BBC trial live mobile TV; when do you need a TV license?

Creative Commons License photo: videocrab

The Telegraph reports today that the BBC has just launched a trial of live mobile TV via WiFi.

The BBC shows are being simulcast on phones at the same time as they are broadcast on traditional scheduled television.

The service, dubbed Live TV, is still in the second stage of testing, but is available to some users already. It will enable viewers to watch channels such as BBC One, BBC Four, CBeebies and BBC News over a Wi-Fi connection using a compatible mobile phone. Radio shows can also be streamed live to handsets, the BBC confirmed.

To watch live TV on your mobile, visit in your phone’s browser. Live radio can be found at

The BBC have reminded people they need a full colour TV license to watch TV on their mobile. But I think we need a lot more clarity in what the law says about the situations when a TV license is needed. You need a TV license to watch live TV (whether you use a TV or laptop to receive it) as it is being broadcasted. However, the TV licensing website says:

Your TV Licence for your main home won’t cover you in your second home except in the following limited circumstances:
a) you only use TV receiving equipment that is powered by its internal batteries;

I am not a lawyer… but mobile phones do happen to be powered by internal batteries. So if you only use a mobile phone to receive television at a second address, do you really need a TV license? Or is the actual wireless router (which is connected to the mains) the device which acts as the “receiver”?

Sky launching 3D television in the UK

Gunug Rinjani Summit
Creative Commons License photo: NeilsPhotography

According to a Digital Spy report, we could be seeing 3D television in our homes by the end of the year.

Digital television (satellite) broadcaster BSkyB plans to provide the 3D service through its existing Sky HD playout and set top box system. The broadcaster trialed this out first last December and has filmed several sporting events in HD.

Of course, 3D television relies on delivering a slightly different image to each eye. There are several different technologies to do this:

  • Red-Blue Glasses. The oldest and most infamous form of 3D. Normally, all TV pictures are made up of a combination of red, green and blue. In this system, the red channel is used to deliver a picture to your left eye and the blue channel to your right eye. You need to place a red filter over your left eye to eliminate the blue channel and vice versa. It’s great because it works with any screen, but it looks strange and it’s uncomfortable.
  • Polarised Light. The TV set emits light which is orthogonally polarised, depending on which eye it is intended for. For example, vertically polarised light for the left eye and horizontally polarised light for the right eye. By using polarisation filters, each eye only sees the image intended for it. This gives a much nicer image than using red-blue glasses but obviously requires technology in the TV to create polarised light.
  • Sharp’s 3D Display. I was lucky enough to see a demonstration of this a few years ago and to play Quake in 3D. It’s pretty cool. I won’t go into the full details of how it works: but only one person can use the display at once and they have to be sat in the exact right position for the system to work at all.

Sky have, rather sensible, opted for the polarised light system for 3D television.

Perhaps this is the killer application that HD needs.

The Great Digital TV Switchover: Freeview or Freesat?

Creative Commons License photo: videocrab

The UK is currently in the process of switching over from analogue broadcast to fully digital television. Essentially that means the analogue broadcasts will be turned off channel by channel and the frequencies those channels currently occupy will be replaced by digital TV channels. The reason the government are doing this is two-fold: primarily so it can auction off the frequencies that Freeview is currently broadcasting on and because moving Freeview to current analogue frequencies will allow much better reception for Freeview channels.

When do I switch?

According to Digital UK, switchover is happening region-by-region. The timetable as it currently stands:

  • Border has already started and finishes in 2009
  • West Country starts in April 2009 and finishes in September 2009
  • Granada switches in 2009
  • Wales starts in August 2009 and finishes in 2010
  • STV North switches in 2010
  • STV Central switches between 2010 and 2011
  • West switches between 2010 and 2011
  • Channel Islands switch in 2010
  • Central, Yorkshire and Anglia switch in 2011
  • Meridian switches between 2011 and 2012
  • London switches in 2012
  • Tyne Tees and Ulster switch in 2012

What are the free options?

The Office Monkey
Creative Commons License photo: shaz wildcat

There are of course a huge range of  services you could choose to replace analogue TV. Most of these involve subscription; I won’t talk about these options in this post. I’m working based on the assumption that if you wanted to subscribe to a TV service, you already would be doing so.

Essentially, you’ve got three options. The first is Freeview which is the most similar to analogue TV. You recieve television through an aerial. This can cause difficulties if you’re using an indoor aerial because digital TV tends to require better reception for it to work. Enter your postcode on the Freeview website.  There is a fairly good selection of channels too and the shopping channels gradually seem to be disappearing from the service. A Freeview box costs under £20 and you can install it quickly and fairly easily. It’s also worth considering getting a Freeview+ PVR (personal video recorder) for £100 which will allow you to record programmes.

Typical Freeview cost: £20

The other two options are to recieve television through your satellite dish. Rather confusingly, there are two services called Freesat: there is Freesat from BBC/ITV (“Freesat”) and Freesat from Sky. These are much pricier options but they might be your only choice if you don’t get Freeview in your area.

Hanging out with the coloured cottons 2
Creative Commons License photo: treehouse1977

You can get a Freesat box from £50 or a high definition box from £100. If you want to record, you’ll have to fork out at least £300. On top of that, if you don’t have a satellite dish, it’s another £80 for installation. The costs are significantly higher than Freeview but it does mean you can get the most out of that new high definition TV.

Typical Freesat Cost: £130

Then there’s Freesat from Sky. Sky will charge you £150 for a box and installation. You’ll probably get spammed by Sky to take out insurance on your box (and my Sky box just after 1 year when the warranty expired). You’ll also constantly get annoyed flicking through channels displaying “please subscribe” nags. This is certainly an uncompetitive option and there is no chance of subscription-free high definition or PVR.

In fact, if you’re considering Freesat from Sky, you might as well consider the full thing. Sky’s Pay Once Watch Forever offer gives you 4 months of free Sky TV for £73. If you cancel after 4 months, it’ll revert to Freesat from Sky. Obviously, they’re counting on you staying as a subscriber.

Typical Freesat from Sky Cost: £150 + spam from Sky (or £73 if you’re willing to sign up to the full Sky and then cancel)


Expanded Perception
Creative Commons License photo: jurvetson

By far the best and cheapest option is Freeview. For most people, this will probably be first choice. I strongly recommend Freeview+ as having a PVR changes your life 🙂

However, Freesat from BBC/ITV is worth considering if:

  • You already have a satellite mounted outside your house
  • You want high definition television
  • You can’t receive Freeview where you live

Freesat from Sky is probably not at all worth considering. I’ve had to put up with nuisance calls, letters and emails from Sky.My first Sky box broke after about a year and my current Sky+ box (which I’ve almost very nearly had for a year) looks like it might be on it’s last legs…

Stargate Atlantis Cancelled

Woah. Just as Stargate Atlantis season 5 begins to air on Sky One in the UK, we have news that Stargate Atlantis will not be renewed for a sixth season.

Gateworld reports that Atlantis will screen it’s final and 100th episode “Enemy At the Gate” in January in the USA. It will then conclude with a two-hour movie with the possibility of more movies if the first is successful.

SG-1 Onion Face Project
Creative Commons License photo: Steve Webel

At 100 episodes, Atlantis will have screened two more episodes than Star Trek: Enterprise but falls well short of SG-1’s 214 episode run.

It’s not all bad news for Stargate fans. Producer Joseph Mallozzi has said there could be three or four Stargate movies a year based on the SG-1 and Atlantis franchises. And the third Stargate series I’ve mentioned in the past has been given the green light. It’ll premiere in summer 2009 with a two-hour movie.

According to a SCIFI Channel press release:

After unlocking the mystery of the Stargate’s ninth chevron, a team of explorers travels to an unmanned starship called the Destiny, launched by The Ancients at the height of their civilization as a grand experiment set in motion, but never completed.

What starts as a simple reconnaissance turns into a never ending mission, as the Stargate Universe crew discovers the ship is unable to return to Earth, and they must now fend for themselves aboard the Destiny.

The crew will travel to the far reaches of the universe, connecting with each of the previously launched Stargates, thus fulfilling the Destiny’s original mission. Challenges will arise though as the ship comes into range of Stargates placed centuries ahead of the Destiny and the crew is unable to control the ship’s navigational schedule. If someone is left behind, there is no way to go back for them, adding to the drama of encountering new races, enemies and adventures.

To be honest, I have been getting a bit bored with Atlantis lately so this doesn’t come to me as too much of a disappointment. With Universe, the producers say they will re-invent the format “in a whole new way”. Perhaps this will breathe some new life into the franchise.

Worldwide News Coverage: Why we know less than ever about the world

A brief but persuasive talk by Alisa Miller about news coverage in the USA: about why we want to know more about the world than ever but our news sources are giving a very distorted picture with a lack of global coverage and a disproportionate amount of coverage for “pointless” celebrity news. The message is put across really well with some really good infographics.

It would be interesting to see whether British networks covered the news differently. It’s true that the BBC focuses primarily on British issues: they are the most relevant to British people. But we have plenty of coverage of worldwide issues including the American presidential election and the middle east. Perhaps it’s a reason to be thankful for the BBC and the license fee.

BBC iPlayer for Nintendo Wii

The BBC has announced a version of the BBC iPlayer video-on-demand catchup service for the Nintendo Wii.

The iPlayer on the Wii is currently being tested and the BBC expects to release more test versions in late 2008. An early version of the service is available from 9 April. It is only available in the UK to licence-fee payers.

The iPlayer will be accessible via the internet channel on the Wii console. The BBC said a message would be sent to Wii owners to alert them to its availability.

Unfortunately I’ve not actually got the Internet Channel (it costs 500 Wii points so I’ve never got around to purchasing points and then the browser; I didn’t really see much utility in a web browser on the Wii until iPlayer anyway). Though I’m slightly surprised that the iPlayer didn’t make a seperate application in the “Wii Software” section of the Shopping Channel. But presumably the iPlayer for Wii is just a version of the iPlayer website which works better for the Wii (the Internet Channel already has support for Flash).

Update: Comments on The Guardian blog suggests the BBC has simply adapted iPlayer to work with Wii’s Flash 7 and a BBC iPlayer channel is in the works.

Stargate Universe: New Stargate Series

About this time last year, people started talking about Stargate Universe and I speculated on what it could be about. Well, more information about the series has now been released!

The new series is still in a concept stage but the series is based on a ship which was part of an Ancient experiment – an experiment which was set in motion millions of years ago. The experiment is to send two ships across the universe: The first ship seeds galaxies with Stargates. A second ship then follows up and uses those Stargates to explore the galaxies. The ninth chevron is to get to that ship. The experiment was never started/completed because the Ancients got busy ascending.

Sounds complicated. However it’s possible that the series won’t materialise for a couple of years yet. It has already been delayed by the writers strike in America, is fairly expensive to produce and producer Brad Wright has indicated that he isn’t anxious to return to a schedule of filming 40 hours of television a year. My thoughts are that “Universe” is unlikely to begin until Atlantis or at least the SG-1 movies have concluded.

I must admit though, I can’t say I’m particularly excited about the sounds of this series. Atlantis has done the whole Ancients thing and SG-1 and Atlantis have both become more ship-based towards the recent years. Of course I’m not privy to all the details but it’s definitely not a huge departure from what we’ve already seen.

BBC iPlayer for iPhone

I think Ryan made a really insightful post about the BBC’s launch of the iPlayer on the iPhone.

Also the iPhone is just one platform, the amount of linux based mobiles/pda’s/wifi devices outnumber the iPhone easily.

Is it just me that is rather annoyed that a portable device with lower user base than Linux Desktop, or even Linux based devices has recieved a version of the iPlayer first? Especially since this release has managed to stream mp4 and has allowed DRM to be circumvented using VLC and user agent switcher.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think the iPhone is a really innovative product and it’s great. But for the BBC to develop a version of iPlayer for a device which has a very small market penetration (and costs a minimum of £35 a month plus a few hundred quid for the device itself) but not a desktop operating system with a pretty decent market penetration is a disgrace.

Remember that the iPlayer was originally criticised for only working on Microsoft Windows – it effectively helped Microsoft compete in the desktop OS system by giving it a competitive advantage over other operating systems. The full iPlayer download service still only fully works on Microsoft Windows.

The BBC is funded by taxation. Surely it is a better use of public money to develop a service first for a desktop operating system (equalising the playing field in OS) rather than choosing a brand new and fashionable mobile phone which has a market share which pales in comparison to other video-enabled phones.

Stargate SG-1: The Ark of Truth

After the cancellation of Stargate SG-1, it was decided that SG-1 would be finished off with two movies: The Ark of Truth which would wrap up the Ori storyline and Continuum which will have some time travel and all that malarkey. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to seeing The Ark of Truth, especially as it’s a movie: it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s a lot more epic than the TV series given the larger budget.

According to Gateworld, it’ll be aired in the UK on Sky One on Wednesday 26th March at 8pm. It’ll then go onto DVD for the 14th April.

The Ark of Truth stars SG-1‘s Ben Browder, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Claudia Black, and Beau Bridges in a story that spans the galaxies. With our own galaxy under seige by the armies of the Ori — powerful ascended beings who demand worship from “lower” life forms — SG-1 must take the Odyssey through the Supergate into the enemy’s own territory. There they hope to find a device created by the Ancients millennia ago, which they hope will stop the Ori worshipers from killing millions of innocents.

For the Americans, it’ll come out on DVD on Tuesday 11th March. I’d be really interested in hearing from the Stargate fans who read this blog what they think of “The Ark of Truth” when they see it!

Looking forward to it!

Martha Jones Axed from Doctor Who?

According to The Sun, Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) has been axed from Doctor Who for weak performances in later episodes.

DOCTOR Who actress Freema Agyeman has been axed from the next series, The Sun can reveal.

And they are planning a storyline where the Doctor, played by David Tennant, will lose her and travel through the universe searching for her.

The decision to dump Freema comes as a bolt from the blue after her performance for the first couple of episodes was praised.

Make of this what you will; remembering The Sun was also the source of the rumour that David Tennant was leaving Doctor Who.

Now, there have already been some hints Martha isn’t a proper assistant… you’ve seen how they’ve mentioned shes just tagging along for the ride, and in todays episode he asked some other woman to join him. But anyway, it’s all speculation.

Good news though: Captain Jack is back in the 11th episode!