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Broadcast TV winner in UK elections

25 May 2010
Broadcast TV winner in UK elections

Broadcast TV packed a bigger punch than anyone could have expected during the fraught UK election, broadcaster Andrew Neil told the one-day Broadcast & Beyond conference sponsored by SES-Astra and held at the Vinopolis wine museum in London, writes Richard Dean.

Analysts had predicted that this would be the UK’s first broadband general election, continuing the trend set in the US election where the victorious Barrack Obama secured 95% of funds online, with 90% of these below US$100.

Instead, bloggers and online services were left merely reflecting what was on broadcast TV, said Neil. The one online success was the micro-blogging service Twitter – but even that served mainly as a briefing medium for an estimated 1,800 journalists. The real victims were newspapers, which spectacularly failed to keep up. “What they thought has never mattered less,” added Neil, himself a former national newspaper editor.

Neil’s conclusion was that broadcasting remains unchallenged for live delivery of fast-breaking news to a mass audience, with BBC 24 and Sky News now available in more than 90% of UK homes. He added that the economic downturn had actually benefitted mainstream TV, with recent figures showing a rise of 2m pay-TV subs in the US, as viewers considered value-for-money in comparison to going out.

However Ofcom board member Tim Gardam MBE said that some advertising and sponsorship restrictions are likely to be relaxed to improve the competitiveness of mainstream broadcasting alongside unregulated online services.

Amid widespread agreement that broadcasters and online services must work together in the future, SES Astra’s VP of Product Management Media, Thomas Wrede, revealed that a new HbbTV service for Germany – which combines satellite TV with coordinated broadband content – will be launched at this year’s Berlin IFA consumer electronics show.

Detailed specifications of the format, which was developed by the German broadcaster research centre IRT, are due to be published by telecoms standards body ETSI at the end of this year. The service is expected to roll-out across Germany in Q1 next year.

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