Tag Archives: BBC

BBC News – In praise of bokeh: the dilemmas of TV filming

Bokeh is a Japanese term used by photographers to describe that pleasing effect where the background of a photo is defocused, often into blobs or hexagons, while the subject is razor sharp. It’s what you need a real lens for, and it’s produced by the effect of the little blades that open and close the aperture, letting the light onto the sensor.

If you’re sharp-eyed you will notice bokeh has suddenly splattered onto your TV screen, as journalists have begun to use Digital SLR cameras to shoot video (trailing by about two years the practice of activists and demonstrators). Normal TV cameras, costing maybe five times as much as a Canon 5D MkII , don’t really do Bokeh. They’re designed to keep more of the scene in focus, and to maximize clarity over moodiness.

An interesting diversion from an unexpected source.

BBC Archive

Take a trip through our collective past with the BBC archives and discover themed collections of radio and TV programmes, documents and photographs from as far back as the 1930s.

You can explore who we are, see how attitudes and broadcasting have changed and go behind the scenes to find out how the BBC archives are maintained.

I may have linked to this before, but as part of their public service broadcasting remit the BBC have been trying to get a lot of archived material online. It’s a great way to waste some time, if nothing else. For me, it is proving to be a hefty dose of nostalgia.

Save BBC Four!

They’re at it again. By “they” I mean the bean counters at the BBC.

Told that the Corporation must save money in these times of austerity, they’ve cast their beady eyes in the direction of the free-to-air digital channels, and BBC Four in particular.

You may well be thinking “so what?”.

Well, a quick glance at the schedules of the other BBC television channels will reveal in the main a wasteland of commercialised populist tat. BBC Four, alone, seems to be a haven for intellectual broadcasting, where you can find documentaries and strands that cover the arts, culture, foreign films, the sciences and humanities. In recent years, BBC Four has also been home to quality US imports, before the avaricial commercial channels topped the bids for new seasons.

In short, BBC Four is what BBC Two once was. It is almost a last bastion of free-to-air quality television broadcasting, and as such must be saved from closure that seems to be based on spite or to salve the consciences of BBC executives. The BBC is more important and better than merely ratings figures, and it’s time the BBC management realised this. The Corporation doesn’t have to compete with the commercial sector. It should concentrate on producing quality programming, on not dumbing everything down to appease the stupid and indolent.

A couple of years ago, the BBC also mooted the idea of closing the digital-only radio stations BBC 6 Music and BBC Asian Network. A spirited defence of both channels, which resulted in increased audience figures, saved both channels because the voice of the listener was heard. A petition has been set up for BBC Four. I encourage you to voice your opinion, and add your name to save the channel so we viewers who still care can still find programmes that educate and entertain, instead of just anæsthetising our brains.



Planning ahead

I’m getting to a certain age where I must begin to consider what I’m going to do with my time when I become “retired”. Leaving aside the rather worrying notion I may well never actually retire as the UK’s official retirement age creeps ever upwards as we all live longer, I still need to think about how I’m going to live out the autumn years of my life. There is an age disparity between myself and Best Beloved of some quarter century, and it’s pretty obvious to both of us I may well not have the pleasure of his company into my dotage. We don’t have dependants, so once he’s gone I will have to be self-sufficient for as long as I can manage it. 

Moving swiftly on from that rather depressing thought, I’m currently letting myself have a little daydream, which I amusingly call my Retirement Plan. There’ll be none of that checking into a retirement apartment, or sheltered accommodation, or even getting myself on Crusty Cruises around the Mediterranean. My plan is predicated on my inheriting Best Beloved’s estate. As we have no mortgage or major outstanding debt, I would hope to be able to liquidate the house and invest the proceeds. I would then purchase a mobile home (RV, self-propelled tin snail, whatever you fancy) and set off to explore the glories of the land of my birth.

The vehicle will need to be large enough for me to live in comfortably. It will need sufficient secure storage for my camera gear and a laptop, as well as clothes, food and the usual prerequisites of life. It will need to be self-sufficient for the times when I can’t plug into the grid. It will need internet access of some kind. To offset the size of the living van, I can hitch a small car to the back. Once I’m safely berthed in a campsite somewhere I can use the car to explore, reasoning a small car is easier to park than a bus, and drier than a moped or bicycle! 

The basic idea is now settled. I am assuming I really will be setting off on, and be able to fund in some way, a Grand Tour of the British Isles. What’s happening now is I am beginning to think about the places I want to visit, and the best way to cover the country to see the best bits. It’s not like I will have a time limit. My time will be my own, to spend as I please. If I land up somewhere, I might spend a week, a month or even longer. It would be really great to get to know an area on more intimate terms than the usual tourist traps. When I’m ready, weigh anchor and away I go.

It would be useful to have some kind of underlying tour plan, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to book berths in advance when I can. To avoid traffic I am considering overnight driving between stopping places, allowing myself a day or so once settled to prepare for my visit. Although I plan to be on the road permanently, I should also allow for times when I may be unwell, or the weather just too inclement, where I ought to heave to in a hotel for a time.

I’d love to be doing the Grand Tour until I am incapable of doing it any more. I certainly don’t want to spend my dotage in a “care” home, or dying in my favourite armchair in front of the goggle box, and there won’t be anyone in my immediate family who can “look after” me. I want to be out and being active for as long as I can manage it. I need to be independent and self-sufficient until I can’t manage any more.

What’s brought on this late-onset wanderlust? I think I can lay the blame on the BBC for giving us excellent documentary television programmes like Coast and Town. Both these shows have opened my eyes to the wonders that abound in my homeland. I have lived my entire life in the bottom right-hand corner of England, with all too rare and painfully short forays to other parts on holidays and odd trips. I simply have not experienced much of my own country, and I plan to see as much as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil.


As an added incentive, I’ve recently acquired a copy of The Lie of the Land by Ian Vince. Subtitled A spotter’s guide to the Britain beneath your feet, I thoroughly recommend it. Superbly written, easy to read, and sufficiently in-depth to seriously whet your appetite for more, it will act as my guide book on my journey. While considering the book, you might also take a look at the British Landscape Club web site, where you can currently buy signed paperback editions of the book, and become a member of the club. Membership is free, and you get a lovely badge you can wear with pride.

That’s enough for now. I shall go back to planning trips and day-dreaming about my retirement.


BBC News – What was the General Strike of 1926?

Trade unions opposed to public sector pension changes are threatening the biggest campaign of industrial action since the General Strike. But what happened during this benchmark strike in the 1920s, and just how big was it?

The strike was called by the TUC for one minute to midnight on 3 May, 1926.

For the previous two days, some one million coal miners had been locked out of their mines after a dispute with the owners who wanted them to work longer hours for less money.

In solidarity, huge numbers from other industries stayed off work, including bus, rail and dock workers, as well as people with printing, gas, electricity, building, iron, steel and chemical jobs.

The aim was to force the government to act to prevent mine owners reducing miners’ wages by 13% and increasing their shifts from seven to eight hours.

There’s been a lot of references to the 1926 General Strike in the media this past few days. Finally, the BBC has decided it might be helpful to explain what the General Strike was all about.

There’s always an impression the 1926 actions lasted for months on end, but the strike only lasted nine days in total. It eventually petered out, without achieving the goals originally intended, and resulting in legislation to make sympathy strikes and mass picketing illegal.

Rant Ahead — you have been pre-warned!

West Midlands Police said they were called after the large crowd gathered outside a nightclub holding a “pre-planned” club night.

Please, for the love of Bob, what does “pre-planned” actually mean?!

Did the participants have to pre-book their tickets for this pre-planned event? Did they pre-masticate their meals while pre-eating? Did they pre-breathe? Did they pre-dress before they pre-left their homes for the evening?

I despair for my mother tongue!

Kate to use car damaged in protests – stop the presses!

Kate Middleton will be driven to her wedding in the same luxury car that was attacked in student protests last year.

The Rolls-Royce, which was damaged by a mob as it took the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to a theatre, is being repaired for Kate’s big day.

How, exactly, is this actually a news story? I am gobsmacked.

Breaking News! Car repaired and used again.

Tenuous links to royal weddings are painful at best.

Shipping forecast: The poetry of North Utsire | Elisabeth Mahoney | Comment is free | The Guardian

Sandwiched between Sailing By and the national anthem as the station closes down each night – as well as in three other slots across FM and LW – the forecasts are one of the network’s self-defining gems, and one of its best-loved slots for urban listeners like me, who’ve only ever been to sea on a holiday pedalo. Especially at night, these forecasts, with their place names, terms (veering, backing) and weatherly detail you never hear in the rest of life, and their hypnotically formulaic progression (area, wind direction, strength, precipitation, sea conditions, visibility), have a talismanic, haunting power.

This is especially the case if you’re listening on land, warm and safe, with a hot-water bottle tucked under your feet. From here, the segments of each forecast are like haiku poems: intense, compressed, full of something living and changing, but so still in their composure: “Viking, North Utsire, westerly, backing southerly, or south-westerly five to seven, perhaps gale 8 later, wintry showers, good occasionally poor.”

Once upon a time I used to listen to Radio 4 from the moment I awoke to the moment I fell asleep. I remember drifting away to the late night shipping forecast. In fact, I am getting a little nostalgic for it. I may have to stay up late and tune in tonight.