Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why hybrid is the future for broadcast.

I think this real-time map showing current cyber-security attacks going on says a lot.

Web distribution (IP) is indeed an important part of the mix. But having a broadcast infrastructure is also essential in reaching fragile states. I personally believe that is now satellite television rather than HF radio, with the exception of about 8 countries like Somalia, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Would you pay attention to consumer advice from a glove puppet?

Actually, it is all pretty good advice. Glove and Boots are Sesame Street on steroids.

And Glove and Boots turn out to be rather good historians as well.

And journalists...

So what's radio going to do about it?

Great trailer for a new film showing that MP3 has compressed music so much that it is no longer reaching consumers in a form the artist intended.

In some countries over the air digital radio compression is not much better. So who cares?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Guerilla Filming in Paris

Does it work? Youbetcha

all of that to make this....

5 million views in 5 days! Wish I could operate a steadycam like that! Permits. Who needs permits?

MN.03.05.1990 Dayton Hamvention

I have only made it once to the Dayton Hamvention, the largest meetup of amateur radio operators anywhere on the planet. My trip was in April 1990, and I remember that Lou Josephs was invaluable in helping me to connect with the KLM flight connection at Boston Logan Airport. Lou warned me that the "Useless Air" flight from Dayton to Logan was always late. And sure enough it was. He gave me a lift from the wrong side of Logan to the right side for transatlantic departures. Made it with seconds to spare.

Oh, and please enjoy the reportage from Dayton Ohio. It was immense fun. Also recall running in to George Wood of Radio Sweden.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Saturday, July 26, 2014

MN.14.05.1990 Radio Volga & Studio 11

This programme from 1990 profiles the Russian Forces Radio station Radio Volga set up in the GDR. We also look at how synchronous detection works on the Grundig Satelliet 7000 receiver, including some examples of how it improved reception.

I remember recording this edition of Media Network with Mark Eylers on a boiling hot evening in Radio Netherlands Studio 11 studio. For some reason the airconditioning wasn't working that well, so the decision to do a just outside broadcast really happened. The studio was just below my office in those days, as the photo shows.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Will Tanzania learn from India?

BBC Monitoring spotted this item on the Guardian website in Dar Es Salaam this week. Brought back some memories of a recent trip there to analyse the media situation. It is indeed at a cross-roads. Hope they make the right decisions.


In her farewell speech over the weekend, the outgoing Norwegian Ambassador to Tanzania, Ingunn Klepsvik, said the measure of a country's democracy lies in, among other things, the prevalence of a free media.

It is the view of scholars that the future of democracy is inseparable from the capacities of media - at all scales from the local to the global.

Both the sustainability and the expansion of democracy depend on what media institutions do and what spaces they make available as well as what content and angle they choose to emphasise.

But because the media has tremendous power to influence our nation's political discourse as well as socio-economic development it follows that the complexity of these processes requires interdisciplinary research across politics, sociology and the media itself.

A free and open media is essential to a people's development and for Tanzania. As the outgoing envoy put it:

"At this vital juncture in the country's development ... given the discovery of oil and gas the work of the media is now more than ever of vital significance to affect transparency and accountability of authorities."

Commending the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) for its continued commitment to securing the rights and safety of journalists in the country, the diplomat called for increased media representation of women issues as well as those of other special need groups, particularly children, the elderly and the disabled.

That is an example of the power of media, that through detailed coverage, it invokes public participation to a common cause and in that way, the rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups can be addressed.

However, with great power comes great responsibility.

Take the case of India for instance, a recent BBC documentary termed the media situation there as "bought by big business" publishing "advertorials" biased and one sided stories geared at swaying public opinion to the favour of the deep pockets.

The 64-million dollar question is: Can the media in Tanzania escape this fate?
With the general election around the corner and gas and oil reserves discovered every waking day, what is to stop the media from being influenced to the favour of big business and political interest?

At this juncture, principals of the trade come into play as well as personal discipline and vision. Journalism ethics guide the practitioners to maintain integrity, to at all costs and time deliver, balanced, honest and well researched reports.

Beyond the oath journalists should take, to keep these ethics, the only defence left to a free media is individual self control.

However, in an impoverished country where the minimum wage barely feeds a family, it follows that businesses and political interests sway media coverage.

In Tanzania, freedom of the press has been repeatedly questioned with cases like the killing of Daudi Mwangosi of Channel 10 in 2012 and numerous alleged cases of intimidation and even death threats from unknown persons or groups arguing the case against a free press.

All in all, it cannot be ignored that the media has huge influential powers on the course of the nation, and as such it is to be expected that unscrupulous parties will seek to wield this to their favour come the general election next year.

It is therefore the responsibility of media houses and their editors to deliver true and unbiased reports that will govern the nation to a brighter future, one of prosperity, transparency and accountability.

Source: The Guardian website, Dar es Salaam, in English 22 Jul 14 

Mike Eman - Are Aruba Sustainability Goals for 2020 still on course?

Mike Eman is the president of Aruba, an island in the Caribbean with a population of 105,000. In March he gave a presentation in-front of several Dutch government officials explaining the country's plans to be energy neutral by 2020. That's before the Dutch government refused to approve this year's national budget. So what will happen now? And is he still on hunger strike?

Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman on hunger strike

10478678_699136326806851_2607054306539990205_nORANJESTAD – Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman on Friday entered an immediate hunger strike following a decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to have the Governor of Aruba carry out an independent investigation of the 2014 budget and the tenability of Aruba’s government finances.
“Aruba is kidnapped, raped and humiliated by the Netherlands which is now only showing its merchant’s face and not the face of a pastor. We cannot build a Kingdom together with a merchant because all is about money. Aruba wants cooperation, not money. We have nothing to sell and we are not for sale,” Eman said in an emotional statement to the people and the media.
Eman said the Netherlands didn’t respect Aruba’s autonomous position in the Kingdom. He warned that he will only end his hunger strike when Aruba Governor Fredis Refunjol has signed Aruba’s 2014 budget. He said his father, grandfather and others had died for the people and that he was willing to do the same if necessary.
“Aruba has handled diplomatically for months, but the limit has now been reached,” said Eman, who has moved to Fort Zoutman, a military fortification in Oranjestad which was built in 1798 by the Dutch army, and the oldest structure on the island. Fort Zoutman is located across the Cabinet of the Governor and currently houses the Historical Museum.
Several hundred persons, including members of Eman’s cabinet and Members of Parliament, joined Eman in a protest walk to Fort Zoutman on Friday. Eman plans to stay at Fort Zoutman, without taking any food, until the Governor signs. “I will never tolerate that our autonomy is taken away from us,” he said.
According to Eman, the decision of the Kingdom Government is illegal and has no legal power because it violates the Charter of the Kingdom, the Regulation of the Governor and Aruba’s Constitution. In his opinion, the Kingdom Government should first have consulted the Council of State. He said the decision also violates the budget right of the Aruba Parliament. “No organ of the Country Aruba will be able to cooperate in the execution of decisions that explicitly violate the Charter,” the Government of Aruba stated in a press release.
Aruba’s financial situation has been a constant source of concern for the Kingdom Government. Aruba’s national debt has doubled over the past four years. The national debt stands at 3.2 billion Aruban florins, close to 80 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the 2014 budget deficit was more than the three per cent that had previously been agreed upon.
Based on a proposal of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, the Kingdom Government decided on Friday that the Governor would be asked to withhold the approval of the 2014 budget while an independent investigation is carried out. The investigation will focus on the budget, its substantiation and tenability, as well as the effects for the coming years.
“The situation of Aruba’s government finances is permanently alarming. The investigation which now has been decided upon should make clear whether the trajectory advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to achieve tenable government finances has started,” it was stated in a release of the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
The decision is based on articles 15 and 21 of the Governor of Aruba and will be secured in a Royal Decree. A spokesperson of minister Plasterk responded that the Kingdom Council of Ministers was within its full rights.
Friday’s decision replaces the agreement that the Governments of Aruba and the Netherlands made last week Thursday to carry out a joint “independent and voluntary” investigation because the two countries were unable to reach an agreement on the execution of this accord.
“It appeared that the Prime Minister of Aruba Mike Eman had a different vision on the matter than we had agreed upon earlier. So the Kingdom Government decided to put the Governor in charge of the investigation. We were left no other choice because the financial situation is alarming,” Plasterk told reporters as he emerged from Friday’s meeting. “I cannot let this happen under my watch,” said Plasterk. (See related article)
The word “instruction” has not been used for the decision to have Governor Refunjol carry out an investigation, but in essence it does come down to that. Minister Plasterk, who avoided using the term “instruction,” said after Friday’s meeting that the decision of Kingdom Government should be seen as a way to support the Governor in executing his tasks.
The decision of the Kingdom Government had been looming. The agreement reached last week Thursday averted a painful decision last Friday. Initially, it was decided that the investigation would be carried out by an independent committee with members of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT, which also supervises the finances of the countries CuraƧao and St. Maarten.
The investigation would focus on the “possible risks in the calculations of the 2014 budget and the multi-annual development of the government finances in light of international criteria for sound government finances and repayment capacity.”
Thursday’s agreement stipulated that committee would issue a preliminary report within two weeks and a final report within two months. The reports were to be submitted to the Governor of Aruba, the Dutch Government through Minister Plasterk and the Government of Aruba through the Finance Minister.
It was agreed that the Government of Aruba would take over the possible recommendations of the committee and send this to the Parliament of Aruba for approval. Aruba’s Parliament approved the initial 2014 budget several weeks ago. But the budget couldn’t be ratified because Governor Refunjol didn’t sign the law proposal.

Friday, July 25, 2014

MN.23.07.1992.Moscow Radio Profile

Long before Putin there was a different type of media in Moscow. It was just gradually breaking free of the old Communist era, experimenting with all kinds of different formats. In this editon of Media Network recorded in 1992, Vasily Strelnikov (who some now call the Russian Podfather) scans the dial for us. We look at the newly launched Radio-7 commercial station.
This news edition of the programme also contains news of the Democratic Voice of Burma which has has challenges reaching Rangoon, and the French company of TDF has made a new type of shortwave transmitter, where each sender has its own curtain array on top. And we review the latest edition of Shortwave Navigator from Jim Frimmel.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Thursday, July 24, 2014

MN.23.04.1992 Sangean Radio Visit

This edition of the programme in 1992 came together out of the blue. I suddenly got a tape from Taiwan from David Monson, a presenter on BRT Brussels who I knew in the 1990's. He was now in Taiwan and offered me a story about who is behind the Sangean shortwave radio company. The result in the second half of this show. (Sadly we learned that David Monson passed away in 2010). 
We discuss the international distribution of the Lowe HF150, DAK Industries new shortwave DM3000 is difficult to get hold of. Marcel Rommerts has news about Radio Galaxy from Moscow. Victor Goonetilleke has been hearing a strong station from Myanmar on 5973 kHz, aimed at the internal security forces. There's a new book called The Setmakers about the history of British radio receivers from the BREMA association. This includes the story about how Philips took over the Mullard valve company.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

BBC Licence Fee explained

This was released at the time of the 2014 BBC Annual Report. Weird choice of music. Sounds like a variation of the nursery rhyme "three blind mice". But the infographics are clear. They should make one for BBC World/BBC World Service. I note the video won't play in some regions. That's bonkers. No reason to geo-code this.

Monday, July 21, 2014

MN. 21.12.1989. US Invades Panama

We live in troubled times (again). Bumped into a Media Network programme recorded in December 1989. We were reporting on the media surrounding the US intervention into Panama to capture Manuel Noriega. Listener Al Quagleri tipped us off after monitoring airforce communications from Albrook Airforce Base in Panama. Lou Josephs helped us unravel the media plan, which revealed the involvement of Pentagon backed Radio Impacto as well as extended broadcasts from the Spanish service of Voice of America. We also looked at the serious situation developing in Romania and the involvement of Radio Free Europe and the plans to build a 34 million dollar shortwave facility in Israel. Note the comment that people in Europe no longer listen to shortwave, so that FM was important. We called KNLS in, Anchor Point, Alaska and talked to Dave Stuart about the volcano that's been erupting. Arthur Cushen sent in Christmas greetings. And there are changes to report at Radio Australia. They were celebrating 50 years of their existence. Andy Sennitt was celebrating the new office in Amsterdam.
I think this is a good example of a listener-driven media show, about 6 years before the Internet started appearing in peoples' homes. This was the era when radio was the Internet.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.12.10.1989 Vilnius & VOA Bethany

Interesting programme which revealed that Radio Vilnius, Lithuania was no longer using material sent to the station from Radio Moscow. We also profiled the early days of Voice of America transmitting station in Bethany, Ohio which had recently closed down. Some nice clips, from when the shortwave bands were today's Internet - open to be explored.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MN.02.06.1983 HCJB Quito

This is a very early Media Network from the summer of 1983. Yes, the presentation is dated and it has nothing like the pace of later programmes in the series. But it is interesting none the less. I recall the indepth interview about what HCJB was building in Pifo, near Quito Ecuador. The photo shows the studio buildings in downtown Quito which I remember visiting years later in 1995. And Professor John Campbell had some excellent insights into the clandestine radio scene in North Africa. Enjoy.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Remembering Korean and Iranian commercial planes shot down

On July 17th 2014, a commercial aircraft from Malaysian Airlines, flight MH17, was shot down over Ukraine. The exact details of who was responsible are still be determined. But 298 passengers were killed, many of them Dutch nationals.

But this reminds me of an incident on September 1st 1983, when the Soviet government shot down a Korean airliner, flight 007. All 269 passengers and crew aboard the Korean airliner were killed, The aircraft was en route from Anchorage to Seoul when it flew through prohibited Soviet airspace around the time of a U.S. reconnaissance mission. In this edition of the Media Network programme as broadcast in September 1983, we hear how Radio Moscow, the voice of the Soviet government reacted. Remember this is before the took several days before an official reaction was forthcoming.

And then 5 years later 3 July 1988, at the end of the Iran–Iraq War, an Airbus A300B2-203, was shot down as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz by SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired from the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. The aircraft, which had been flying in Iranian airspace over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path to Dubai, was destroyed. All 290 on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished. The only way of getting the Iranian side of the story was via shortwave from the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But the transmitter was only switched on mid sentence when we listened in.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

BBC starts to really integrate BBC World Service into the rest of BBC.

As Radio Australia is devastated by savage budget cuts, so BBC announces an extra 5 million pounds to the budget of BBC World Service.

We are increasing the World Service Budget from £245 million this year to around £250 million by 2016/17. We will recreate the position of Controller, World Service English, to lead World Service radio editorially. We will make savings to reinvest in new languages TV and digital priorities and manage inflation, in line with the ‘invest to innovate’ strategy announced earlier this year.

Advantage Great Britain

They are combining the editorial teams of several UK domestic programmes with some of the flagship shows on BBC World Service. This makes perfect sense providing they realise they are working for different audiences and use the relevant expertise from both teams. The best way to organise this is to define different audiences, but ensure easy sharing of all raw materials. And make sure BBC World Service material is as easy to find as their domestic colleagues. That is not presently the case. But one point concerns me: that some correspondents posts will close. Perhaps they plan to use (cheaper) freelancers instead? Not clear how they are going to save 48 million pounds in the process. 

Newsgathering – Plans are for a reshaped Newsgathering operation, involving smaller and more agile reporting teams. The World Affairs Unit, based in London, will become a smaller specialised hub; a single general reporting team is proposed; and a number of correspondent and production posts are expected to close.

It seems World Have Your Say will end in March 2015. Wonder what will happen to BBC WS Newsday programme?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bayern3 radio commercial success

I guess this must be one of the most popular radio commercials on TV - judging by the YouTube count (15.1 million views). Must have cost the producers about 1000 Euro. I would have made a one-line payoff. But may be the listeners in Bayern didn't need it.

Dreamliner Red Arrow

Farnborough is turning into a airshow for stunts. The shows seem to get wilder every year. Would you really like to be on this airliner when it did such a manoever?

StarTimes - The Red Giant of East Africa

BBC Monitoring spotted this news about Chinese owned StarTimes. Expect the number of Chinese soap operas to expand as China's influence grows and the US/UK's influence wanes. 
StarTimes are operating a bit like HBO or Netflix. Start out as a distributor/aggregator, then move on to become a production house. 

StarTimes will build a 6.9bn shillings [80m dollars] Africa headquarters and broadcast centre in Nairobi.

This, according to the management, will see it increase the airing of Chinese soap operas and start the production of TV programmes in Kenya and other parts of Africa.

StarTimes Group president Pang Xinxing, while making this announcement on Monday [14 July], said Kenya and China had good business relations.

StarTimes Group president Pang Xinxing

He commended Kenya's commitment to attracting increased foreign direct investments.
"Through this we focus on promoting economic and social transformation as StarTimes stamps its commitment to Kenya and the larger Africa," said Mr Pang. "We are also launching two new channels for the African market - Star Sport2 in July and Star Swahili in August 2014."

Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Liu Xianfa said the government has approved the construction plan.
"The future is bright for both countries as stable investments continue building the economy," said Mr Pang.

Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Arts and Culture Hassan Wario, who was present, said the proposed centre would help grow Kenyan talent in movie production.

Air service agreement

The announcement comes a week after Kenya and China signed a bilateral air service agreement allowing Kenya Airways to access more destinations in China. This sets the pace for more Chinese to visit Kenya and vice versa.

Mr Pang said the agreement would boost Chinese confidence in the Kenyan market.
The 20,000 square metre StarTimes headquarters will be based in Karen. It will employ dozens of Kenyans during the construction and during the production of cultural materials.

It is set for completion by the end of next year and will feature six units including StarTimes Africa headquarters, StarTimes Kenya offices, a film and television recording centre, StarTimes broadcast station, digital TV research and development centre as well as a training facility.

With the proposed investment, StarTimes plans to increase its revenue in the region in the face of competition from GoTV, which dominates the Kenyan market.

Source: Daily Nation website, Nairobi, in English 15 Jul 14

Radio Australia - Slash and Burn

Michael Mason, Acting Director ABC Radio sent an update on July 14th to staff about what's going to happen to Australia's external broadcasting service. Looks like many of the non-English language services will be severely cutback.

In effect, Australia's influence in Asia is being wound down. The big plus about Radio Australia was it's ability to mix the "outside looking in" with the "inside looking out". That type of approach also benefits a domestic audience. Remember the BBC World Service slogan - bringing Britain to the world - and the world to Britain. I would argue that Radio Australia did the same for Australia. Alas, not for much longer. Most of the English language production will now be compilations from the domestic services.

I wonder if there are any links between what's happened and a speech that ABC Managing Director Mark Scott gave in 2009. Called the Fall of  Rome, it spelt the end of the Murdoch empire. At that time, ABC and Murdoch were battling over the licence to run Australia's overseas TV service. It was a messy fight. Perhaps the Murdoch empire found ways to strike back? It certainly looks that way.

Here are the details from Mason.

You would have seen communications and/or media coverage around changes to the ABC's International Division as a result of funding cuts. These changes affect every area of International, including Radio Australia. Changes to Radio Australia mean that the network will now broadcast an even a greater range of ABC Radio content.

As many of you would be aware, Radio Australia have always had a close content alignment with ABC Radio, broadcasting many programs from Radio National, sport from Grandstand, some Local programs and, until recently, a co-production with NewsRadio.

Over the next few weeks we will work with our colleagues in International to identify further already commissioned content from our current radio offer to create a relevant schedule for international audiences. When the schedule is finalised we will circulate it.

Below are some other key points around the changes to Radio Australia:

* Radio Australia will continue to broadcast a 24/7 schedule built on a deeper collaboration with ABC News and ABC Radio and through collaboration with SBS.

* Pacific Beat continues, as do RA's hourly news bulletins.

* Radio Australia will work with colleagues in ABC Radio and ABC News to identify and deliver a sustainable and engaging English program service that will appeal to our International audiences.

* Language services in Tok Pisin, Khmer and Burmese will be delivered through a mix of reduced original content coupled with translated ABC content and content from SBS. The model for the French language service remains under consideration.

* Asia Pacific and Asia Review will cease production as will the Mornings program.

* Shortwave transmission of RA remains unchanged for the time being.

Newscorp owned newspaper, the Australian adds the following. Almost everything is marked as undecided. Though I suspect these cuts are pretty much final. 
The ABC News 24 channel is expected to become the foundation of the international service, with some specialised news and current affairs content featuring on the service.
It is not known whether ABC News 24 will expand its broadcast reach through the Asia-Pacific region in lieu of Australia Network or whether the Radio Australia name will be subsumed.
The proposal outlined today in Melbourne by the director of news, Kate Torney, and ABC International director Lynley Marshall is not definitive but will begin what is anticipated to be a long process of negotiations and politicking over job losses and service cuts.
The process is complicated by the fact that DFAT is yet to finalise the terms of the decommissioning of the Australia Network service in September, including the allocation of money for redundant staff and outstanding contracts.
The ABC Charter requires the public broadcaster to “transmit to countries outside Australia, broadcasting programs of news, current affairs, entertainment and cultural enrichment” that will, in part, “encourage awareness of Australia and an inter­national understanding of Australian attitudes on world ­affairs.”
While the efficacy of the Australia Network was questioned before its axing by DFAT under the Abbott government, the impact of Radio Australia’s service during times of political crisis in the Pacific region has been substantial.
Even so, the recent efficiency review of the ABC and SBS overseen by Peter Lewis recommended Radio Australia discontinue its shortwave service.
This recommendation came despite advice from DFAT that shortwave delivery is the only current source of RA in “some sensitive areas in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea”.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Eiffel Tower Spectacular

I wish The Netherlands would organise something along the same lines. Getting rather fed up of launching rockets in the rain on December 31st. This has much more style and meaning. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Return of the Creative Guilds

Found the text of a speech given this week by Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC. I think he's nailed what's wrong with public service broadcasting. And he appears to have a vision to put it right. 

I hope this can be translated into a language that creatives understand. And then into a structure that really is fair for the independent sector. May be the title of the speech should be Great Expectations.

Tony Hall, BBC Director General

Speech given by Tony Hall, 

BBC Director-General 

at City University in London on Thursday 10 July 2014.

In his inspiring book, An Empire Of Their Own, the cultural historian Neal Gabler tells the story of the creation of Hollywood.
He records the extraordinary lives of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who came to America, to work as retailers, as small time entrepreneurs, as grafters in the garment industry. And Gabler tells the tale of their rise to greatness as legendary movie moguls.
The great impresarios of one of the most spectacular cultural industries of the last century began in the most modest way and made a success as pioneers because they had liberty and a fierce desire to succeed.
I believe strongly in the freedom and entrepreneurial spirit that made this possible. I have been fortunate to work for some of the greatest cultural bodies of this country. But I have always felt strongly that challenge was essential, that monopoly was wrong, and that complacency was dangerous.
More than once I have spoken of the highly competitive media market in Britain and how I believe that the BBC strengthens rather than threatens this diversity. We are – and must be – a great enabler for the creative industry in this country.
Today, I want to talk about how we are bringing the spirit of the entrepreneur and the pioneer to the BBC.
We are committed to our mission as a public broadcaster, as creative people, as reporters, as broadcasters. We will be the place where creative people come to do the best work of their lives.
But I want the BBC also to be the best at managing itself. When anyone in this country asks, where are the organisations with the most advanced thinking on management and reform, I want them to think of the BBC.
So in this speech I want to talk about our new plans.
We are going to go further than we have ever done before in opening the BBC to more competition. A competition revolution.
And we are going to go further than we have ever done before in using external benchmarks and comparisons to drive up standards and drive down costs.
‘Compete or Compare’. That is our strategy.
Competition is good for the BBC and I want more of it.
I want proper competition in programme supply, overturning the current system that no longer works as it should.
I want a less regulated system that ensures that both our own BBC producers and those of the independent sector have creative freedom.
I want a level playing-field between BBC producers and independent ones.
I want both a BBC production powerhouse that is a beacon for creativity, risk-taking and quality; and an amazing, world-beating independent sector.
I want a system that supports British content and that keeps the UK competitive in a global market.
And this competition is going to help make the BBC as efficient as any broadcaster in the country.
But we are not going to sacrifice quality to price. We are going to have both. To use retail terminology, great programmes at great prices.
The BBC and competition
Britain has one of the most competitive media markets in the world. It’s no coincidence that it’s also one of the most successful.
When Harold Wilson oversaw the award of MBEs to the Beatles for services to exports, some previous recipients sent their awards back, complaining that the Beatles were unworthy of the honour.
Yet with hindsight, awards for the Beatles were obviously appropriate. Because they marked the importance of the creative industries to this country's economic and cultural impact beyond its shores. And since then, those impacts have grown bigger and bigger.
The BBC has been an absolutely central part of this success, a major public intervention that guarantees universal access to great content for all. Yet not the BBC splendid and alone, the BBC as part of a thriving free and competitive market.
Every day, viewers, listeners and users in the UK have the opportunity to choose freely from hundreds of television channels, hundreds of radio stations and millions of websites. The fact that they choose the BBC 140 million times a day is a tribute to our quality, not a sign of a lack of competition.
People in the UK and around the world have access to more news outlets than ever before. The fact that they choose the BBC in such large numbers is a tribute to our impartiality and accuracy, not a sign of a lack of competition.
The BBC is a smaller part of broadcasting now; the licence fee is 25% of all TV and radio revenues in the UK. Some of the organisations we are now competing with are global giants by comparison. The fact that our audience share has held up so well over 20 years is a tribute to how well we turn the licence fee into distinctive programmes and services that audiences value, not a sign of a lack of competition.
Competition works just as you would expect. We do well. Others have to compete. They raise their game. They challenge us. We respond. Competition spurs us all on. It’s better for Britain.
Competition for supply
So I believe in competition as a tool to be used wherever it can make us better, and improve what we give the public.
And there’s one area which is top of my list because it goes to the heart of what the BBC is about. The way our programmes are made.
The BBC is its programmes. It needs, consistently, for its programmes to be outstanding, to be inspiring, to push barriers, to lead not to follow.
And I believe that more competition can help us achieve this.
Within the current Charter, we’ve had what I call ‘managed competition’ in the way we make our TV programmes.
This managed competition is part of a 20-year industry plan for the whole TV market.
It was designed to nurture and encourage an independent sector that then had lots of small producers selling to a small number of big broadcasters who had all the money and often their own production houses. Regulated terms of trade gave independent producers a framework to exploit their own intellectual property. And commissioning quotas tried to deal with the concentration of television production, commissioning and broadcasting in London.
Today with managed competition, 25% of BBC TV production is guaranteed to independent producers; 50% is guaranteed to BBC in-house producers; and 25% is left open to both in open competition.
This policy has had many desirable outcomes.
Managed competition has seen the creation of an amazing array of top-quality programming.
It has helped the independent production sector thrive and created strong production centres around the UK.
It has produced significant financial returns to the UK, because independent producers and the BBC have exploited their intellectual property in other countries and on new digital services. BBC Worldwide has been part of this, helping to support UK producers and take them around the world.
Yet this very success has produced the need for change.
The United Kingdom is enjoying a golden moment. The best of British talent and programming is flourishing at home and abroad.
Partly as a result, the production sector in the UK has changed rapidly. The sector is far more consolidated than it used to be, with a small number of super-producers now dominating the supply of content to UK public service broadcasters and with many new outlets for their ideas.
US capital has spotted this and swooped.
In the last few weeks, tectonic plates have been moving. We’ve seen 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management agree to merge Shine and Endemol – two of the biggest producers here. Discovery and Liberty Global have acquired All3Media. Warner are now going to rebrand their previous indie acquisition, Shed, as Warner Brothers UK.
At the same time, global broadcasters are also buying each other.
Viacom is acquiring Channel 5 in the UK. BSkyB is considering the acquisition of Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland – a deal worth billions of pounds. And in the States, AT&T is acquiring the pay TV company DirecTV for nearly 50 billion dollars.
You can feel the market changing.
Even the biggest broadcasters in the world are feeling the need for allies. This process is unlikely to be at an end.
In this new environment, ‘managed competition’ produces an increasingly distorted market.
Under the current rules some big, global producers no longer count as fully independent so their shows can’t go in the 25% of BBC television airtime guaranteed to independent producers. So a big long-running independently-produced series like MasterChef has had to move into the 25% window of creative competition that’s open to everyone. That squeezes out creativity and innovation. Big returning strands – brilliant as they are – now take up space designed for new ideas. A system set up to encourage competition and choice has begun to forcibly corral producers into three separate tribes.
The change in the structure of the market also adds constraints that now feel artificial for BBC in-house production.
With managed competition, BBC Production has only one buyer – BBC Commissioning – which inevitably constrains its opportunities. More importantly, it’s limited in the kinds of commercial deals it can make. It can’t compete globally in the way that big independent studios can. We’re finding it harder to retain talented people, who grew up with the BBC but who now feel they have the freedom to be more creative and competitive elsewhere.
So managed competition worked to develop a mature market for independent production and to protect BBC Production while this happened.
But now we need change.
Both big independent producers and BBC Production should be able to stand on their own feet.
We are going to work with our many partners to develop our plans for the future supply of programmes. These are far from final proposals. We will put them to the BBC Trust to form part of their own review of supply this autumn. And it will take a new Charter to put them into effect.
But I want whatever model we agree to follow three principles.
First, we must guarantee the secure supply of brilliant and innovative new programmes across the full range of BBC broadcasting. And that includes the sort of programmes that don’t have global commercial appeal as well as those that do.
I want our commissioners to be able to choose from the best ideas, from independent producers and BBC Production. They must have them at a price we can afford.
This is about us having the next Sherlock, the next Strictly, the next Springwatch and the next Shetland – a fantastic mix from independent and BBC producers.
It is also about us having challenging factual programmes that over time the market may no longer find it attractive to supply. And the live skills that allow us to cover, say, a national funeral at a moment’s notice.
Second, we must grow this country’s creative sector, right across the UK. We are world-beating at television and I want us to stay that way. I’m not interested in dividing up a smaller cake in different ways. I want a bigger cake for us all.
The ownership of intellectual property – whether by the BBC or independent producers – is a fundamental of the future across all industries. It is how we will help to take Britain to the world and bring the credit and the investment back to this country.
And then there is the third principle. Value for money.
Any new system must obtain value for money for the licence fee payer. When the BBC owns the rights to programmes we can return the full commercial value of them to the UK licence fee payer, to invest in new programmes.
Managed competition has also helped us to keep costs down. We have been able to compare between independent producers and in-house production.
Free competition should intensify this. But it must be fair competition, too. We must make sure we don’t use the licence fee to compete unfairly or subsidise commercial activity.
So I want to challenge the ‘managed’ part of managed competition.
Confidence in the BBC
This move is a symbol of my confidence in the BBC. Confidence in its ability to keep changing, keeping doing better.
And confidence in the future of BBC Production.
This is the team that created Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, Frozen Planet and The Thick Of It. The team that created Mrs Brown's Boys, Miranda, Bluestone 42, Our War and Brian Cox's Wonders Of The Universe. The team that delivers the Proms, the World Cup, the Royal Wedding, and our coverage of the World War One Centenary.
I could go on. That track record gives me great faith in its future. It is also a reminder that it would be extremely odd to ban the BBC, one of the world's great programme-makers, from making programmes. Put it another way, I do not believe that the BBC’s future is as a publisher and broadcaster only.
We’ve got great talent at the BBC. I want them to want to stay here, to bring their best ideas to us. I want them to know that BBC Production will be the place to do their best work, to take risks. That it will offer them the broadest range of creative opportunities.
And I want them to spend less time ticking boxes. I want them instead invigorated by the challenge. In the last year, this has become my top priority, which is why Director of Television Danny Cohen and I have been working together on these issues so intensively.
I want our producers to feel they are working for one of the best, most prestigious, most influential media organisations in the world. Yet at the same time working for one of the leanest, hungriest, most flexible organisations. I want this to help strengthen what I see as I go round the BBC: a real sense of entrepreneurialism and creative ambition.
But proper competition and entrepreneurialism requires a level playing-field. We should have regulation in the TV supply market only where it’s needed so that we can let creativity and innovation flourish.
For instance, is it right that independent producers that are part of global media organisations bigger than the BBC need guarantees or special negotiating protections?
But small independent producers, the next generation of talent, may continue to need support. I want to work with them and with their representatives in PACT on a system that can help grow new production companies. I want to know what more BBC Worldwide can do to help small companies, and what the BBC can do to help with cash flow and long-term security.
But a true level playing-field between independent producers and BBC Production has big implications for the whole market. I welcome Ofcom looking at this question in their PSB Review and it’s clear that this will be one of the big debates in Charter Review.
After all, if independent producers can take their ideas to any broadcaster around the world, I would want the same for BBC Production. We’re up for a discussion as to whether they should offer ideas to other UK broadcasters. But the world should definitely be their market.
And in return for removing those protections we would remove our own – in other words, the overall in-house guarantee for the whole of BBC Production. If we can make the whole system work properly, I will be the first to say we don’t need it.
But let’s be clear. Wherever we get to, this will be a package. A level playing-field doesn’t tilt.
Compete or compare
Competition can bring efficiency and value for money to other parts of the BBC too.
I want to make the BBC as effective and efficient as any broadcaster in the country. That’s a bold claim. But I think we can do it, by listening to proper criticism and making changes where change is necessary. And by becoming pioneers in reform.
We will do this through a system of ‘compete or compare’. And we will do it all the time as a normal part of the way we run the BBC – not just when we need to prove our case.
We will extend competition where it works: where it can bring greater choice, value for money or innovation.
And where we can’t open ourselves up to competition, we’ll compare what we do with the best practice in the market.
With compete or compare, competition should go beyond television production.
Can we extend competitive access for independent producers in radio, if that will mean broader choice and better ideas? The market is completely different, of course. The global opportunity is much more limited and commercial radio commissions almost nothing from the sector.
Is there more we can do in news and current affairs, where independent producers and film-makers already make a vital contribution? James Harding asked the other week if local news groups could provide BBC News with sports packages or court reporting. A very interesting idea.
What can we do in online production? In the sharing of technology, so that we are building open platforms others can use and build on?
In extending competition into the way we run ourselves?
We already tender a lot of our back-office services. But I want this to be a firm principle. Every process in our back office services should be able to be contested: from production of trails through to paying invoices through to audience research.
We may not always outsource. Sometimes it’s better and cheaper to do things in-house. But by openly and transparently allowing every part of our back-office processes to be contested we’ll find out if there’s a better or more effective way of doing it.
I am encouraged by how much of this we are doing already. Around two-thirds of BBC activity is already part of some competitive process. Two-thirds. That is a remarkable figure and one that gives me great confidence in the way we spend the licence fee today.
But we can’t have competition everywhere. I am not ideological about competition – I want it where it will make things more efficient or better for our audiences.
So there are some BBC activities where competition would not add value.
Take our global newsgathering operation.
It has its own ethos, and the hard discipline of BBC training and neutrality. It would be hard to contract that out without losing control of our voice.
So what do we do when competition is not the right approach?
We still need to bring proper transparency, accountability and control to the way we spend licence fee payers’ money.
We still need to be able to understand whether these services are operating efficiently or not and compare them to similar functions inside or outside the BBC.
So where we cannot use competition we will use comparison.
Where the private sector has simple benchmarks for equivalent services that we can use to compare ourselves, we will use them.
In fact we already do, procurement being a good example.
Where we think there is duplication we will change the way people work to remove it.
And when we have a big event, we will create a single point of accountability for all resources. It’s what we did with the Olympics and what we do with Glastonbury: if you put one person in charge they have the authority to say yes or no. They’ll make sure we join up to do things effectively – but also efficiently.
We are using this approach more and more in newsgathering, so that we ensure that the decisions about sending journalists to big stories is properly controlled.
In fact, across the BBC today, we are in the middle of the biggest ‘compare’ exercise we have ever done. We’re using the widest set of industry comparisons we can access to see how the BBC matches up and what we can learn from others. It’s a big piece of work which will report in full this autumn.
But, overall, I want more compete than compare.
Wherever possible, we should rely on the forces of competition to make us more efficient. Others should be able to ask us if a particular area can be competed for – and if it can’t be, we would have to justify clearly why. With the ideas I’ve put forward today, I’m confident the amount that is open to competition will go up.
We will continue to do as much of this as we can over the next three years, to the end of the Charter. We’re asking the organisation to complete the delivery of £800m a year in savings by then, to fill the gap left by a 26% real terms reduction in funding for UK services over six years. We will need every saving we can from these initiatives so that we don’t have to close any more services.
But more than that, I will not make a case about the future level of the licence fee until I am confident. Firstly, that we have done everything to make the BBC as efficient as possible. Secondly, that we have a plan for how we will drive continuous efficiency throughout the organisation through the next Charter.
I think ‘compete or compare’ will do both of those things. Every licence fee period we will make sure that every significant item of BBC spend has been systematically tested in this way. Then we can live up to that ambitious claim to be as efficient and effective as any UK broadcaster.
Competition here and abroad
My aim in all this work is a world-class BBC. Not a low rent BBC.
This is a crucial distinction and one that our most vociferous critics sometimes fail to understand.
Value for money is what matters – not to be the cheapest, but the most efficient for the quality we are trying to achieve.
We are going to carry on sending our correspondents abroad, we are going to carry on flying crews to make natural history programmes on the other side of the world, we are going to carry on making history programmes about other places, we are going to carry on covering stories from all over the UK. And yes, the people who make them will have to stay in hotels.
We are going to carry on finding the best creative and operational leaders to run this great organisation.
We are going to carry on hiring the best talent and paying them what they are worth.
And we are going to carry on bringing people what they love about the BBC – high-quality, high-calibre broadcasting.
The BBC must be judged on the work, not just on its cost. We are competing in a commercial broadcasting market every minute of every day. That puts us in a different territory to other publicly funded services.
So if we ever get to the point where our choice, for instance, of a public sector comparator stops us meeting the expectations of our audiences, I will unhesitatingly choose the audience every time.
But I don’t think we are going to face such a choice.
The great joy of coming back to work for the BBC was to be reminded of how many great things it does, how many great people it employs, and how hard it works to spend the public’s money wisely.
The great joy of being Director-General has been to discover how much more we can still do.
To be Director-General of the BBC is to manage one of the most talented and creative teams of people in the world.
My job is simple. It is to make sure that they can do their job.
If the BBC ever becomes a company of bureaucrats that happens to make some broadcast output I will have failed because the way we manage ourselves will have overwhelmed what we do.
Instead we are going to be led by what we do best. By our creativity. We are going to trust it. We are going to let it speak for us. A confident BBC broadcasting to the world, open to the world. 
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