Month: August 2006

  • City Channel targets Filipinos (SBP – 20th August 2006)

    Just a short and snappy little piece from todays Sunday Business Post on a new series being undertaken by City Channel;

    Local television station City Channel is to launch a weekly half-hour programme from September that will target the Filipino community in Ireland.

    The cable-based broadcaster, which is available to audiences in Dublin, Galway and Waterford, will complement imported content from Manila-based news network TV Patrol World with its own home-produced segments aimed at the Irish-Filipino community.

    Vanessa Kaminski of City Channel said that the programme would be broadcast in Tagalog, the largest language of the Philippines. Tagalog is the first language of about 22 million people in the Philippines, as well as being the primary language of its national media and education system. It is also a secondary language for about 65 million people.

    There are currently around 12,000 Filipinos in Ireland, compared to 160,000 Polish in Dublin alone; obviously the Filipino show isn’t going to be as successful for City Channel as Oto Polska has been but a potential audience of 12,000 is still a reasonable size for the local station.

    Link here.
    I’ll upload the scan and links for this article (and last weeks) to the Portfolio section later.

  • DCMNR announcement on TG4

    Following on from the Sunday Times article, which I blogged about here, the DCMNR has just released a statement on its plans to make TG4 independent by 2007, meaning the Irish TV market will be balanced with two independent stations and two state broadcasters; the deal that sees content provided by RTÉ will continue and the Department hopes to raise its funding to cut down on repeats and increase production.

    Click below to read the full press release.

  • Ray Foley should do his research

    A quick browse around Ray Foley’s site brought this post to my attention, in which Today FM’s voice of the tween-massive tells us where our “tax dollars” are going at RTÉ.

    His post is in relation to Rick O’Shea’s blog, which is now being contributed to by Amanda, a researcher from his 2FM show. Foley says;

    I see RTÉ are spoiling their DJ’s with far too many staff with far too much time on their hands. You can see for yourself on Rick O’Shea’s blog, where he has some RTÉ minion writing his blog for him now! So now you know where the tax dollars are going, floks (sic). The bloody Rick O’Shea weblog, that’s where.

    How cushy is that?

    I’m sure his implied sour grapes are actually completely in jest, after all, if he did a little bit of research he’d know that 2FM (along with the entire publishing division of RTÉ) recieves no licence fee money whatsoever (scroll to bottom) and is in essence a commercial station. What does that mean? It means that as a commercially funded entity 2FM can pay their staff to do whatever they want, just like Today FM.

    Of course it is also arguable that these various radio DJ’s and researchers are writing their blog entries in their own free time and using it as a show-plugging feature of their own free will, but that’s another matter altogether.

  • Kidnap in Gaza leads to Irish confusion

    It seems that the kidnap of a Fox News journalist and cameraman in Gaza has caused some initial confusion over the origin of one of the men involved.

    Sky News, highlighting the dangers of their high-speed news format had a ‘Breaking News’ alert on the story, claiming that the cameraman was Irish., which has no connection to BSkyB also carried the news initially, but its report on the issue has since been updated to confirm that the cameraman was actually from New Zealand.

    On the topic of the kidnap itself one has to wonder if the journalistic affiliation of the men was a motive for their capture; do these radicals in Palestine know the reputation Fox News has for its pro-Bush, pro-Israeli neo-con news coverage? Or is it just coincidental and these men were only taken because they were Westerners and as such more powerful bargaining chips?

    As MediaGuardian points out, the cameraman’s brother believes the captive are in an “even more vulnerable” position due to their employers.

    Either way we can only hope that they will be freed without harm, and thankfully the Gaza strip has a more favourable reputation, if you can use the term, in that respect. Had the same kidnapping happened in Iraq the situation would seem far more grim for the two men.

  • TG4 to go on its own

    The Sunday Times has an article on the expected plans by DCMNR Minister Noel Dempsey to put a framework in place to finally allow a TG4/RTÉ split.

    The Government has planned a split for some time now and TG4 has been patiently waiting for it to see the light of day. The now largely defunct 1999 Broadcasting Act laid the foundations for an independent TG4 however the collapse of RTÉ’s digital ambitions meant that legislation fell by the wayside too.

    When I spoke to Padhraic O Ciardha of TG4 in early April he told me that many of the future plans for the Irish broadcaster relied on this split taking place and they were currently unable to properly look into new ventures as long as RTÉ called the shots.

    It is unclear how long it will take for a full seperation to come about although I hope it will be to the advantage of both organisations; TG4 will hopefully continue to grow when it is on its own terms and both they and RTÉ can then continue to contribute to the survival of the Irish language.

    It will be interesting to see how the two stations treat each other once fully independent from one another though; it would be a shame if co-operation ceased completely between the two just because they were no longer partners on paper.

  • Digital terrestrial TV finally arrives (SBP – 13th August 2006)

    Today’s YourTech section in the Sunday Business Post features my ‘how-to’ guide to DTT; it gives a simple explanation to DTT, tells you where you can get it and how as well as what’s on offer. Hopefully it will act as a good starting point for people interested in DTT but who aren’t sure where to start.

    Ireland’s long-awaited Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) trial has been launched by the government. It is the first major step towards creating a digital alternative to traditional analogue broadcasts (or ATT).

    The EU wants to see the older ATT system switched off by 2012. But what is DTT and how do you receive it? Here is a simple guide to the Irish DTT to do trial and what you will need if you want to receive it.

    What is DTT?

    You may have heard it being referred to as ‘Digital Video Broadcast – Terrestrial’ (DVBT) or even Freeview, which is the name of the British DTT service. DTT is just another form of digital television like Sky, NTL or Chorus.

    However, it does not operate via satellite or cable, instead being received with a normal TV aerial just like analogue broadcasts are now (assuming you have the correct additional equipment).

    The EU hopes to replace ATT with DTT by 2012, although some countries, including Ireland, will have a difficult time meeting that deadline. Meanwhile, Britain will switch off its first analogue transmitter in late 2008,which is the same time that the initial Irish trial is due to end.

    Where is it available?

    At present two transmitters are broadcasting digital signals, in Three Rock in South Dublin and in Clermont Carn in Co Louth.

    Three Rock’s signal can generally be received in Dublin, parts of Louth, Westmeath, Kildare, Meath and Offaly.

    Some of its signal is available in Wicklow, Longford and Cavan, although this is usually patchy. Clermont Carn’s signal can be received in Louth, Cavan, Monaghan, parts of Leitrim and in some places in the North.

    In general, the entire northwest of the country should be able to receive DTT signals, although that can depend on the strength of the signal used in the trial, which is likely to change as part of the testing process.

    What equipment do I need to receive it and where can I buy it?

    The official trial will consist of 1,000 testers who will receive equipment from the government.

    But anyone else in the right area with the relevant equipment can receive the broadcasts, though they will not be considered part of the official trial.

    If you are within the coverage zone’s of the broadcast you will need a digital receiver and possibly a loft-top or roof-top aerial to pick up DTT.

    DVB-T set-top boxes are hard to come by in the south of Ireland as there was very little demand for them before now. However, some newer televisions come with a digital tuner built-in.

    These TVs are aimed mainly at the British market but are sold in Ireland too. As such, they may be advertised as having a built-in Freeview receiver.

    Many new computers also have digital tuners built in to them as standard, especially those that refer to themselves as ‘media centres’. If you do not want to upgrade your computer, you can buy add-on USB and PCI tuners from many computer hardware stores.

    If you prefer to receive your digital signal through your television and do not have a digital tuner built-in you will have to buy a DTT set-top box. Just like other digital TV services, the set-top box acts as a decoder that unscrambles the digital signal and sends it to your television.

    Very few Irish retailers sell these boxes although they are easy to find in the North. Some sell for as little as €36. You may also find the right equipment on the internet, though many electrical websites do not deliver to Ireland.

    Wherever you purchase the box from make sure it is ‘MPEG-4’ compatible. The British DTT system broadcasts in MPEG-2, which was the standard when it launched a few years ago. Since then MPEG-4 has become cheaper and allows for more information and channels to be broadcast.

    As such, it is the format of choice for many new services.

    It is likely that the Irish DTT trial will include MPEG-4 broadcasts at some stage.

    Finally, you will need some form of aerial.

    Depending on your location and the strength of the broadcast in your area, you might be able to use a normal ‘bunny ears’ aerial or you may have to install one on your roof-top if you do not have one there already.

    What will I be able to watch?

    For the time being, the broadcast will consist of the four basic Irish channels, RTE One, RTE Two, TG4 and TV3 as well as all the national radio stations. Over time, more channels should come on board as the trial expands.

    There is an expectation that further services will be trialled such as interactive TV, video on demand and high definition broadcasts. It is hoped that when the trial ends in 2008 that a national DTT service based on this initial test will be rolled out.

    Unfortunately my recommendation to visit the ICDG forums was sacrificed in the editing process; but I’m sure you already knew that that was the place to go if you want to make sure you’re in the right area!

  • Looking for a good digital dictaphone or HI-MD recorder

    I’ll be on the look out for a decent recording device in the next while; can anyone recommend me something that has the following (HI-MD or dictaphone are suitable);

    • Decent level of capacity (enough to hold a high quantity of content at a high quality)
    • Mic-in jack so I can attach an external mic and don’t have to rely on a built-in one
    • Where possible a decent built-in mic with a good range (not a must)
    • Allow me to upload all content to my PC as an mp3 or other non-propriety format.
    • Allow a range of record qualities; the higher the better.
    • Be as neat and small as possible (not a must either).

    Just to make it clear; I’m not looking for something to listen to mp3’s on as well; just a device that I can record interviews etc. on and will have a podcast (or higher) quality bit-rate. Naturally the cheaper the better but at the same time I know there’s no point buying a cheap device that will let me down very quickly.

    Any suggestions? All ideas much appreciated!

  • BBC wrestle to hold onto a dwindling market

    BBC News has just revealed early plans by the corporation to produce a clip-on device that will turn portable media players into digital radio’s; probably similar to the iPod FM remote launched a while ago.

    The blurb in the article claims that it would be an attempt to make radio relevant to the upcoming generation, whom are so far mp3-orientated. Of course when they’re honest about it this is undeniably a move of self-interest.

    The BBC has been the at the fore of DAB in the UK so far although the venture hasn’t proven itself to be as popular as they might have hoped; the high cost of a DAB radio player when compared to a traditional one is part of the issue, the rise in new media which is damaging TV as much as anything else is also important.

    The move has to be questioned though. Technology pricing will eventually fall to a reasonable level and at that point the BBC will be faced with the single reality that people aren’t listening because they have a better aural offer elsewhere. There’s no point in giving people the opportunity to listen to digital radio on their iPod if there’s nothing worth hearing on it by comparison.
    Radio needs to make a change and digital radio is as good a chance as any to do this; but it’s not through creating niche channels that play minority music, however, it’s by finding something unique that can’t be bought on iTunes or downloaded in a podcast.

    The pop-radio format is in serious need of an overhaul. In the 1990’s various radio stations would boast about their songs/hour ratio, the amount of songs they play without interruption and so on but when a listener can hear countless songs without presenters, ad’s or news breaks and be guarenteed to actually like each song played there’s no contest.

    At this point radio needs to move away from its chart-orientation and find something new; if people like a song enough they already have it on their iPods and don’t need to hear it every 10 minutes on the radio.

    One format that will survive the explosion in portable music players is new music programming; offering listeners a chance to hear something they’ve never come across before is far better than offering them something they already have on mp3. Plenty of podcasts work on similar formats but a well-tuned presenter could cut the fat away, give bands a chance to be heard on a massive stage and even make it possible for them to get picked up.

    Another format is, of course, the talk based radio show. Having a real and interesting discussion is not something that is easily emulated, and it is extremely difficult for new media to keep up at the same standard as the seasoned pro’s. That’s not to say that good news podcasts and so on don’t exist but it is a fact that live radio now can be far more current than a day old podcast you dowloaded this morning. Add in a quality presenter with quality guests and topics and there’s no comparison at all.

    Comedy radio is something that the BBC has moved into with the onset of DAB and again it’s something that isn’t as easy to put on your iPod or as likely for people to have there either.

    In recent years the emergance of personality-radio has been the key to success, in a way radio is returning to its DJ-orientated routes. Many people listen to a presenter because they trust their judgement and (going back to an earlier point) are happy to allow said presenter to supply them with original music. Other people listen to a presenter because of the unique spin the add to the format, their sense of humour or ability to create an interesting programme outside of the music.

    Features and unique selling points are also becoming increasingly important. Breakfast shows like Ian Dempsey (Today FM) are using USP’s like Gift Grub to attract audiences and each player on the morning market has its own alternative. Strawberry Alarmclock (FM104) has Matt Molloy and The Morning Crew (98FM) has the Toll Trolls.
    In all radio companies like the BBC should focus more on creating worthwhile programming than simply trying to figure out new ways of delivering the old stuff to an un-interested audience. As it stands there are plenty of mp3 players available with radio built-in, and as mentioned even iPod’s have the ability with the right accessory.

    Radio should also look into engaging the new media better; the likes of the BBC and RTÉ cannot really be faulted for their involvement in podcasting however they have yet to make original programming based on their radio shows; the lack of extended interviews, additional features and content etc. are all missed opportunities. If you get someone to download a really original podcast-only show, they might just give the traditional radio version a try too.

  • NTL/Chorus pick up 7,600 subs in 3 months

    The Irish Times today reports on Liberty Global, owner of NTL and Chorus and their impressive rise in Irish subscribers since March of this year.

    Their Irish customer base has now reached 600,200 and is an important landmark for the group.

    Liberty Global have been slowly merging NTL and Chorus into one service since they acquired the former earlier this year; it is expected that they will eventually create a unified structure under the ‘UPC’ brand name.

    The group has recently announced a move into the triple-play market, where it will offer digital TV, high speed broadband and VoIP phone as part of a single package. It has also make its intentions clear to move towards PVR, HD and interactive.

    Despite being the biggest player in the Irish market it still falls short on many of the services offered by its biggest rival, Sky. At present Sky Digital offers interactive as standard and allows viewers to upgrade to HD and PVR capabilities if they wish. Sky is also moving into the broadband market in the UK and has suggested it may do the same in Ireland next year.

    UPC faces some potentially rough waters in the coming year as it tries to bring its technology up to pace and re-brand itself at the same time. The past few years have seen TV technology move at lightening pace and the catastrophic demise of NTL Ireland meant its customers got left behind in many ways.

    UPC, Sky and other players like Magnet will want to position themselves very carefully over the next two years in preperation for DTT; once subscription-free multi-channel TV comes onto the market things are going to get even harder for them all.

  • Some interesting trademarks

    Following on from my comments about News International’s upcoming London evening freesheet that, if applied to the Dublin market would certainly prove a challenge to the dominance of the Evening Herald I decided to snoop around the Irish Patents Office to see if NI had made any recent and interesting filings.

    NI currently have 8 trademark applications listed on the site, two of which (variations on ‘Big‘ and ‘ID‘ have been withdrawn).
    Two of the remaining applications which were filed in 2006 were ‘Man of the World‘ and ‘Street Psychic‘, both put forward in March. The first is almost certainly of some connection to the NI Sunday tabloid ‘News of the World’ and may refer to some kind of competition they are going to hold (or have held, I don’t read it). ‘Street Psychic’ is a little bit more interesting, although it is likely to be some kind of suppliment as the copyright refers to publications and printed information and is unlikely to be a stand-alone magazine.

    The Globe‘ was trademarked in 2002, with all the standard classes covered to allow for a trademarked publication under that title. The title is indeed a very standard “newsy” name although it seems to have come of nothing in the 4 years since its filing.

    The most interesting finding of the whole thing comes with the final three trademarks; ‘The Day‘, ‘The Irish Day‘ and ‘Seize The Day‘. Again the titles are quite fitting of a daily news publication, with the second obviously being the RoI version and the latter being a catchphrase or slogan of the publication. Could these be part of an upcoming newspaper launch, freesheet or otherwise? Possibly, and the name certainly doesn’t preclude it being an evening publication, but given that they were filed in 2003 the organisation has certainly been biding its time with the venture.

    For the record I’ve spoken to people in News International and they state that there are no plans at present for an Irish freesheet. Should ‘thelondonpaper‘ prove a financial success don’t be surprised if that changes (although someone else may have launched a Dublin evening freesheet at that stage)