Thursday, 14 July 2011

Hidden pain becomes visible

For the second time in as many weeks, the company hosting the website of the AIB - and a range of other companies' sites - has been hacked. Instead of seeing the latest news from across the media industry, visitors to have been treated to the view of a cross-eyed penguin...

It's frustrating for us as people in broadcasters all over the world check for last minute information about the 2011 AIBs, our international media excellence awards, but thankfully our special awards site [] is hosted separately and has not been compromised.

These episodes have demonstrated the absolute vital need to maintain back-ups of back-ups. You simply cannot rely on a single back-up as we discovered on the first hacking. The server company's back-up took days rather than hours to decompress, crashing servers constantly. So we made a back-up in the office to make sure we had some level of additional security. We've used that to get up and running this afternoon.

All this comes when Britain's secret listening service - GCHQ - reveals that it is struggling to retain cyber experts. It seems that people with expertise in all things hacking and cyber are being lured by multinationals like Amazon, Google and Microsoft who offer somewhat higher salaries than GCHQ - so naturally they jump ship from the public to commercial sector.

Meanwhile, AIB is looking at what it should do with its online presence. The answer is probably to spread things around. Already we've migrated our e-mail to Google apps (which works extraordinarily well) and, as I mentioned earlier, our awards website is hosted by a different company to our main site. Diversity is key to everyone's longevity in cyberspace.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Entries from all over the world - there's still time to enter!

The AIB headquarters is inundated with entries to this year's international media excellence awards, the AIBs.

We've had entries from Indonesia, the UK, Canada, Australia, Qatar, the US, South Africa, France, Singapore and many other countries - everyone is eager to have their content show-cased in this year's AIBs.

The new People's Choice is moving forward, too. The subject this year is best coverage of pro-democracy uprisings, and the short-listed entries will be available on social networks and web platforms globally, thanks to a deal we're currently finalising with a major player that receives 50m uniques every month in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region alone.

If you have not yet entered, don't despair. The official closing date is Friday 15 July but we will offer flexibility to ensure that the world's best content is judged by our international jury.

And don't forget that as well as rewarding the best factual TV, radio and cross-media programming, the AIBs also celebrate the best on-air talent, the best broadcast marketing and the most innovative broadcasting technology.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Training central

Yesterday I sat in on a new course designed by the BBC College of Journalism for editorial leaders. It's the first time that BBCCoJo has run this course - originally designed for senior BBC staff - for people outside the organisation.

Held at the perhaps a little anodyne BBC Academy on the third floor of BBC White City, this first course attracted delegates from Australia, Belgium, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Qatar and the US, plus a couple of observers (including me).
I was there to get a feel for how well a BBC-originated course can translate to other organisations that have nowhere near the resource levels of the BBC. There was heated debate during some of the discussions on editorial principles - something I suspect will intensify as the week progresses.

I may pop back to see how the delegates are getting on later in the the meantime, I'm evaluating my impression of the course that I'll be passing on to AIB members shortly. And we're going to be sampling BBCCoJo's Social Media course later this month.

Interestingly (for me, at least) while sampling the White City canteen yesterday, I bumped into a couple of people I worked with in the past at the BBC - despite having left the Corporation 15 years ago!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

A celebration of success - it's started

The first entries in this year's AIBs - our international media excellence awards - have started to arrive.

It's great to see this celebration of success taking centre stage in so many broadcasters and production companies around the this seventh year of the AIBs, we're looking forward to a remarkable crop of entries from factual programme makers around the world who want to see their work highlighted internationally.

The awards do not overlook important related areas - there's a category for marketing (after all, the audience needs to be enthused to consume output) and for technology (we need to keep pushing technological boundaries to keep broadcasting fresh and up-to-the-minute).

AIB also rewards on-air talent with our international personality of the year category - one for radio, one for television.

So make sure you get your entries together and into AIB no later than 1 July 2011. See how to enter online at

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Parallel universes...part two

I'm in the office with Libyan TV beaming in from HotBird. It's like watching Nile TV of a couple of weeks ago, but Libyan TV is working on steroids.

There's a completely different reality portrayed on Libyan TV from what every other news channel in the world is telling its viewers - this morning, they're excelling themselves with every presenter wearing a green scarf. They've been out on the streets of (presumably) Tripoli, filming people going about their business, shopping, and generally smiling in the sunshine (perhaps recorded this morning as it seems, from some apparently live links from outside the TV complex, that it's sunny today in Tripoli) and no sign of anti-Gaddafi protests.

So far, there's no evidence that Libyan TV staff have had enough of the propaganda they have to sell to viewers, but I wonder whether all the technical staff are on duty - audio levels are all over the place!

Gaddafi's son has been on the air, this time filmed alongside the TV's master control room (the glass could do with a jolly good clean, as it's definitely not sparkling at present). It was half interview, half tirade...he certainly doesn't look like a happy fellow.

If you want to join the fun, tune to Libyan TV on HotBird at 12.654, horizontal polarisation, 27500.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens on air over the next few days...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The cracks widen

The cracks in Egypt's state are widening. Shahira Amin (left), a senior anchor and correspondent on Nile TV - who I've seen on the air on the international English-language service over the past few days - has resigned.

She's just been on Al Jazeera English (at 1215GMT) telling of the intimidation she claims to have been threatened with by people at state TV. Now she says she's in Tahrir Square with the anti-government demonstrators.

Essentially, said Shahira, she's fed up with the propaganda being fed to the Egyptian people by state TV. Al Jazeera is difficult to watch because of restrictions and interference but people are looking at Al Arabiya that is providing coverage of events and so the truth is getting out. Meanwhile, Nile TV is on the air in English at the moment, with a picture of empty streets and a very long shot of Tahrir Square...

What will happen next...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Google and Twitter step up to the mark

Gerd Leonhard shared this information about how Google and Twitter are working together to ensure voices from Egypt are heard:

It's a great concept, so hats off to the team that's understood the problem and developed a solution to it.

Al Jazeera - a continuing target

Events in Egypt have been unfolding on the TV screens of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world - although if you watch domestic Egyptian TV you will get a picture that contrasts with what every other news organisation in the world is depicting.

Here in the AIB offices, we're monitoring regional Arabic-language channels and the output of Nile TV's domestic and international channels. While stations such as Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera show live pictures of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square, Nile TV shows locked off cameras trained on all but deserted streets and bridges near the ERTU headquarters building. As I write this blog, Nile TV domestic is running another of its patriotic "life is great in Egypt" fillers, with smiling children, teachers, business people and shopkeepers, all with the Egyptian flag in shot. It's like turning the clock back to the days of the Soviet Union when Radio Moscow broadcast propaganda saying how wonderful life was in the country - no mention of bread shop queues, four year waits to buy a car and so on.

The international news media has been working extremely hard to bring the real news about what's happening across Egypt to viewers and listeners throughout the world. And Al Jazeera Network deserves special mention as it has been subject to immense challenges by the Egyptian authorities. Firstly their broadcasts were interfered with, then their bureau in Cairo closed, then six AJN correspondents and news crew detained and their kit confiscated (although they were allowed to go free subsequently).

AIB has condemned the moves by the Egyptian authorities, issuing a statement on 30 January and writing to the Egyptian ambassadors in London, Doha and Washington asking for the restrictions on Al Jazeera to be lifted. This was echoed by Philip J Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State who tweeted: "We are concerned by the shutdown of-Jazeera in and arrest of its correspondents. Egypt must be open and the reporters released."
This represents quite a change of heart by the US authorities towards the Qatar-based international broadcaster.

Al Jazeera Network Director General Wadah Khanfar contributed to The Huffington Post on 31 January with a call for Al Jazeera to be made available on US TV networks.

We have not seen the end of the Egyptian story - it's essential that international news media are allowed to report events without hindrance. I hope that the situation improves for Al Jazeera in Egypt and doesn't get any worse for other news media operating in the country.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Monitor the output...everywhere

While carrying out research today for a paper I'm writing, I checked some websites of major international channels. And I discovered that it's almost impossible for media companies to be across their entire output.

It used to be simple in the old analogue days - in the BBC, a Presentation Department report at the close of transmission each day provided a summary of faults on individual transmitters, so that the powers that be could see where audiences hadn't been able to watch BBC1, for example, after a piece of kit broke down.

Today, it's rather more complicated and not only do broadcasters have to make sure that everything is OK in the studio, but also across multiple distribution networks feeding multiple platforms. And that's just the programming. What about the website? When the whole site crashes, then it's glaringly obvious that there's a problem. But when one part of it stops working, then it's quite difficult to see.

So, discovering a problem, I have fired off e-mails and text messages to various people in the hope of them kicking someone who can fix this small, but annoying, problem on the channel's website. One that could prevent people from watching the programme they want to see. I hope that they manage to correct it soon.

The moral of the story...make sure that staff check not only the live output on the screen (or loudspeaker, for radio), but also what the public can see on the web. Otherwise, you start to look rather unprofessional. Now, how's the AIB website performing?

Thursday, 6 January 2011

New Year, so resolutions?

OK, OK, I haven't managed to write this blog regularly, and perhaps a New Year's resolution ought to be for me to discipline myself to be more prolific online!

Mind you, I'm not particularly keen on NY resolutions as I think one becomes a hostage to fortune by suggesting that one will do new things, or do things better. Anyway, I will do my best to keep this more up-to-date in 2011.

So what's happening in AIB at the moment. We're just finishing off the latest edition of our international media magazine, The Channel, which goes to press on 11 January. The magazine will be distributed at some major events around the world such as Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February and the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha the following month.

I will be at both these events, discovering in Barcelona, I hope, the latest developments in mobile and mobile content and the potential for content distribution. AIB is organising a member-only private networking dinner to bring AIB members into contact with senior executives from across the mobile industry.
And we have the first AIB member-only conference call on 12 January and then there's lots going on with research for our market intelligence briefings and planning the 2011 AIBs.

So, best wishes for a very Happy New Year and let's hope that despite continuing uncertainty in global finance and rising food prices, 2011 is a great year!