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Round up: Thursday 7 January 2010

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 15:10 UK time, Thursday, 7 January 2010

Welcome back after the Christmas and New Year break.

We've been sloganeering up at Blog Towers and today's is "Never let the snow get in the way of a good story" which leads neatly into the first round up of the year.

blog_towers_snow_300.jpgEscaping the snow for the desert the BBC Blue Room finds itself relocated for CES, the humungous Consumer Electronics Show. Contradicting the slogan "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" you can find the Blue Room sharing slightly breathless tweets and pictures on the latest gadgetry due to hit the shelves this year on their Twitter stream.

On Christmas Day Which? published their report into picture quality on BBC HD with the headline finding that quality is as good as it was before the changes in encoders and bit rates. In a follow-up item on Radio 4's You and Yours, Matthew Bath, technology editor of Which? described how the blind tests were carried out and their findings in more detail. You can hear You and Yours on the iPlayer for the next six days and the item starts around 14'47.

Silicon.com has an interview with the BBC's CTO John Linwood on operational changes at the BBC and also the way that technology changes audience relationships:

"For example, a year or two ago, we may have thought about BBC iPlayer as cool and future media. In reality, it's become just standard BBC as far as our audience is concerned and so they expect it to be available, up to date and work across whatever link they're using it on."

It's worth reading the interview in tandem with Silicon.com's The six BBC tech projects to watch for an insight where the future lies. Not least because as well as looking at the big beasts like Canvas and iPlayer the piece spotlights significant developments like the semantic web and the BBC's archive projects.

And finally, giving the last word to Erik Huggers, there was a short Q&A in the Christmas edition of Radio Times with the BBC's Director of Future Media & Technology. Sadly this is not available to read online, only in the print edition of the RT. So here's a taster quote from Erik in response to a question "What access to BBC programmes is offered to viewers and listeners beyond these shores?":

"TV programmes are not available outside the UK. In most cases we only have rights to distribute the programmes in the UK - and sometimes BBC Worldwide sells content abroad, generating money for us to re-invest in programming. Also we simply can't justify the costs of TV screening outside the UK . We can make radio content available worldwide because those rights restrictions don't exist, the cost is minimal and the commercial potential is more limited."

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog. The picture is the view from the fifth floor of Blog Towers.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Yes, the Which? news Headline states "Which? proves no loss of quality in BBC HD signal"
    But the Which? news article states:
    "our expert panel had seen sufficient material to conclude that any difference in quality was 'insignificant'"
    and the Which? expert defines insignificant as:
    "smaller than the existing differences between any two HD programmes filmed in a studio or on location"
    So, only if it is considered acceptable for the BBC to have lowered its HD channel picture quality, down to no better than the worst of any of the programmes shown, can it be said, as you do, that quality is as good as it was before the changes in encoders and bit rates.
    I do hope the BBC will care enough to look more deeply into viewers complaints about their HD channel's loss of picture quality.

  • Comment number 2.

    Matthew Bath, technology editor of Which? described how the blind tests were carried out and their findings in more detail.

    Blind being a suitable word - because either he is, or the hundreds of people complaining are.

  • Comment number 3.

    Viewer00, I read it as:

    The difference between 'a' and 'b' — where 'a' is the old encoder, and 'b' the new — is smaller than the difference between 'x' and 'y'; 'x' being a show that encodes well, and 'y' being one that particularly taxes an encoder. The idea presumably being that any perceived change in quality will be more likely, statistically, to be the result of content, than of encoder choice.

    Nothing the BBC say or do now (justified or not, I don't get the HD channel) will stop the people with a hate-on though.

  • Comment number 4.

    Pity that whilst you could find time to repeat the story on Which? report on picture quality - having already included it in your 28/12 blog, you couldn't find it in your heart to mention the petition to the Prime Minister regarding BBC HD (http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/BBCHDPQ/%29 that has happened since then and has been widely reported.

    I guess the BBC prefer to repeat the opinion of 1 person who can't see a difference, than draw attention to the 1575 who can...

  • Comment number 5.

    I think people who read this blog are well aware of the petition as it has been linked to extensively in comments. We have also linked in the blog's delicious links to blog posts and other articles which have also mentioned the petition. These links have been prominently displayed in the "BBC on blogs" box on the right hand side of the blog.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nick, what you mention is true, but that is still quite different to the editor actually mentioning it in his blog, though repeating the Which? report.

  • Comment number 7.

    He repeated it because there was a follow up to it that was worth listening to, not because he was trying to hammer home any particular point of view.

  • Comment number 8.

    The amusing(?) thing is that I've seen when they've put anti-BBC links in the "Round Ups" and "BBC on Blogs" sections. And nobody bats an eyelid.
    But God Forbid that they post something that actually defends themselves against a negative opinion.

  • Comment number 9.

    So, either

    1/ My tv developed a fault in August

    2/ I'm open to auto suggestion.

    3/ Programme makers are going for the 'cinematic look'

    Complete rubbish. Gavin & Stacey and The Royle Family should NEVER have passed quality control. The picture quality was a complete joke and instead of owning up to it you are now trying to turn it back on the viewers blaming our equipment or our vision.

    Please show the old idents again on the preview loop of Angel Falls and let's see if you are right Ms Nagler.

    Regards,

    Fed up bbc hd viewer.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good to see BBC HD PQ issues raised straight away. BBC, clearly this is a real issue for your viewers so when can we hear something formal, or is it going to have to go through the BBC Trust?

  • Comment number 11.

    How long before the picture quality drops to that as the dreadful SD quality on DTT?

  • Comment number 12.

    Obviously the BBC is going to highlight Which's report. I don't blame the BBC for that.

    What I do blame the BBC for, though, is misrepresenting the situation. I can believe that changing the encoders used would lead to a situation where bitrate could be decreased without affecting picture quality (though that isn't the case here). However, I can't believe that the same can be said for the decrease in horizontal resolution from 1920 to 1440 pixels. You are decreasing the amount of information shown on the screen, and you're removing the 1:1 pixel mapping that those of us fortunate enough to be viewing with full-HD sets benefited from. Nobody from the BBC has addressed the resolution issue, and they won't, because it's undeniable: resolution has decreased, so picture quality has decreased.

    Now, I don't know what the tests Which? performed involved, but I'm astounded at their conclusion to the point that it seriously questions that organisation's credibility. The picture quality is so readily shown to have deteriorated: just look at the grass during coverage of a sports match (can't see every blade any more, can you?), or the title sequence to Strictly Come Dancing (artefacts all over the place).

    The BBC should be representing the pinnacle of technical quality: it should set the standards that commercial broadcasters follow. Without the BBC maintaining high standards, it's only a matter of time before the commercial broadcasters drop their standards too.

    I haven't followed the BBC's complaints procedure on this issue yet, but the way this issue has been handled is beyond belief and if the attitude doesn't change I'll reluctantly don the mantle of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells. Please, acknowledge that people are seeing a deterioration in quality, do us the decency of explaining why you've done it, and either bump the bitrate and resolution back up or give us an incredibly good reason why you won't.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thanks for HD Tennis Murray

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Dear aku-aku Thanks for the post here. Just to let you know the BBC HD Channel has always been transmitted 1440 x 1080 (have a look at the Hitchhiker's Guide blogs). I am happy to discuss this over on the "Salmon of Style" blog.

    Dear wednesday83. Please don't blame Nick if people put up abusive or inappropriate posts. The blog has not been deleted and is still there for all to see. We have told you all we have done and the comparisons we have made and the "Salmon of Style" is still going.

  • Comment number 16.

    Nick: Having closed the HD PQ blog please be aware that those of us who have seen the BBC HD team take away what was once the Gold Standard of Broadcast HD in the UK are very angry at those who made this decision and appalled with the failure to at least acknowledge this reduction and the implication that those of us who have invested in high end home equipment to receive what the BBC HD exposed us to during the trail are not the target audience of the BBC HD team, even though we have a licence. If the HD performance we once got from the BBC HD channel then what was the purpose of the trial?

  • Comment number 17.

    Its a shame though Andy that BBC HD staff cannott understand why the abuse has started. I know some people at BBC HD clearly feel that by closing the conversation on Quality we will just go away so BBC HD can carry on ripping viewers off.

    It could easily be stopped by BBC HD staff taking some responsibility, accepting the quality has gone down and not is not good enough and getting it sorted. If you cant then just be honest with is as to why you have to have such sub standard quality.

    A simple way to stop the flack is to increase the bandwith and increase the resolution to what all other channels use.

    The abuse and negativity could so easily be stopped.

  • Comment number 18.

    And just to say as well its not Nick I blame for the abusive posts, its BBC HD at fault.

  • Comment number 19.

    17. At 4:28pm on 06 Feb 2010, wednesday83 wrote:

    "...so BBC HD can carry on ripping viewers off."

    You DO NOT pay (extra) for BBC HD, so just how are they "ripping" your off?!

  • Comment number 20.

    How are they ripping viewers off?? Maybe by claiming its an HD channel to start with. They are not running at full resolution and also running at unnaceptable bit rates. The quality has dropped and they deny it.

    The following is taken from www.bbc.co.uk/HD.

    "HD gives you exceptionally clear, crisp pictures with vivid colours and up to five times more detail than standard definition."

    Since when did BBC HD give this?? Ok this actually refers to HD and does not mention BBC HD but this is clearly to mis leading viewers.

    It should mention in the same paragraph that due to BBC HDs lack and bandwith and resolution you will not get this unless you live outside the UK.

  • Comment number 21.

    #20. At 6:35pm on 07 Feb 2010, wednesday83 wrote:

    How are they ripping viewers off?? Maybe by claiming its an HD channel to start with.

    It is, go look at it's spec, try watching it via a SD receiver and you'll will see nothing...

    "The following is taken from www.bbc.co.uk/HD.
    [actually http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbchd/ ]

    "HD gives you exceptionally clear, crisp pictures with vivid colours and up to five times more detail than standard definition."

    [my emphasis above]


    All the advertising I've ever seen for HD has used the same phrase (even BSkyB use it...) when highlighting PQ, nothing has ever been set in stone.

    My guess is that you read the "What TV" type of hype, the sort of (all but) advertorial reviews, with great chunks of manufactures bumph cut and pasted into the article to impress and make out the mag knows it's stuff, you lapped it all up and never actually stopped to consider the theoretical against what is actually practicable (both technical and monatory) as a day-to-day broadcast channel.

    It would be more understandable if you were complaining about BSkyB's HD service, after all you're actually paying for the service there, not just getting a free ride off the backs of people who would prefer the SD service to be improved, or at least not cutback - in the case of the BBC, such as not closing some of the DVB-T 'Red Button' services for example!

    Time for a HD TVL perhaps, after all the BBC Colour service was (originally) paid for via the two tier TVL, perhaps now is the time for a three tier TVL?...

  • Comment number 22.

    #21 Boilerplated

    "My guess is that you read the "What TV" type of hype, the sort of (all but) advertorial reviews, with great chunks of manufactures bumph cut and pasted into the article to impress and make out the mag knows it's stuff, you lapped it all up and never actually stopped to consider the theoretical against what is actually practicable (both technical and monatory) as a day-to-day broadcast channel"

    False assumptions only serve to mislead. The HD Picture Quality issue is real and occurred early August 2009 when the BBC changed its encoders and lowered the transmission bitrate by nearly 40%. Archived footage from before that change confirms what was achievable within the BBC's budget.

  • Comment number 23.

    22. At 11:08am on 08 Feb 2010, burnlea wrote:

    "False assumptions only serve to mislead."

    Sorry but the only misleading going on is amongst the, ego-driven, complaints. I'm not doubting peoples experiences, but their expectations, no one has EVER said - never mind promised - that HD will deliver 5 times more picture detail, just that it 'can' (a difference that so often gets lost in the sales/magazine spiel). It's the 'I'm being ripped off' type of hyperbolic rant that annoys me, when something is free (BBC HD is not a core service, they could withdraw from HD tomorrow if they wished) one can't start accusing the BBC of ripping people off.

    Now, if there was a HD TVL fee (to pay for the broadcast side of the BBC HD service)...

  • Comment number 24.

    Boilerplated and burnlea - can you cool it please.

  • Comment number 25.

    #23 Boilerplated,

    Conscious of Nick's admonishment, all I will say is the HD picture quality debate is about the reduction in picture quality that occured last August, and not in any way about expectations.

  • Comment number 26.

    #23, Boilerplated wrote: "no one has EVER said - never mind promised - that HD will deliver 5 times more picture detail, just that it 'can'"

    really? I must be seeing things then:

    "Experience a range of entertainment in HD with five times more detail than standard definition giving you clearer and more lifelike pictures and super sharp sound."

    here: http://www.freeview.co.uk/freeview/Services/Freeview-HD

  • Comment number 27.

    In reply to comments @ #26:

    Now cite the SD standards, that will give you what 5x means in this context. 5x my current DVB-T PQ/reception would just gives me decent analogue, not HD! Colour reproduction is another issue, I'll grant you that, HD really can make a difference.

    "Five Times" is just a marketing slogan, that is, until you actually know where the base-point is...

  • Comment number 28.

    #27, Boilerplated, I don't disagree with you. I'm merely pointing out that when you stated in #23 that no one has EVER said that, they actually have.

  • Comment number 29.

    re comments @ #28:

    But they haven't as they haven't given the base point, that is my point, HD probably is 100x better (even now) than the very worst DVB reception that can be found in the UK, the BBC HD service is most certainly not 5x times better - judging from comments on these blogs - than someone watching a half decent and correctly set up SD TV receiving it's signal from Crystal Palace transmitter, with line of sight, within walking distance, via a new aerial and down-lead!

    Only in the mind of the read (of the advert) has anything actually been compared, it's just crafty - and in my opinion, dishonest - advertising, the results of which have been read on these blogs for the last 6 months from people using their own base-points and was one of the reasons (I suspect) why "Andy Q" had to blog about encoding etc. - to try and set some common base-points within these blogs at least.

  • Comment number 30.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 31.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 32.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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