Ranting in the Sunday Age

Following my semi-snarky review of ABC Playback in Crikey last week, journalist Melinda Houston thought I might have something valuable to say for her piece in Melbourne’s Sunday Age yesterday. Apparently I did, ‘cos my quote led the piece, and there was a slab of me later.

The article opened thusly:

“I SUSPECT many people who have had extremely successful careers in television are baffled by what’s happening now,” says former broadcaster and now new media consultant Stilgherrian (yes, just the single name — very 21st century). “They need to spend an afternoon with a bunch of 15-year-olds.”

The self-confessed uber-geek is one of a coterie of middle-aged men who have lost patience with traditional broadcasting. But if he was 15, or even 25, he’d be the norm. Rumours of the death of television may be exaggerated, but there’s no doubt it’s taken a hit.

It’s worth reading the entire article, because it’s a good summary of how the Internet is affecting TV, aimed at a mainstream audience. However I’ll quote my own bits here, just in case Fairfax decide to take it offline one day.

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Canada’s CBC groks The Torrent too

Following Norwegian broadcaster NRK’s highly-successful trial of using BitTorrent for program distribution, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has just released a prime-time episode of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister onto the torrent globally.

According to the last100 report, the CBC’s media release was clear:

“The show will be completely free (and legal) for you to download, share & burn to your heart’s desire.”

In a follow-up post Inside story: the making of a legal TV ‘torrent’, freelance producer Interactive Producer for CBC Guinevere Orvis explains how they got the approvals sorted within the CBC.

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ABC Playback: so this is the future of television…? Nope!

Screenshot from ABC Playback

On Thursday an email told me that I’m a beta tester for ABC Playback, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Internet TV trial. So here we go…

I’ll gloss over the geeky stuff because the massively-brained Simon Rumble has already done a technical reconnaissance. Just three key points there from me:

  1. It uses a Flash front end over XML program listings. Simon reckons it’ll be easy to hack up a Linux version for those who can’t use the official Windows and Mac interface. Or who want to avoid the pointless animations. Or who’d rather an easier-to-read high-contrast interface than trendy translucency.
  2. A 30-minute program is compressed to a mere 130MB, which seems a reasonable compromise between quality and bandwidth — at least for infotainment — given the ABC’s need to serve regional audiences out on the Information Super-goat-track.
  3. Did we really need to spend taxpayers’ money putting a clock in the top right of the screen? Computers already have clocks.

Technically it works just fine… but that’s not the real issue…

Disappointingly, ABC Playback seems more like the last gasp of old-style broadcast TV than a prelude to something new and wonderful.

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