Archives for November 2009

Round Up: Internet Radio

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 11:07 UK time, Monday, 30 November 2009

If you're interested in Internet Radio then here are three things you may have missed (and which to be honest we missed as well).

Alan Oglivie on the BBC Radio Labs blog posted last week about the BBC's involvement with the Internet Media Device Alliance:

"how does the BBC properly expose the various formats, transports and metadata of our live internet streams that would allow device manufacturers and aggregators to consistantly give our listeners the best experience through their Internet Radio device? It requires all those involved in the chain to be aligned to certain working practices, and perhaps standards."

PaulWebster shares some good news in a comment on Ian Myatt's blog post "Improvements to BBC Local Radio online":

"hurrah... BBC Local Radio On Demand content now available again to Reciva users."

While on What Do They Know an FOI request on Use of Open Formats for BBC radio has unearthed an interesting BBC paper on Audio Codecs in Internet Streaming from 2006.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

Big Personality Test

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Richard Cable | 18:00 UK time, Friday, 27 November 2009

bigperstest_promo_600.jpgThe Big Personality Test, launched on Mon 23 November, is the second major experiment from the BBC's Lab UK website. I'm pleased to say that we didn't get it wrong when we called it Big. More than 100,000 people completed the test in the first two days and the deluge shows no sign of abating.

Lab UK teamed up with BBC One's Child of Our Time and leading Cambridge academics to deliver a survey that aims to answer the question: do our personalities shape our lives or do our lives shape our personalities? The findings will be revealed in a special series of CoOT in spring/summer 2010.

The Big Personality Test is the second in a trilogy of experiments being delivered by the Lab UK team between September 2009 and February 2010. The first was Brain Test Britain, a full-scale clinical trial that will hopefully tell us whether or not brain training actually works. This is still underway. The third experiment is still being defined, but will be looking at what the internet is doing to our brains.

Despite the development of Lab UK taking place at a truly break-neck speed over the last eight months, we've had to make very few adjustments to our ambitions for the project. And as the Big Personality Test has shown, even where we've not yet delivered the full package to the users, the users are showing a great willingness to fill in the blanks.

For example, we've yet to formally 'socialise' Lab UK with the likes of Facebook, Twitter et al, but this hasn't been a barrier to users who have been furiously tweeting their Big Five personality traits ("Just took the BBC Big Personality Test and scored high on neuroticism! I wonder if this is common across wedding planners...?!") and screengrabbing their results graphs for blogs and profiles.

Needless to say, we have plans to actively facilitate the viral spread of future Lab UK experiments through social networks, as well as delivering experiments for under 18s and looking at some interesting data visualisation ideas for user feedback and experiment results. Then there's the rack of exciting experiment ideas we're developing for 2010 onwards, looking at everything from risky business to the science of sound.

Lab UK started out with two big ideas about how to engage the public in mass-participation experiments online. First, we wanted to use science to tell people something meaningful about themselves. Second, we wanted to tap into a more altruistic motive, by asking people to contribute to the greater good by participating in groundbreaking experiments. As any scientist will tell you, nothing is ever proved beyond all doubt, but the initial results are very encouraging.

Richard Cable is part of the BBC Lab UK team.

Sharing iPlayer data

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Jo Hamilton | 17:45 UK time, Friday, 27 November 2009

I'm pleased to be able to tell you that from today, the BBC is sharing iPlayer data in more detail than ever before. The numbers give new insights into how people use the service, who they are and which programmes are most popular. Data will be available for how many people watched via live simulcast versus on demand. And even how many people watch iPlayer on each platform - be it PC, mobile or games console.

What the data shows is as many men as women use iPlayer, with the typical iPlayer user younger than the typical TV viewer or radio listener. As you might expect, the vast majority of people access it via computer, but mobile and games console usage is growing.

We'll be publishing figures for TV and radio first but views of shorter clips will follow later and within the pack there's a technical note on how we collect the data.

Jo Hamilton is the Head Of Audience Measurement, BBC.

Pic of the Day: BeebCamp 3

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 13:21 UK time, Friday, 27 November 2009

Beebcamp 2009 - the sessions boardI managed to sneak out to catch a few sessions at BeebCamp, an event organised to bring together BBC people from different areas to work together for the day. I'm normally a bit of a cynic when it comes to organised attempts at creativity but I'm happy to admit that in this instance I'm very wrong. The two sessions I attended, the first on social media and news stories and the second on story-telling online, were quite inspiring and served to remind me that there are a lot of very very smart people around the place.

I'll pull together any blogs, reports and pictures on today's sessions in a round up next week. In the meantime read about BeebCamp 2 and the first BeebCamp (and follow #bc3 on twitter - NR).
Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Changes to BBC Weather site

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Richard Chapman Richard Chapman | 13:08 UK time, Friday, 27 November 2009

Since the launch of the new-look weather site back in February, we have continued to develop, and we have moved content from the old site.

Most recently, we added the Monthly Outlook to our UK Forecast page. We've also made improvements behind the scenes to make the site quicker to load and even more reliable.

The next release of improvements, coming soon, will be visibly more noticeable than others we've made since February.

These are part of our continuing effort to make the site clearer and easier to use, whether you use the site to get a quick snapshot of the current forecast or want more detailed information about the weather conditions.

Screenshot of Find a Forecast web page

Following feedback from our audiences, and ideas from our weather team, we have made it easier to "Find a Forecast" when you arrive and easier to scan the 24-hour and five-day forecasts to see the weather trend over the coming hours or days.

To read the full post of Changes to BBC Weather site and to leave a comment visit The Editors website.

Round up: iPlayer on Freesat

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:27 UK time, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Yesterday the BBC confirmed the imminent arrival of iPlayer on Freesat. In a double whammy of on demand goodness Freesat viewers will also be able to receive catch up from ITV via the ITV Player. Here's some of the what's being said.

The bad news though, as laid out by The Guardian is that the roll-out starts as:

"... a limited, closed 'beta' version of the iPlayer set to launch on 7 December for "a few hundred" selected users."

There is however some good news for the patient among us:
"Freesat said it was aiming to launch an open beta version of the iPlayer, accessible to around 230,000 Freesat households with compatible set-top boxes, by Christmas."


Digital Spy reported that the popularity of iPlayer on TV platforms was seen as justifying the latest moves. In a detailed report Digital Spy quoted blog regular (and head of TV platforms at the BBC) Rahul Chakkara who:

"...revealed that iPlayer registered 97.2 million programme views during October, with 26% coming via TV platforms rather than the web. He said that the figure gives 'validity' to the BBC's efforts to bring the service to Freesat and other suitable TV platforms."

The Digital Spy piece also pointed out that not all Freesat viewers will be able to access the service:

"When it fully launches, the on-demand platform will be available on all Freesat HD equipment, including integrated TVs, but standard definition receivers will not be able to access it."

And while it's on HD receivers it won't start out as HD:

"Despite the platform only being available on HD receivers, it will not support any HD programming. Chakkara said that the team is adopting a 'crawl first' approach to getting the SD service right before looking into HD. He said that any HD launch would also be dependent on available capacity on the UK's broadband networks due to the much greater bandwidth required for HD streams."

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

More about Freesat and iPlayer on the web:

The People's Politician

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 17:05 UK time, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

twitter_welcone_600.jpgOver on the Editors blog to introduce The People's Politician Tom Giles, executive producer, BBC Current Affairs, has written:

Today, the BBC is helping to launch an new experiment to try and re-invigorate the link between MPs and their constituents - using what's known as "direct democracy" to test how far politicians are willing to do what local people want.

Tom goes on to explain:
Two long-serving MPs - both standing down at the next election and from very different constituencies - have agreed to take part: Ann Widdecombe (Con - Maidstone and the Weald) and Richard Caborn (Lab - Sheffield Central). Ann starts today with an announcement in her constituency and a new website. Richard Caborn will do the same early in the new year.

For three weeks, they'll try to become as accessible as possible to their constituents - using online tools, social networks and text messaging. They'll aim to find out what issues their constituents want them to champion and turn into real action - whether in Parliament or elsewhere.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

ArcHak Archive Development Hack Day

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Ant Miller Ant Miller | 16:59 UK time, Wednesday, 25 November 2009

R&D hosted over 40 colleagues from across the BBC on the 3rd of November for an intensive day of invention, innovation and development.  The format was a 'hack day'- we've run them before on a larger scale, often with partners, (such as Hackday London 07, and Mashed) but this was a different, more specialised set up.

This time we just pulled in people from within the BBC who have been working independently on projects, technologies or systems that touch the archive in some way.

The BBC 'Archive' as managed by the Information and Archives dept is a massive and varied collection- it includes video and film, radio broadcasts and recordings from the very earliest days of the corporation, and written archives and sheet music from well before. Add to that hundreds of thousands of photographs, and you begin to get a picture of the vast collections we hold. Beyond that though is the 'metadata'! This is the crucial cataloguing information; the production notes, the cast lists, running orders, music notes, accounts even. Today every moment of broadcasting is planned, coordinated and tracked by using millions of pieces of information about the programmes, their content, and event the way we deliver it to you, the audiences.

Read the rest of ArcHak Archive Development Hack Day and leave your comments on the R&D blog.

International front page changes

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 14:05 UK time, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Users of the international edition of the BBC News website will notice some changes to the front page today.

We have increased the number of headlines under each of the section headings in the bottom half of the page, made the popular Business and Technology sections more prominent by adding pictures, and we have increased the number of featured items in the video area.

To read the rest of International front page changes and to leave comments visit the Editors blog.

Round up: Monday 23 November 2009

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 16:15 UK time, Monday, 23 November 2009

Link it's what we do posterThere's lots been said about the iPlayer and the arrival of its upgrade on the Nintendo Wii both on the blog and out in the wild. You can even watch a Wii set up demo with the iPlayer's Anthony Rose on YouTube. Most recently on the blog Gideon Summerfield from the iPlayer team explained some of the technical background, CNET put the Wii iPlayer up against the PS3 iPlayer while blogger David Artiss was pleasantly surprised that he had some BBC bods commenting on his Wii post and more so that we'd linked to him from the blog:

"I was, however, even more surprised to come in this morning and find that the same post had been referenced on the BBC website! I suspect they've not seen my update though, where I had constant problems with bandwidth problems and the resultant pausing of playback."

Regular readers will already know we're all about the links (and not just to the postive stuff). My favourite Wii iPlayer quote so far (from the Scottish Genealogy News and Events blog):


"It's all great news, but since I installed it yesterday, my four year old has made me watch at least four episodes of Peppa Pig, and he's taken a real shine to the Gaelic version of Postman Pat (Padraig Post) from BBC Alba...!"

Last week Erik Huggers admitted that the launch of Canvas may be delayed until 2011 if the BBC Trust don't publish their interim conclusions by the end of the year. C21 have also released their video interview with Erik Huggers about Project Canvas.

For burgeoning video editors out there we have two opportunities for you to show what you can do. Episode three of R&DTV, the TEDxManchester special, is available for downloading and mashing or if that sounds too energetic you can watch streams of the speakers including R&D's Head Matthew Postgate on "What is Broadcasting?". The Digital Revolution team who are putting together a TV doc on the web have been making lots of their rushes available under a special licence and will shortly be launching a competition to cut a trailer or short film. (See the work of one enterprising individual on Vimeo.) Interestingly the Internet blog notes that of the 25 interview packages available to download so far for mashing there's only one featuring a female interviewee - albeit the indomitable Arianna Huffington.

In case you missed it, there are two new BBC blogs worth checking out: Web Developer and a new R&D blog. Ant Miller explains the background to the latter on his blog.

And finally, the winner of this week's most interesting concatenation award is Tom Scott for his post: Lego, Wombles and Linked Data.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Changing headlines

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 14:09 UK time, Friday, 20 November 2009

From today users of the BBC News website will start to see a slight change in some of our headlines on stories (Editor's note - this blog post was originally published yesterday).

In some cases these will be longer than they are now, to allow us to spell out in more detail what and who the story is about. This is so that people using search engines to look for the story can find it more easily.

That's probably enough detail for anyone who's read this far. But if not, and you'd like to know more about why we are doing this, please read on...

The practice of "search engine optimisation" - making content in such a way that it is easily retrieved via search engines - is an important area for us and for others across the web.

A growing number of users come to stories on the BBC site from places other than our own front page - for example search engines, other sites, personal recommendations, Twitter or RSS feeds.

So our developers have done a bit of work to allow journalists the scope to create two headlines for a story if they want to....

Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website

Read more and comment at the Editors at BBC News


BBC iPlayer on the Wii: technical details

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Gideon Summerfield Gideon Summerfield | 09:44 UK time, Friday, 20 November 2009

We have been bowled over by the positive response to the launch of the new BBC iPlayer for the Wii. Twitter has been abuzz with comments, such as "a revolution in TV watching" and "feels like how TV should be and just might be in the future."

Many people are also interested in the technical details of what we've done and how the BBC iPlayer service will develop on TV-connected devices. So here goes....

First, the video: we're using the H.264 codec at a rate in the region of 700kbit/sec. The quality is probably as good as H.264 can get on this device. We've worked closely with Nintendo and our encoding partner Red Bee Media to squeeze every last drop of video goodness out of the Wii. It's been a balancing act: too much resolution or data and the CPU struggles and drops frames.

Compare this to BBC iPlayer on the PC, where most boxes deal happily with our 1500kbit/sec for regular TV and even 3200kbit/sec for HD (assuming they can get data fast enough).

Needless to say you won't be seeing HD on the current Wii, I'm afraid. But with a more efficient codec and higher bitrate, our new version of BBC iPlayer is doing a lot better. The Flash plug-in available in the browser on the Wii, on which we used to rely, could only support the Sorenson Spark codec at around 500kbit/sec.

BBC Radio content - well over 2000 hours every week - is delivered in the AAC format at 128kbit/sec, the same as on the PC and better quality than DAB. And our Radio Station animations, delivered at the same time, give a hint of what visualised radio could be on IPTV platforms.

We've really been breaking new ground here. This is the very first application built on an all-new rich media solution from Nintendo. So, you will understand that we can't achieve all we want to right away. Subtitles, for instance, are not immediately available as the platform can't ingest and parse the feeds we have while playing video. As part of our development programme we are seeking other ways to deliver subtitles.

In response to JonathanExplorer's question about chapterisation, I'd like to say yes, absolutely - many of the exciting functions you are seeing introduced to BBC iPlayer on the PC will come to the TV, where they add value to the lean-back experience. Likewise we expect to add new functions on TV that enhance the 10ft experience that might not make sense on the PC.

And be assured - we're not stopping with the Wii. As Rahul said, this launch is just part of the "challenging programme to expand the reach of BBC iPlayer in the living room."

Gideon Summerfield is Product Manager, TV iPlayer

New BBC Blogs on the Block: Web Developer and Research & Development

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 16:50 UK time, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Baldrick and BlackadderThere are two new BBC blogs to tell you about that look like they're going to be well worth following.

The Web Developer blog rather self-effacingly and modestly describes itself as

"A blog about the web and the BBC, from the people who build the BBC website."
From its first half dozen or so posts you can see that this is a blog that isn't afraid to get down and dirty and tell it how it is. As Richard Northover, a developer at the BBC who's also one of the blog's editors, writes in his introductory Hello World post:
"This new blog will be from people who spend their days up to their eyeballs in the nitty-gritty of building bbc.co.uk. It'll be less about the grand scheme of things, and more about the details of how things work - and often don't work - down on the front line. If the Internet Blog is the view from General Melchett, this is Blackadder. And, inevitably, Baldrick."

I like what they're doing and what they're saying (even if I don't understand all of it) and hope you will too.

A more recent arrival is the Research & Development blog which is the place

"...where researchers, scientists and engineers from BBC R&D share their work in developing the media technologies of the future."
In his opening post Matthew Postgate, the Controller of Research & Development at the BBC, says that:
"This blog will form a part of the way we show you how we are working, developing and growing, and will of course offer a place where you can ask us about our work.

So get your questions ready for Matthew and the team. Also as a taste have a look at the latest post from earlier today by John Fletcher, a BBC Senior Engineer, that's all about Ingex
"...a PC-based audio/video recording system that can be used in multi-camera studios instead of video tape recorders."

Paul Murphy is the editor of the Internet blog.

The future of audio: The UK Radioplayer

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 12:25 UK time, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Editor's note (PM): There's a very interesting demo that I'm sure will set off much debate on the About the BBC blog where Tim Davie, Director, BBC Audio & Music has written about the UK Radioplayer.

Tim Davie writes:

Today I have been at the Media Festival in Manchester talking about 'The Future of Audio'. My speech followed the announcement this morning of the industry-wide UK Radioplayer and I was delighted to show the audience this mocked-up demo of how the player might look and work...

To view the UK Radioplayer demo and leave comments head over to the About the BBC blog.

Pic of the day: iPlayer on the Wii

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 16:10 UK time, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

wii_iplayer_600.jpg

David Artiss, writing on his blog Artiss.co.uk:

Last night, or rather at midnight, the BBC iPlayer channel was released for the Nintendo Wii.
The iPlayer has been usable in the past using the Opera-powered browser channel, but has been of limited quality and, well, not very easy to use. Now we have a very specific channel just for iPlayer. And it's been a long time coming - the BBC have been talking about it for a year and a half.
However, I can only assume they've spent this time on development and testing because the end result is superb...

Earlier this week on the blog Rahul Chakkara, Controller TV platforms previewed some screens of the upgraded iPlayer on the Wii. The service went live last night and we're starting to see and hear what you think about it. So far, like David Artiss's blog post above, they've mostly been positive as have the comments on Rahul's post. One of this blog's commenters Andrew Oakley has written a neat summary of features in his post BBC iPlayer for Ninetendo Wii: First Impressions . But if you are having problems then do check out the iPlayer messageboards.

It looks like a good job all round so many thanks to everyone concerned and keep the feedback rolling in.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

BBC HD on Freeview: rollout dates

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 15:40 UK time, Monday, 16 November 2009

There's a press release that's appeared today on the BBC press office website that outlines the planned roll out of Freeview HD. I've pulled out a couple of interesting paragraphs but it's worth looking at the full release as it has the dates for different bits of the country:

Today the BBC has confirmed the timetable that will make HD services on Freeview available to 50% of the population in time for next June's World Cup, and to 98.5% of the population by the end of digital switchover in three years' time.

and
New DVB-T2 technology will deliver an increase in capacity of 67% to the BBC's Multiplex B, efficiently creating the space needed for UK public service broadcasters' HD transmissions. The UK will be the first country in the world to launch this new standard, and its successful implementation is the result of pioneering work by the BBC in collaboration with partners including Ofcom, Arqiva, Siemens and receiver manufacturers. To view Freeview HD, audiences will need equipment containing this new technology. Freeview HD receivers (set-top boxes, digital television recorders and integrated televisions) will be available from early 2010.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Some coverage so far:


The new iPlayer on the Nintendo Wii

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Rahul Chakkara Rahul Chakkara | 17:45 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

Tuesday 17 November 2009, Editor's update: We've now been supplied images taken from the Wii so have taken down the designer's mock ups and posted five of the latest images at the end of the post. (PM)

We have just announced the release of a new version of BBC iPlayer for Nintendo Wii. The new version is a Flash based application using the newly released Video on Demand Framework (VODF) from Nintendo. From 18 November you can find and install the BBC iPlayer application from the Wii shop at no cost. This version replaces the previous browser based version.

There were multiple challenges on this project. The design challenge was to make the iPlayer work on the television screen in a simple way. The team streamlined the user journeys. We have used the rumble feature on the controller to give feedback. A search feature allows you to find the content easily. The design team went through multiple iterations; user testing and got to what I believe is an experience you would like.

The technical challenges were many. The technical teams had to optimise and innovate in every part of the technical chain to make iPlayer work on an embedded device. Due to the limited processing power and memory available on these types of devices, most of the effort went into optimising data requests, minimising client side processing, reducing network traffic and balancing the remaining processing power available for video decoding with interface and interaction features.

This release is part of a challenging programme to expand the reach of BBC iPlayer in the living room by syndicating it on television devices and platforms. I will keep you updated.

Rahul Chakkara is Controller, TV Platforms, BBC FM&T.


17 November 2009, new images from the Wii added below:

WiiChannel_v2_600.jpg

Channel_Schedule_600.jpg

Programme_life_600.jpg

Radio_Stations_600.jpg

Top_Gear_600.jpg

Points of View and HD Picture Quality: a response

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 14:20 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

Hello,

As there is no conspiracy around picture quality, and therefore no great revelation to make, I can only apologise to those of you who found my Points of View appearance a disappointment. But given the blog inches which have been devoted to the subject - and the challenges therefore for new joiners - I thought it might be helpful to set out clearly and at slightly greater length than is possible on air, the issues that are being debated.

The charge made by a number of you is that the substantial drop in bitrate for BBC HD since the channel was launched - and in particular the reduction in bitrate in August when new encoders were introduced - has had a "catastrophic" effect on the picture quality offered by the channel.

For those not in the know, it might help to clarify what bitrate is. Just like MP3 music, pictures can be broken down into digits or bits, and transmitted as a stream of information. The bitrate is the number of bits of information sent every second. This debate is to an extent about the impact that more bits per second has on quality. Those who believe that picture quality has deteriorated because of the drop in bitrate are of the view that picture quality is determined to a significant extent by the "speed" at which bits are transmitted. My view, and the view of the BBC HD team that works with me, is that picture quality is less to do with "speed" and more to do with the way the information is processed.

Now back to what has happened to date.

  • When BBC HD launched as a trial service in June 2006 it was one of the first HD channels off the block. It used first generation systems with first version software, and used a bitrate of around 19Mbs. Consistent picture quality was a big issue even with a pretty limited range of content.

  • By June 2007, new software delivered improvements to picture quality, and the bitrate reduced to around 16Mbs.

  • By August of this year, the old hardware was reaching the end of its life and was no longer supported effectively. We therefore put new encoders into service, supported by new software. These encoders handle pictures differently from the old, and are able therefore to work with a lower bitrate of 9.7Mbs.

  • The new encoders were tested in advance of being slotted into the BBC HD broadcasting chain. But that testing did not pick up problems with some very specific mixes and lighting changes. These issues became apparent very quickly during the broadcast of a Championship Football match on the channel. We acknowledged the problems, apologised, have put a temporary solution to the problem, and are testing a permanent one.

  • There also appear to be some issues around picture "noise" - basically more fuzziness in what should be solid areas of pictures - which we have been seeing a bit more of since the encoder change. As far as we can tell, these are as a result of the "better" pictures now being transmitted to TV sets by the new encoders. Because the new technology conveys the picture information captured by cameras more comprehensively, for the first time we are seeing information that has been picked up but which was effectively "softened" by the system previously in place. We're obviously working on dealing with that too.

  • But, with the exceptions I've outlined, in our view the new encoders are as we hoped delivering the same or better picture quality across the majority of programmes, the majority of the time.

We all need to accept that a great deal of our perception of HD picture quality is driven by our pre-conceptions. Some Dutch research published last month (the report I saw was from Informa, dated 28 Oct 09) highlights the extent to which views on picture quality are driven by expectation and emotion. On an HD TV, without an HD connection or receiver, some people will believe that they are watching HD pictures and believe they look substantially better than SD. I have no doubt that for those who believe the bitrate cut has killed picture quality, none of the changes to the encoders that we will make to address the problems which we know are there will make any difference, unless they go hand in hand with an announcement that we've upped the bitrate.

I hope what I have outlined makes clear there is no grand cover-up - and I know that the Head of Technology for BBC HD, Andy Quested, has plans to write at length on the testing that we have done and the detailed assessment that underpins the view that there is no decisive relationship between bitrate and picture quality. I hope it is also clear to everyone - regardless of where they sit in this debate - that it would be an act of extreme stupidity for the BBC deliberately to create an HD service which set no higher standards, and delivered no better picture quality, than its SD channels.

Picture quality, and beyond that the overall delivery of the channel, is of course of the utmost concern. But so too is ensuring that there are programmes available that people want to watch on BBC HD. At the moment we are airing around 40 hours of new content a week on BBC HD, a reflection of the extent to which the mainstream of BBC programming is moving across to the new technology. Sunday night sees the long-awaited arrival of Top Gear on BBC HD, in conjunction with its return to BBC Two. The coming weeks will also see the first ever Children in Need night in HD, and a broadcast of a special Children in Need concert. There's new contemporary comedy and drama, and we are going of course to be bringing you the last appearances of David Tennant as Doctor Who, and next year will see the arrival of Matt Smith as the new Doctor, and the first full series to be made in HD. Next year will also herald moves into HD for The Apprentice, and a number of other major series are also in discussion, alongside an emphasis through the year on some major science programming. The Christmas schedule will be out in the next couple of weeks - we're in the process of finalising it - but I can promise you that the vast majority of BBC treats will be in HD, and we will be offering extended broadcast hours through the holiday period.

I'm delighted that beyond the commentary here, more and more of you and your friends are finding and enjoying some of the new programmes that we're showing in HD. We will keep on extending the range - and managing the quality of what we do - and trying to organise those programmes as best we can for you while the BBC HD shelf gets progressively fuller.

Best wishes,
Danielle

Danielle Nagler is the Head of BBC HD, BBC Vision.

Erik Huggers at C21: "This is not the BBC entering into Social Networks."

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 10:50 UK time, Friday, 13 November 2009

Erik Huggers at c21 Future Media Conference 2009I'm in the cinema at BAFTA's London venue at the C21 Future Media conference waiting for the keynote speech from BBC online boss Erik Huggers. (Pictured above: On the right Erik Huggers, BBC and on the left David Jenkinson, C21 MD)

Erik's keynote is titled "Future Media the next wave of innovation" and (so the programme says) addresses questions like "What is the future of digital entertainment at the BBC? From the challenge of Canvas to the Corporation's role in Digital Britain..."

The moderator David Jenkinson announces we're going to start late due to delays on the tube. What ever happened to video conferencing, working from home and while we're at it where's my jet pack?

BTW, the conference organisers are filming today and will be making them available "over the coming weeks". When they do we'll link to them. In the meantime you'll have to do with my notes.

Erik gets on the platform. He has a slide presentation and some notes. (NB: Quotes are as accurate as my typing allows. I'll update the post and add additional links and some photos later today.)

Slide: Some background to the last year and great promise for 2010.
Erik's key things currently:
Social media: Facebook no. 3 most visited UK website
Microblogging: Twitter 3000% growth;
Social gaming:
On demand media: no longer a growing thing but has reached critical mass - not just iPlayer also C4, ITV, Sky, Hulu, Blinkbox. In that on demand space it's getting confusing for consumers: plus we have Arqiva and Google entering marketing on demand market. On demand is everywhere on all platforms.

Mobile is the next big thing as Mary Meeker said at Web 2.0. iPhone "as game changer" with over 1m handsets in consumer hands.

"It's all going to be about the battle for the attention of the consumer. Web 2.0 has lowered the barriers to entry."

Amazon webservices and a credit card is all you need for a start up.

Slide: BBC Online 2009

  • Democracy Live: TV of democracy in UK using tech like speech to text.
  • The wild life finder: uses natural history archive, made into clips, searchable, 300+ clips online.
  • Formula 1: do something on web that extends experience, multi-camera, track conditions
  • Glasto: more info and catch up
Slide: BBC Red Button Pic on Flickr Not just online, still reaches 11m users/week. Glasto, F1, CBBC, Maestro cam. It usually skews older, downmarket. Each of these content areas is effectively a red button app. It points towards the web coming to the TV set. More later.

Slide: BBC Mobile Pic on Flickr
Reaches people who don't use web or red button. Younger, upmarket. So across platforms we're reaching more and more licence fee payers. Currently driven by news, sports, weather, local. But also more handsets now have access to iPlayer.

Slide: BBC iPlayer
A stunning year. Recent RTS Award. Service 5m users per week as a top level domain. 27m uniques on bbc online total. What's the conversion rate? 80%. Why? Super-easy to use and just works.

"We willl continue to push forward on multi-platform for iPlayer"

Slide: iPlayer usage by platform: Pic on Flickr
PC 55%
Mac 7%
Mobile/Touch 6%
PS3 6%
Virgin Media 26%

Consumers love to watch telly in their living room. Points to a bright future for Canvas and other IPTV plays that want to get into the living-room. PS3 community almost as big as Mac.

Erik tells an anecdote about PC and Mac users: how different are they? PC users favour EastEnders and the soaps and Mac users like the comedy. Admittedly Mac sample is a smaller group.

What will the BBC do in 2010?

Slide: iPlayer - The Next Wave Blurry pic on Flickr

iPlayer v3. Based on feedback from users:

  • Even simpler to use
  • Just two tabs: TV and Radio (no home, genre)
  • Area chosen by an editor ("Featured"); Algorithm recommendation ("For You"); ("Most popular"); Social recommendations ("Friends")

"This is not the BBC entering into Social networks. I repeat This is not the BBC entering into Social networks. It's the opposite." Bring your friends and connect to them on iPlayer. You can see what your friends are watching and reading. Other people already doing it.

iPlayer already on Wii. Has been clumsy. Soon we'll be launching a dedicated Nintendo Wii application, built by the team here (London) in partnership with the Manchester team. Wii has 6m boxes in this country so making iPlayer available will help users enjoy BBC programmes. Pic on Flickr

Slide: Search +
Allowing users to find more BBC content more easily. A new service called Search +. A one stop shop on things you might be interested in. "It'll pull together all info across news, audio, video, knowledge around a topic or personality in one place.

Slide: Social Discovery Pic on Flickr
Not about social networking. About using the fact that your friends are likely to use BBC services to read, watch, listen to stuff - the lens is through your friends. "We believe people discover great things through their friends."

Slide: Canvas
Working w. industry driving standards through DTG. "We believe Canvas will be a game changer. It still needs approval by BBC Trust. If it gets it what will it mean? Democratise access to the living-room. Much more than TV and access to the internet - about allowing developers to build apps to reach users. The beauty is that it's all based on internet technology standards."

(Canvas demo of Olympics: Onscreen menus with buttons: watch, record, apps. There's a BBC Olympics app alongside a Nike app. Ed's update: You can watch the Canvas demo on YouTube courtesy of Paidcontent UK, shot in wobbly cam)

"It's important that the platform supports the ability to transact from day 1"

(Demo: Carousel tab with archive ("classic moments"); your highlights; Twitter app: see what people are saying about Bolt.)

Erik: 2012 will have 5000+ hours of video. Not enough hours to broadcast on linear, web is where it'll all be made available.

(Demo: Message from friends alerting to stuff that's going on)

Different users have different logins.

Erik calls for industry to work together w. DTG once Trust approves to drive this forward.

Final slide: Next Wave
Partnership is key in fragmented market. "We have to work together". British companies and consumers will get clobbered with foreign stuff if we don't.
Innovation: value for money - iPlayer on new platforms gives access to licence fee payers.
Next wave dependent on next wave of talent. We need to step up on education and skill sets. We're having a hard time finding talented engineers and we need a skilled set of developers, project managers, etc - in danger of missing out on promise of Digital Britain.

There was a short Q&A
(Missed question)
Erik: Because CC said no to Kangaroo, Trust said no to Open iPlayer many British companies have no choice but to partner with foreign companies.

Question: What will happen if Canvas doesn't go ahead?
Erik: Internet will come to TV whatever happens. If Canvas doesn't happen it'll be a fragmented market. For start ups there'll be the additional costs of reformatting for each different platform versus an open standard.

Question from man from Digital rights group: Bandwidth needed for services like Canvas in demo?
Erik: Requirements minimal, app small, audio and video large but not dissimilar to what we do now on services like iPlayer. There will be a crunch point in the future when the UK must step up to sort out network. South Korea story has 100mb planning upgrade. We have 2mb in this country set too low. Why should we invest? Dutch harbour story at start of century: Rotterdam. Same story for network - if we build it people will build stuff for it.


Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Pic of the day: World Usability day

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 15:26 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Accessibility poster around the BBCThere are a number of posters placed around our floor at Internet blog towers today as part of World Usability day. We probably would have missed it were it not for the internal email we received from the BBC FM&T Usability and Accessibility team (who also put up the posters):

...In companies all over the world usability professionals, designers and developers are today celebrating World Usability Day. Good usability and accessibility makes sense both from a commercial and ethical standpoint. Fantastic strides have been made over recent years in the development of user experiences which are easy, accessible and enjoyable...

Here's a list of UK events that are taking place today on the World Usability day website. There's also a Usability day crossword puzzle the U & A team sent me that you can download and have a crack at. (NB: There are no prizes and I don't want you to send me your completed crosswords. If you get stuck let me know in the comments and I'll get the answers out of the Usability team here.)

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Round up Thursday 12 November 2009

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 10:03 UK time, Thursday, 12 November 2009

boingboing screenshotEverytime we sit down to write a weekly round-up someone somewhere says "No" to the BBC. This week it's the turn of BBC HD and Ofcom to do the dance of refusal.

As HD sagas on the Internet blog go the HD DRM debate is pretty tame compared to the HD PQ ruction. The Guardian reports:

Ofcom has rejected the BBC's request to introduce anti-piracy technology to Freeview to limit the illegal copying of high-definition TV shows, until issues raised by organisations including the Open Rights Group are addressed.

So this may be a pause rather than a wall of refusal. Regular readers of comments on the Internet blog (and I would hope that's all of you as some of the best stuff happens in the comments) may enjoy The Phazer's contributions, on the aforementioned Guardian story.


Boingboing, who along with MP Tom Watson propelled the story to prominence, was celebratory in mood although it may be too soon to say that the "BBC's outrageous plan" has been "shot down in flames". Nevali on Tumbled Logic is gracious enough to say "I don't attribute this to malice, incidentally..."

The upgrade to the BBC's sign in system has been rolled out across the blogs. Some people have reported problems but it was gratifying to see a few kind words on Alex Ng's IA/UX blog (last acronyms for this week I promise).

Ben Chapman of Radio 1 talks about how the station uses social media in a video interview at Microsoft Advertising blog.

And finally, the Internet blog is gratified to learn that we're up five places in the UK Top Tech blogs hit parade. So thank you all for reading and commenting on the blog.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

BBC iPlayer wins Royal Television Society award

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James Hewines | 11:50 UK time, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Last night, the Royal Television Society hosted its annual Innovation awards. At the ceremony, our Controller of BBC Online Seetha Kumar, collected the final award of the evening - the prestigious Judge's Award. The RTS tell me that they created this award to pick out "the greatest vision in determining how the media might develop in the future and how the wider community will relate to all aspects of communication - in effect, mapping out the way which others will follow".

Our team work incredibly hard to try and make iPlayer the very best of its kind. It's of course always exciting to receive awards recognising these high standards, but we're especially proud to be seen to be helping establish the future of TV. These efforts are already producing real results too - in the 12 months to September, monthly viewing inceased by 95% (to 44.5m requests). With this in mind, I'd like to extend my thanks and congratulations to everyone involved.

Watch this space for lots more innovative stuff in the year ahead!

James Hewines is Product Lead, BBC iPlayer

BBC HD: Interview with Danielle Nagler on Points of View

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 08:55 UK time, Monday, 9 November 2009

Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD and a regular contributor to this blog was interviewed on yesterday's Points of View.

Among the topics covered was picture quality which has provoked a lively discussion on Danielle's previous posts.

Here's a link to the programme. The interview with Danielle is the first item. There's also an extended interview on the Points of View website (scroll down - it's the second video after the "Featured" heading).

There are discussions about the programme on the Points of View message board, Digital Spy and a post on Radio and Telly.

Keep your comments civil and within the house rules please.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

Project canvas: an interview with Richard Halton

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 16:22 UK time, Friday, 6 November 2009

Editor's note: In a previous post: Sky can help project Canvas unlock public value, the Director of Canvas Richard Halton responded to Sky's submission to the BBC Trust. This week's Ariel, the BBC's staff paper, carried an interview with Richard about Canvas by Ariel's Clare Bolt. NB: This is the copy that Clare submitted rather than the version that appears in Ariel. (PM)

Ariel: Tom Williams from BBC Interactive described Canvas as 'connected tv' and said it will pave the way for some 'mind-boggling services'.

Richard Halton: We talk about Canvas 'democratising' access to the living room. If you want to be on a tv set at the moment, you have to be a big broadcaster with Freeview or Sky. The great thing about IPTV is that it will allow different forms of content, like video on demand or web services, to get to the tv screen. And like the internet, there are no limits.

Ariel: He also said that the things that punch through 'will be the things that understand tv'.
We're talking about the tv set in the living room. The services you develop for that screen have to be televisual, so you can't have a standard webpage with little links and tiny fonts. IPTV has to be big and impactful, immersive and navigable with a remote control.

Do you think that this is how the majority of people will end up watching tv?
Let me try to paraphrase Bill Gates: he said that people always over estimate how much impact technology will have in the short term, and underestimate how much impact it will have in the long term. We're not suggesting that everybody will suddenly be interacting with their tv sets all of the time, but I think there's potential for Canvas to change their experience.

In what ways?

Well, it will bring a lot more on-demand content within reach of more people. And the sort of interactivity available will probably more exciting and engrossing than the current Red Button.

Are you working on new ways to link programmes with interactive content?
We're looking at lots of different ways in which interactivity - as we see it today on the television with Red Button - can change and evolve. It's part of the multi-platform agenda anyway, particularly in News and Sport. We've been running trial services, which are programme extensions really: at last year's Electric Proms the test service showed different stages and artist information.

What will IPTV mean for the linear tv channels?
It could create a real identity around them: audiences could go to the BBC One homepage and have programmes of the day recommended for them. And the linear channel could become an important navigational tool. If you went to watch Waking the Dead and you'd missed the previous episode you could use the programme on the linear EPG to jump back in time to get it

That's quite neat...
Or you turn on and you've just missed Strictly - you turn on, go back in time through the EPG hit play and instantly play it.

What about the social networking aspects of Canvas?
Think about what you can do today on the internet and take that to a different screen in the house. You could construct formats so people could play along against their friends, which could work well for entertainment formats.

How many BBC people are working on Canvas?
At the moment it's a bit of a labour of love. There are a lot of people from the BBC, Channel 5 and BT giving up some of their time, but until we have a venture post-approval from the Trust, it's a virtual team. A team from Kingswood's R&D department is looking at IPTV and a lot of what we're doing is piggybacking on their good thinking.

Are you still hoping to get set top boxes for Canvas in the shops by next Christmas?
The timetable depends really on the Trust - they're due to announce their initial conclusions fairly imminently.

Richard Halton is the Director of Project Canvas.

BBC iD on blogs update

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 16:32 UK time, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tom (whose team are leading the upgrading of BBC blogs to BBC iD) tells me there are no less than seven different systems involved. So it's not suprising that we've had one or two problems as some of you have commented.

However, broadly speaking we're happy. The vast majority of you have successfully switched over to BBC iD and are using it to post comments on BBC blogs.

And just to answer the Phazer, the bugs you identify are not in fact problems with the BBC iD system itself. They're being worked on but they won't hold up the roll out of BBC iD.

We've also increased our support for dealing with your membership queries. So if you're reading this but are still having problems logging in, email us at membership@bbc.co.uk. And don't forget the help pages for BBC iD as you may find the answer you're looking for there.

Regular readers know that on the Internet blog we love charts and diagrams. The chart below shows new users registering for a BBC iD over last weekend.

registrations_chart_600.jpgThere's a spike that coincides with Strictly Come Dancing being on air and people going to the website to join in via Strictly Social, the online application.

logins_chart_600.jpgThe second chart shows the numbers of people logging into BBC iD. It follows the pattern of the first chart but there's also a rise on Monday that's proportionally larger than the registration pattern in the first chart. This is following the switchover of the BBC's blogs from the old membership service to BBC iD that happened early on Monday morning as users wanting to comment upgraded their accounts.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive , BBC Online

Website problems

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 12:25 UK time, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Some people will have had trouble accessing the BBC website in the past few hours. We've had a network failure that has resulted in access to the site being slow and at some points inaccessible. Our network provider's engineers are working on restoring normal service as soon as possible. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Update, 11:07: I'm pleased to say the problems should now be fixed - we're not aware of any remaining issues.
Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

To leave comments go to The Editors where this post first appeared.

Round up: Wednesday 4 November 2009

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 15:24 UK time, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Rory Cellan-Jones
You'll no doubt recognise the face above as belonging to Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC's technology correspondent who can be found posting most days of the week on the dot.life blog. Rory made it into last week's Round up with his post about Ubuntu (372 comments and counting).

The photo was taken at a get together of BBC bloggers where Rory described how the blog has changed many of the ways he works, not least the way that stories develop through feedback from users either on the blog or via Twitter. Similarly the blog's an ideal outlet for stories that don't make it onto TV or radio because they're more specialised or perhaps too difficult to explain within the confines of a news bulletin.

Tonight's Moral Maze on Radio 4 asks 'when does a popular and spontaneous protest become mob rule?' with particular reference to how people campaign using social media. If you'd like to join in (on Twitter naturally) there are some suggestions over on the Radio 4 blog.

Project Canvas awaits a decision about its future from the BBC Trust (and following the Trust's 'Nein danke' to Open iPlayer nothing is certain). The Telegraph used a FOI request to find out how much had been spent on the project to date: BBC spends nearly £1m on unapproved Project Canvas. The answer is the BBC itself has spent £715,140 and the BBC Trust "nearly £400,000 purely on consulting on whether to give its approval".

C21 today reported:

"The BBC's original submission [to the BBC Trust] put the cost of Canvas to the BBC at £16.6m, based on four partners being involved, but this projection has now been revised to £24.7m. The BBC hopes, however, to have at least six partners in place, a move that would reduce the cost to the BBC to £16.4m."
The BBC Trust issued a further statement about Canvas today and you can read all of BBC management's submissions to the BBC Trust here.

The BBC launched this week what we at blog towers are calling a "a Video wall of democracy on demand" (or a "portal of parliaments" - exec ed) due to its panel of eight feeds from the UK's national political institutions and the European Parliament but the press release is, more mundanely, calling Democracy Live.

Described by CNET as the "worst-kept secret in the history of mankind" the iPlayer is due to appear in a closed Beta on the Freesat platform at the end of November. Apparently it was the fact that "all freesat receivers have had an Ethernet socket fitted to them from launch" that gave the game away.

And finally, over on the other side of BBC Internet blog towers there's the Blueroom. The Blueroom's now on Twitter and it's definitely worth having a look at.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

Subtext: modern day annotation and social media

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James Richards | 13:00 UK time, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Subtext screen grab 1
Subtext was one of the first projects to be originated by the Learning Development team, and answered a call to create a low barrier to entry social media project that could engage one or several of BBC Learning's core audiences. We reflected on how we had studied key texts when we were at school - I remembered paying my school to keep a copy of Hamlet, that had accumulated all of my marginalia after two years of studying the play for O level English literature.

Fundamentally we wanted to provide users with a product which would allow them to select and read a text online, with the capability to then annotate the text with their own notes and to be able to share those notes with other users.

The first step for development producer Andy Littledale was to scope and visualise the project. Andy on the development process:

"We decided at the start that we needed to spec out the interface in a very visual way and that rather than still screen shots done in Photoshop it would be good to design the movement and interaction at the beginning of the process. The obvious thing was to use After Effects to fake the interface in a video. The video would serve two purposes. Firstly to force us to make crucial decisions about the interface design, but also to explain the project to BBC stakeholders is a very visual way. We chose to work with Aardman in Bristol and they did a fantastic job.

As a Flash developer I made sure that what was represented in the video was also possible in reality. After some disappointing results prototyping in Papervision we worked with Adobe on a beta version of Flash 10 to ensure the 3d aspects of the interface were not just a pipe dream.

With an interface designed and essential prototyping completed we commissioned Zupa to build the application using Adobe Flex. Zupa were also tasked with changing the interface to accommodate any size of book. It was no easy task but they excelled in their creative approach to the job. The books themselves were taken from Adelaide university which are themselves taken from the Gutenberg project and reformatted as XHTML.

We are very pleased with the results and looking forward to adding more social media functionality in further releases to create an inspirational BBC product."

Subtext screengrab 2
GCSE Bitesize were the first clients for Subtext, adapting the prototype into the Booknotes production version. Certain social networking functionality needed to be necessarily tuned down for the Bitesize audience but students are still able to sign in to access a text, record their own annotations, and save and transport their notes via a downloadable file. Users of the Booknotes product need to be 16 years and under as it shares an SSO login with the Bitesize message boards.

subtext screengrab 3
The BBC Learning Development team are currently considering where Subtext could go next. As a product it can provide an evolving vehicle that allows users to 'get inside books', and to populate for a limited period a fleeting social network based around a specific need for or a more general love of a text. Classic BBC TV scripts, news transcripts, pending legislation, the minutes of meetings, collaborative crowd sourced translation - the possibilities are exciting.

James Richards is a Development Executive, BBC Learning Development.

Online Access: Skills for Life Conference

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 13:32 UK time, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Editor's note: This is an edited version of a speech Seetha gave at the Skills for Life Conference yesterday. It's a follow up to a previous post we had from Seetha, Why Digital Inclusion Matters.

I am the Controller of BBC Online, but earlier this year I also took on the role of the BBC's Online Access Champion and it's in this capacity that I want to talk about why digital inclusion and participation is important.

I believe passionately in the principles of public service: the Reithian tradition of inform, educate and entertain is as true today as it was over 80 years ago. In the world of the internet and e-skills, the skills for life we all need are the abilities to understand, participate and influence the world around us.

But how do we enable this when there are large sections of society who - due to a lack of skills and other barriers - are still offline and consequently not experiencing or even being able to access the diverse benefits of the internet?

Recent audience research specially commissioned by the BBC shows the scale of the challenge of getting people online. 13.8 million UK adults do not have the internet at home and, of this number, 10.6 million do not use the internet anywhere else either.

In other words, more than a fifth of all adults in the UK are completely excluded from the internet and from being part of the daily dialogue that happens, be it locally, nationally or globally. This is a very significant segment of society which risks getting left behind as the web becomes more and more embedded in our daily lives.

The BBC has a pivotal role to play for the public good. So, how can we better use our offer of world-class News, shows created specifically for the web - such as the recently announced EastEnders: E20 - and the multi award-winning BBC iPlayer, to help close the digital exclusion gap?

Firstly: during Get Online day last month we made use of our range of outlets to reflect the message about the benefits of getting online, with coverage about the day appearing on the BBC homepage and our regional websites, on BBC Breakfast and Working Lunch, on television and and on Jeremy Vine's Radio 2 show.

We have also recently launched a Media Literacy website - which brings together our offer in a cohesive way in order to help people equip themselves for the digital age.

This is a long standing tradition with the BBC and is core to our public service ethos. Over the last thirty years, there are many examples of encouraging UK citizens to develop their media skills: the development of BBC Micro in the 80s; the 'Computers Don't Bite' campaign in the 90s, and 'WebWise' - a guide to using the internet - at the start of the new millennium.

The BBC was one of the first media organisations in the world to have a website - BBC Online will be 12 years old next month - and when it was approved, there was a clear understanding from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport that education was to be one of its key purposes.

We have played host to several initiatives over the years, and increasingly our formal learning content - for adults as well as children - has migrated online and includes: Raw; My Story; BBC languages; Skillswise and Ouch!

While TV and radio retains its motivational power, it is online that is ideally suited to the interactive and multi-dimensional process that is learning. Moving forwards and working in partnership, there are big opportunities to play a useful role in alleviating social exclusion through not being online.

While I would never underestimate the scale of the challenge, by using our ability to inspire and motivate through telling stories, and by capitalising on our reach across radio, television and online, the BBC is well positioned to play its part in encouraging people to get online and benefit from all that the web has to offer.

Seetha Kumar is the Controller of BBC Online.

(This post is an edited extract from a speech given at the Skills for Life Conference. You can find the full speech here. )

BBC iPlayer Standard Products on TV Platforms

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Rahul Chakkara Rahul Chakkara | 18:23 UK time, Monday, 2 November 2009

BBC iPlayer has been a success on television. Since we went live with BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media in June 2008, there have been more than 200 million programmes viewed. This accounts for more than a quarter of all iPlayer viewing today.

My colleague Kerstin Mogull has recently clarified how we plan to make BBC iPlayer available to audiences on other platforms and devices.

The BBC intends to develop and make available standard iPlayer products.

The standard products on TV platforms are:

1. MHEG-IC (MHEG-5 Interaction Channel).

MHEG-5 is a standard that has been used for developing and presenting interactive television in the UK for nearly a decade. Recently, the Digital Television Group supported by BBC R&D, has extended the standard to use the interaction channel for handling Internet video. This standard has been adopted by Freesat and incorporated into the DBook 6.1 used in Freeview HD devices. We have been developing BBC iPlayer using this standard. I expect to start a Beta deployment by the end of November using capable Freesat devices.

2. HTML.

Creating a product that would work with minimal alterations in devices using HTML browsers has been a challenge. While most devices claim to use HTML4 -compliant browsers, we often find proprietary tags, plug-ins etc. Although there is increasing support of HTML5 work and its standardisation of audio and video interfaces, most devices have their own proprietary media players and interfaces. To maximise the availability of the BBC iPlayer to connected television and television devices, we have chosen to take the route of accepted standards mixing it with pragmatic use of APIs where necessary.

The HTML application will be written in HTML4.01/Javascript 1.5/CSS2.1. This means devices that run standard HTML4 compliant browsers should be able to run the BBC iPlayer user interface. We will define a media playback API that will allow 3rd parties to play the iPlayer media assets. The API uses the ongoing work in the W3C HTML working group, for playing video and audio. Third parties can now use the APIs to interface to their media players. If support is provided for the HTML5 audio and video elements, we expect these APIs to work directly.

iplayer_virgin.jpg
Caption: iPlayer on TV image from dantaylor on flickr

I am expecting a Beta release of this product in November. The Beta period will be used to validate and improve the above approach.

In addition to this, BBC iPlayer can be accessed by pointing to our Big Screen implementation at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/bigscreen. This can be used without changes.

3. Flash.

We are seeing Internet technologies that deliver richness in presentation, such as Flash, being adapted for embedded devices. This has gone hand in hand with an increase in processing power in television devices. Flash is getting traction within the television industry. To exploit the presentation possibilities, we are planning to make a standard product available in Adobe Flash Lite 3.1. I expect the Beta to be ready in April 2010.

Our success with BBC iPlayer on Virgin Media, has shown that there is an appetite among our audience for BBC iPlayer on the television. I'm very excited to be working with other partners to bring that success to our audience on other platforms and devices.

This is a fast changing and evolving industry. Many of our assumptions will be challenged with time. We will keep coming back to the products and update them where appropriate.

If you believe your product can carry any of the standard products, please contact us at syndication@bbc.co.uk.

Rahul Chakkara is Controller, TV Platforms, BBC FM&T


Democracy Live

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 16:23 UK time, Monday, 2 November 2009

Just a quick post to tell you that the BBC's new portal of parliaments Democracy Live has launched today.

Mark Coyle has some background at About The BBC blog.

"Blogs and websites have become as much a part of political reporting as traditional print and media outlets and that's why we're making as much of our video as possible available for embedding elsewhere."

Republic blog has already embedded some of the site's archive.

Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

Pic of the day: Radio 4's More or Less

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Paul Murphy Paul Murphy | 12:45 UK time, Monday, 2 November 2009

moreorless_team.jpgThis is the More or Less team at an internal training day looking at the way the BBC uses data and numbers to tell stories. One of the examples they used in the session to demonstrate how data is manipulated is a video on YouTube Muslim Demographics.

You can follow their analysis of the data used in Muslim Demographics in an earlier post on the Radio 4 blog from More or Less's series producer Richard Knight. There's also a full and very informative More or Less audio archive available online that covers topics as diverse as global warming and illegal file sharing.

Paul Murphy is the Editor of the Internet blog.

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