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Jools Holland could earn the UK douze points

Posted by in Columnists, Entertainment, Ewan Spence | 0 comments

Would the BBC’s musical maestro really be a good idea for Eurovision?

I certainly think so, and it’s an argument I’ve made over the Eurovision discussion website But not as the singer who takes to the stage in melodic combat with the germans next May, but as the Guru/mentor in the background.

It even takes care of how to run the National Final! There’s bound to be sixteen good bands and singers out there that want to have a crack at Eurovision. The worrying point has always been how respectable it makes them look. Well if you take four a week into the “Later… With” studio, have them perform their song and chat to Jools afterwards, throw in a visiting Eurovision star (a Niamh Kavanagh and Jools Holland guest spot anyone?) and a simple “Vote now by SMS” caption at the end of each show and you have your four heats and a final, a winning song, a wonderful affirming National Final, and a way to send all the right signals about how serious the BBC are taking the 2011 contest.

More thoughts at ESC Insight.

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When will our leaders return to lead on the field of battle?

Posted by in Columnists, Ewan Spence, Football, Sport | 0 comments

We need our leaders to get into international sports, just like Iran.

In the olden days, when there was a problem between countries, a was usually sorted it out. Given that the leaders of the countries usuallly fought on the front lines, this happened les often than you might think – leaders usually like to stay in power rather than be buried six foot under.

We’ve lost that little touch of diplomacy in recent times, but I think some people are trying to bring it back, as Mahoud Ahmadinejad and Evo Morales squared up to each other at an Iran v Boliva football match last week (reports the BBC).

With the 2012 Olympics coming up, Boris Johnson can do more than wave the flag. Shall we let him loose with a Javelin? And if Nick Clegg is a demon footballer, that might explain the coalition with David Cameron and the 2014 World Cup.

Which sports do you think need to have their leaders at the front with the Captain’s armband?

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Why is BBC Alba not in the least popular TV channels list?

Posted by in Around Britain, Columnists, Ewan Spence, Featured Post, Scotland | 2 comments

BrokenTV’s look at bad channels misses out BBC Alba, because BBC Alba won‘t join in the rating game.

Ho-ho-ho, I thought, it’s the worst performing TV stations in a Ceefax box! Broken TV have looked at the viewing figures and decided to have some fun. Look, it’s VH-1 with only 6,900 viewers… or Sky Arts 2 on just 9,733.

And then it dawned on me. Where was the great experiment from the BBC? Where was the mythically magnificent BBC Alba? It’s not in the Bottom 30? Really?

After all this is the station that launched to 615,000 viewers and says it’s on 270,000 viewers one year later in September 2010. That would place it as number 32 in the UK, just behind Sky News and slightly ahead of the Disney Channel.


Here’s the catch. BBC Alba isn’t part of the nationally recognised method of counting TV viewers, BARB. Alba say that the distribution of the channel in the North of Scotland, specifically the islands of Scotland, aren’t covered by BARB. So telephone polling has to suffice.

How about some back-up with numbers on the iPlayer to show a relative share or interest? Nope, those numbers aren’t available either. Just the headline number from TNS System 3.

I’ve watched BBC Alba just twice – when my beloved Cowdenbeath FC were in the SPL Division One Promotional Play-off. I screened out the Gaelic commentator, I just wanted to watch the football.

For the record, there are around 50,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland, just a fifth of the numbers that are allegedly watching Alba.  Many suspect the majority of Alba’s “strong” viewers are from watching football. But is there a breakdown by time or programme? Nope. It’s just a telephone survey like the political press call up every week.

Unlike every other channel, its impossible to compare BBC Alba to other channels. Iain Hepburn summed it all up very nicely at The Daily Record last month year:

There’s still no way of knowing just how many people actually watch Alba, and more specifically, what they watch. An Alba spokesman confirmed to me they have, through the polling and panels, an idea of what the most popular genres are. But again, there’s no breakdown. It’s just that – genres. The channel can say sport and music are popular, but they can’t – or won’t – be more specific than that.

And that gives rise to a whole host of other questions. Is the channel being shored up by its SPL, rugby and Alba Cup coverage? Is the audience spiking during sports coverage and flat the rest of the time? How much audience retention does it actually enjoy? This is stuff we could find out about any other channel in the country, pretty much – and certainly any other BBC channel. But not Alba.

So while we applaud Broken TV’s look at the worst UK TV channels (and admire the Ceefax graphics), part of me is thinking – these might be bad, but I know that BBC Alba is missing.

And so, I suspect, do the BBC.

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Why sport should embrace the illegal stream

Posted by in Columnists, Ewan Spence, Football, Sport | 0 comments

Here’s a simple question. If you’re a fan of a sport, and you want to watch it online, you’re going to watch it, no matter the source.

If there’s an easy to find official way to watch online, then that’s going to be the first port of call. What the sports industry needs to make sure is that when people look online, they (a) find the stream they want and (b) the industry is getting something from that view, be it a small subscription fee or in-vision advertising.

What the industry need to watch out for is to not make the mistakes that other areas of the media have done and ignore the issue till the viewers are trained to “find free"– the genie is already out of the bottle and more people every day are finding free content of their favourite sport.

By protecting the income from the TV Fees from players such as Sky in the UK, the different sporting regulators are still gorging themselves, but all that cash is suddenly going to disappear in the future as viewing figures switch to online sources. When Sky and their ilk realise they have to get into the online subscription game, the users are not going to be expecting to pay, and they’ll stay on the illegal streams.

What UK sport needs to do is look at how Baseball in the US has a full online subscription service, airing every match, at, even though Baseball is a huge draw on TV. Because if they go the legal route and slap down a few people, the majority of people will never experience a problem, and the same problem the music and film industry is in now will happen to sport.

Hat tip to the BBC.

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Why it’s the camera you have that’s important

Posted by in Columnists, Ewan Spence | 0 comments

London skyline at sunset a timely reminder of the power of the camera phone.

While there are people that go out with the expensive equipment to capture the landscapes, cityscapes, the natural world and the scars of humanity on the Earth, the last few years have seen an explosion in fantastic picture from around the world.

And it’s the mobile phone that’s the reason. Because the most important camera is the one that you have in your pocket at the moment in time.

I was reminded about this yet again while checking in on my Facebook stream, with Gemma Goggins’ picture of an almost perfect line-up of the Sun, the Thames and one of the bridges over the great waterway.

Long ago it would be a case of “ooh that’s nice”, now it’s “ooh that’s nice, let’s show everyone.” And that’s all own to the mobile phone handing everyone a camera in their pocket.

Have you got a favourite impromptu snap?

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Is this the Free Fringe’s Peter Buckley-Hill, or actor Jonathan Pryce?

Posted by in Columnists, Ewan Spence | 0 comments

Has anyone seen both PBH and Pryce in the same room during the Edinburgh Fringe?

Spooky coincidence or global conspiracy? You decide, because our man at the Fringe is wondering if the ravishing smooth good looks of Jonathan Pryce are going through a Jekyll and Hyde transformation in August to create the manic and driven organiser of the Free Fringe in the shape of Peter Buckley-Hill.

I think I need to ask Harry Tuttle.

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