2001 Odyssey 

1 January 2002 tbs.pm/1685

Well, a lot has changed in 2001, and yet, very little has. Mind you, that’s not saying we haven’t had some big stories in broadcasting in the past year, we have had some absolutely monster stories, mostly towards the end of the year.

The arrival of ITV1 and ITV2 on Sky Digital was undoubtedly a major story, even if it wasn’t the be all and end all. Certainly expectations about ITV’s arrival ranged from ‘The best thing since sliced bread’ to ‘so what?’ and all points in between.

It certainly hasn’t felt like the best thing since sliced bread so far to me, but at least I do feel like something positive has happened. Perhaps ITV and Sky will not be at each other’s throats so much.

Several channels shut up shop in 2001. Rapture, whereits.at, U>Direct, Simply Money, The Money Channel and B4U>Direct have all fallen by the wayside over the course of the year, and more look likely for 2002, with Wellbeing closing whilst this article was being written.

Earlier on in the year, there was a lot of chatter about a new potential Broadcasting Bill, as the Government put forward a whole raft of potential proposals, that included a new regulator and allow the creation of a single ITV company. Whether the new set of proposals is for the benefit of Broadcasting or the benefit of broadcasting companies, only time will tell.

RTE in Ireland have not had a good year with a downturn in advertising revenue, and no increase in the licence fee, leading the Irish state broadcaster to financial troubles. It’s having to cut some jobs as a result, and like so many other channels, is slowly losing viewers to the various niche channels that digital has spawned.

The recent news that RTE is to arrive on Sky Digital is being greeted as a generally positive move. Only the Irish cable companies have been very negative about the move, and were planning to charge RTE for carriage on their systems.

Then it was revealed that RTE weren’t paying for carriage on Sky Digital. All in all, the RTE situation is one to watch.

Without doubt, very few people will ever forget what happened on 11 September 2001. It seems difficult to look back at a year in broadcasting without briefly touching on this date. Broadcasters around the world handled the situation with the gravitas required.

The BBC, Sky, RTE, Fox News, NBC, CNN and many others deserve praise for what was unquestionably the most emotional story of the year.

Although some people felt the coverage was overkill, and a lot of people’s favourite programmes were postponed for a while, I do believe the right balance was struck between the need for coverage, and the need for some relief from the emotion of the story.

So, what does 2002 have in store for us? Well, here’s what we know so far… RTE intends to launch on Sky Digital in Ireland and Northern Ireland, ITV Digital will continue to be under close scrutiny as to whether it will ever actually make a profit, or be closed down or sold off.

The advertising market will be watched to see if it picks up, and just how fast or slow it does.

The various broadcasting companies’ trade on the stock market will be watched to see if they can do better in 2002 and, of course, viewing figures for digital channels and individual programmes will be watched closely, ready for the slightest sign of failure.

[Since this article was written, ITV Digital has closed and has been replaced, after a prolonged wait, by a free service called Freeview and a small pay service called Top Up TV]

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Ian Beaumont Contact More by me

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