BBC restricts access to historical Indian content

The Beeb is opening its archives on India and Pakistan on the occasion of 60 years of India and Pakistan’s independence. Among the archives, I’m told, is rare radio footage. It’s a closed archive trial, and being a history buff, I thought I’d sign up for it. Then came the shocker: Access to the archives is available only to UK residents.

Here’s a screenshot of the too-bad-you’re-accessing-this-from-India page:


I think it’s rather stupid to restrict access to archival content by region, unless they’ve sold rights to this content to people outside the UK…and strange for a company that spoke about aggressive plans for India at the end of FY06 (can’t find the link). Maybe they intend to open the archives on August 14th.

I just checked, and BBC allows access to broadband content only to UK residents, citing bandwidth costs as the reason. Well, why not upload it on YouTube or Twango?

I’m going to write I have written to the BBC to suggest that they allow access to this content from India as well. In case you want to, here’s complaints,

Update: For the text of the response, click more.

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Counterculture in India — Music

“Fuck you, I wont do what you tell me” – Killing in the name of by Rage Against The Machine

Rock music as counterculture

Jazz, swing, rock and roll, grunge, Hip Hop and now Indie music – all have emerged as countercultures. The popular phrase “Rock and Roll is dead” came into prominence when the labels picked it up, packaged and pushed it – it became a part of mainstream culture, and thus signaling its own demise with overkill. Hell, that’s happened even with Bhangra music – the moment every second song became Bhangra, its popularity waned, barring the occasional hit.

In India, Rock music never really became mainstream, and still survives without much label support…given the blinkers that mainstream labels don, it’s likely that rock wont have mass appeal since it is primarily in English. Sure, Pakistani bands are popular here, and a at least one band has experimented with death metal in Hindi, but the labels haven’t yet created an Indian rock band. It’s likely that rock music, and its appeal of not being what your chaiwallah or panwallah blares on radio all the time, will last. As a friend once said to me: India’s the only country in the world where Guns N Roses is still popular. There are radio stations that have experimented with rock music in the past – I remember that Times FM, when it launched in Delhi in the early/mid nineties, mostly aired rock music. Current radio stations, bogged down by dictats from advertisers, and now a ratings system, have almost all gone the mass way.

In a way, that works for Rock. Kids want that kind of unfamiliarity – for their moms to go “what’s that noise?”…or their dads to barge into the room, like in the video for Michael Jacksons Black or White — that’s where the fascination begins. I think hip-hop is also gaining in popularity – and there are Indian “wiggers” (biggers?) who some of us find amusing. Each generation will have its own counterculture, and I guess there must be music today that I’m not familiar with (I don’t like hip-hop) that’s counter-to-my-culture.


Counterculture often has political significance, and I’m focusing more on media countercultures. Of course, this is an aggregation of random thoughts that have ocurred to me over the past few months, so feel free to dispute any or all of this. Preferably, tear it to shreds with counter arguments.

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Andrey Gidaspov was in India to meet interview a few top telecom bigwigs for Russian telecom mag Standard, and suggested that we meet up for a chat at the United Coffee House in CP.

We began talking about telecom and mobile content, and the conversation shifted to economics, stock markets, socialism, poverty, capitalism, employment, religion and much more. Good fun. Andrey was surprised to meet a Hindu (well, technically) who eats meat and drinks alcohol. I was surprised to meet a Russian who doesn’t. 🙂

Andrey suggested that I answer a few questions related to my views on the Industry. So here’s the interview at Andrey’s site “Gidabyte”. Funny photo at Gidabyte.

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On the editorial reasoning behind TV’s entertainment focus

At at time when every f’in news channel is focusing on the wedding of two Bollywood stars – even CNBC-TV18 had updates yesterday…ridiculous – here’s someone who tells it as it is:

Most channels fill up airtime based on a series of assumptions that some smart management cookie dishes out to gullible television programmers, producers and editors. Fact is there is just no credible benchmark in this country to evaluate either viewer choices or opinions. Second, there is no accurate data of profiles of people who regularly switch to news television everyday. Third, there is complete absence of any reliable and authentic study of viewer expectations from news television channels. Fourth, there is just no research of what the opportunity costs in the television industry are. For instance, will a corporate executive or a BPO employee ever watch news television when there is an opportunity to catch some sport action or a movie?

Read the entire blog post, titled “Moronic Media” by V.K. Shashikumar of CNN-IBN here.

It’s one of those “gosh, I wish I had written that” kind of posts, though I think have said pretty many of things he has, in bits and pieces, over the years. I think TV News’ entertainment focus is largely advertiser driven…at times it appears that stories are advertorials. What’s incredible is that this criticism also covers the channel CNN-IBN, and is up on IBNlive. Looks like they don’t censor their bloggers. Good stuff.

P.s.: Among my half written posts is: “On HR Issues and editorial evaluation in the media”. Had begun writing it after attending the Human Capital Forum organized by FMCC, on the 3rd of Feb. Wasn’t covering it, but had just been made editor, so thought I’d get some gyan. What I found strange then was that while senior editors sat and discussed how difficult to evaluate editorial performance, and how marketing can quantify their returns, but editorial can’t — no one spoke about integrity in reportage, and the issue of editorial selection of content.

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What’ll Happen To Sony Entertainment Television If India Crash Out?

It’s Sunday, and barbershops across India will have more words in the air than hair on the floor. Talking about this.

Some might take solace from the fact that Pakistan have crashed out too, but I wouldn’t bet on it. For the last two months, TV channels have sidelined important issues (like the Iran situation) for “Breaking News” of inconsequential cricket stories. Yesterdays first breaking news was that India won the toss and chose to field. It’s the last one that broke, that will probably give Sony Entertainment Television sleepless nights. How will India crashing out will impact Sony Entertainment Television (SET)– will the rates be cut? Will advertisers pull out or just re-negotiate rates?

I just asked my sister (she’s a media planner), and she says that advertisers will want to pull out – SET’s ratings will drop; advertisers wanting to renegotiate rates is a best case scenario. We’ll see — there are two games to go.
I just checked, and SET seems to have done quite the smart thing – as per the Economic Times, the SET’s cricket advertising inventory (for the ICC Champions Trophy and World Cup) has been underwritten by Dentsu, Zenith Optimedia and Starcom, in exchange for ad inventory at 10-15 percent discount, for resale. So, the burden then falls on Dentsu, Starcom and Zenith Optimedia…Apparently, the ad revenues were expected to touch Rs.560-580 crore, with the World Cup accounting for 70 percent (that’s Rs. 392-406 crore).

In fact, lots of money has been plonked into several online initiatives as well, with Maruti rumoured to have allocated around $1 million for ad inventory on the official cricket world cup site, for which rights were bought by STAR India’s We could see more mayhem…

Anyway, it somehow lends credence to my favourite crib about Cricket and Bollywood being the two most oversold properties for advertisers (particularly, with the Gov’s insipid ruling on cricket telecast), simply because they’re no-brainers. I hope that will change too…

Rs 500 cr & slog overs left
BCCI Invites Bids To Host Web Portal; Minimum Guarantee $50 Million
Some (Online) Launches Around The Cricket World Cup
Nimbus Issues Notice To BCCI To Pull Out Of $612 Million Cricket Rights Deal Bags $1 Million Sponsorship From Maruti For Cricket World Cup Site
Everybody Wants Cricket…For Free

An aside: I wonder if Pakistan’s loss to Ireland is a blessing in disguise for President Musharraf. Is the heat off him, and will public anger now be directed towards the Pakistan cricket team? Only time will tell….

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Whither credibility? Get a load of this….

If this was a press release, I’d have dismissed it as a lame attempt at diverting attention from the real news (for a business news site). However, it’s an article…read “Graphisads to beautify Delhi borders“.

Even as a press release, I think it’s counter productive: makes me search for the real news…others would have just ignored it as not being relevant in a business site/paper.

I don’t think much of a person who either just copy-pastes a release, or writes the article in a manner that either makes it lose relevance, or gives it a slant that the company featured in it wants – at the cost of being lucid.

Update:  from Shefaly, this Dilbert comic strip 😀

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Hindustan Times’ new paper- the fresh “Mint”

I still haven’t got my copy of Hindustan Times’ new business paper ‘Mint’- I was supposed to hand over a slip of paper to the vendor to deliver it, and wasn’t able to catch him in time. Might go over and buy it off the stands.
There is, however, a pdf available online, of the front page, at their site . Some observations on the site (will update with notes on the paper):

– The site requires registration for access, so HT’s collecting a database for advertisements. Information that is mandatory: country, city, educational background and year of birth.
– A call to action: users are asked to vote online for a story that they want more info on. That’s cross-media promotion (in a way). However, what’s disappointing is that the poll is only between noon and 3pm – isn’t polling done on an impulse? Maybe it should have been there in the morning as well.
Reporters’ email addresses are prominently displayed in the print version (there’s a pdf on the front page on the site). Which means they’re looking for people to contact them. Good initiative.
Social Media tools: digg, and newsvine(???)
– For Ye Olde Readers, CSS option to increase the font size.
– Alerts on page changes and views??? I didn’t get that.
No option for user comments – very disappointing. That drives traction, and if they’ve got registration, they should have comments too, with warnings for inappropriate comments. In fact, I’d have been pleasantly surprised if they had an option for picking up relevant comments and showcasing them…though that might be too much of a task for the editors.
– Most viewed, most emailed and editors picks. Most viewed and most emailed are standard – I quite like the idea of editors picks.
Advertising from Unitech and Ford – high end brands.
No Ajax. I guess we’re spoilt by AJAX,and the easy navigation it allows. The problem, for me, is that the page looks as if it has AJAX, in terms of the design, so the lack of AJAX is disappointing.
Quick Hits – quite like the idea, and they’ve done something similar with page 2 of the print edition.

Overall, I like the design because it is a comfortable read. I just hope it doesn’t become like an IBNlive, which started off with a clean, readable interface, and then became banner heavy. I also like it that they’ve covered the entire page, and kept a moderate font size, instead of leaving a right column empty for advertisements. I think they’re looking to charge a premium (which we’ll find out about soon, hopefully, when I talk to someone in HT)

Also, HT’s done a HUGE jacket on the Hindustan Times. Not unexpected.

A couple of days ago, I received a little booklet called the Initial Public Offer (corny) from HT. Take a look.

From HT Launches Mint at ContentSutra):

Apparently, the name Mint was chosen because they didn’t want to keep a standard name for a paper like Business, Times or Journal. In fact, the first name that they considered was ‘Orange’. HT’s Mint is a 24 pager, priced at Rs.2. The weekend edition is a 12 pager called Mint B, and with a magazine called Lounge. They’re also planning to encourage users to vote online for stories that they want deeper analysis on. Page 2, called QuickScan, lists all the stories in the paper with a short summary.
– IBNlive has a video here.


– No RSS Feeds: Can’t believe I missed this. I couldn’t find any RSS feeds! That’s archaic. Ajax is secondary – you really ought to be using each and every online distribution method: RSS syndication is a must.
– This seems to be for the PR companies: fairly comprehensive news alerts by email, including an option for whether or not the sentiment is positive or negative.

Update: Thanks Shyam. So they do have RSS feeds, but they’re not clearly visible. None of those standard orange square boxes (that you see on the right in my sidebar) on the main page, but just a link on the sidebar. My mistake – I should have spent more time searching for them. Their mistake – they should have made it more obvious. So, lots of RSS feeds there, and for all categories. That’s something I want done for every news site and blog. And preferably, for tags, not categories.

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The Asian Age can’t even copy-paste

According to todays edition of The Asian Age, England coach Sven Goran Eriksson is simultaneously 20 and 55 years old.

How so? A reprint of an article in the International Herald Tribune by Rob Hughes, about the surprise selection of Theo Walcott in the England squad for the World Cup, states that (highlights and markings in the scan are mine):

Walcott turned 17 just three weeks ago. If he appears in a match at the World Cup in June, he would be younger than Wayne Rooney (the striker whose injury opens the door for him) when Rooney first played for England.

One young Swede who saw him, and was inspired by the spectacle, was a schoolboy called Eriksson.

�I know it is a gamble,� Eriksson, 55, said when he named Walcott.


Well, Rooney first played for England in 2003, and that would make the 55 year old Eriksson 20 years old now. A search for the article online reveals that an entire paragraph had been omitted; I’ve highlighted it:

Walcott turned 17 just three weeks ago. If he appears in a match at the World Cup in June, he would be younger than Wayne Rooney (the striker whose injury opens the door for him) when Rooney first played for England.

Walcott would be younger by four months than Pele, arguably the greatest and certainly the youngest World Cup player in history. Pele starred in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden when he was 17 years and seven months. Brazil won.

One young Swede who saw him, and was inspired by the spectacle, was a schoolboy called Eriksson.

Lazy, lazy. I used to like reading the Asian Age for the international content, but over the past year or so, I’ve noticed that there are parts that don’t connect. That they randomly delete paragraphs to fit pages, I think, was first brought to our notice by the Jaibberwock in a blog post.

Just wondering:
How many of you are actually reading the papers now? With time, I’m slowly switching towards reading specific RSS feeds, and reducing my newsprint viewing. I haven’t stopped but I’m sure there’ll be a time when I’ll have switched completely to digital media. Epapers are a tedious to read, but things will improve once connectivity speeds increase. Still – you can’t read digital content on the throne. Yet. 😀

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Spleen: Hindi Commentary

So we take a break and switch the TV on. India A is playing Pakistan A for the Eurasia Cup (cricket). The game is being shown is on Sahara Filmi, for some reason, and one really feels spoilt for choice with some of the more interesting commentators airing their views – Rameez Raja, Arun Lal, Charu Sharma. Kris Srikanth is needed to complete the Dream Team, but he’s in Chennai, quizzing voters on elections for CNN-IBN. The commentary is in Hindi, after listening to Arun Lal and (I think) Madan Lal repeat several times over ten minutes that they can’t understand why Reetinder Singh Sodhi isn’t getting on with the game and that a top order batsman should have been sent if one had to consolidate, I give up on them and switch channels.

Anyway, the point of this post is this – …I HATE Hindi commentary. During Cricket, it is sometimes (SOMETIMES) bearable because the ex-cricketers usually know what they’re talking about. Then there are other times – particularly when we’re subjected to Hindi commentary during Football.

Why during Football? ESPN and Star Sports, in order to increase their mass base, supply two audio frequecies to supplement the video – one in Hindi and the other in English. The English commentary is from Sky Sports and features some of the best commentators in the business. They’re at the match, watching the game and aware of things happening off the ball. To add to that, a few of them are former players with in depth knowledge of the game and of the players, and aware of what has been happening prior to the game. They’re also comfortable enough joking about the game and the players, and voicing an opinion

On the other hand, the Hindi commentators are sitting in studios. Half the time, they end up commenting on what they see on screen and you really don’t need radio style commentary while watching the game. They have little to offer in terms of insight, and no awareness of the news. They mispronounce names, don’t really know enough to voice an opinion apart from general comments and sound terribly stressed. I can’t believe Aishwarya finds them funny.

Anyway, all this reasoning is secondary to the fact that I enjoy English commentary more, and politically incorrect though it is, I wouldn’t like to listen to Hindi commentary even if it was knowledgeable, funny and opinionated. Still, better knowledgeable, funny and opinionated Hindi commentary than what they have now.

I suppose this is yet another reason for our pro-22% reservation friend Harish to call me arrogant and elitist.

Anyway, does anyone know which channel will be showing the World Cup? Whoever it is, I sincerely hope they don’t have Hindi commentators.

I hereby wish that itching and sneezing powder rain down upon my cable operator and his employees, and on the operators at Siti Cable who change the audio to Hindi and then claim that they don’t know how to change it back to English.

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