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Amid tough times, BBC starts going digital

16 October, 2007:

Whitehaven, the northern coastal town in the United Kingdom, will become the first town in the country where analog broadcasts are to be stopped, under a nationwide plan to replace them with digital hookups.

And, BBC Two is the first channel to be switched from analog to digital broadcast on October 17, 2007.

In London, on the same day, BBC director-general, Mark Thompson is scheduled to hold a meeting with the BBC Trust, the board that supervises the publicly funded BBC, to update members on a scandal over misleading video footage of Queen Elizabeth.

Thompson is also expected to discuss plans for substantial job cuts, as the BBC is tackling a tighter budget.

According to analysts, the BBC, which flourished during the happy days of analog TV, when there were only a few channels, is struggling to adapt to the digital era. Now, competition with hundreds of commercial channels has forced the BBC to switch over to the digital broadcast.

The New York Times quoted Steven Barnett, a professor of communications at the University of Westminster, as saying: “I think there is a meta-narrative to everything that’s going on with the BBC, and that’s time and money. It all comes down to an industry that is trying to do more for less, trying to squeeze quarts into pint pots.”

Analysts say that the pressure to do more, to cater to bigger audiences, probably contributed to the fiasco involving the Queen, in which a promotional video for a documentary program was edited to suggest, incorrectly, that the Queen had stormed out of a portrait shoot with the photographer Annie

The program and the promotional material were created by RDF Media, an independent production company, whose creative director, Stephen Lambert, has resigned, after an investigation, commissioned by the BBC, found that he had acted in “a cavalier fashion” by changing the sequence of
the footage.

The report in the The New York Times said Stephen Lambert acknowledged in a statement that editing the tape was “the first step in a chain of carelessness and misunderstandings which had very serious consequences.”

The promotional video was shown to journalists in July 2007, prompting some of the biggest-selling tabloid newspapers in the United Kingdom to put the story on their front pages, even though the footage appears in the correct order in the actual program, which has not been broadcast.

While commercial broadcasters have committed apparently worse offences, for example, involving deceptive uses of premium-rate call-in services, a BBC investigation has uncovered 10 instances in which audiences were misled.

In one case, the producers of a BBC children’s program called Blue Peter disregarded an online vote to name a cat that appears on the show, calling it ‘Socks,’ rather than ‘Cookie,’ the name the voters had chosen.

Previously, the same show had drafted a member of the studio audience to pretend to be the winner of a call-in competition when the phone lines went

Since the BBC gets public funds – it receives over £3 billion a year (over $6 billion) from a license fee paid by television-owning households – it faces particular scrutiny whenever it goes wrong.

Besides, according to communications professor Steven Barnett, the BBC is expected to behave in a “dignified way” since it is seen in Britain as a “public trust.”




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