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Television advertising - the necessary evil

First, read this. It is from TeleSatellite magazine, issue #225 (Août 2008), page 24.

I think the second line has an error and it should say (correction in blue):

While I understand advertising can be annoying, and while I understand that - incredibly - the UK is looking to extend the amount of advertising shown on British television... you have to understand that advertising is a necessary evil for the freebie broadcasters.

I think the likes of Sky that are subscription based and show lots of advertising rub it in your face a bit, but at least in the days of analogue the movies would be non-interrupted (can't say for nowadays, not a subscriber, anybody?).
Away from this, it is how channels are able to fund the rights to programming. How do you think ITV created and paid for "Rosemary & Thyme"? How do you think Ant & Dec's salaries are paid? How do you think Zone Horror acquires new films to show, buys the bandwidth, pays for the EPG plus a SkyDigital channel allocation? Ditto for FilmFour, WorldMovies and so on.

I cannot watch French television. Off-air, we are in an area with very poor reception and my equipment can't make sense of SÉCAM anyway. I tried with the TV tuner in the computer (it claims PAL/SÉCAM/NTSC) and it received nothing.
Off satellite is impossible. They're all there on 19.2°E (which I have via the switch) but good ol' Canal has locked them up tight. Rather like the early days of SkyDigital when the network channels required a subscription (Channel 4 has become properly FTA this week, Channel 5 is still unavailable FTA, and I heard a rumour that ITV may go PPV!?!). I don't know if this situation will ameliorate in time as the analogue switch-off in France will leave huge swathes of the country without terrestrial reception, and people will quite rightly object to paying a few hundred euros to receive what somebody twenty miles away could get for free.

However, as much as I am unable to watch French television, this article worries me greatly. For will the 0.9% tax on telephony (and I can bet you here and now that the consumer-end price rise will be somewhat more than 0.9%; rather like Vodafone hiking up its call tariffs because EU legislation has required it to drop its international tariff - they conveniently overlook that the legislation was put in place because the operators were deemed to be charging an unrealistically high price in the first place... but that's another story), will this 0.9% rise be able to compensate for the loss of advertising? Not on paper as a politician might view it, but as the actual broadcaster's bean counters see it. For if not, how will the channel remain competitive and be able to create and/or acquire programming? Will Canal be like Sky in the UK and just buy up all the good things as a matter of course? As it is, terrestrial broadcasting is now becoming known as "pauper's telly", which is extremely unjust; I would be inclined to regard the majority of subscription television as a cash-cow milking the terminally stupid; but opinions on that matter are probably as varied and vociferously defended as whether or not Scotland should be an independent country, so I'll skip this one for now.

This could be a magical time for French television. It could be the clean-up that the channels require (I'm basing this assumption on ITV/C4 and how everything is 'sponsored' by some product or others) and it could revitalise broadcasters to create more in-house and unique material and stop worrying about whether or not their sugar-daddy agrees with the content of the programme.
However it stands a rather larger chance of a major crash&burn; of stripping an asset of the broadcasters leading to redundancies, downsizing, the loss of popular programmes that are expensive to make (I would cry if "Carte Aux Trésors", which cannot be cheap to produce, suffers because of this). Good ol' Mr. Grade is killing the corpse that was ITV, and now it looks like Sarko might be trying to outdo this and kill the majority of French broadcasting.

Let's face it - as much as I might go "mmmm!" at KFC and think a spicy bit of chicken with cola and a 'side' ('side'? beans have been relegated to being called 'side'?!?!) might be nice, I think my nearest KFC is a couple of hundred miles away.
I have no interest in DFS sofas, sales, or any product of theirs.
To show any emotion whatsoever over George school uniforms at my age would be pervy.
I couldn't care less if MySupermarket found ASDA were cheaper than Tesco, for you learn from experience that cheap does not equal good. Years ago when money was tight I ate cheap food and I spent half the time being ill. I'm still not eating a decent diet (waaaaaay too much sugar!) but I'm a lot better for deciding to ditch the cheap 'budget' food. Ohmigod, there was a time when my meal for the day was a 6-box of budget microwave burgers (cost about £1.50) and I actually started to hallucinate. I don't ever want to know what was in those burgers, nor do I want to eat them again.
And I'm not entirely certain that SEAT is wise in suggesting that crazy people design their cars (I think they are aiming for 'obsessive', but it is easy to misinterpret). Even if I thought that they were the best cars going, I don't have a licence and I can't justify the cost of owning my own car; the upkeep, the petrol, the insurance, the examinations, it all sucks money out of the budget.
Some adverts are quite nice: I like the song that goes "I lost my heart to a Galway girl" in the Magners Irish cider advert (does anybody know the title of that song and who sung it? But I wouldn't buy - I'm 'allergic' to alcohol, yes really.
I think that the girl in the Bradford & Bingley adverts is quite cute - you know, the one that looks like Amélie and wears a bowler hat.
And, well, I am vaguely interested to see where the 'BT family' go next. From happy families to the kids costing too much to what looks like the verge of a break-up, will their 'home hub' bring them back together? My all time favourite was when the mother was upset because she lost her folder with all her daughter's baby pictures, and father said "don't worry, we'll make another" and we all know she was thinking "make another baby" - the look on her face was priceless. I also hope, given the young girl has been labelled a 'geek', that they do something to show that being a geek is cool, not very sad.

So even when blankly idle-cycling my mind for the five minute gaps filled by advertising, I do notice some of it. I don't think any advertising has swayed me to drop cash on something, and there is no way in hell I'd ever apply for an Ocean Finance loan at 4am 'cos I saw the advert on telly... but even while I'm watching DFS trying to tell us that this isn't their thirty-third sale of the year, I must always remember... Suspiria is on FilmFour - and it is this crap in between the parts that paid for the film that I am watching.

We'd all like television free of adverts. We'd all like television with decent, high quality, intelligent programming. The two, however, go hand-in-hand. To make TV requires money. Advertising gives money, which pays for staff and programmes. QED.

Has Sarko really thought this through?


What I said about Vodafone...

The EC is implementing capping on mobile charges because the mobile companies had a year in which to self-regulate and bring the prices under control and it failed to do anything even remotely useful in that period. There was a time when if I took my French mobile to Bonn, and my friend Ewen took his English mobile to Bonn and I called him, I would be hit for the cost of a call to the UK and he would be hit for the global roaming difference between the UK and Germany. Meanwhile the actual call probably wouldn't go much further than the nearest GSM tower and via whatever switching centre it connected to. The EC quite rightly want to stomp on that nonsense.
Furthermore, how much are texts? Especially international texts? I think I pay about 0,35¢ for something like 140 characters. Are you aware that those prices work out to be €2 684 354.56 per gigabyte? Yes - what you can transfer in under an hour on broadband (and for a cost of about 4¢), would cost you over two and a half million to do at the cost of SMSs; which may well be the most expensive messaging system on the planet.
Is it any wonder the operators think this is great?

The EC has implemented their directives not because they are being nasty, but because in their opinion the mobile operators are ripping off customers. I think it speaks a lot for the ethics of Vodafone that rather than accept that international calls were overpriced and they will have to suffer a loss in their overinflated profit, they would consider upping the cost of minimum call charges. After all, they can just "blame Europe", god knows the government do and the gullible British public would be happy to follow the crowd and bleat protests against "Brussels meddling in their affairs" rather than opening their eyes and seeing the obvious...
But, then again, I see the reports on the BBC about how gas and electric are going up over 20% again this year and I see CNN practically saying the British economy is in meltdown and I see Gordon Brown trying to tell us that inflation isn't so bad and that the state pension (which is now not only the worst in Europe, but also comparatively worse than some third world countries) is only going to rise by something in the order of 3% if we're lucky (this following a 30%+ self-imposed pay rise by MPs). So before any Brits email me to complain about me calling them stupid, please explain for how much longer you'll take this? You're down, face in the dirt, and everybody is kicking you.
Will we have another "Winter of Discontent"? Gee, isn't that what happened the last time Labour was in power for a long time?


Geeks are cool!

I used to walk around with a tape player and earphones and people thought I was odd. No, actually I was ahead of the crowd. That would be the crowd of teenagers that are glued to their MP3 players. I once had a Filofax that was mostly crammed full of clippings from a Maplin catalogue. Now loads of people have iPhones and PDAs. I once carried a chunky laptop in my backpack (for early '90s tech didn't do 'small'). Now Asus sell this very cute itty-bitty (if woefully underspecified) computer that is like the missing link between a palmtop and a laptop. I used to be the map reader, now people have GPS thingies that talk to them. I once sat in a Little Chef and networked my crappy 486 laptop to a friend's using a serial link and something with a really weird name (like "banyan vines?"). Now nobody bats an eyelid if you sit in McDonalds and check your email with WiFi.

MP3, invented by geeks. Those little contraptions that play music solidly for around ten hours off one battery. Invented by geeks. Digital television so you can watch your horror films and 'true movies' and badly-dubbed Kung Fu and BBCi for the news. All invented by geeks. MPEG4 so you can fit sixteen hours of video on a single DVD-5, invented by geeks. Microsoft DOS, the product that brought 'serious' computing into the home? Invented by a geek and marketed by a better geek. The ARM processor, in a shocking range of stuff - you probably all have one and don't know it, invented by geeks on a tiny budget. Linux, the stable and secure and reliable "Unix-like" operating system that runs many things in the world, invented by the geek we all worship. And, finally, chatrooms and email and websites and crappy flash animations and PNG graphics and stupid little animated screensavers. All invented by geeks.

And people would mock the geek. Well, to hell with that, for geeks rule the world. We don't jump up and down and go all DiCaprio about it, but we absolutely rule.
Remember that the next time you shove your little piece of plastic into a machine eight thousand miles from home and the machine spits cash into your hand in a matter of seconds. Remember, without us geeks, life would be a lot less interesting.


Hello Kitty!

I got myself a Hello Kitty agenda and pen. Why? Because it is cute. It is the epitomy of kawaii, and I think my kitten would approve! Okay, it is aimed at girls, but who cares? An agenda is an agenda. Might as well have one that makes me giggle.

I have noticed that "Hello Kitty" is making more and more of an appearance in France in recent times, from the spooky-looking girl on the left advertising a Distri-Center top (publicité 2008/08/18) to the young girl on the right showing a Kitty ABC chart from La Foir'Fouille (pub. 2008/08/18).

I like the way they put the Hello Kitty logo next to spooky-girl in case it wasn't already obvious from her top - remember this is across the front of a big advertising sheet this part of which only just fit my A4 scanner!

Then there is the bizarre Gémo who is selling a backpack but in their advertising (this from 2008/08/18) completely fail to mention their address!

My own agenda and pen came from the SuperU, they also had two larger backpacks. One for primary school children and a wheeled pull-handle combination backpack for secondary-school children who get a lot more stuff to lug around with them.

However, in various boxes we have, is a weird and wonderful range of eccentric crap. Such as a December 1982 issue of Canadian Living magazine, page 124:

And this was back in 1982, twenty six years ago (I hadn't even made a double-digit age, yikes!).

Oh, and if you think a grown-up liking Kitty is weird, just go Wiki for the actress/singer Lisa Loeb!


Today's word

Today's word is susurration (suh-suh-ray-shun), which is a faint sound, a whisper, a rustling sound. You could susurrate walking through a forest on an Autumn day.


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