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The BBC ruins the UK’s chances at Eurovision

Tonight, it’s the grand final of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. As long-time readers will know, I really enjoy watching Eurovision – I even live blogged the UK selection programme once. There are a few reasons I really enjoy it.

Firstly, of course, the music. If I had to choose a favourite radio station, it would undoubtedly be Monocle 24. There’s quite an overlap in the Venn diagram of international music Monocle 24 would play and the sort of music that does well at Eurovision. In fact, most years, they’ve already had quite a bit of air-play of the big-hitting songs by the time the contest comes around.

Secondly, there is something so joyful about seeing so many different countries and cultures come together for a single peaceful purpose. In that regard, Eurovison is a little like the Olympics – only moreso, because the countries are peacefully scoring one another. More of this in the world would be a good thing.

Thirdly, there are bits of it which are undeniably batshit crazy. I’m not that entertained by the stuff which is out-and-out mad, but the unexpected crossovers been madness and talent which occur from time to time are quite something: take this year’s entry from Israel, which is crazy, brilliant and catchy all at the same time.

It’s this third point which makes me feel a little glum about the UK’s entries, which are typically standard, uninspiring pop fare (look at this year’s entry from SuRie). We seem to have an astounding capacity for moaning about the poor scores the UK entry receives even when the middle-of-the-road pop numbers rarely perform well even in the UK chart, despite the considerable Eurovision following. It would be really nice to have a UK entry that was quirky, whether that’s through outright craziness or just having great execution of something which is very ‘on trend’: look at this year’s entry from Sweden.

But I think the BBC lacks the boldness and creativity to find or inspire that sort of song. Whenever the BBC tries to do ‘zany’ in its programming, it tends to come off as ‘crazy by committee’ and spectacularly flops. This is even more so the case since the budget cuts at BBC Three, which was their outlet for experimental material. The best they seem able to come up with these days is crap like Don’t Scare the Hare or 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow, which is a shame given the BBC’s lustrous history of the surreal.

The UK public vote rarely tallies with the most popular songs across Europe, even in an approximate way, so a publicly voted selection show (which the BBC has returned to using in the past couple of years) doesn’t seem like a logical way to go. Similarly, the UK jury seems permanently out of touch with the views of the rest of Europe, so professional selection doesn’t seem ideal either. I think the BBC needs to divest itself from song selection, and outsource it to people who have a chance of selecting something half decent.

The question is… who can provide that? I’d put it in the hands of the curators of the Monocle 24 playlist. They know a good song when they hear is – and have a definition of “good song” that at least approximates that of viewers across Europe.

Of course, I suspect such a system could never work in practice: I’m sure Monocle wouldn’t want to sully their upmarket brand, and the BBC wouldn’t want to lose control. But I think it’s an interesting idea!

The logo at the top is the official one for this year’s contest, taken from the press pack.

This post was filed under: Media, News and Comment, Posts delayed by 12 months, , , , .

‘Broadcasting’ rules need to keep up with streaming services to protect health

A couple of news stories I’ve read lately have made me think about our approach to regulation of advertising.

First, there was this story by Travis M Andrews in The Washington Post about the portrayal of smoking in shows made for streaming services:

Among the vices often embraced by streaming services and avoided by broadcast television is tobacco in all in its forms … A study compared seven popular Netflix shows to seven popular broadcast shows. In this sample, it found Netflix’s shows featured characters smoking almost three times as often as those produced by broadcast networks like NBC, ABC and CBS.

Now, we could spend all day poking holes in this ‘study’, but the thought is still going to fester: it does seem like there might be more smoking in these shows than in those on broadcast TV.

Second, there was this BBC Trending story by Branwen Jeffreys and Edward Main about YouTube stars being paid to encourage kids to cheat on school assignments:

YouTube stars are being paid to sell academic cheating, a BBC investigation has found. The BBC Trending investigation uncovered more than 1,400 videos with a total of more than 700 million views containing EduBirdie adverts selling cheating to students and school pupils. In some of the videos YouTubers say if you cannot be bothered to do the work, EduBirdie has a “super smart nerd” who will do it for you.

This isn’t so obviously related to health but does highlight an issue with inappropriate advertising within online streams which are typically seen by children and young people.

Both of these stories made me reflect on the work that has gone into restricting advertising of harmful products such as cigarettes and energy dense foods, and how the fruit of that work might be lost if legislation doesn’t keep up with changing media consumption habits.

For example, there are no regulations around the portrayal of smokers on streaming shows, whereas broadcast shows must comply with Ofcom’s rules, including Rule 1.10:

Smoking must generally be avoided … unless there is editorial justification.

There seems to be non-stop debate in the media press about whether TV ads or online ads are more ‘impactful’, with the conclusion usually predictable according to who has funded or published the work. But it does seem increasingly clear that many people (including me) are now watching more streamed content than broadcast content, and that this is more common among younger people.

It’s hard not to worry that the slow pace of legislative change might cause us to unintentionally slide back to an era of lesser regulation of what is actually seen despite strong evidence of harm. We really mustn’t let that happen.

The photo at the top was posted on Unsplash by Tina Rataj-Berard and is used here under the Unsplash licence.

This post was filed under: Health, Media, Posts delayed by 12 months, , , , , , .

In praise of ‘Mozart in the Jungle’

I’ve mentioned Mozart in the Jungle on here before. It’s a wonderful Amazon Prime comedy-drama about passion, professionalism and music. Inspired by Blair Tindall’s autobiography of the same name, the show follows both the appointment of a new conductor to the New York Symphony Orchestra and the travails of a young oboist trying to break into the orchestral big league.

It stars Gael García Bernal and Lola Kirke who both give performances of a lifetime alongside an all-star ensemble. It is creative and imaginative to the point of being a bit nuts sometimes. What other show would have Lang Lang on as a guest star and feature his piano performance with the sound replaced by Daft Punk? And yet, this made for one of the most memorable scenes in four seasons. And the third season featured the most beautiful cinematography of Venice I have ever seen. And, of course, the whole series features fantastic orchestration spanning all kinds of music.

Mozart in the Jungle is a completely brilliant show. And yet, Amazon has decided to cancel it. I really hope someone else picks it up.

This post was filed under: Media, Posts delayed by 12 months, Video, , , , , , , , .

Photo-a-day 362: The Killing


Wendy bought me the second season of The Killing on DVD for Christmas, and I’m already fairly well into it…! I loved the first season; it was truly superlative TV. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you really should find the time! I’m very much enjoying this second season too.

I came late to The Killing, only catching up with it a couple of months ago when it appeared on Netflix… which meant that I devoured the whole series in no time at all! I then got such strong withdrawal symptoms that I started watching the US remake… which was truly awful!

Iain Dale blogged about Borgen earlier today, which is another series I’ve heard consistently brilliant things about, but haven’t yet found the time to watch. Perhaps it should be my next box set…!

This post was filed under: Media, Photo-a-day 2012, , .

On Reflection…

Wow, you wait months for a post, and then get an X Factor liveblog. Yikes.

For something a little more like everything else I write, you might want to look at some contributions to The Pod Delusion that I’ve made and forgotten to point to – listen here and here.

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , , .

‘The X Factor Final’ Liveblog

Yes, you read that title right. And why not? I’ve liveblogged Eurovision before, after all.

Anyway, I’m late, so will get started…

Live   @ 9:30pm

So that’s it for another year, and for another Liveblog. My first in a couple of years. It’s been fun. I’ve been Simon. Thanks to all who read it. And the non-existent behind the scenes crew. Blah blah blah. Yada yada yada.


Live   @ 9:29pm

The other contestants come on to mob Matt in some kind of insane singing challenge. Did they not learn from the Must be the Music finale? That was a TV talent contest I invested more in. I remember Emma’s Imagination. I doubt I’ll remember Matt in a few month’s time.

Live   @ 9:27pm

But, he’s not singing it badly, as previously discussed last time he sang it. All of fifteen minutes ago.

Live   @ 9:26pm

The audience appear to have been supplied with some kind of glow stick to wave not entirely in time. Makes me feel lightly nauseated.

Live   @ 9:25pm

Debut single “When We Collide”? Eh? I thought it was called Many of Horror?

Live   @ 9:24pm

Matt feels ‘weird’. ‘Really weird’. Not so weird that he can’t sing again. I can barely contain my excitement.

Live   @ 9:23pm

Rebecca, who’s apparently dressed in a Christmas cracker, is happy too. Apparently.

Live   @ 9:23pm

Matt’s happy. Dannii’s happier. After all, they can’t axe the judge with the title, can they?

Live   @ 9:22pm

It was Matt. There are fireworks.

Live   @ 9:22pm

My lovely girlfriend has arrived. She didn’t get an Orff cantata when she entered, so don’t know why those guys do. I think she thinks I’m slightly insane for liveblogging this. She thinks it is going to be Rebecca. I don’t know or care.

Live   @ 9:21pm

I feel so disinvested here. I really am not bothered either way.

Live   @ 9:20pm

We’re moments away from the “crowning”. I’m seriously hoping there will be a crown. I will be disappointed if there isn’t a crown with an X-shaped stone in the front.

Live   @ 9:20pm

More ads.

First up… Queen musical in Manchester. Don’t care.

Then Estee Lauder. Don’t care.

Andrex advert with the CGI dog. Travesty. Fluffy puppy was much better.

Bloody awful M&S ad which is seriously off-trend. “Don’t put a foot wrong this Christmas” – seriously, if anybody’s worried about going “wrong” at Christmas, they’re seriously not enjoying the season.

XBox Kinect again. One of those things that has just passed me by. Don’t think I’m that in touch with the console Zeigeist any more.

Trailer for “A Night of Heroes”. Odd choice…

And we’re back.

Live   @ 9:15pm

Leona’s clip in the competition clip makes us all realise how lacklustre this final is… and how they don’t have a Christmas tree up.

Live   @ 9:13pm

I know I’m flipping subjects here – but is this apparent amazon attack planned to co-incide with this final to disrupt their share of their the X Factor winner’s single sales?

Live   @ 9:11pm

“There was more of them than us”


Live   @ 9:10pm

More interestingly – back in the real world – all European Amazon websites are down. Probably related to Wikileaks I’d guess. Not so resilient now, it seems!

Live   @ 9:09pm

Well that didn’t improve things much! It’s Take That. For the fifty-sixth time this series.

Live   @ 9:07pm

Ok, I can’t actually sit and watch this… I’m skipping forward those eight minutes to catch up with you!

Live   @ 9:00pm

Rebecca’s single now. I’m losing the will to live. Is this a Duffy cover? I think it might be. I’m not a Duffy fan at the best of times, but this is dreary. I’m guessing it’ll crescendo into a Winners Single Ending (TM), but I actually don’t care.

Live   @ 8:58pm

I should explain that I’m now eight minutes behind via V+… I needed a break!

Live   @ 8:57pm

An emotional ‘family’ VT. It’s easy to be derogatory about these, but I’m sure they’re actually quite meaningful to the contestants, so it’s hard to argue too much.

Danni saying nice things – less significant.

Live   @ 8:48pm

A review of Matt’s best bits reveals that there are few to speak of. Though his “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” cover was pretty good.

Live   @ 8:46pm

If they’d kept it more like the original, this might actually have had some credibility. Was a pretty good performance, though, all in all. Wouldn’t buy it, but might not turn the radio off…

Live   @ 8:43pm

A Biffy Clyro cover? Really? Didn’t see that coming!

Live   @ 8:41pm

Two different winner’s singles this year. How very sensible.

Matt is up first. Isn’t he just a slightly less irritating Olly Murs / Shayne Ward / Will Young? What am I missing?

Live   @ 8:40pm

Ooh, more ads. Good-oh.

It’s Barclays. With Stephen Merchant. Before he did this, I would’ve said it would be impossible to get lower than being a side-kick to Ricky Gervais. But new depths have been plumbed.

Then Jamie Oliver and Sainsbury’s at Christmas.

Next, the terribly dubbed McDonalds Christmas ad.

Ooh, then the cute John Lewis one with the Ellie Goulding soundtrack. It’s everything M&S’s Christmas ad should have been. But so clearly wasn’t.

Then a Crunchy Nut Cornflakes one I haven’t actually seen before, and have no desire to see again. It seems it has its own Facebook page, though.

British Gas are wanting to give me more control over my energy bills, apparently. I thought bills were something I had to pay, without much control, but apparently British Gas don’t require people to pay bills anymore. Or at least, that’s what I took from that ad.

Sainsbury’s returns with more of a Nectar focus, with that Tesco jibe about “spending points right up until Christmas”.

XBox Kinect – who gives a damn?

Then, as if in response to that comment, a trailer for a Kerry Katona docusoap.

And we’re back.

Live   @ 8:35pm

And, returning to a bit of Carl Orff, are Matt and Rebecca. A guy with “a unique voice”, and a girl with “a unique voice”.

Live   @ 8:33pm

Apparently, “this is just the beginning for these boys”. Is that not what is said every week, as every act leaves?

Live   @ 8:33pm

The acts return to the familiarly butchered strains of an Orff cantata, which I’m sure a whole generation knows only as “that X Factor music”.

Bookies’ favourite Matt goes through first. Followed by Rebecca.

One Direction out of the competition, and with a screening of their highlights we realise that it really is impossible to write a story arc about a group that can be communicated in 60 second VTs on a weekly basis, hence groups will always be at a disadvantage.

The clips from performances also remind us that there are only two of the group that can actually sing. Not that that’s ever been a barrier to chart success for a group before.

Live   @ 8:29pm

It’s time to announce who’s finished third. By which I mean, it’s time to start the drawn out process of thinking about announcing who’s coming third.

Live   @ 8:28pm

And now another ad break. What was it, £25 million they’ve sold this weekend’s ads for?

Lloyds TSB up first, ah ah ah ah ah ah, etc. Irritating in the extreme.

Then a Chanel No 5 number, which is actually quite good, in a filmaking sense.

Ah ah ah ah ah, the Lloyds ad is back.

YSL with something to light up my face. A bulb?

Some kind of driving game next. GT5, only on PS3.

Cheryl up now with something for L’Oreal. Wouldn’t have been allowed a couple of years ago given that she’s in the main programme, but allowed under new ad rules.

Gulliver’s Travels featuring Jack Black. There’s a cultural low point.

Ah ah ah ah ah, the Lloyds people won’t die!

YSL back with a magnet. Or something.

Ah ah ah ah ah, Lloyds back again. Argh!

And we’re back.

Live   @ 8:24pm

The lines are frozen. So are my feet.

Live   @ 8:23pm

Now the customary live performance by the ‘bad’ people. Sigh. The thing is, it’s actually more entertaining than watching One Direction drone out a Natalie Imbruglia cover.

Live   @ 8:21pm

It’s time for a review of the bad people now.

It’s a shame, they dropped this last year. I thought it was maybe progress. I thought we were moving to celebrating diversity, or something, or at least not just openly laughing at people in front of a baying crowd. But it seems not. It’s back this year.

Haha, look, deluded people being mocked on national TV, whilst being booed by a huge crowd.

Live   @ 8:18pm

And now for another recap. Not just a recap of tonight’s performances, it seems, but last night’s too, including that odd Rebecca performance where she was on a rotating podium – that’s one way of making her move, I guess.

I can honestly say that I don’t care who wins this. That isn’t like me. I’m not trying to say I’m above it, I usually like someone in the X Factor final more than the others, but tonight, honestly, I don’t give a toss.

Live   @ 8:15pm

Lots of short paragraphs in that last entry, weren’t there? Someone once told me that single-sentence paragraphs were a sign of a poorly developed argument. Perhaps that’s true.

Live   @ 8:14pm

Louis thinks Rebecca is proof that nice people can do well. Talk about damning with faint praise.

Dannii’s talking about Rebecca’s “inner diva”, and how she’s externalised it. Sounds painful.

Simon thinks the song choice is “brilliant”, and the performance “stunning”. Can’t say I’m stunned.

And Cheryl said something about shooting stars or something. I stopped listening, I’ll be honest.

Coleen Rooney thought it was good, as did the Mayor of Liverpool. Which is praise indeed, given their musical credentials.

Live   @ 8:11pm

So, the VT promised a lot.

Oh look, she’s stood on a podium again. Slightly smaller podium than last night, and considerably smaller than Wand Erection’s platform. The cynic in me would say it’s a staging technique to take away from the fact that neither One Direction nor Rebecca can dance.

That’s a little unfortunate, given that Rebecca’s doing a dance song. Well, a dance-ish version of the Eurythmics Sweet Dreams. Luckily, she’s surrounded by dancers, but oddly, it just makes her look more static.

Live   @ 8:09pm

Next, Cheryl tells us the “absolutely stunning” Rebecca Ferguson is coming up. And we get yet another VT of her highlights so far, and lots of talking about how “amazing” this is.

Live   @ 8:08pm

So, half an hour late! That’s interesting for a LiveBlog. Apologies.

So far, we’ve heard a lacklustre group performance, a lacklustre Matt performance, a lacklustre Wand Erection performance with gender references irritatingly partially changed, a lot of screaming, and not much else.

So that’s where we are so far.

This post was filed under: LiveBlogs, Media, , , , , .

Diary for 19th November 2008

John Sergeant being bullied out of Strictly Come Dancing must surely mark a low point in reality TV – the viewers’ votes no longer matter «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , .

Diary for 17th November 2008

Antiques Roadshow beat I’m A Celeb in the ratings, winning almost as many viewers as X Factor: At last, a victory for timeless, quality TV. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , , .

Diary for 27th July 2008

Mr Brown’s current favourite refrain is that he is “Getting on with the job”. When will he realise that many want him to do the opposite? «

Carol Vorderman’s treatment by the makers of Countdown is shocking, and I don’t share their confidence that the show will go on without her. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , , , .

Diary for 24th July 2008

Eddie Mair’s masterful pasting of the News of the World’s lawyer on PM today was the best bit of interviewing I’ve heard in ages. «

It’s testament to Richard Whiteley’s work ethic that two supposedly more experienced presenters – Lynan & O’Connor – couldn’t hack the load. «

This post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , , , , , , .

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