The World At War

I was forced to take a later lunch break today due to a meeting at work. I got home to let the dogs out and have some lunch, switched on the television to catch up on the days news and it came on tuned to BBC2 (was watching Newsnight last night before retiring) and an episode of the excellent The World At War was just starting. I then spent the next 50 minutes engrossed and appalled by the history and horror of the allied bombing campaign during WWII.

Produced in the early 70s this amazing 26-episode television documentary series on World War II is often considered to be the definitive television history of the Second World War. Some consider it one of the finest examples of the documentary form ever produced.

The main praise for the series was the human factor, images of brutal fighting, dead bodies and atrocities are dispersed with often touching emotion filled recollections and eyewitness accounts by not only officers of both the Allied and Axis forces but also civilians, enlisted men and politicians. The sublime narration by Laurence Olivier and the score was composed by Carl Davis add to the gravitas and feeling that you should watch and learn – we really should never forget.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Produced in the UK for Thames Television and originally premiered on ITV in 1973 it is a stark contrast to the populist, rating chasing, non-educational drivel that spews from the same channel today.

Digital switchover scheme is ‘stressful, confusing and unfair’ and is giving BSkyB and unfair advantage

Sky Remote

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that manufacturer and consumer groups are criticising a government scheme designed to help elderly and vulnerable viewers switch to digital television claiming it is sowing confusion and helping BSkyB market its pay-TV services.

It is reported that as a pay-TV company with a set-top box design operation, Sky had an unfair advantage when it was handed the contract to be the digital switch over help scheme’s “standard offer” for the ITV Border region, the first part of the UK to go digital.

The scheme is being funded with £603m of BBC licence fee money and entitles over-75s and disabled people to have a set-top box installed for a one-off fee of £40 – or for free if they are on benefits.

The industry groups are particularly concerned that for the first two months after installing its set-top boxes, Sky provides free access to the personal recorder service Sky+ and to some pay channels. Customers are then left to decide whether to continue receiving these services by taking out a subscription or to settle for a free package without the added benefits.

Also reported on DigitalSpy

I think it just shows how ill thought out the whole digital switch-over is, why let someone with a commercial interest be involved when Freeview and Freesat are viable alternatives, and if terrestrial DVB (Freeview) isn’t an option due to reception problems then surely that undermines the push to withdraw the analogue service! Allowing a mercenary commercial operation with it’s bewildering and confusing array of options and prices to basically swindle old and vulnerable people out of their money is a disgrace, especially if being paid to do it out of the tax payers money!

Bonekickers – an excellent review!

Watched the third episode of the BBC’s Bonekickers program, and to be honest I am amazed at how bad it is, but reading this review of last nights episode on the Guardian website I had to laugh at the last line!

Bonekickers (BBC1) is, it has been noticed, only a syllable short of bonkers. Hugh Bonneville, a decent actor tragically seduced by the temptation of a Harrison Ford hat, plays Professor “Dolly” Parton. Based, he says, on the archaeological adviser for the series, who “literally froths at the mouth”. Frankly, I’d hesitate to share a table in an all-night cafe with any one of them.

This episode, The Eternal Fire, was about the forbidden love of Boudicca and a susceptible Roman called Marcus Quintanus. Their affair was conducted, apparently, in the catacombs under the Roman baths at Bath, where the feretting archaeologists discover Boudicca herself. Crystallised, of course. There is some elementary Latin (“Regina mea!”) and contemporary Italian (“So! You call me because the fire in your loins is lit once more!”) and, as the catacomb fills with gas, a lot of coughing as if we were in for another adaptation of the Brontës. To be fair, the whole thing obviously cost about as much as Harrison Ford’s hat.

Personally, I think it would be much improved by the addition of a lovable, if cowardly, great dane.

Stephen Fry and the future of Public Sector Broadcasting

Stephen Fry

Last week Stephen Fry has made a passionate, clever and insightful lecture on the future of Public Sector Broadcasting and the specifically the future of, and dangers faced by the BBC.

broadcasting is a special case, that the rules of the market place don’t apply. As in the armed forces, coastal defence, policing and other fields, capitalism red in tooth and claw cannot be unleashed here. If we stopped husbanding the Yorkshire Moors or the Lake District the result would be weeds, scrub or desertification, not more efficient productive landscapes from Germany or South Korea providing consumer choice and real competition. If innovative, cutting-edge, new and risky programming is not subsidised, the weeds will blow in too.

One of his many anecdotes also hits the point on the head

Private competition meanwhile continued to hammer home its counter-message. ‘Actually the market does work, it only doesn’t work when it’s unfairly dominated by subsidised monoliths like the BBC. Take away their distorting effect on the market and all will be well. Choice and diversity will reign.’ I remember Hugh and I wrote a sketch in which I played a waiter who recognised a diner in my restaurant as a Tory broadcasting minister. I clapped him on the shoulder and told him how much I admired his policies of choice, consumer choice, freedom of choice. I then was horrified to notice that he had only a silver knife and fork for cutlery at his table. ‘No, no, they’re fine,’ said the puzzled politician. But my character the waiter raced off and soon returned with an enormous bin liner which I emptied over his table. It contained thousands and thousands of those white plastic coffee-stirrers. ‘There you are,’ I screamed dementedly at him, virtually rubbing his face in the heap of white plastic, ‘now you’ve got choice. Look at all that choice. They may all be shit, but look at the choice!’ The sketch ends with me trying to strangle him. Heavy handed satire perhaps, but that was how it looked to me we were in danger of going: thirty or forty channels but all filled with drek.

The transcript of the speech is available online along with an audio and video presentation.

Fry also wrote in the Financial Times the day after the presentation.