet is dominated by just one or two huge video websites, we're all in serious trouble. Openness, competition, and decentralisation make the internet work. We need to ensure that online video has that same freedom."

...but what makes it awesome?

1. Play All Your Videos
Play virtually any video-- Quicktime, WMV, MPEG, AVI, XVID, and more. Browse your collection, make playlists, stay organized.

2. Get Internet TV Shows
Subscribe to any video RSS feed, podcast, or video blog. Explore hundreds of free channels with the built-in Channel Guide.

3. Search YouTube
Download and save videos from YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video, and other sites.

4. High Definition and Fullscreen
Your computer screen is a high-def display. Watch free HD videos in gorgeous fullscreen.

5. Torrent Power
Easily download any BitTorrent file. Fast. Then watch it in the same app. Simple.

How Battlestar Gallactica changed the world - The Future of Bittorrent

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This is a great overview of how bittorrent works and why it is successful. Mark Pesce discusses how Battlestar Gallactica and Dr Who helped rapidly increase the growth of this peer2peer network, and how this might actually be good for TV.

Read the transcript.
"October 18th, 2004 is the day TV died. That evening, British satellite broadcaster SkyOne ran the premiere episode of Battlestar Galactica. (That episode, "33," is one of the best hours of drama ever written for television.) The production costs for Battlestar Galactica were underwritten by two broadcast partners: SkyOne in the UK, and the SciFi Channel in the USA.

SciFi Channel programers had decided to wait until January 2005 (a slow month for American television) to begin airing the series, so three months would elapse between the airing of "33" in the UK, and its airing in the US. Or so it was thought..."

- Paul Williams

BBC joins forces with Azureus - a good move?

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BBC Worldwide has recently signed a deal with technology firm Azureus allowing users of Azureus' Zudeo software in the US to download hundreds of episodes of BBC programmes via a file-sharing network for the first time, the corporation has announced. Until now, most BBC programmes found on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks have been illegal copies.

The most commonly used software to download BBC programmes illegally has been Azureus, leading to their rise as a major technology player. Azureus claims that they are simply a method of sharing files and any illegaly activity is due to the file sharers and not the mechanism through which it is achieved. Was Niels Bohr innocent in the development of the atomic bomb following his "controlled" nuclear fission experiments?

So is this a good move - if you can't beat them, join them and hope they adopt the DRM model more widely? Depending on how this agreement is implemented, will it add some BBC authorisation to the P2P networks in general? Will official BBC downloads be available alongside the illegal ones through a generic bittorrent manager or will their be a special BBC Bittorrent manager?

Lots of questions, lots of potential - whatever happens I think it's great that BBC programmes are available on as many platforms as possible and as widely as possible. As someone working in production, the main thing I want is for people to see my work. I fully support legal file sharing and hope that partnerships such as this will mark a move towards high quality, authorised television available over the torrent networks.
- Paul Williams

Monday, 18 December 2006

Extinct - The Final

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Extinct - The Final
Saturday night, 8:30 - 9:30pm
(4.1million, 18.1% Audience share)

Extinct - The Quiz
Saturday 4 - 5pm.
(1 million, 8.6% Audience share)

Text the studio. Save a species
Independent On Sunday - 17/12/2006, Hermione Eyre:
Extinct has been a week-long ITV wildlife extravaganza with a big heart and an even bigger sense of its own importance. It welcomed viewers with footage of orangutans, pandas and polar bears, followed by the words: “You can save them from extinction.” We can? Just by texting a premium rate number and exchanging the word “Myleene” for “Hyacinth Macaw”? Yes, just when you thought only a complex series of international negotiations involving a reluctant United States’s ratification of the Kyoto Treaty would stop global warming and save the polar bear, along comes an ITV gameshow that can do it single-handedly. Phew.

Please excuse my cynicism. The programme had many very good aspects. In a week when the white dolphin was declared extinct, it raised public awareness about the seriousness of the situation. Its short films about specific animals’ fights for survival were superb, and it often brought home a heart-stopping fact (“fewer than 720 mountain gorillas remain”). Who could deny that it is better, certainly, to spend £3 texting ITV for a screensaver of an orangutan – a whole 50p of that went to the World Wildlife Fund, you know – than it is to spend £3 on bushmeat at Hackney market? But there is something a bit strange about any show that plays the giant turtle off against the Bengal tiger in a televised popularity contest. Only one of the eight nominated creatures could win (to be fair, the others got half the proceeds from the show divided amongst them, a bunch of mangy losers though they were). It was conservation played by the rules of the playground.

Celebrities were involved, of course, each championing a different beast. The polar bears had Anneka Rice, the hyacinth macaws Michael Portillo. I hear the orangutans were a bit sore that they got Sadie Frost. “We were hoping for a Barry Humphries,” said a spokesman from the primate community, “but you can’t have everything.” Frost did rather well on her trip to Borneo, actually – but I can’t resist a little celeb carping. The programme did seem to invite it.

And poor Trevor MacDonald. As he delivered the words “Remember, the animals are depending on us”, you can see that a small voice inside his head is saying “isn’t this a little OTT?” Yes, Sir Trevor, it was – but don’t worry. We blame the autocue writer.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Wild Wensleydale: The natural history of a cracking bit of cheese

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Sunday 17th December, 5:50-6pm BBC2
A taste of the good life with the surprising natural history of a cracking bit of cheese. Wensleydale is James Herriot country with spectacular Yorkshire scenery and all manner of creatures - great and small. It’s home to the iconic curlew and to rare surprises like sea lampreys and peregrine falcons. There are pretty villages, wonderful waterfalls, rare flowers, wild fells, and even wilder weather. Throughout it all flows one of the purest and most magnificent rivers in the country, the River Ure. But best of all Wensleydale is the keeper of an ancient British recipe, not only for a natural way of life but also for one of the nation’s favourite bits of cheese.

Planet Earth: The Future

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BBC4 Sunday 10th December 2006. 10:00pm - 11:00pm
104,000 viewers

A group of conservationists and philosophers discuss the future of the planet, and look at how successful campaigns such as Save the Panda, Save the Whale and Save the Rainforest have been. They ask how conservation fits into a world driven by economics and development, and at what point does eco-tourism cross the boundary of real benefit to the wildlife. Plus, the role of religion in promoting a moral and ethical approach to our world.
From the

Friday, 8 December 2006

Nature on Radio 4: Next Week

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LIVING WORLD : Autumn and the Bearded Tits
Sunday 10th Dec at 6.35am

In the first of a new series, Lionel Kelleway wades through a great swathe of reeds at Blacktoft Sands, an RSPB reserve on the Humber Estuary in search of reed-loving Bearded Tits. Surrounded by their pinging calls, and with the help of a mist net, the warden and a bird ringer, Lionel enjoys an amazing close-encounter with these spectacular birds.

Presenter Lionel Kelleway
Producer Sarah Blunt

Planet Earth Under Threat
4 of 8 Ice
Monday night at 9pm

As Gabrielle Walker pursues the impacts of climate change on the world’s wildlife, this week she's in the Arctic to see how the melt back of the ice is a sign of things to come, not just for polar wildlife, but thousands of miles away amongst the atoll communities of the Pacific.

Presenter Gabrielle Walker
Produced by Beatrice Fenton

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Monty Don: Growing out of Trouble

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Thursday 7th December, 21.00 BBC TWO

Monty Don knows from experience that there’s nothing like hard work, determination and persistence to dig your way out of a hole. Gardening saved his life and now he hopes it will save the lives of young men and women caught up in a cycle of drug addiction, crime and punishment. This 5 part series for BBC2 follows Monty's struggle against all odds to build up a smallholding with a group of offenders.

"This is television with heart and purpose" The Daily Mail
"absorbing and immensely worthwhile" The Times

Planet Earth: The Future, Into the Wilderness

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BBC4 Sunday 10 - 11pm (153,000 viewers)
Repeated Tuesday 7 -8pm (423,000 viewers)

Faced with an ever-expanding human population, people with a concern for the way we use our planet ask whether wilderness areas are just sanctuaries for wildlife or something more than that. Contributors include David Attenborough

Planet Earth: Ocean Deep

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Life goes to extraordinary lengths to survive this immense realm. A 30 tonne whale shark gorges on a school of fish and the unique overhead heli-gimbal camera reveals common dolphins rocketing at more than 30km an hour.

Descending into the abyss, deep sea octopus fly with wings and vampire squid use bioluminescence to create an extraordinary colour display. The first ever time-lapse footage taken from 2,000m down captures eels, crabs and giant isopods eating a carcass, completely consuming it within three hours.

Planet Earth: Forests

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BBC 1 Sunday 9pm
7.2 million, 28.5% Audience share

Patrick Barkham Only one more Planet Earth to go - what will Sunday nights be like without it?

From The Guardian:
Planet Earth (BBC1, Sunday) is nearing the end of its series, and George Fenton's score triggers a melancholy premonition of the globe-sized gap it will leave in Sunday night's schedules.
"Trees. Surely among the most magnificent living things," began Sir David Attenborough as a camera swooped up a vertiginous Californian redwood. Like many childhood fans of Life On Earth and The Living Planet, I was shocked when I rediscovered Attenborough after two decades. His voice seemed to have been around, as he would say, since before humans walked the earth, and now his 80-year-old timbre is more false-toothy than breathy. But this new fragility chimes with the eco-calamity we are living. Planet Earth on our plasmas may soon be all we have left.

This is monumental television. Every shot is full of wonder. Like ropeless bungee jumpers, mandarin duck chicks hurl themselves from the nest to the leafy forest floor; the pink tongue of a crossbill prises open a fir cone; fecund bracken unfolds. Every sound, too, from the sniffling fear of the world's smallest deer - with toothpicks for antlers - to the dog-straining-on-a-lead choke of a wolverine ripping apart a caribou in the snow.

The commentary may play second fiddle, but Tony Blair should sign up Attenborough, or Planet Earth's script editors. We learn that the taiga forest on the Arctic fringes contains as many trees as all the world's rainforests; that a sequoia in California is the largest tree on earth, 10 times the size of a blue whale; that bristlecone pines pre-date the pyramids; that autumn leaf colour can be seen from space.

Sometimes Attenborough is a poet: the prints of wild animals are "stories written in the snow". Next he's a bit Doctor Who. "The nymphs of the periodical cicada have been biding their time." For 17 years, it turns out. "Now they march like zombies towards the nearest tree and start to climb."

Occasionally, it's X-rated. "The air is heavy with the scent of females," he breathes over the rutting of red deer. And then he's droll. "In local folklore, the wolverine is a cross between a bear and a wolf." Beat. "In reality, it's a huge weasel."

Only in the forests of Chile does Attenborough turn senile sports commentator as the smallest wildcat in the Americas goes moth-hunting. "You might call this a game of cat and moth." Oh, Sir David.

Sometimes, you wish the cameras would linger longer in one spot, such as when the pine martin stalks two mating grey squirrels. You want Mister Martin to chalk one up for the red squirrel population. Instead we see a lone grey "stocking his larder" depart in the jaws of the martin while the nasty shaggers get to carry on breeding.

The 10-minute slot at the end showing how it's all filmed jars slightly and might be better scheduled half-an-hour later. This week, however, the amur leopard is upstaged by Dany Cleyet-Marrel, a Frenchman straight from the early aviation era who has invented a special steerable balloon. For some unfathomable reason the Beeb's health-and-safety jobsworths agree that this bonkers balloonist can provide a much-needed filmic swoop around "static" trees.
"Oh my giddy aunt," screeches terribly BBC camerman Warwick Sloss before unleashing a blizzard of un-BBC beeps as the Frenchman pilots the pair into a baobab tree. Cleyet-Marrel tries to repair his balloon contraption accompanied by mournful music from the Jean de Florette soundtrack. Like the script, the score, the editing, the sound and the pictures, it is immaculate. Is it hyperbolic to say we may never see anything like it like again?

The joy of a Sunday in December is that you can immerse yourself in the natural world without leaving the house. From Countryfile (BBC1) in the morning, to the Crocodile Hunter Diaries (ITV) in the afternoon, it's easy to traverse the planet as briskly as Attenborough.

Nature's Calendar

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Sunday BBC 2, 6pm
1.7 million, 9.1% Audience Share

For those avid, nature-loving viewers of the inspiring Autumnwatch series, here's another treat they will not want to miss, despite its early slot. Chris Packham fronts this new 'seasonal' weekday show, giving expert advice on the most suitable times and places to see the best of British wildlife. The series celebrates our countryside, with its rich habitats and extraordinary diversity of species, taking in locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The 10 programmes that feature in the winter series see Chris and his team visit Britain's uplands and moors for encounters with reindeer (right), ravens and wild goats.

Diving with Dolphins, Tanya Streeter

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Sunday 3rd Dec, BBC 2, 5:30pm
2.2 Million, 11.3% Audience Share

World Record freediver Tanya Streeter travels to the Bahamas in search of wild dolphins. For Tanya, dolphins are the ultimate freedivers, the creatures she aspires to be most like. But how does the reality of diving with dolphins measure up to the dream? To learn as much as she can about them, Tanya spends a week with Dr Denise Herzing, who has studied the dolphins here for more than 20 years. But Tanya’s initial dolphin dives do not go well, re-igniting personal misgivings, guilt and long-held fears. Tanya is determined that she must meet them on their terms. But with a big storm closing in will she find any dolphins, let alone any that will stay around and let her get in with them?

World champion freediver Tanya Streeter travels to the Bahamas in search of wild dolphins. She spends a week with Dr Denise Herzing, who has studied the dolphins here for more than 20 years. Tanya's initial dolphin dives do not go well, re-igniting personal misgivings, guilt and long-held fears. She is determined that she must meet them on their terms, but with a big storm closing in will she even find any dolphins, let alone any that will stay around and let her get in with them? -

Web 2.0 presentations now live

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Talks from the recent "Connecting Somerset" Web2.0 seminar are now live on the web, video alongside the ppt slides (produced with Camtasia). Click on the names below to launch the presentation. (Apologies for the speed of my bit - I only had 10 minutes to talk about some of the cool things the BBC are doing in the world of Web2.0!)
- Paul Williams

The speakers were:
Kevin Redpath - Introduction to the conference.

Dan Hilton - Web 2.0 It's all just Semantics. What meaning can add to your website?

Simon Price - Web 2.0 Webs of People, Webs of Data.

Paul Appleby - Web 2.0 A BBC perspective.

Paul Williams - BBC 2.0

Paul Boag - Web 2.0 Pragmatic web design

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Planet Earth - The Future

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BBC Four Sunday 10pm/Tuesday 7pm
(Total number of viewers: 423,000)

PLANET EARTH: THE FUTURE, With global warming at the top of the political agenda and species vanishing at an unprecedented rate, this new series brings together some of the world's premier thinkers, including scientists, environmentalists and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to discuss survival strategies.
From The Times - 25/11/2006

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Natural History Radio This Week

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Gardens of Faith – Judaism
Sunday 26th November 1445
In the forth of a five part series examining the relationship between a religion and the natural world Peter France explores how Judaism views gardens and nature.
Presented by Peter France
Produced by Mary Colwell

SOUNDSCAPE: The Sea Swallow
Mon-Fri 1545-1600
SOUNDSCAPE : The Sea Swallow, is the story of two Arctic Terns, one born on the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, the other in Iceland, and the challenges they face as they embark on their staggering annual migration across the globe, from their northern breeding grounds to their wintering quarters in Antarctica and back again.
Producer :Sarah Blunt

Planet Earth Under Threat
2 of 8 Life on the Move
Monday 9pm
In the second episode of a major new series Gabrielle Walker witnesses how climate change is forcing animals and plants to move. From insects gaining ground in the northern states of the US, to gelada baboons sitting on the tops of mountains with nowhere else to go - and some species of British butterfly making hay while the sun shines.
Produced by Beatrice Fenton, BBC Natural History Unit.

Shared Earth
Friday 3pm
Dylan Winter helps you enjoy and maintain British nature. This week he celebrates an eco-wedding and finds out what makes a good reservoir for wildlife.
Presenter: Dylan Winter
Producer: Alasdair Cross

Friday, 24 November 2006

Shark Therapy: Prog 2

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Having come to terms freediving with large sharks, Tanya travels to the Bahamas to dive with scary sharks: sharks with a reputation. She is spooked by the stars of the movie ‘Open Water’ – Caribbean reef sharks – as they respond aggressively to her silver suit. Changing into black neoprene, and wearing a scuba tank, she experiences a large shoal of toothy lemon sharks. But it’s the opportunity to dive with the legendary tiger shark, the most feared shark in these waters that will prove whether or not Tanya’s treatment has finally worked.

Planet Earth: Shallow Seas

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BBC 3, 8:30pm

Your body is a breeding place for millions of creatures which live on you and in you and most are invisible to the human eye – until now. Using cutting-edge technology, Grime Scene Investigation reveals a hidden world of organisms living all over our bodies. Specialist cameras film close-up footage of the billions of bacteria, fungi and parasites that live on us. Brushing your teeth, combing your hair and flushing the toilet will never be the same again after Grime Scene Investigation brings viewers face to face with some of the horrific creatures we share our bodies with. Scientists will examine how these critters survive, what impact they have on us and what purpose, if any, they serve.

6/8. Cambridge Breakdancers: Presenter Rufus Hound and the team check out a household of breakdace champions. Their home is over run with junk and filled with dust and bugs.

An RDF Bristol production

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Animal 24/7

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Mon 20th Nov, BBC1, 9.15 a.m.
1.1 million; 26 % audience share

Get up close and personal with our wildlife as this series follows the work of the nation’s top animal guardians – the wildlife crime officers, RSPCA inspectors, land estate managers, vets, specialists and amateur enthusiasts. From the unspoilt rural stretches to the heaving towns and cities, this programme is full of critters and the people who protect and care for them right around the clock. Each episode is full of adventure and fun with some fantastic and very interesting little characters and eccentric owners. Animal 24/7 delivers pure entertainment and a heart-warming series that will take us on a sometimes humorous and sometimes emotional journey. It’s a programme for all of the family – informative, educational and entertaining. ~ iD Distribution

Natural History Radio This Week

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Planet Earth Under Threat (Prog 1 of 8)
Monday 20th November at 9pm
Gabrielle Walker presents Planet Earth under Threat – a major new series on the impacts of climate change on the living world.
Listen to one of the 'on-Air' trails:
Presented by Gabrielle Walker
Produced by Julian Hector

Rum Goings On

Tuesday 21st November at 11am
In the 1940s a scientific fraud threatened to rock the British botanical establishment, when the eminent Professor J W Heslop Harrison claimed to have found some extraordinary plants on the Island of Rum in the Hebrides. A recent study has revisited his work, and as Julian Pettifer discovers, there is a new twist to an old tale.
Presented by Julian Pettifer
Produced by David Parkinson

Shared Earth (Prog 5 of 6)
Friday 24th November at 3pm
Dylan Winter enjoys some of the best autumn wildlife spectacles in Scotland - from salmon leaping upstream to spawn on a river in full spate in Perthshire to the arrival of tens of thousands of overwintering geese on Islay. He also finds out how the largest conservation project for Atlantic salmon is ensuring the rivers are in the best condition for the returning fish and what management plans are in place so local farmers on Islay can still make a living whilst accommodating their noisy and destructive winter visitors.
Presented by Dylan Winter
Produced by Sheena Duncan

Friday, 17 November 2006

Planet Earth: Jungles

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BBC 1 9pm Sunday
6.7 million, 26.1% Audience share

The Guardian - 18/11/2006
This is what TV was invented for, right? Skilful and innovative without being ostentatious, this series continues to beguile and inspire. Now, we're in the jungles and rain forests - occupying a mere 3% of the planet's land mass, they are home to over half of the world's species. Watch as trees fight for the precious sunlight, birds of paradise engage in some downright screwy mating rituals, and see what a freaky fungi does when it infects insects (something straight out of science fiction). More than just pedagogy, it's an experience. - Martin Skegg

Shark Therapy

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Sunday 19th Nov, 6:30pm, BBC2
In an attempt to overcome her shark phobia, Tanya Streeter travels to a shark hot-spot in the Indian Ocean, to meet the massive sharks of the Maldives. Her goal: to dive with the biggest shark in the world. But she is soon terrified out of the water by 2-foot long reef sharks. It takes an encounter with a spectacular shoal of manta rays to tempt her back in. In this difficult personal journey, Tanya freedives at night amongst feeding white-tips, discovers the curious deep-living zebra shark and comes face to face with the largest fish in the sea: the mighty whale shark.

Natural World: The Falls Of Iguacu

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BBC2 8pm
2.6 Million, 11.2% Audience Share

The giant waterfalls on the border of Brazil and Argentina are one of the natural wonders of the world – a spectacular horseshoe of tumbling water almost a mile long. Under the falls live thousands of swifts that plunge through the torrent to reach their nests. The falls are the centerpiece of a national park that protects a large area of Atlantic rainforest home to bizarre creatures like snail kites and manakins. Sadly it’s now under threat from illegal hunters and the park rangers face a constant struggle to keep its wildlife safe. Whilst jaguars have declined other animals like the incredibly cute coatis are thriving as never before.

Filmed & Directed by Christian Baumeister
Produced by Britta Kiesewetter, Dan Habershon-Butcher & Sabine Holzer
Executive Producers - Jorn Rover, Carl Hall, Walter Kohler
Series Editor Tim Martin

Review from The Guardian - 15/11/2006
They say you shouldn't go chasing waterfalls, that you should stick to the rivers and lakes that you're used to ("they" being TLC, of course). But this safety first approach doesn't take into account the bewitching beauty, the perilous poetry of waterfalls. The plummet might just be worth it for that moment on the edge.

The Falls of Iguacu are worth falling for. Formed 120m years ago by the rupture of the supercontinent Pangea, they are three times the size of Niagara and, in the wet season, enough water flows over in a day to supply London for a year. (Waterfalls are, of course, accompanied by a deluge of facts and figures.) Captivating stuff. - Gareth McLean

Wednesday, 15 November 2006


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ITV1 7.30pm, 14/11/2006
2.9m 15.3% share

Please note that as these programmes were tailored to individual nations and regions to launch Extinct, these audience figures will refer to the local London region.

'ITV has joined forces with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in a unique project to highlight the plight of some of Earth's most endangered animals and attempt to save threatened species from extinction. Joanne Malin and Tamzin Sylvester present this special report, which sees polar bears, gorillas and tigers listed as those most at risk. Extinct reveals what we can do to help stop these creatures being completely wiped out.' Pick of the Day, The Daily Express -

WWF Press Release
WWF-UK is excited to announce Extinct, a brilliant new television series in collaboration with ITV1. The programme will raise desperately needed funds and generate awareness about WWF's work around the world dealing with threats to endangered species and their habitats.
Extinct is a prime time show running from Saturday 9 to Saturday 16 December on ITV1, supported by a daytime quiz. Look out for regional programmes tonight (14 November) to launch the series.

Over the course of a week the programmes will feature eight endangered species around the world. Each species will be presented by a celebrity travelling to projects to learn about the threats these species face, and the solutions WWF and our partners are working on to ensure their survival.

The animals and celebrities being featured in the programme are the Bengal tiger, mountain gorilla, giant panda, Asian elephant, polar bear, orang-utan, leatherback turtle and hyacinth macaw. These animals will be represented by David Suchet, Anneka Rice, Pauline Collins, Michael Portillo and Graeme Le Saux, among others.
You and the public will be asked to vote for your favourite species. The winning species will receive 50% of the total funds raised. The remaining 50% will be split equally between the seven runners-up.

To find out more visit for all the latest news - we'll be keeping you updated.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

I'm a celebrity...get me out of here!

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Natural History?

Itv 1, 9pm - 10.30pm.

8.9 MILLION, 38.1% Audience Share

This year, how many can you name?
From The Times - 14/11/2006 (213 words) Hugo Rifkind
The rats, snakes and slimy toads have been released into the jungle. Some of them also appeared on last night's opening instalment of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

Jan Leeming, the former BBC newsreader, was the first to tackle a task and throw some fruity insults about.
After being forced to grapple rats and scorpions in a task called Mine Shaft Misery, she branded Ant and Dec, the cheeky Geordie hosts, "b******s".

Liza Minelli's oddball, plastic-surgery obsessed ex, David Gest, whose odds on becoming King of the Jungle have for some reason fallen dramatically, was the next to throw insults. He abused Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth, after she said that the contestant had an "ironing board face". She added that her luxury item was a ball of string, so "I can hold bits of David Gest's face together".

Gest then turned on the amply proportioned comedian Faith Brown. As she showered in her bathing costume, he shouted: "You could breast feed all of us and we would all have milk. It's true."

Can't you see why people love the show.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Planet Earth: Great Plains

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BBC 1 Sun 12th Nov, 9:00 pm
The great plains cover one quarter of the land on our planet and are home to some of the greatest gatherings of wildlife anywhere on earth. While herds of gazelle run for their lives on the Mongolian steppe, plagues of 5 million 'red-billed' quelea create havoc as they sweep through the African Savannah and in North America the immense herds of caribou are making their migration. These vast grasslands play host to some of the most incredible and surprising dramas in the natural world. "The sequence of the pride of lions hunting an elephant will stay in your minds for a very long time"!

Animal 24/7

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On BBC 1, weekday mornings at 9.15am
(yesterday's figures - 1.1 million, 27.9% Audience Share)

Today's Review from Radio Times
Series following people who protect and work closely with wildlife and domestic animals. RSPCA Animal Collections Officer Andy Sowdon is on the trail of a runaway cat, injured after a road traffic accident. We visit the Geltsdale Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve in Cumbria and get to see the important work of Investigations Officer Guy Shorrock and his dedicated team of workers and volunteers who protect one of England's rarest birds, the hen harrier.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Natural World: The Bear Man of Kamchatka

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3.2 Million, 13.6% Audience Share
08/11/2006, BBC Two, 8pm

From The Times
The volcanic peninsula of Kamchatka in eastern Russia was declared a World Heritage Site ten years ago. It is an area of heart-stopping beauty, filled with volcanoes and geysers, pristine forests, lakes and salmon streams.

It is also home to the densest population of brown bears in the world. Charlie Russell, a 65-year-old Canadian from southern Alberta, spends seven months of the year living as a recluse in this magnificent wilderness, where he raises orphan bear cubs as their surrogate mother. "We're fearful of bears," he says, "because of the stories that have been passed down for centuries about how horrible these animals are. In truth, they're not horrible. They're incredibly wonderful." You only need to watch this bewitching programme to be convinced that he is right.
- David Chater

Web 2.0 Live Presentation - A broadcasters perspective

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Here are the slides from my recent presentation at Web2.0 Live.
A video podcast of all the talks will be available soon at the Web2.0 Live website:

I gave an overview of web2.0 (what ever that means) from the perspective of someone in the broadcasting community, what does it mean to our future, and how do I see the BBC facing it - projects I discussed included, BBC Connector, BBC Collect, Augmented Reality & BBCJam, Creative Archive, Springwatch and the BBC presence in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

Click on the image below to launch the slideshow:

Web 2.0 - a jolly jape with cheese

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This is an excellent overview of the Web 2.0 seminar I contributed to.
By Adam Stone of Rokkmedia.

7 November, 2006
I was lucky enough to blag a free ticket, ahem, attend a conference last night (6/11/06) in Taunton, Somerset concerning the topic of Web 2.0. Not only was my good friend and colleague Bill Wells (of 2.0 Ltd - I kid you not!) organising the video recording of the event (for future vidcast), but ‘podcast-rockstar’ Paul Boag ( - reputedly the worlds’ most subscribed-to web design podcast) - someone who has been hugely influential in Rokk Media adopting Web Standards some time ago, was one of the guest speakers (after I introduced him to the event) - so I think my complimentary ticket was well deserved!

The event was well attended, and probably one of the most professional I’ve been to in these here parts - so congrats to all involved.

The theme of the evening was the hot-topic de jour - “Web 2.0” buzz or bizz - hype-full or hope-less!

Speakers included Ben Hilton from Rubberductions, Simon Price from Bristol University (who demonstrated some amazing applications for gathering and interpreting web-based which he insisted was Web 1.5); and two very eloquent Pauls from the BBC - who showed some amazing web-based applications that the Beeb have been working on. Finally Paul Boag who took a swipe at the hype filling a very entertaining 20 minutes or so.

Most speakers, possibly with the exception of Simon, showed how Web 2.0 can be fairly neatly boxed into a huge take-up of broadband fuelling a massive growth in social network/communicate centric sites that use cool technologies like AJAX and Ruby On Rails (among others), and a clean, matter-of-fact design approach aimed at getting straight to the heart of the proposition. Paul Appleby from the BBC was also keen to point out that the web is Darwinian - evolving, gene-like, and could not therefore be realisticaly likened to a software application in the version x.0 mould - fair point Paul!

After the speakers concluded with a Q & A (a much nicer term than FAQ - what went wrong there in Web-lore?), a sumptious buffet of rustic fare was provided - apples, cheese, scones and strawberries - oh yes.

On my way back from the event, battling to keep from crossing lanes on the motor-way in a 3 foot visibility pea-souper, I mulled the wise words of the five speakers and something else occured to me. Thinking back to the eleven or so years that I’ve been involved in web design and development I can see a definite growth-curve emerging - but not so much with regards to the technology or appearance of sites (in fact I can probably show you a duplicate example of anything that exists today that emerged in a previous time). The growth I have seen, is in the understanding and appreciation that clients have for the Web - and how it can enhance and rocket-fuel their individual businesses.

Ten years ago - for example - you couldn’t give away a Web Site! In fact the bulk of our ‘hot prospects’ were “The Internet you say? Oh yes, heard of that - could you come over and show me what it looks like?”. Ten years later and the landscape couldn’t be more different. Clients come to us now knowing exactly what they want out of their web presence, fully aware of the power an online presence can have on their success of their business.

From our point of view this is fantastic. No longer do we have to go through the painful process of convincing our clients that the Web is the way to go!

For me that’s the real evolution of the Web.

Rokk on!

My "Web 2.0 Live" Presentation - A broadcasters perspective

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Here are the slides from my recent presentation at Web2.0 Live.
A video podcast of all the talks will be available soon at the Web2.0 Live website:

I gave an overview of web2.0 (what ever that means) from the perspective of someone in the broadcasting community, what does it mean to our future, and how do I see the BBC facing it - projects I discussed included, BBC Connector, BBC Collect, Augmented Reality & BBCJam, Creative Archive, Springwatch and the BBC presence in Second Life and other virtual worlds.

Click on the image below to launch the slideshow:

- Paul Williams

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Planet Eath: Ice Worlds

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BBC 1 Sunday 9pm (6 million, 23.5%)
BBC 2 Monday 7pm (2.5 million, 11.4%)

Are polar bears hot stuff at poker? Planet Earth is back in the Arctic to find out
From The Guardian - 06/11/2006

As the wedding guest at Cana said, most people keep the cheap booze until the end of the party when the guests are too bladdered to notice (I paraphrase St John slightly), but Planet Earth (Sunday, BBC1) kept the best till the last.

It was the end of the Ice Worlds episode, during the diary section, which shows the struggling human beings behind the camera. Doug and Jason were sitting down to supper in a bleached wood hut in Kong Karis Land. Now, say what you like but a name like that, Kong Karis Land, does not fill you with confidence. It is in the Norwegian Arctic and has not been visited by humans for 25 years. I am not altogether surprised.

Doug said suddenly, "I thought I heard something." (For years I have been trying to persuade the BBC to give us some good ghost stories. They made up for it now.) A face appeared at the window. It looked like an enormous snowman - solid, white, compacted - with two pieces of coal for eyes. It pressed its big, black, boxing glove of a nose to the glass, melting the frost like a child rubbing a circle in the pane to see better. I have heard that polar bears are peculiarly dangerous because their face is a fixed mask. You cannot tell what they are thinking. They would be hot stuff at poker. I'm not sure this is totally true. This bear was clearly curious. Not angry. Not hungry. Nosy. It is a face that stays with you, like snow made flesh.

Earlier we saw a polar bear swimming slowly through black seas. It swam on for two days, looking for a seal to eat. Starving and weak, it smelled a huge herd of walrus, the largest and best-armoured of all seals. Pulling itself on to the ice, it waited, eyelids drooping, for its strength to return. Then, under cover of fog, it attacked a billowy, black, blubbery backside, trying to prise a walrus away from her young. And failed. And tried again. And failed. Gored and exhausted, within sight and smell of that tremendous fish supper, it lay down to die. It didn't make a big deal about death. It just curled up like a pup and slept.

You do feel the crew could have chucked it a kipper. As global warming has already disturbed the balance of nature, it may be time to rewrite the rule that natural history programmes can observe but must never interfere. In the Antarctic, Frederique, a field assistant, had no hesitation in helping an emperor penguin chick out of a hole, quite literally, saying endearingly, "Come on! Grab my hand! Out you come chicken!" We have reached the point where nature does need a helping hand.
- Nancy Banks-Smith

Friday, 3 November 2006

Search for Mountain Lions with Gordon Buchanan

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Sunday 5th November, 5.30pm

Only a handful of people on Earth have ever seen a wild mountain lion. Award-winning cameraman Gordon Buchanan takes up the challenge not only to find one of these elusive big cats, but also to see how they hunt. In his search Gordon travels to the far tip of South America, high into the spectacular Andean mountains and endures all night stakeouts in the freezing sub-Antarctic conditions. Eventually, in the pitch black, he comes face to face with a huge lion…it’s at this point he discovers exactly how they hunt.

Producer - Jonny Keeling
Series Producer - Wendy Darke
Executive Producer - Vyv Simson

Natural World: Eye for an Elephant

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2.8 million, 12% Audience Share
01.11.06, BBC 2 8pm

Picks of the day from The Daily Express:
Natural World: Eye For An Elephant, 8pm, BBC2 The African elephant is the biggest land creature in the world, and wildlife photographer Martyn Colbeck has spent the best part of two decades studying them. The result is this magnificent film, in which he captures elephants at work and play.

Memorable moments include the rare sight of two bulls fighting, and a night-time birth, watched by the rest of the family. Colbeck also observes desert elephants in Namibia and forest elephants in the Congo.

Especially touching is the powerful image of a mother elephant grieving for her dead calf. We learn that elephants 'cry' at times of intense emotion, because glands near their eyes stream when they're unhappy.

Wild Thing I love you: Adders

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Channel 4, Sunday, 4:55 - 5:55pm
(1.1 million, 7% Audience Share)

From the Radio Times
Wildlife series in which Bill Bailey and a team of experts try to rescue some of the UK's most vulnerable animals by investigating the causes and engineering solutions. A significant number of adders are at risk from the widening of the A74 road in Cumbria, and Bill and his team must come up with a strategy to help these increasingly rare snakes. Naturally there are plenty of problems that have to be overcome, including Bill's fear of the reptiles…

Friday, 27 October 2006

Nature Next week on bbc Radio 4

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NATURE: India's Blue Hills
Monday 30th October Radio 4 at 9pm
Naturalist Tessa McGregor visits India's Nilgiri Hills which turn blue every twelve years as the rare kurunji flower bursts into bloom. There she meets the rare Nilgiri tahr, half-goat, half antelope and a symbol of wild mountain habitats across the globe.
Presenter Tessa McGregor
Produced by BBC Natural History Unit,

Shared Earth
Friday 3rd November Radio 4 at 3pm
Dylan Winter takes you closer than ever to natural Britain. This week meet the eight-legged ruthless killer on your kitchen ceiling and discover how our city parks will look in 2050.
Presenter: Dylan Winter
Producer: Alasdair Cross

Plus read the Planet Earth under Threat Blog here:

Wildscreen 2006 Presentation

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As requested, here are the slides from the presentation I gave at Wildscreen 2006. I have added some information and website links throughout. (For anyone who is interested this is hosted as an image folder on - a service like Flickr)

Click on the image below to launch the presention:

Coast Series 2: Dover to the Isle of Wight

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BBC2, 8pm
4.0 million, 17.6% Audience Share

More familiar images given a fresh look cropped up in Coast (BBC Two), back for a second trip round the British Isles. This time the archaeologist Neil Oliver has replaced Nicholas Crane as principal guide but retains the affable excitement of the other friendly experts who pop up to give us a bit of biology here and history there. It’s like the ultimate school field trip without the sleepovers in draughty hostels.

This first leg took us from Dover to the Isle of Wight. I’m sure Oliver hadn’t gone all that way by foot, public transport and, last night, model railway. I bet the helicopter that delivers the kind of aerial shots we associate with CSI gave him the occasional lift. Along the way we learnt about the Victorian Channel Tunnel scuppered by public opinion, the modernist double-decker promenade and lido that drew 1930s tourists to Hastings, and Britain’s rocket- engine tests on the Isle of Wight.

Crane also turned up, his trademark umbrella protruding from his rucksack, to abseil down Beachy Head and show us how the chalk cliffs are prey to limpet acid as well as the waves. He epitomises the series’ breathless enthusiasm — at times it’s like watching a Fast Show sketch in which you expect the striding presenters to declare: “Aren’t coasts brilliant?” It was hard not to disagree.

Review from The Times - Last Night's TV by Ian Johns
BBC Homepage:

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Wildscreen 2006: Breaking out of the box

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I've just finished presenting at Wildscreen 2006 in a session titled "breaking out of the box". I was speaking as a natural history consumer who watches TV without the need for a TV, and as a producer who doesn't need broadcasters to reach his audience. The talk emphasised some of the most significant ways people are downloading video content from the web.

I also ran a live demonstration with big help from Tom Widd and Luke Barnett to produce a film from start to finish in 1 hour, filming, editing, posting it to the web as a flash player, as a podcast on iTunes and as bittorrent file on

Vox pops were filmed outside the session by Anna from Forbidden Technologies and were then sent into our edit from the remote OB location through the Forscene platform. Unfortunately we were just a little out of time so we didn't manage to get the vox pops in the final cut but at least we got something online and ready to premiere at the end of the session.

The music for the film was selected during the event by a member of the audience from

Please visit the Wildscreen Blog that I created to host this film:

Below is the final edit of Bugz including the vox pops - only a few minutes more and this is the version we would have produced.

With big thanks to Liz and Anna from Forbidden Technologies, Tom Widd and Luke Barnett.
I will post my presentation here as soon as I can.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Natural World: On the trail of Tarka

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(and repeated again on Sunday 29th October 6.10pm - BBC 2)

No one has ever succeeded in making a film about Britain’s river otters…until now. Award winning filmmakers Charlie Hamilton James and Philippa Forrester went in search of otters on a short stretch of the River Torridge in Devon, immortalized eighty years ago by Henry Williamson in his famous novel Tarka the Otter. Over months of patient fieldwork they got to know a family of wild otters and filmed the kind of intimate footage that had always been thought impossible. The result is both a lyrical portrait of these shy creatures, and a tribute to Williamson’s skills as a writer and naturalist.

Produced by - Philippa Forrester & Charlie Hamilton James
Photography - Charlie Hamilton James & Jamie McPherson
Series Editor - Tim Martin


Digging Deep

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18/10/2006, BBC 2 8:30pm
1.8 million, 8.1% audience share

Guardian Features Pages, Sam Wollaston:
In television's quest to find new ways of dealing with subjects that have been done to death, someone has come up with Digging Deep (BBC2). Amanda and Andre aren't simple gardeners, oh no, they're horticultural therapists. They'll turn up with an inexhaustible supply of the word "darling" and rolls of material that they'll drape around your back yard, testing it for mood and colour. If you've recently suffered some sort of trauma, they'll create you a healing garden. If you need stimulation, they'll make you something to get you going. They'd probably make Isabelle a new face garden if she wanted one. It doesn't matter what state of mind you're in, Amanda and Andre know how to create a garden to meet your emotional needs. They're actually more like doctors than gardeners.

BBC Press Release:
Digging Deep

Garden designers Andre Smith and Amanda Brooks offer a unique service. They make gardens for the soul – horticultural therapists, if you will. Their stunning garden designs aim to have a transformative effect upon the owner, improving their emotional well-being.

Each episode focuses on the hidden psychological reasons behind the neglected hedges and entangled borders of a garden which is then transformed into the owner's personal Eden.

Having worked together for eight years, Andre and Amanda have very clear ideas about their designs and aim to produce a beautiful, flourishing garden that reflects the character and needs of its owner. Their philosophy is to get the owner involved, reacquainting them with nature and the sensual pleasure of gardening.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006


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Channel 4 Sunday 4.50PM
1.1 million, 6.6% Audience Share

When you think of Bill Bailey the words 'wildlife enthusiast' probably aren't the first things to come to mind, but the comedian is on top form as he heads up a team of experts attempting to solve a new wildlife crisis each week. In all honesty, the experts do most of the work, but Bailey proves an amiable, knowledgeable and entertaining guide.

From The Observer - 15/10/2006
Observer TV and Radio Sarah Hughes
Bill Bailey continues on his mission to help wild creatures out of tricky situations. Tonight, he and his team construct a sett for some Staffordshire badgers whose habitat is about to be destroyed by a newhousing development.

Incredible Animal Journeys: Osprey Odyssey

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BBC 1 8pm, 22/10/06
4 million, 16.5%

From Radio Times:
Documentary series about some of the more amazing journeys taken by certain species. The sun is shining as Steve Leonard sets off to travel with three young ospreys, Bunga, Tasha and Jaws, on their first ever 3,000 mile migration from North to South America, via Cuba. Within days man and birds are battling with a hurricane, one bird is dead and the others scattered. After that, things start to get really difficult... will the remaining birds survive, and can Steve keep up?

Friday, 20 October 2006


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7.00PM BBC 1 (30mins)

Radio Times Choice, By David Butcher
After Vet Safari took us wheeling around the African bush, this series brings us more tales of cutting edge (often literally) animal medicine, only this time in the cosier setting of home counties.

There's no shortage of heart-tugging drama, mind: tonight we have a critically ill foal called Buddy, whose mother is showing all the maternal feeling of Little Britian's Vicky Pollard; a cute puppy called Bindy who needs brain surgery; and an elderly chimp (she's 42) with "high left atrial pressures, incidental ASD and aortic regurgitation" - in layman's terms, a dodgy ticker. It's all slickly filmed, as emotionally ruthless as a Spielberg movie and, if you're pet-minded, hard to resist.
For more information visit the series website:

Catching the big fight of the Giant Salamander

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The Giant salamander is not only one of the largest amphibians in the world, reaching lengths of a a couple of metres, but it is also a rare and elusive creature. Once hunted for food it is now a highly protected living national treasure in Japan. Researcher Paul Williams and Cameraman Rod Clarke travelled to a remote farming village for a real filming challenge - to catch the huge den masters defending their patches of river by wrestling like crocodiles. For amphibians to breed the environmental conditions have to be just right and this of course, is completely out of the crew’s control. However they had secret weapons - scientists that had studied these creatures for years and an army of villagers only too willing to lend a hand. The crew arrived at what the experts advised as the optimum two weeks to catch the action. However the chance of capturing wrestling was still slim since it had only ever been observed a couple of times in all the years of study and never close enough to get a camera amongst the action. Undeterred a plan was put into action - 24 hour surveillance of known salamander nest sites. The crew and an army of local farmers silently watched and waited day and night, sleeping in the back of a van, and camping on the side of the river. They rigged up UV lamps and IR cameras in anticipation of the migrating males heading down river to breed and fight.

The team were sadly nearing the end of their two week trip but then amazingly on the 13th day the environmental switch was flipped, and the salamanders started to march up the streams to breed. The game was on and the crew sprang into action. Rod started to film courtship inside the dark den-masters chamber but then another giant male was spotted heading upstream straight towards him. Should he film the action inside the den or take the camera outside in case a fight broke out. Before that decision could be made another male arrived right in front of the researcher’s eyes – this was a potential fight scenario. The researcher Paul grabbed the pole-camera and jumped in the river! Tension filled the air, silent and still. The salamander breeding inside the den suddenly fired out of the den entrance into the river and attacked the intruding male, right amongst Paul’s feet… and this happened 4 times before the challenger finally retreated. When the cameraman arrived it was all over. Paul had done the job for him!

Life in Cold blood starts February 4th, 9pm on BBC One.
The Giant Salamander will feature in programme 2 on Monday 11th February.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Japanese Salamanders - Mission Accomplished!

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We have just arrived back at our hotel, tired, smelly but happy. Its been three days since I slept in a real bed and tonight we certainly earned a good sleep. I'll just change into my Kimono before heading down to the communal hot spring bath (we have no showers or baths in our rooms) -always an experience washing naked in a public space!

At the entrance to the main Salamander River, Shijihara, Hiroshima, Japan

It's been 12 days since we arrived in Japan and after 11 days we had filmed everything but the key behaviours. We finally got news this morning that things were happening, I sprang out of my sleeping bag, and like the A-Team leaped out of the back of the van and into action. The day was hectic with everyone at their battle stations. We were torn between three locations trying to cover all of them while deciding which once was going to give us the best material, only time would tell. Rod was filming, Hiroo, our fixer, was filming, and now it was my turn; I had seen this huge male salamander heading up river towards me and close by the Den Master (the biggest salamander in the river) remained hidden and still inside his den. I knew what was about to happen, I grabbed the pole-camera and jumped in the river! Standing there with the handle of the pole-cam in my hands.. nervous and with baited breath, I knew any second now the Den Master was going to fire out of his den and attack, and it would happen right amongst my feet. I filmed the most important shot in the whole sequence, and boy did I know it...
"Smoke me a kipper, Ill be back for breakfast"

Celebrating with the Salamander Conservation Group in Shijihara

Japan - Green Tea, Sushi & Salamanders

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Its 3:30am in japan, it's cold and damp, and I’m all alone in the dark perched on a camping stool on the edge of a paddyfield. I’ve been in Japan for 10 days,  in a beautiful village only a few hours outside of Hiroshima. My mission is to film the ancient and elusive giant salamander. It's been a very challenging and difficult shoot and I am only half way through. Luckily we have had tremendous support from Asa Zoo and the local village, Shijihara who call themselves "salamander village".

The Giant Salamander, amazing and beautiful

My trip started with an endless 30 hour journey from Heathrow, hopping via Frankfurt, Tokyo and a small remote airport in South Japan. After my flight was diverted from Hiroshima due to a storm I had to wait 5 hours in this small airport while Hiroo our fixer drove from the planned rendevous point. As I wondered around, tired and dirty, I felt like a character stuck between "lost in translation" and Tom Hanks "Airport" - luckily I had learned enough basic Japanese to get me sushi, and find the toilet!

Hiroo found me passed out, asleep, in the relaxation lounge surrounded by mountains of luggage. Hiroo Sasso was to be our main link to this fascinating culture and people and would do everything from set up camp, order our food, drive, translate, and even be a second camera operator - going well beyond the call of duty.

My first day saw me drink tea with the mayor, education board, fisheries agency, the police, the Buddhist monks, and just about anyone else for whom the salamander is highly regarded and respected as a local treasure. This wouldn't have been too bad had the tea been PG tips, but it was always a unpalatable green tea made from roasted rice - to be polite I just drank, smiled and bowed. The Japanese are very keen on courtesy and formalities which adds to their accolade as one of the friendliest countries to visit, always willing to go out of their way to help - the absence of tipping in Japan only proves their sincerity.

A small army of elderly farmers (the local Salamander fan club) have been helping us to keep track of many locations across the village and any sign of the Salamanders. We're trying to film a very delicate, precise and never before filmed part of their behaviour. It could happen any day, or night, hence my being on night watch. I have half an hour before my night shift ends and Rod, our cameraman, will wearily appear to replace me - I can then look forward to a few hours sleep in the back of a van - oh the luxury!

The Salamander Conservation Group in Shijihara - thanks for all your help.

BBC Climate Change Experiment

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"We need the computer power you're not using."
An experiment developed for the BBC by climate scientists, led by Oxford University, using the Met Office climate model

What does the experiment do?
The experiment adds the processing power of your home or office computer to thousands of others to predict climate change. The same model that the Met Office uses to make daily weather forecasts has been adapted by to run on home PCs.

The model incorporates many variable parameters, allowing thousands of sets of conditions. Your computer will run one individual set of conditions – in effect your individual version of how the world's climate works – and then report back to the team what it calculates.

Find out more about the experiment HERE

Gorillas Revisted

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April 15th 2006, BBC4

Sir David Attenborough’s encounter with Mountain gorillas, during the filming of Life on Earth, is one of the greatest moments in television history.

In this journey of re-discovery Sir David recounts his incredible and very personal experiences with Rwanda’s Mountain gorillas. The aim – to update us on their progress and uncover the gripping tale of how Mountain gorillas have survived extinction against all the odds. There are few great success stories in conservation today - but this really is one of them.

Production Team
Production Co-ordinator: LEA ALDRIDGE
Production Manager: RUTH FLOWERS
Sound Recordist: FRASER BARBER

NATURAL WORLD: The Last Lions of India

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BBC Two, 8pm
Audience: 2 million, 9.1% Audience Share

The Times - 18/10/2006, David Chater:
A new series of The Natural World is always welcome because it means that, at least once a week, there will be one programme filled with beauty and wonder. The first in the series features the ancient lions of western India, who came perilously close to extinction when, in 1901, the Nawab of Junagadh invited Lord Curzon to a hunt - only to discover that there were just 20 lions left. Rather than shooting them, he enforced a conservation order that allowed them to make a remarkable comeback.

These were the lions of Ancient Greece and the Bible -the lions that Androcles and Daniel faced -which are very different from their African cousins in both habit and appearance. They now live alongside the equally ancient Maldhari tribe, whose way of life has remained unchanged for centuries.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

The Last Lions of India

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The First Natural World of the Season.

This is the story of an Indian big cat that’s doing rather well, unlike the tiger, yet few people know it exists. Asiatic lions are completely different from African lions in both appearance and behaviour. These lions once roamed Europe – they are the lions of Ancient Greece and Rome, the lions in The Bible. Their refuge is the beautiful Gir forests, which they share with peacocks, antelope, leopards, and cattle belonging to the local Maldari tribe. After a century of protection the lions have bounced back from less than twenty to over three hundred - proof that big cats and people can live side by side.

Producer - Harry Marshall
Executive Producer - Laura Marshall
Series Editor - Tim Martin


Galapagos: Forces of Change

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13/10/06, BBC 2 9pm
3 million, 13.6% Audience Share

Here's an interesting review not only of Galapagos, but also of the BBC Natural History Unit.

The origin of a new species?: Television
The Sunday Times - 15/10/2006

Mother nature can be a cruel and spiteful old mama. Come with me, let us look at the strange and complex gestation of the natural history film. Its first mating rituals happen in secluded offices, often in Bristol; nobody knows why nature films chose Bristol for their colony. The film-makers are dull, socially inept, secretive little creatures. Their mating rituals take place across continents, finding partners from the National Geographic and Discovery channels; their displays involve the waving of money. Then, years later, after unimaginable hardship, danger, boredom and unwashed underpants, miles and miles of incoherent film are born. The young are called rushes; they stay close to their parents, the film-makers, who make the perilous journey back to Bristol, where the young slowly grow into full-size films. There they live for a brief moment of flashy life, flitting across the screen in your living room, before disappearing for ever.
A few will live on in ancient repeats on the unvisited reaches of the Sky box and the too-frightened-to-sleep entertainment selection on British Airways.

Natural history documentaries are some of the most popular creatures on television, and, paradoxically, as real nature hurtles to extinction, so natural history films prosper and flourish. Naturalists have predicted that in the event of a global nuclear catastrophe, the only inhabitants left on earth would be cockroaches and a documentary crew making a film about cockroaches. Bearing in mind the unspeakable misery, filth, disgusting food, rudimentary dens and risible pay that must have been endured by Paul and Richard, the cameramen of Galapagos (Friday, BBC2), I think we should all share a moment's silence of commiseration because of what their rushes finally grew up to be. Galapagos is one of the most beautiful, strikingly shot nature films I've ever seen, in the finest tradition of Bristol and the BBC Natural History Unit. But they've put a voice-over on, emoted by Tilda Swinton ("spoken" would be too small and brown a word for what she does with her voice).

Now, we're used to people with funny accents talking about nature: the immortal Jacques Cousteau, Armand and Michaela Denis, the high-pitched whining of Bill Oddie. But no film could stand up against the tremulous, emotion-filled, ultra-thespian enunciation of Miss Swinton, and that's before we even get to what she is reading -a script of startlingly saccharine, purple-mood words, as informative as the collected lyrics of Enya. It's been written by someone with a "well-thumbed" cliche dictionary, to a background tune that sounds like music to eat muesli by. A potentially memorable documentary has been turned into the television equivalent of a Hallmark card; it was like dressing an iguana in a tutu, or painting polka dots on a tortoise. I dare anyone at the BBC to tell me the look and hideous kitsch gloss of these films had nothing to do with the co-production money from the National Geographic channel. Anyway, to Paul and Richard: better luck next time.


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Wednesday, 11th October, BBC 2 @ 8pm
Audience: 3.7m 15.9%
(1 Hour programme)

Sam Wollaston (Guardian):
Autumnwatch With Bill Oddie (BBC2)! Isn't it brilliant - the geese, the seal pups, the white hares? Maybe this isn't such a bad place to live after all. I know it was the night before last, but did you see the big fight between Percy and Brutus, the rutting stags on the island of Rum? "This is the fight we hoped was never going to happen," said Simon King, the deer man. You big liar, Simon, you were just as excited as the rest of us.

And so cheeky young Brutus challenged big Percy for the crown. It looked like sheer folly: he's smaller, less experienced, and Percy started to butt the crap out of him. But Brutus edged his way back into it, using his skill and speed to outsmart the old prize-fighter. Then he landed a couple of killer blows, and suddenly Percy was running for the hills. Fantastic - just like Cassius Clay's world heavyweight fight with Sonny Liston in 1964.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Galapagos: Islands that changed the world

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BBC2 Friday 6th October
(3.1 million, 15% Audience Share)

It was on Galapagos that a 26-year-old Charles Darwin had his initial eureka moment into the theory of evolution that was to utterly change the way we view our place in the world. The second part of this eye-popping documentary touches on Darwin's first and only visit to these islands. At the time he wrote: "Nothing could be less inviting. Nothing more rough and horrid."

The real draw is the incredible wildlife photography of sights like the male frigate birds with inflatable red throat pouches which double as pillows. And if you've always had a soft-spot for owls, be prepared for a bit of a shock as they're revealed here to be the muggers of the animal world. On one of the islands, short-eared owls hunt for storm petrels by lurking just inside their burrows and waiting for the little birds to return home before pouncing. The brutes!

Incredible Animal Journeys: In the Footsteps of the Ice Bear

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BBC 1, 8pm Sunday
(4.3 million, 17.4% Audience Share)

Incredible Animal Journeys (BBC1, Sunday) and the frozen wastes of Svalbard, where hunky Steve Leonard is looking for a polar bear called Aurora. She shouldn't be too hard to find, as she's wearing a GPS transmitter on her collar, but it still takes him most of the programme to track her down. In the meantime, Steve gets to show us how brave he is (by avoiding ice falling from crumbling glaciers, and being chased by walruses), and how hunky he is (by allowing us into his cabin when he's got his top off). We even meet a couple of polar bears who aren't Aurora. Aurora's worth the wait though, because she's got a little cub with her. Surely there's nothing in the world as lovely as a baby polar bear, even if their mums are highly likely to bite your head off.

Example Audience log: Felt that Steve Leonard was an excellent presenter. "He made me feel as though I was there with him, he is an natural presenter."

Friday, 6 October 2006

The Abyssal Giant: Great Ocean Adventure

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Five, 7.15pm, 13/10/05
Audience: 0.7m, 3.2%

Radio Times
Marine Biologist Monty Halls embarks on an exciting quest to swim with some of the most magnificent sea creatures in the world's oceans. With a potential wing-span of 24 feet and weighing up to a ton and a half, manta rays are arguably the most awesome and graceful aquatic giants. Monty heads to Revillagigedo archipelago in the Pacific Ocean for what will be a truly epic encounter.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

The Dark Side Of Elephants

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National Geographic, 9pm, 06/10/05
Audience: 42 thousand, 0.28%

Every year, hundreds of people in India are killed by elephants. Why do these seemingly gentle giants suddenly flip? Go into the conflict zone to discover what is getting on their trunks.

Underground Britain; the Hippo Hunters

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Audience: 1.2m 5.9%
Broadcast: 11/10/05

Big Game hunting is big business, and for the right price you can shoot virtually any animal on the planet. There's something for all budgets - a baboon can be shot for £150, zebra for £600, giraffe for £2,500, right up to an elephant and lion combo for £30,000. Although killing these animals is legal, its a secretive world, but filmmakers Alastair Cook and Robert Davis managed to persuade two hunters to take part in this documentary - and in a bizarre coincidence, they were both after the same animal; a hippo.

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

T-Rex: A Dinosaur In Hollywood

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Audience: 2.1m, 9.5%
BBC One, 8pm 6/10/05

Times Online:
One hundred years ago, the palaeontologist Barnum Brown discovered a vast dinosaur in the Badlands of Montana that had lain hidden for 65 million years. When the skeleton was exhibited in New York, women are said to have fainted. Even the name it was given, Tyrannosaurus Rex ("the tyrant-lizard king") smacked of showbiz. Here was a monster destined for a career in the movies, and this droll documentary shows how T-Rex took Hollywood by storm. It is a highly entertaining treatment of the subject, filled with wacky contributors and appearances from the dinosaur star himself.

Polar Bear Alcatraz

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Nat Geo: Sat 1st Oct 2005
Audience: 11,000

The polar bear is the biggest land predator of them all. So imagine being marooned on an Arctic island, with the highest density of polar bears anywhere on the planet. Two men are willing to do just that. And to this tale of survival is added the touching story of an orphaned cub which is forced to go it alone in a world of ice. Time and again, the bears test the men's endurance as they explore the majesty and splendour of the polar bear at its most wild and raw.