The BBC iPlayer and the BrokenTV iDeas-Above-Its-Station

  • 8/25/2007 06:01:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

We've finally had a proper reason to use iPlayer: our scheduled recording of Saxondale clashed with recordings of the end of the current series of House* and The Secret Life of the Motorway**. Yes, despite our earlier post on the subject, we seem to have missed just about the only BBC programme not given the benefit of a same week repeat, not even on BBC HD, where that 19 hours per day of 'BBC HD Preview' just has to be squeezed in somewhere. So, we set our internet to download it (at seven in the chuffing morning, because that's one of the very few hours of the day it actually works at anything like the advertised speed), and what did we find?

* Which is still the best drama currently on television, except it isn't any more because it isn't. Currently on television, that is. For anyone who has yet to catch this programme, go straight to Asda where the first season boxset is an almost criminally reasonable £11.99.

** Which was mostly enjoyable, although it did seem a bit clunky the way the first two episodes generally proclaimed "Hurrah! Motorways are all wonderful!", only for the third to revolve around the premise that "Oh no, they're a bit rubbish actually". We enjoyed the bit where a landowner of territory due to be bulldozed for a motorway quickly sold one-square-yard plots of his land to people scattered all around the globe for nominal fees in order to make the compulsory purchase process horrendously complicated hugely. And that may well be the only instance of the term "process horrendously complicated hugely" has appeared on the internet. [checks Google] Yay! We're special!

Saxondale. Not repeated on Saturday or Sunday nights, even though everything else blimming well is.

Well, the aspect ratio was all buggered up, so we'll be nabbing it from Well-Known-Not-Quite-As-Legal-Programme-Download-Service instead. Bah. This event did send us reeling into the iPlayer feedback message board, though. When we arrived there, after the long-winded Sort Of Semi-Register Again Just In Case You're Not Really You process needed for Aunties message forums, we felt compelled to make two suggestions to make the whole iPlayer process at least one trillion times better. Two suggestions that we're going to repeat here, partly because we can use this post as evidence that we thought of it first when they are both implemented AS THEY SURELY WILL BE AS WE ARE UNFAILINGLY CORRECT ON THESE MATTERS, and also because it's easy copy. Well, you've got to write about anything you can get your hands on when you've started a TV blog and you really don't watch that much actual television any more. And you can't be bother constructing sentences properly. Any more. As. Well.


It was simply a rehash of our plea to put more archive material on there. Luckily, we'd supplemented this point with the thought that it could be used as a means to see which archive material would be most deserving of a 'proper' repeat showing on 'proper' television. If, for example, a chance to see whatever still exists of Q8 did the unthinkable and proved to be more popular than the hundredth chance to see Grown Ups one week, that could be a pretty good indication that a repeat of any Milligna the BBC might still have in the cellars of Windmill Road would be nice to see on BBC Four.

At the other end of the chronological scale, iPlayer could also be used to gauge public reaction to non-broadcast pilots. Pilots could be bunged onto iPlayer, thousands of people could watch them, and then state their approval (or otherwise) either using a complicated questionnaire or a mere Hot Or Not zero-to-ten rating. A focus group made up of a massive cross-section of viewers, all for free. That sounds like a better idea than a commissioning editor tossing a coin or seeing what fits into a largely imagined target demographic, doesn't it? If nothing else, it might lead to pilots such as Biffovision or Be More Ethnic, both of which we really enjoyed, making it to a full series as opposed to Fuck Off, I'm Desperately Trying To Grab Your Attention By Way Of My EPG Listing Please Watch Me, Please.


When a documentary heavily relying on the use of archive material comes around, such as the wonderful Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain or pretty much any edition of the perpetually engrossing Time Shift, you only ever get to see fleeting glimpses of news reports, television specials or topical comedy shows. Wouldn't it be it be great to at least have a chance to see the shows that have been referred to in full? That's what iPlayer could be for.

Come on, they've had to go to the trouble of booking out the source material in order to get hold of the clip anyway. How much difference would it make to bung the tape to a resident IT spod to encode up for the good of Johnny Public? A documentary about the threat of atomic bombs that includes just twenty seconds of Carrott's Lib with Jasp poking fun at the Protect and Survive pamphlet? Can't we get to see the whole routine? Or even better, the whole show? We know you've got it. You've got hold of the tape. We know you don't deem it worthy of putting out on one of your networks in full. But we paid for the programme to be made with our licence fee. Well, our parents did, anyway. Why not put in online? It's not as if a topical comedy show from the early 1980s would be a worthwhile commercial DVD release, so you can't be holding it back in case 2|Entertain can make some cash out of it.

Worst case scenario on this subject: Source material is put online. No-one watches it. Barely any bandwidth is used, the overall cost is minimal. An unpopular TV blog with ideas above its station is proved horrendously wrong, otherwise no casualties whatsoever. Live and learn, eh?

Best case scenario: Source material is put online. A notable amount of people watch and enjoy it. Remit fulfilled, and without treading on the toes of any commercial rivals to boot. Hurrah. Unpopular TV blog with ideas above its station is proved unerringly correct, and is thereby chosen as select its own season of archive programming on BBC Four. Said season, containing little more than repeats of Emu's Broadcasting Company, Eureka and Whale performing on Top Of The Pops proves to be massively unpopular, but the net damage in minimal. The overall result is a success, and the government decides to add £10 to the licence fee as a direct result. Hurrah x2.

At this point we'd like to state that the date and time of Blogger posts are ripe for being presented as evidence in a court of civil law (probably), and that if the BBC want to offer us a highly paid job in the Department Of Generally Being Empirically Correct About Stuff (or at the very least a place on the BBC Trust), our email address is at the top of the blog. [BrokenTV crosses fingers and closes eyes especially tightly, just in case the previous sentence comes true.]

This week, instead of finally getting around to launching our football blog (we've nearly three - count 'em! - ideas for posts on it already!) we have been: watching the entire Jason Bourne trilogy, followed by the Harry Palmer trilogy. Despite our initial expectations, Bourne wins. And not just because we've got a framed poster of Lola Rennt (original German release, mind) in the BrokenTV office because we really fancy Franka Potente, either***. Bonus points for Palmer having more 1960s supermarkets and Corn Flakes in his movies, though.

*** Creep was flipping woeful. See? We don't just like films because we're idiots ruled primarily by our worryingly high testosterone levels. [Quickly attempts to hide Post-it note listing provisional release date for Finding Tatu]

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