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