Archive for February, 2005

A day in the life of a BBC promo.

As you may know, with the (second) death of Dirty Den Watts last week a crucial part of EastEnders came to an end. It’s ‘all change’ for the soap’s story-lines then, and on we echoed this. And as a tribute to Den I present, a day in the life of a BBC homepage promo. But firstly, a little history…

It’s perhaps fitting that the homepage heralded the return of Den with a similar treatment back in September 2004, You can see it here. (This was before the ‘blue’ May Campaign redesign so it sat on the purple patina…for more on that, look at this blog back in May). Also here for the first time are versions that were rejected for various reasons: two B&W ‘back in the day’ ones here & here, and Den & Sharon one. The B&W ones was felt to be too cryptic, asking even ‘Enders fans to remember back to ’89 was hard going. I liked the treatment though – gritty and a kind of ‘where were you when JR was shot’ type moments. The Den & Sharon one wasn’t used as that was from the second episode he was back, and so would have been a spoiler on the day it went out.

I developed picture promo’s back in July 2003 as an alternate version of the traditional image and ‘five linker’ promo when we have one over-riding central message and want to push users straight through deep into the relevant part of the site. We’ve used them for a number of things,Strictly Come Dancing final, BEst British SIt-com, Guide to UK comics and 1xtra’s new DJs

Here’s my first ever mock up ‘Gone to Lunch’, which I made into a small presentation and showed to the Internet Controller Tony Ageh(heh heh). At the beeb if you’ve got an idea, and the guts to push it through, you can make changes, it just takes a bit of grunt to convince all relevant parties, and there are a lot of parties who have an opinion on the homepage.

Normally promos are formed of image, headline, body copy and 4/5 links. This is great for most treatments; we offer a subject, an accompanying image, a text explanation, and a set of links that broaden it out into other relevant areas of It’s this as an editorial unit that is different from other broadcasters and more like a portal page. This is in contrast to the likes of Channel 4, who in their recent redesign say ‘here’s show X’ and that’s pretty much it, nice strap lines though… Or take the flash-tastrophy that is, I’m on broadband, and I just waited 6 minutes to watch a shark bite their logo – that says the marketing-bots are in charge. Not much of a broad offering there, but then both those sites function in very different ways to Anyway, no matter the treatment, our aim is to change that promo space frequently, to keep it fresh and different, to promote large messages, or just do a big bit of eye catching artwork.

So, to the death of Den.. I’ve talked about the development of the treatment, but that’s only part of the process. The other side of things is planning, scheduling and writing. The homepage team monitor various sources of information in deciding what we promo. We receive a heads up from the various BBC divisions; News, iF&L (interactive factual and learning), DEC (drama, entertainment and…commisioning I think), N&R (nations and regions) amongst others. We also use news planning services like everyone else, AMIPLAN is the main one. And of course the BBC press office. The Editor then drafts a schedule weighing up all the options and things jockying for a homepage promo. The amount of content, programmes, competitions, webchats, quiz’s, communities, and just shear stuff the BBC has on it’s servers means we can’t please everyone sadly.

So we got the nod that the Den special was coming a while ago. We knew that Sam, Zoe and Chrissy were all instrumental in his death, and BBC Pictures had done some ‘police line up’ type photos. BBC Pictures provide all the publicity material for BBC shows, they have a relationship with the production staff across the BBC and so can get great stuff. So then it was just a case of finalising the final design and more importantly, the strap line. Here’s the various versions we went through. So, in this case, it’s the relationship between the three women, and how they each deal with the guilt. As you can see, the Writer and the Sub Ed kept distilling the strapline to get the maximum punch in. So there’s the crime reference in the EastEnders font as well as the TX information. Looking at some other TV listings mags What’s on TVand TV Mag in the newsagents, I think we pitched our promo just right. We then had a second version for post TX, as the viewers would know who killed Den, and to offer them an exclusive preview clip of the next episode. This featured a shot from the actual show this time.

So that’s pretty much it, the history of the end of Dirty Den on the BBC homepage. Hope you’ve enjoyed this little peak behind the curtain that is The great thing is that you can be doing this one minute, then some Panorama special on Iraq next, then a Dick & Dom webchat all topped off with Radio 1 in Ibiza, it’s that varied. If you’ve any questions or comments, feel free to get in touch (but remember all this is my opinion not the BBC’s offical line, natch).

The History of Crystal Palace Transmitter.

I was off work yesterday feeling sick, and so after a morning spent lying on the couch, I was all set to venture outside to fetch a Lucozade, only to be confronted by snow! Didn’t fancy that much. So I spent a while just watching the weather, and looking at the BBC Crystal Palace TV transmitter.

It’s a huge structure, and along with it’s sister NTL transmitter down the road, totally dominates the sky line of the area. I’ve been thinking of doing a photography project in the CP area, and just for something to do started researching the history of the transmitter.

Turns out that prior to the modern transmitter being built, John Logie-Baird was using one of the Brunell built water towers as a transmitter. The towers, originally to provide water for the Palace’s fountains, were knocked down during the war as the provider a bearing for incoming German bombers.

Bairds fledgling TV co went up against the Beeb, Reith got mad, and the whole thing ended in a bust up.. Richard Elen’s article is a great read.

Then there’s the UK Transmitters fan club, which has some great images of the Transmitter.

And the time it ‘blacked out’ during a tense FA Cup tie.

I also found a history of some other local characters, including the crazily named Theophilus WIllaim Williams.

Chinese New Year

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Last night went round a friends for Chinese New Year. Ribs, spring rolls, prawns, noodles, but best of all, belly pork. Mmm

Rainbow from my window

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Rainbow from my window
Rainbow from my window,
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The weather was chopping and changing all day today, from bright sunshine to sudden showers. The result of all of this was the biggest rainbow I ever saw! It started behind the TV trainsmitter, and ended 10 miles away in the city. You don’t really get to see ‘big nature’ in cities much. And here’s why they happen.

‘The secret Language of Fonts’ on Radio 4

‘The secret Language of Fonts – From Ariel to wide Latin’. Just started (11am) I’m listening to it now, maybe some comments later.

This’ll be available using Radio Player for the next week.

Paedo of Pop Cowell says ‘ignore iPod’.

Link: Pop Idol Cowell warns: ‘ignore iPod generation’.

Honestly, what a shit. Ignore the biggest paradigm shift in music since the invention of… stereo/the 45/rock n roll”. In his view [record companies] have become “obsessed” with the market for 16 to 25-year-olds. “From what I see there is a massive audience outside the iPod generation.” Idiot! It’s those sort of people who own iPods, kids can’t afford them.

Any way, It’s a bit rich considering the age groups he’s traditionally targeted, the under 16’s. This from the man who launched the careers of acts such as Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates (yeah thanks Cowell). Cowell does not have an iPod – “they are too technical” – and does not like laptop computers or even email, because the latter act as a substitute for real communication.

Now I know me of all people is biased. Maybe he’s kind to his family and such, but I despise the man professionally. I hate everything he stands for, his Caligula attitude, his high pants, his cheap brand of music hall/punch ‘n’ Judy entertainment. It’s not music, it’s just shit (I)TV. His acts are about as tasty as processed mild cheddar. it’s ASDA A&R, middle of the road supermarket bulk buying power. The vain bastard even put a calendar out this year. And then there’s this: “I am not a fan of the BBC – or the structure … I am totally against the licence fee. It’s 50 years out of date and I can’t understand the rationale behind it.” Bit like the record industry then? Face it Cowell, you are your casting couch producers are dying. The future is (hopefully) gonna be things like, leading to things like

You know, one of the best obits I read for John Peel was an editorial on the letters page of the NME the week he died. It simply said ‘Peel was the Anti-Cowell’; but like Iron Maiden sang, “..Only the good die young, the evil seem to live forever.”

Awww, shit.

First Day at the New Skool

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Today was the first day BBC New Media Central (a.k.a Highfield’s Heros) moved to the Media Village, the BBC’s swanky ultra modern development adjacent to White City. And it’s very nice, it’s just the commute that isn’t.

8:25, leave house, walk to Gipsy Hill train station, 8:32 delayed till around 8:40ish, get to Clapham Junction at 9ish, cross over to platform 17, train to Olympia cancelled, race to platform 2, 9:05 to Olympia rama-dama-ding-dong, train leaves stuffed with people, run back to platform 17, 9:25 also cancelled, walk back to platform 2 and wait for the 9:35, get to Olympia, wait for shuttle bus, get in work at 9:55

So, what’s it like working along side the ‘other bits’ of the BBC? Well, it’s all very different. All the girls are young and attractive, the guys well dressed and handsome, all much more meejah and glam than the World Service with whom we last shared an office with at Aldwych. There’s a nice buzz about the place, though we’re the only people on our floor at the mo, so it’s a bit sparse.

Then there’s a small induction where we learn where the fire alarm/bogs/parking/paper clips are, and the fact that the building’s the most modern in the BBC estate; fully air-conned and totally bomb proof, etc. then a welcome pack and a free mini bottle of Champagne… oooooh.

By then it’s lunchtime. After the gulag that was the Bush House/World Service Canteen us noobs fell upon White city’s refectory like Eastern Europeans in a Berlin Mac Donalds circa ’89. Proper food, cooked to order, decent salad bar, proper knives and forks… It was all too much. One of the team had swordfish, just because it was there. Another had a 10″ pizza, that came in a proper warm soggy box! Ah it’s a long way from the Brussels Sprout and Cous Cous salad that I once saw at Bush, or the Goat Cheese cake, (not Goat’s cheesecake but a savoury quiche that had goat in it).

So, not a bad first day, topped of by a 1 hour 20 minute commute home. see above, sort of in reverse.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
February 2005