Sunday, April 5, 2020

Quick fix

Whilst locked-down Britain might be looking at a Disney or Britbox subscription to extend their viewing, the new kid on the block in the States is Quibi. Its offer is new content in short form, with around half of it updated every day. So you get a mini-me Top Gear with Idris Elba; a comedy with Eva Longoria and Jerry Garcia in fast moving, mini-episodes; a documentary in bits about a school in Akron backed by LeBron James - and a bitesize five-minute daily news offer from the BBC.

Ben Bland (and when she's back from maternity leave, Victoria Fritz) will host Around the World by BBC News, “for audiences looking to get an overview of the world’s biggest stories in one quick fix”.  The deal seems to have been struck by Chris Davies (Latymer and UEA), billed as BBC Global News’ executive vice-president of marketing and distribution.

Quibi launches on April 6, offering a 90-day free trial, and then monthly subscriptions at $4.99 with ads, and $7.99 without.

The hardest conversation

I was struck by this contribution from an anaesthetist in Reading to Radio 4's Any Answers with host Anita Anand this Saturday, about conversations with seriously ill covid patients; the 'saying goodbye' conversation.

Which line to take ?

The Mail Online churns out covid graphs today - but here's one that perhaps is causing the debate between Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Head Scout Matthew Hancock. It's crude, and without scale, but hacks, doctors and scientists need to do more work on something like this over the next week.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Bill Withers RIP

Bill Withers was born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, in 1938, the youngest of six children. Slab Fork was once considered a model community amongst the Appalachian coal mining towns. At its peak, it had 210 homes, most of them neat wooden bungalows with picket fences, built by the Slab Fork Coal Company. It went bust in 1983, and the town is down to thirty homes.

Bill's father, also William, was a coal miner, and then became a domestic for the William Gaston Caperton family that owned the coal company. He was a Baptist deacon and the treasurer for the local chapter of the United Mine Workers. He died in 1951, when Bill was 15. His mother, Mattie Rose, died in 1972. Bill presented the Gold Disc for Ain't No Sunshine to her six months before her death.

Here's a lovely local tv piece with Bill from 2007, when he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.


Groovy Newsnight designers have gone all Victorian with the move to the main BBC News studio. The newsroom background is now being softened by net curtains. This allows full focus on the chiselled features of lovable mop-top stand-in presenter Mark Urban. Nothing should detract from that, eh ?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Ever upwards

Slightly more-heartening news for the team making The Nine for BBC Scotland. Both the Tuesday and the Thursday edition made it into the channel's top 15 programmes for week ending 22nd March, with 38,000 and 41,400 viewers respectively.

Meanwhile, over at BBC1, the BBC News at Six takes the channel's top five places for its Monday to Friday bulletins, with ratings spanning 7.3m to 8.8m. Unfortunately, BARB doesn't pull together a figures for the regional news output that follows at 6.30pm.

Webb master

Well done to Alice Webb, driving forward online learning with BBC Bitesize Daily, launching on April 20 - the day when it should have been back to school for the UK's children.

Alice announced her impending departure from the BBC back in December. The BBC will miss this finisher/completer.  They advertised for her replacement back in January, but I can find no record of an appointment.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Support group

Now I'm feeling anxious about the BBC's James Purnell. Have I been teasing him too much ?  Please answer his tweet. Please.


I feel the need for a one-page-graph Covid graph for the UK - which may not be possible. The x-axis is time, starting January 1st 2020, the y-axis is total UK population (needs to be super-logarithmic).

I want to track the overall UK death rate; UK hospital deaths from Covid; the ONS register of deaths from/associated with Covid; the number of hospital admissions for Covid; the number of those leaving hospital having recovered from Covid; the number of people who may have identified with Covid symptoms, short of requiring hospital, through calls or online exchanges with 111 or their GPs (somebody must be doing that).

Time needs to be 12 months - the earliest we're told a vaccine might come. Clearly, modelling and trajectory estimates are needed to get to how many die before we get to a vaccine.  Can it be done ?


Some excellent, but perhaps not surprising figures from BBC Children's and Education. In the seven days up to 29th March, CBBC programmes were requested a record 10.6m times, and CBeebies 27.1m times. That's nearly double an average week for CBBC, and 50% up for CBeebies.

And, whilst there may be no immediate prospect of serious exams, the key revision aid, BBC Bitesize, has attracted a record of 4.8m average weekly unique visitors, beating the previous record of 3.3m set in May 2017.

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