Saturday, September 30, 2006

Prix Italia Winners

Winners announced at Prix Italia this afternoon. Dutch had three winners, including the Kassa website from the VARA which has built the consumer website that the Dutch Conumer Association SHOULD have built. Wierd thing is that RAI is going to do the whole ceremony again this evening infront of the cameras, so winners had to give their awards back to go through the same things again. Standards though are high...the jurors really do take this prize giving seriously - unlike the New York Festivals which are simply a cash cow.

Its a shame that Dutch public broadcasting cannot build an international portal to show what innovation it has developed domestically. The technology behind the kassa site is well ahead of other public broadcasters, but you wouldn't know.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Laguna Palace

Spent part of the morning moving hotels from the Hotel Ala near St Mark's sq to Hotel Laguna Palace which is in the next town of Mestre. Its only a 10 minute drive from the western part of Venice, but a good 1 hr walk through the canals of Venice with took the express airport watertaxi from St Mark's square back to the airport and took a taxis like I was just arriving. Prices in this town are outrageous....a beer on St Mark's sq is 10 Euro...a meal would bankrupt you. Gondola's cost 1.80 a minute, so reckon on 100 Euro's an hour. Public water transport is better (5 Euro for a ticket valid for an hour, 12 Euro for the day) but be prepared to get crushed.

The buildings are indeed spectacular - but what with the floods in Nov/December getting worse each year, I think global warming is going to have a major impact on this place, more than anyone can ever imagine. I have been shooting some HD video of the "Amsterdam of the South" (some people regard Amsterdam as the Venice of the North..though Brugge and Stockholm have similar claims). Some great signs for my favourite being "If you think the masks in the window are rubbish, be advised it is worse inside!".

Logged on at the hotel website to discover their .com website had expired and no-one had renewed. It is out in the marine harbour in Mestre. Not bad....but Hotel Ala was better. The staff at this hotel front desk all seem to be training each other and chatting with boyfriends on the phone. Still, the shuttle into Venice is cheap...7 Euros return (40 if you take a regular taxi).

My favourite sign in Venice

  This sign was in the window of a shop selling masks. Now that is honesty for you. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Prix Italia

Prix Italia is the oldest radio, TV and web prize giving in the world. It costs over 1 million Euro to organize, and Italian pubcaster RAI foots most of the bill. This year the contest nearly didn't happen, because until the change of the Italian government, Berlusconi's people at RAI tried to kill it. I've just taken part in an interesting series of workshops where we discussed the future of web and radio. I was amazed that the BBC is further than I thought with the development of new interfaces to replace the old radio dial. The people at Prix Italia fall into two groups...those who feel the web is the enemy and those who believe that history begins tomorrow. The latter understand that radio urgently needs to find ways to make content searchable and that there are websites that have more traffic now that entire broadcast networks. If you snooze you lose. It would be great if Prix Italia 2.0 would also work out ways to share the experiences of the leading broadcast/web producers. I don't buy any DVD unless there is a directors' commentary on it. If I see a shot that enthralls me, I am always curious on how it was made. Wandering around Prix Italia I am confronted by creative radio/TV producers who would love to do more 'non-linear' story telling, but have no idea where to start...what software? what works? Some master classes and/tricks of the trade needed here.

No ironing in my room

  Looks like the Italian mafia will arrive if I plug in equipment that takes more than a few milliAmps. Hope I can charge a camera and a shaver at the same time.Otherwise the hotel is quite nice. Double glazed windows to keep out the Italian singers down on the canals below. Few people appreciate the Walls Ice Cream Advert at 12.30 am. Posted by Picasa

Piracy in Venice

I have seen open piracy of goods in many parts of Europe, but Venice is just amazing. Guys with Gucci imitations load their stuff into blue wastebin liners and sell them openly on the street. When the police stroll buy they put their merchandise into the bin liners and wait a few minutes. Everyone, including the police, know what is going on. Once the expensive shops, west of St Mark's Square, close for the evening, these traders sit outside the Gucci & Prada shops selling their copies by pointing to the genuine article in the window. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Double Expresso

Early start today..6am, so I can be involved in a CEO Breakfast session for the Club of Amsterdam and then fly on to Venice, Italy to prepare for a workshop at the Prix Italia on the end of radio (as we know it). Very interested to see the premier of a project called, using some very clever emotional/video recognotion software developed by the University of Amsterdam. Even with the lousy quality photos from most mobile phones, they are able to judge whether the person in the photo is happy, sad, and/or trying to hide something.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

NBC Promo Guy on YouTube

Jim Cutler passed on this link which must be flying around the pro-promo guy circuit in the US. Although the Australian joke may be a little too near the knuckle, the rest is a brilliant use of the Youtube platform. Also a chance to see the faces behind the voices. Wonder when others will latch on?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Double DVD

I must confess that I only buy DVD's where there's a directors commentary on it. Even though I bought the film ages back, today was the first chance I had to sit down and marvel at the camera work of Pride and Prejudice. Those fantastic tracking shots at the stately homes in Derbyshire look absolutely superb on a large screen. HD is coming, but this wasn't bad at all. Great acting as well, especially from Keira Knightley. She has a face of thousand expressions. UK Tourist Board does clever sites showing the places where it was all filmed, with deals so you can retrace the actors footsteps. Wonder why the Netherlands Board of Tourism doesn't do the same thing?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dutch government - pride before a fall?

Reading the Dutch Queen's speech (written of course by the current Dutch government, I can't help but wondering if those guys in the Hague have been looking at the alarming indications coming out of Wall Street around the same time. Expect politicians on both side of the Atlantic to be defensive this week if reports on housing and growth suggest the United States economy is headed for an acute slowdown. Personally, I think GM will go bust before Bush's term ends.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sony MyLo FAQ

It seems Sony were in such a rush to get their portable wifi device MyLo (My Life Online) to market that they broke off the FAQ's in mid sentence. What's missing is "Why isn't there a conventional phone inside this device?" Answer "Because Sony hasn't talked to kids about what they really need". Yes, they would like free phone calls and downloads via wifi. But they also need standard connectivity with a phone. Ok, this is supposed to be a Walkman with wifi. It won't take off until its a Walkman with wifi and a phone. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Steps in a Positive Direction

In contrast to the Netherlands Innovation Platform, which has now been written off as a utter disaster by organisations such as Kennisland, the Audiovisual and Media Policies section of the EU does seem to be conducting an interesting public hearing on the future of on-line and peer-to-peer content. Deadline is October 13th. In Holland there is no direct public consultation procedure, like you see in the UK, Ireland, even Brussels. Instead, input is confined to a small elite circle, who's main activity is ensuring it remains that way. Not sure whether The Hague will learn from Brussels though. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Along with Sony, Canon urgently need to look at the consumer side of their website. They may make good cameras, but they are clearly not a media company. Bought a Canon 400D to replace a Canon 30D stolen last week. After a lengthy and complicated registration procedure, I see that Canon doesn't allow you get a second free 512K memory card on the same Canon account. So have to open another one.... So the person who designed the website never thought of the situation that I might just have two cameras, or had one stolen. The site is slow - I would never dream of using their site to store pictures, it's like getting into Fort Knox to retrieve what is really yours. Reminds me of the hassle I went through to get information on a webcam they made a few years don't want to know. Sadly, nothing seems to have changed.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Lonely Sony

Exploding batteries (yes VAIO's have exploded as well as the Dell's and Apple's using Sony batteries). Now 340,000 batteries in Toshiba laptops are being recalled. I wonder if these chemical timebombs will all be disposed of in an environmental friendly way...will we ever know? Playstation 3 gets delayed. Today I get an e-mail saying there's something wrong with SonicStage 3.4 and I must upgrade. But to cap it all, just try Sony Netherlands for their horrendous level of support. The problem, I simply wanted to get some more HD tapes for a HD camera. I know, most people in IBC last week said there's no difference. But even if there is, you can't buy them at Sony's service centre.

The woman on the Sony Netherlands reception counter in Badhoevedorp denies that such tapes even exist. I wouldn't mind if she apologized and went to find out whether I was talking rubbish. But no, getting off her Sony Ericsson mobile was clearly too much trouble. Oh, and don't bother with the website...the Dutch website also produces an error when you're looking for HDV tapes which are highly recommended in the manual for their line of cameras. Along with Canon, they get the golden raspberry award for the worst designed website on the planet. Every product seems to have its own subsection - and you're bounced between English and Dutch language pages. If they carry on like this, their future is simply one word...history.

But I am safe out here ranting in blogosphere. No-one at Sony reads or writes about their products in weblogs. No wonder they totally missed the MP3 revolution. Oh, and the CD? Just rather appropriate at the moment.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Universal Bonkers

Universal Music Group, which I'm told is the world's largest record company is now saying that the popular Web sites YouTube and MySpace are violating copyright laws. Why? Beceause they allow users to post music videos and other content involving Universal artists. "We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars," said Universal Music CEO Doug Morris last Wednesday at an investors conference in Pasadena. "How we deal with these companies will be revealed shortly."

Universal is apparently deadlocked with its talks with YouTube, so the record giant is set to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against the video-sharing company if no agreement is reached by the end of the month, according to a person familiar with the talks who spoke to AP. Universal's talks with News Corp.'s MySpace have been progressing.

This smacks of the crazy situation in the radio biz, where record pluggers send free CDs to DJ's to get the record on the air and then demand payment for playing the same song on the air from the radio station.

So how about a "NO UNIVERSAL STARS" music day on the radio and a complete boycott of Universal promo material on Youtube? Record labels big and small have created Web pages on the social networking site for their bands, typically allowing visitors to listen to the artists' music for free. Youtube should send these jokers a bill for all the free promotion they have given them on their "broadcast" platform.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thumbs Down for the Big "C"

It is truly incredible. Whenever two or more Dutch public broadcasters get together, then they will form their own broadcasting organisation. The Big "C" stands, not for cancer, but for Culture, which the initiators think is not getting enough exposure on Dutch TV at the moment. I think they need to get a reality check and a strong cup of coffee. While it is true that there has been a lot of dumbing down, the kind of culture these guys mean is purely high culture - events which are already generating money and getting subsidies. Culture in the Netherlands will not die out if this cultural broadcaster never gets a licence. But its another sign that something has to happen to Dutch domestic public broadcasting - and fast. Hilversum has become the graveyard of creativity. There has been some interest from abroad in doing larger scale co-productions. But these broadcasters are so divided that they will never get their act together to do great things.  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Broadcasters Without Borders

Managed to get the announcement about Broadcasters Without Borders spread quite widely at this years' IBC. Posted by Picasa

Google Thirst in Paris

A great business model for the mobile phone will be where to find a great cafe with reasonable prices. At the moment, I am sitting at the spot marked on Google Maps, in a cafe which looks out at Notre Dame Cathedral. It is not that busy, despite being a glorious day and having just had the bill for a medium-sized beer I know why. They want 7 Euros 60 cents and the waiter is hoping I'll round it up to 8 Euros. There must be a database for tourist rip-offs in the French capital. This is clearly an entry. OK, its a nice view...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

UNESCO alarm canteen

  Interesting that theft of knives and forks seems to be the problem in the UNESCO canteen on the top floor of this immense building. And if you spot someone doing so, I guess you're supposed to set off the fire alarm. Posted by Picasa

Living Tomorrow?

Looks like the team at Living Tomorrow, the house of the future in Amsterdam, is having its own set of challenges at the moment. Wrong business model? Or just an unreliable web-hosting company. Whatever, it is a lousy business card. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

UNESCO Monologues

 I believe these types of conferences are on their last legs. Long speechs from the podium. Got to give one myself, but it is going to be impossible to build a dialogue with the audience set out like this. What happened to round-table dialogues. As it is, everyone's waiting patiently to dash outside to network over coffee. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 11, 2006

Off to Paris

Just arrived in Paris this evening, after a busy day at IBC giving another What Caught MY Eye presentation. Weather is fantastic. Shame I will have to sit in the UNESCO building to take part in a conference tomorrow. But the champagne at FR3 was nice. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006

Worldspace Freefall continues

Worldspace has been juggling things again to comply with a NASDAQ listing deficiency letter. All the satellite radio companies are continuing to burn money like anything...but Worldspace shares really lead the way. Reuters lists the risk as HIGH - no kidding. When will the bleeding stop? I cannot recommend to anyone that they invest in a company with such few subscribers after so many years on the air. The problem is not the technology - it is the programme package and a lack of a user friendly EPG. There is no commercial business model for "international local radio".  Posted by Picasa

Preparing for IBC 2006

  Thank goodness it's raining. I'm indoors wading through press releases looking for candidates for the "What Caught My Eye" feature presentation at IBC Amsterdam this year. Lots of potential stands....though I see many people have simply made what they were hawking last year as already available. But it is becomimg more and more difficult for the average "punter" to follow what is happening. IBC looks like being a good one this time. Posted by Picasa