Category Archives: Media

UK front pages

You may be familiar with BBC New Online’s UK Front pages web page. Or then again, you may not.

BBC Front Pages screen shot.
BBC Front Pages

In any case, I’ve grown tired of clicking on each newspaper’s link sequentially so I’ve created my own page that displays all of the available front pages at once.

You can access it at

Note however, that the images come from the BBC’s web site and are therefore ultimately beyond my control. For example, the front pages were available for 1 January 2005, but not 2 January 2005. Could this be the result of someone at the BBC not working on Sundays? Use at your own risk.

Update (2 Oct 2005): The BBC ceased providing images of the UK’s newspaper front pages in early August 2005, so my “summary” page no longer works. A similar service is currently available at, but few British newspapers are included in its database.

Making the news

Here’s an interesting story: Bloug Entry (Dec 02, 2004: Using Search Log Analysis to Predict the Future).

It seems the Financial Times analyses it web site search statistics to identify unpublished stories that interest its readers, and the editorial staff then consider running stories on those subjects.

This approach to news-making obviously has significant implications for the traditional definition of “news worthy”, and gives new meaning to the suggestion that the media simply “give people what they want to hear”.

Well, I thought it was interesting!

Dominica discovered

News of the Caribbean island of Dominica has been like waiting for a bus. Nothing for years, and then three items come along all in a row.

The first reference to the nature island of the Caribbean was on television a few of weeks ago. BBC2 included footage of the island in its documentary series on family history, Who do you think you are?, when featuring the news presenter Moira Stuart. Some of Ms Stuart’s maternal ancestors came from Dominica.

Then on Wednesday BBC Radio 4’s programme Woman’s Hour reported on the Dominican author and politician Phyllis Shand Allfrey. It seems some of her short stories have been republished.

Finally on Friday Woman’s Hour interviewed Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC, who’s been declared Parliamentarian of the Year. Not only does she have family history in Dominica, but she’s also a member of the Bar of Antigua and the Commonwealth of Dominica.

With all that out of the way, it’s probably safe to assume that we won’t hear anything more about Dominica for the rest of the decade.

McLuhan strikes again

This week’s Economist magazine contains an interesting article (subscription required) on the survival of high street bookshops despite the increasing success of their online rivals.

It seems bookshops were expected to disappear once we’d all switched to Amazon:

“Everyone got the internet wrong when they assumed it would replace retail,” says James Heneage, the boss of Ottakar’s. “It’s simply a new channel.” That may be a comforting thought for other [high street] retailers as Christmas approaches.

Of course, Marshall McLuhan wouldn’t have been surprised. In 1964 he wrote:

“…it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium. It is only today that industries have become aware of the various kinds of business in which they are engaged. When IBM discovered that it was not in the business of making office equipment or business machines, but that it was in the business of processing information, then it began to navigate with clear vision. The General Electric Company makes a considerable portion of its profits from electric light bulbs and lighting systems. It has not yet discovered that, quite as much as AT&T, it is in the business of moving information.”

From Understanding media: the extensions of man (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.)


This morning’s edition of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 included two interesting stories just before it ended.

  1. A report on the difficulty in finding a religiously themed Advent calendar in the UK this year.
  2. A report on George W. Bush’s first official visit to Canada.

Both are worth hearing, and available online for the next seven days (RealPlayer required).

Property Market Confusion

Two opposing headlines published today by the BBC indicate that BBC News (at least) hasn’t a clue what’s going on in the UK propery market:

  1. BBC NEWS | Business | House prices move higher in July
  2. BBC NEWS | Business | House prices ‘ease as rates rise’

If you read the details, you may realise that these two trends are not necessarily mutually exclusive; but the BBC’s tabloid headline writers simplify news to such an extent that it really makes me question the organisation’s credibility sometimes.

A tale of two Radio 3s

BBC Radio 3 has a new web site, although the casual viewer might not notice much of a difference. However, the most important changes are behind the scenes, and both the visible and invisible changes will apparently make finding information about Radio 3’s programmes easier — especially if you can’t remember what you heard several days ago, but now desparately want to find out.

The BBC has excelled at distributing its traditional content digitally, and if you like even a fraction of its output and spend time sitting in front of a computer, then you’re bound to approve of the Beeb’s online initiatives.

Screenshot of a recent page from CBC Radio 3

A recent page from CBC Radio 3

However, if you want to see what “new media” can really do, you need to tune in to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio 3. But be warned — the only similarlity is the name. CBC Radio 3 is not classical in any sense. It’s not even really radio as we know it. It’s an online, new-media magazine, featuring contemporary photography, photojournalism, interviews, poetry, videos and lots of recordings from Canada’s independent popular music scene, including live concert recordings. [Note – You need a broadband connection to the Internet to really appreciate CBC Radio 3.]

During the current 36-day general election campaign, for example, Radio 3 has been publishing the personal agendas of 36 ordinary (i.e. unknown) Canadians on video. Given that politics is a subject about which few “ordinary” people feel passionate these days (excluding, of course, the notable issue of the Iraq war), it was interesting to see and hear this selection of personal opinions on Canada’s priorities as a nation.

In January The Globe and Mail published an interesting article (see Indie music and beyond) on CBC Radio 3 that included the following quote from its Executive Director, Robert Ouimet:

“The question I get a lot is: ‘Surely you want them to go to the website and then get them to radio. Isn’t that the goal?’ Well, yeah, if they do that, that’s great. But that’s not the imperative. The goal is to introduce them to the stuff that the CBC makes and if they get it on-line and never go to the radio, that’s totally okay.”

The CBC used the web to attract a new, youthful audience that had long ago abandoned the network, and it believes that new media can be an end in itself. It’s not simply a case of using the web to support the rest of the network’s programming. Apart from the music, CBC Radio 3’s output is unavailable anywhere else.

The BBC on the other hand seems to view the web firstly as a temporary archive and then secondly as a source of complementary information in support of its broadcasts. BBC Online is not really intended to be your final destination. Everything it produces is either rooted in a conventional BBC broadcast of some kind, or intended to inform you of one.

To be fair, I don’t think the Internet presented the BBC with as much of an opportunity as it did the CBC. Young people in Britain never abandoned the BBC the way a generation of Canadian kids fled from the CBC. The CBC never had the equivalent of BBC Radios 1, 2, 5 or television programmes such as Top of the Pops, so the Internet provided it with a far greater opportunity to expand the range of its output and the demographics of its audience.

Nevertheless, it would be nice to see both organisations borrowing from each other’s online strategy. Canadians could make good use of an archive, such as that provided by the BBC’s Listen Again service, and the BBC should really commit to the web as an end in itself if wants to continue playing a leading role in the creative life of the UK.

Television led astray

In April 1960 Alistair Cooke told the Chattanooga Times:

Television is a gorgeous girl led astray early in life by a travelling salesman. She is taken round the country as a come-on for his detergent.