Here’s the game-changer: BSkyB is thinking about broadcasting the April 29th Royal Wedding in 3D. TV experts wonder if Prince Williams’ wedding to commoner Kate Middleton might be the technology boost that the Queen’s 1953 Coronation was when many England’ers bought their first TV sets to watch that royal spectacle. And it may be that people worldwide do the same thing for this wedding and 3D. Sales of 3D TV sets in the U.S. have been modest so far. (Screen Digest predicts there will be only 4.7 million 3D TV sets installed in the U.S. by the end of 2011.) If Sky does go ahead with 3D then it will feed those signals to its international news affiliates. But BBC Vision boss Jana Bennett sounds pretty unenthused about the prospect of the BBC filming in 3D though — “although I can see an archive argument,” she tells me.
The Beeb will definitely be filming next April’s wedding in high-definition. TV technology consultant Chris Forrester thinks that broadcasters will use the Royal Wedding to promote HD to those who haven’t yet upgraded to HDTV sets/receivers.
UK broadcasters will be hoping for record viewing figures in what could be the most watched TV event in history. A total of 28.4 million British viewers tuned in to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. Over 750 million tuned in worldwide to see that wedding dress trail up the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Media outlets including the BBC and BSkyB already have met with Buckingham Palace officials at Clarence House, the Prince of Wales’s official residence, to discuss broadcasting arrangements for next April’s Royal Wedding. My source says nothing was decided and the meeting was just a meet-and-greet.
The big news about who is going to be the lead broadcaster will be announced in the New Year. However, the likelihood is that the BBC will have that job providing pool footage for every broadcaster around the world to use. (“Otherwise,” the BBC’s Bennett tells me, “too many people will be falling over each other’s camera cables.”) U.S. broadcasters will have access to these live pool feeds. But who will oversee the pool footage? And will U.S. broadcasters be charged for it? My guess is that it may be handled the same as Prince William and Kate’s engagement interview. ITN, the news arm of ITV, filmed it and sold it internationally with revenue going to a charity of the young couple’s choice.
Speaking in the House of Lords, the UK equivalent of the Senate, David Puttnam said that News Corp’s bid to take control of BSkyB posed a threat to democracy. Here are excerpts from the speech given by the one-time Columbia Pictures boss:
My Lords… I had the honour of entering your Lordships House thirteen years ago tomorrow. Since that time there have been three or four really big issues with which I’ve consistently tried to engage – in part because they relate to experiences gained in my former life, but also because I believe they represent the type of issues upon which rests the future of the type of society most of us would wish to live in… My Lords, the purpose of this afternoon’s debate is to draw attention to the possibility that we are on the edge of a very slippery slope – one that could find us falling further and further under the influence of a single, US-based owner, with a highly questionable interest in the benefits of a diverse and flourishing plural media here in the United Kingdom. So why this debate, and why now?
The primary reason My Lords is that News Corporation yesterday notified the European Commission of its intention to purchase the 61% of BSkyB that it does not presently own. As I’ve already mentioned, this morning we heard the welcome news that this proposal had been referred by the Secretary of State, to Ofcom. It’s my most sincere hope that the Coalition’s proposed ‘trimming’ of Ofcom’s powers will not result in any diminution of its capacity to exercise those powers in respect of important matters such as this.
There, are of course, a number of aspects to media plurality – notably the Government’s proposals to repeal the local “cross-media” ownership laws, but this afternoon I only have time to focus on the really big issue resulting from News Corporation’s power, reach and influence. It’s my contention that if regulators and legislators in Europe and the UK remain supine, and simply wave this proposed acquisition through, the consequences for the citizens, as well as the political class in this country could become deeply troubling. The purchase of these shares would give News Corporation an unprecedented level of control over the UK media, one that to my mind has the potential to be extremely damaging, not just in respect of media plurality, but to informed democratic debate as a whole.
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