The Cricketer magazine: once again in transition

Three years ago I wrote about changes made to the Wisden Cricketer magazine following its acquisition by TestMatchExtra, just ahead of its change of name back to The Cricketer. What I didn’t realise when I wrote that article was that the magazine was to enter quite such a turbulent time. For one thing, I was not aware that the first magazine with the new name was also to be John Stern’s last as editor.  Stern had done a wonderful job as editor of TWC for nearly eight years and whilst I have no idea why he stood down at this particular point, it seems a bit coincidental that it took place at the same time as the name change.  It might well have been that he was looking to move on regardless and saw this new era for the magazine as the ideal time to do so.  Or it might have been something more sinister – I do not know (although it should be stated that Stern continued to write for the magazine for a further six months or so, so clearly the relationship was good enough for that to take place).

In any case, my positive thoughts about the new ownership (as outlined in the aforementioned post from three years ago) were altered substantially.  A magazine that brought the best of TestMatchExtra’s website (Jonathan Agnew, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Simon Hughes, Vic Marks, Mark Nicholas) and coupled this with the best of the TWC staff (John Stern as editor and the excellent staff writers) would have been brilliant.  I would have welcomed a subtle change of focus from the BSkyB perspective (by whom the magazine had been owned for the past four years) to a Test Match Special one, but Stern’s departure changed all that.

It meant that Andrew Bordiss, a longstanding journalist (but not specifically a cricket one) who had been brought in as Managing Director at the time of the TestMatchExtra acquisition, took over as “Editor in Chief” for the remainder of 2011.  The magazine instantly appeared a rather more staid affair than the TWC years.  Whilst there were still some excellent articles being produced, and the likes of Agnew, Hughes and Marks provided fine columns, the editorial direction of the title appeared to be wavering slightly.  There were slightly bizarre new longstanding features and the design appeared to be rather dated.  It seemed as though the TestMatchExtra vision was a return to The Cricketer magazine of old – rather more worthy than the TWC incarnation.  This, in itself, was not a problem, although this might ultimately have proven problematic for sales (should an older audience be targeted over a younger one?) and one could see that a specialist cricket journalist was no longer editing it, a situation that would have needed to be rectified.  However, should a specialist cricket journalist have been brought in as editor, one who could have slightly manoeuvred the editorial direction towards the younger audience once more, along with a design refresh, this direction for the magazine would not have been a bad one at all.  In fact, this was the direction that I expected it to take, as it seemed to take over TestMatchExtra.com’s portfolio perfectly.

What was to happen next was a tremendous surprise.

Andrew Miller’s appointment as editor was a very strong one.  A superlative writer, excellent journalist and fantastic visionary, there was no question that persuading him to move over from Cricinfo was quite a coup for the magazine.  Yet, one of his very first moves as editor was to prove very surprising and it instantly tore apart the work of the TestMatchExtra acquisition, as far as the magazine was concerned.

The purchase of TestMatchSofa gained a number of column inches – for the uninitiated, the ‘Sofa’ was an unendorsed commentary service provided via the web, run by amateur broadcasters and cricket enthusiasts who commentated off the television.  The service began in 2009 and rapidly gained popularity.  However, it was financially unsustainable and by January 2012 it needed investment.  Step forward The Cricketer, heavily prompted by the newly-appointed Miller.  Miller was one of the Sofa’s key champions when he was at Cricinfo, so it was unsurprising that he wished to go into partnership with it.  On paper, it sounded like a great combination – a way to bring the great old magazine into the twenty-first century and have more of a connection with younger fans.

However, the problems were two-fold.  First, and most immediately, was the fact that many of the TestMatchExtra personnel also worked for the BBC’s Test Match Special.  They were highly against the Sofa, as they saw their broadcast as undermining their rights with the ECB.  The highly-passionate Jonathan Agnew instantly resigned from the magazine’s board.  Christopher Martin-Jenkins wrote very thinly-disguised criticism of the Sofa’s service and declined to appear any more in the magazine that he had had so much impact on in the 1980s (sadly, CMJ was soon to be taken very ill and passed away later that year).  Vic Marks stopped appearing at much the same time.

The issue for these BBC personnel was that whilst previously writing for (and investing in) The Cricketer was a perfectly acceptable by-line to their main jobs, now that the magazine owned a rival service (and a highly contentious one, at that) they could not participate.  Thus, the TestMatchExtra benefits that the magazine had enjoyed (for only six months or so) were destroyed at a stroke.

The second problem with the Sofa acquisition was the legal problems that the magazine would be entered into, legal problems that remain until this day.  Initially, the ECB had turned a blind eye to the Sofa, allowing it to broadcast off-tube, so long as this fact was acknowledged on-air.  (Indeed, there is a precedent of this, as tested in court, when TalkSport broadcast the European Football Championships in much the same vein in 2000.)  However, perhaps buoyed by the fact that this service was no longer run by enthusiastic amateurs and now bankrolled by one of the game’s major media sources, the ECB looked to stop the service from broadcasting.  Angry words were exchanged in the press between Andrew Miller and Jonathan Agnew in late 2012, ahead of England’s tour to India.  In 2013, Miller was warned by the ECB for tweeting about the Sofa from the Lord’s press box during the Ashes test (against the Board’s terms and conditions for press members), for which the Cricketer sued the ECB.  As of this season, the Sofa has not been broadcasting for legal reasons.  Whether this is related to the above case, or a separate case I am not sure.  Whichever it is, it could perhaps be argued that the Sofa purchase has been an expensive flop for the magazine – eating up legal fees, damaging its reputation and now reduced to tweeting score updates throughout each international match whilst its future is decided on in the court rooms.

It has shifted the magazine from an establishment figure (owned first by Wisden, then BSkyB, then by many who broadcast on Test Match Special) to one that is seen as a ‘black sheep’ by the ECB.  And, as for the magazine itself, with the departure of many high-profile columnists, it has returned to more of a Stern-style editorship.

Not that this is a bad thing – Miller has developed the Cricketer into a truly excellent magazine.  The most recent issue is a triumph – exactly what The Cricketer magazine should be in 2014.  It contains highly intelligent articles about the Great War and its relationship to cricket, timely reports about the England team, a detailed county section along with details of club cricket and cricket in schools.  This is the best of the old-school Cricketer, coupled with modern methods in writing and publishing. Miller’s editorship has been a triumph in this regard.

Which is why this morning’s news came as a great shock to me.  Miller, along with his two assistants, is to be made redundant.  The magazine will now operate with no in-house journalistic staff.  Instead, Simon Hughes will act as ‘Editor-at-Large’, with Alec Swann (Graeme’s brother) as ‘Head of Editorial Planning & Production’.  All the articles will now come via an ‘enhanced commissioning process’.

Clearly, the Cricketer are trying to cut costs.  I do not know why such a fantastic print journalist as Miller has been let go.  Perhaps the management are resentful of the Test Match Sofa purchase and hold that against him – that is just my speculation, I have no evidence for that at all.  As great as Simon Hughes is with regards his broadcast work and his analysis, he is not as talented a writer as Miller.  Nor, given his commitments on television, radio and for the Daily Telegraph, will he be treating this as a full-time job.

It is a shame that, after 12 months of instability (between 2011 and 2012), just when the magazine was really starting to find its feet, this happens to knock it back in an unknown direction.  I will give it a few months to let it find its way again, but I may well be cancelling my subscription if this does not work out – a subscription that dates back to the very first issue of TWC, released on my twelfth birthday in 2003.  More to the point, The Cricketer is a heritage brand within the game, and it appeared to be returning to its former glories.  I hope that this new direction does not ruin it forever.

The Fallacy of the Free Update (or, why I don’t want to update to Mavericks, but am being forced to)

Last October, with the release of OS X Mavericks, Apple changed their business model of OS X updates – no longer was there to be a charge for a major update.  Instead, just like iOS, this was to be free (and simple to install through the App Store).  The App Store mechanism has been used for updates since Lion’s release in 2011 (and, as this was the point that I jumped on the Mac bandwagon, I haven’t known anything else).  Indeed, this is one area where iOS excels – it is extremely easy to update to the latest software, and, by and large, everybody does so very quickly indeed.

However, a desktop operating system is a very different beast.  Updating iOS does not take any substantial downtime out from your system, nor does it drastically alter the way that apps work, because of its walled garden approach. However, as much as Apple want OS X to be like iOS, I’m afraid that updating OS X does pose more problems.

Hence, with Mavericks, Avid’s Sibelius software is not fully supported yet (it runs slowly, there are font bugs and also issues with ReWire), and Parallels 8 does not run properly on it either.  For these reasons (along with waiting for bugs to be ironed out in the new system) I am not wanting to upgrade my system.  I didn’t update to Mountain Lion until Easter 2013, as I waited for 10.8.2 to be released and I am in a similar boat with Mavericks – but in this case the critical moment will be when Avid have a patch ready for Sibelius.

That was my thinking until I received an email from my college’s IT department, informing us that any Mac not running Mavericks would not be permitted access to the college network from Easter, as it is the only ‘supported’ Apple OS, and running older versions of OS X are a security breach.  I was all ready to fire off an email to the department, pointing out that Apple did, in fact, still release security updates to older OSs, but decided to quickly Google to double-check.  It turned out that I was mistaken – whilst Lion was continually updated since the introduction of Mountain Lion, the ‘free update’ nature of Mavericks means that Mountain Lion is not being updated.  OS X is still a secure environment, and I don’t believe that my system is in any inherent danger, but, rather irritatingly, my IT department are quite correct in stating that Mavericks is the only supported OS version.  (What is also annoying is that Apple don’t have an official policy on this – unlike Microsoft’s abundantly clear one – so IT departments have to guess based on Apple’s released updates.)  From the IT department’s perspective, it’s no problem to the student population to update – it’s free!!  Except, it’s not free like a point-update to OS X is, or a new iOS version, it’s actually a major overhaul of an operating system.

I would actually rather that the OS X major updates were kept as a purchase option (albeit for a small amount, such as the £15 for Lion/Mountain Lion) and that Apple continued to support older OS X versions properly.  For, whilst the Mavericks update is free in terms of money, it is still a major update of a desktop OS – completely different to iOS’ update procedure.  It is very dangerous that Apple are, in effect, forcing consumers to update their system on day one of a new release, when that is not the best path of action, at all, for a desktop system.

I appreciate that Apple are trying to streamline the process of OS X updates and make them akin to iOS updates.  The problem is that they are not entirely the same, and in my opinion, this move has damaged OS X’s standing as a desktop operating system.

I will be updating to Mavericks over Easter because I will have to.  And I will have to cope with a sluggishly unresponsive Sibelius and purchasing a new version of Parallels.  I’m not happy about it, though.

Sibelius 7.5 announced

So, as I predicted last month, Sibelius 7.5 was announced today at the NAMM show.  But was I right about the features that I predicted?  Mostly, yes.

Playback enhancements

The playback enhancements have gone beyond tweaks to the patches (although this update does include some of those) and include new Espressivo settings, with lots of new detailed options.  Very good news for those relying on Sibelius for demos.  There is no completely new library, which in some ways is a surprise, but in others not: for a point update it is perfectly reasonable to just offer enhancements to the library.  Especially as the Sibelius 7.0 library was such an improvement over what was offered in Sibelius 6.x.

Export options

Yep, they’re there – present and correct! A very useful feature for educators and pros alike – also utterly predictable that it would be included!

Interface enhancements

I must admit that I was not quite on the money with this one.  There are no ribbon enhancements (such as the customisation options that I predicted) – instead, we see a new ‘timeline’ window.  This looks very neat indeed, and I look forward to experiencing it – surely something that was designed and implemented by the London team before their dismissal?!  It certainly bears their hallmarks.

Operating system compatibility

It certainly looks like Sibelius 7.5 will run on Mavericks, but we shall see!  No news about native full screen (although that might, I suppose, be one of the small tweaks that are promised) – I reckon that if it had full gesture support, such as Finale 2014 then that would be shouted about from the rooftops, too.  I must admit that I would be very disappointed if native full screen was not implemented – this is a feature that I was wanting since the launch of Sibelius 7 in 2011 (which practically coincided with the launch of Mac OS X Lion, which contained this new full screen paradigm) and I’m sure that had the original development team stayed with the company they would have done so.  If this feature is included then I will eat my words!

The next ‘big’ feature?

Well, simply put, it doesn’t include one!  The nearest that we get is the timeline interface and the espressivo and playback enhancements.

Small tweaks

There are several useful features, such as an ability to place system objects (such as symbols) on all staves at once and some enhanced tuplet functionality.  This is something that has been long-requested by many a Sibelius user and it is rather cheeky that a tiny, tiny portion of this has been addressed in this update.  The cynical side of me wonders if this has been put in as a way to ‘snare in’ long-term, hard-core users through the marketing blurb.  All that has changed is the ability to paste text, such as dynamics, into a tuplet – not previously possible.  It’s a step forward, but not the revolutionary update that many would have wanted (or possibly expected, given the vague wording given on the press release!).  Ah, well, perhaps Sibelius 8?!

Conclusions

So, Sibelius 7.5 is here, and it certainly looks to have maintained the slickness and class of previous versions when it comes to design of features.  It will be very interesting to see how stable the software is upon release.  This does beg the question as to how much of this update was prepared by the London team before they departed in the summer of 2012.  I would say that the design of the timeline and espressivo features certainly bear their fingerprints.  Of course, such features could have been ‘polished up’ by the new team.  The pricing seems fairly fair.  I should be getting it free as part of 4 years’ free updates that I received with my student purchase of Sibelius 7, but a £40 update fee from Sibelius 7 is reasonable.  As far as I can see, the update from Sibelius 6 (or earlier) to 7.5 is the same cost as it would have been to 7 – thus this Sibelius policy is maintained.

Since I published my post of predictions, Sam Butler was announced as the new product manager of Sibelius, and Joe Pearson the new designer.  Both are members of the ‘old’ Sibelius team – left over in support, when Daniel Spreadbury was let go as product manager alongside his development team.  It is notable that Avid seem to have realised the value of having long-term members of the Sibelius community (people who spent a lot of time with the previous designers and developers) running the show, rather than Pro Tools experts trying to jump ship.  These moves seem positive.  But, in many ways, this update was the easy one to release – it contains new features and code begun by the London team and the new developers just needed to polish this up into a product.  Plus, as a .5 release, there are nowhere near as many new features, and thus there is less complexity.  Sibelius 8 will be the acid test – this new team now needs to come up with some new ideas of its own and develop them stably and competently.  And – who knows – by the time that that package is released, they may have a new competitor – Daniel Spreadbury’s team’s new application from Steinberg.

One thing is for certain – interesting times are ahead in the world of notation software and this seems like just a very small chapter.

The preview of Sibelius 7.5 at Phillip Rothman’s Sibelius Blog is a must-read, going into far more detail on the new update than I have here.

Sibelius 7.5: My predictions

It is looking increasingly likely that the new version of Sibelius will be launched at the NAMM show in January.  It is a favourite launch venue for many Avid’s products (the new versions of Media Composer and Pro Tools were announced there last year), and it ties in with a launch for the new product taking place ‘soon’.  We already know that it will be named Sibelius 7.5 and will not run on any version of Windows older than Windows 7.

This is a notable release of the software, as it is the first since the events of summer 2012, when the original development team were all laid off and the development relocated from London to Avid’s audio headquarters in Daly City and also Ukraine.  There were many, many people who were vocal against this move and it is comforting that there is at least some development continuing, as the most pessimistic of commentators believed that this was Avid’s way of shutting down Sibelius development completely.  However, it remains to be seen how well the new team manage to start afresh, as it still looks an extraordinarily stupid move to fire en masse the entire ‘knowledge body’ of coders and product managers in order to cut costs.  Sibelius is a very, very complex piece of software and an entirely new development team starting completely from a blank slate presents them with a very difficult task.

The recent interview with Michael Ost, the new technical lead of Sibelius, on the Sibelius Blog is well worth a read, however I do not agree with some of the criticism given to him in the comments regarding his lack of knowledge of certain features of the product.  He is not the new Daniel Spreadbury – that task appears to have fallen jointly to Bobby Lombardi (the new product manager) and Sam Butler (head of customer service, who has also taken on Daniel’s role of the ‘public face’ of Sibelius) – he is (I believe I’m right in saying) the new Ben Timms.  Therefore, devising new features and workflows is not on his agenda.  Instead, he needs to get to grips with the codebase of the product and look at the best way of developing things in that respect.  It is very promising to see that he has a pedigree of notation software, what with his work on Encore, and it will be very interesting to see where Sibelius heads in the future.

However, it will take time for the new team to get to grips with the product and move things on, picking up from the exemplary work that the London development team gave the product for so many years.  And I highly doubt that they are ready for a release yet.  That is why, in my mind, version 7.5 is releasing now.  Avid missed the usual update window of 2 years, with no new version forthcoming last summer – which was hardly surprising.  The new team have been established long enough (just over a year) in order to polish up the work that the old team did on Sibelius 8 before they were let go and turn it into a finished product – hence the version number 7.5.  I think that it will take some more time for a full version update to come from the new team (possibly another two years) and thus they are putting the new version out as an intermediary measure.  Partly, I suspect, to keep the money coming in, but also to show that Sibelius development has not halted since version 7.1.3 and prove that the product is still important to Avid.

With all that in mind, this is what I can foresee coming as part of the new version:

New sounds

Given that the sounds package was always produced outwith the London team, it would be very straightforward for a new, enhanced, set of sounds to be recorded and packaged with the software.  Also, given Sam Butler’s expertise in this area, and his continued employment from Avid, it seems almost certain that an updated sounds package will be one of the new features in 7.5.

Export options

When Sibelius First 7 launched in 2012, there were a plethora of new export options that were not present in the full Sibelius product.  These included export to Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube and the Avid Scorch app.  It is a safe bet to assume that these export options will now be part of the full product.

Interface enhancements

In my opinion, one of the most unfortunate aspects of the events of last summer was that the London team’s departing version was version 7.  In some ways it would have been better for them to depart with version 6 having been their last, as that demonstrated perfectly the inventiveness and flair of their features and the elegance of the programme.  It was, in some ways, the end of a journey that sought graphical perfection – something that Magnetic Layout supported in droves.  In comparison, Version 7 was a more intermediary version, with an attempt to modernise the software for the 2010s, with new UI idioms and approaches.  Therefore, it was not perfect – especially considering the fact that development team had dramatically shrunk already by this point.  A version 8 from the London team would surely have ironed out some of the flaws and criticisms that befell the new ‘Ribbon’ interface.  (For the record, I am a tremendous fan of the ribbon and think that it makes Sibelius a far more approachable and intuitive software.)

I would not be surprised if some of these small enhancements had already been worked on by the London team, and thus will appear in 7.5.  For example, I expect a degree of customisation to come in: on Windows, a customised Quick Access toolbar seems a certainty, and there may even be the option to create a personalised tab on the ribbon to put together your favourite features on just the one tab.  The option to ‘undock’ the ribbon to another display would also prove very popular, but I’m not sure whether that is permissible under Microsoft’s UI guidelines.  In any case, I would expect there to be the option to customise the Quick Access toolbar, along with other interface tidy-ups – possibly some kind of improvement to the new printing mechanism which can still be a bit hit-and-miss, in my experience.

Operating system compatibility

One would hope that 7.5 will be fully compatible with OS X Mavericks (at present Sibelius 7.1.3 runs slowly and there are some font issues), certainly in terms of a performance perspective.  It would also be very welcome if the full-screen mode becomes native and if there is some way for the versioning to tie in with the OS versioning.  I appreciate that the latter would be very difficult to pull off, however.

7.1.3 is fully compatible with Windows 8, and obviously that would continue – I doubt that there are any plans to turn Sibelius into a Metro app!!

The next ‘big’ feature?

Above are three types of features that I certainly expect to see in 7.5.  That still, however, is very slim pickings for an upgrade, even if that upgrade is just a .5 update.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the next ‘big’ feature that the London team were working on was a way to split one stave with two voices in a score into two separate parts – properly flexible dynamic parts.  Whether this makes it into 7.5, I don’t know – I would doubt it myself, however, as such a big feature might be enough for it to be called Sibelius 8!

Another oft-requested feature is for an update to the programme’s tuplet logic.  Again, although it does have to be looked at in the future, I doubt that the new team could have coded that change in such a short timescale, so it may well be an improvement further along the line.

Other popular requests on the Sibelius IdeaScale crowdsourcing community include:

  • Magnetic layout capabilities extending to notes/rest collisions in voices
  • Custom staff sizes for different instruments
  • Change of staff size per page
  • Tweaks to slurs/ties over page breaks and barlines
  • Tweaks to the length of various lines (most notably first and second-time bars)
  • MP3 export

Who knows – some of the above may well be fixed in 7.5.  The latter is just a case of Avid stumping up enough money to licence an encoder as part of the software.  And who knows – if they are short of features, they could do that in order to add something else to the feature-list, albeit at a financial cost!

We will find out in, I suspect, less than a month what the new version will bring.  Of course the feature list is just the beginning of the product’s success – the knives will be out for the new team, and people will want to see the same stability that previous versions of Sibelius have shown, with few (if any) bugs and the new features working well.

Time will tell as to Sibelius’ long-term future, but we will be able to see many interesting things from version 7.5 when it does finally launch.

Champions Trophy Thoughts

Quite simply, I’m gutted that England couldn’t quite get over the line again.

I was there in 2004, peering through the Oval gloom to watch Browne and Bradshaw win a game for the West Indies which was as good as lost.  Seeing England lose that final was a gut-wrenching experience.  It had been such a glorious summer and, for once, the stars were aligning on a one-day side that had always underperformed.  But, then came the West Indies’ lower-order heroics and the headlines of England finally winning a major title were replaced by goodwill tales of Hurricane Ivan inspiring the Caribbean side to an unexpected victory.  It was impossible to hold any ill-will against the West Indies that day (and, hey, my ambition of seeing Brian Lara bat in the flesh was finally fulfilled), but there was the feeling that this was as good as it was going to get for England in a long time, and they had blown it…

Well, here we are nine years later, and the same thing has happened.

England are undoubtedly a better ODI side now than they were then.  Back in 2004, luck went their way, they were performing off the back of an excellent test match summer, and they were the side most equipped to play in the gloomy English autumn.  I think it’s fair to say that the current England side are playing to a better level far more frequently than their 2004 counterparts.  This was reflected by their (slightly bizarre!) number 1 ranking in the ICC’s ODI table last year.  However, I still maintain that we are not a good enough one day side to consistently win many games in a row.  Whenever a string of results start going England’s way, it is not long before a series of losses.  There simply isn’t the consistency in performance that would allow a team to win a major tournament.  We saw it in this tournament: England are very good at playing a particular type of one-day game: bowl skilfully (although with no real express pace), take wickets and restrict the batting side and then bat diligently to knock off the runs.  The Sri Lanka loss in this tournament showed that England do not have flair players who can alter the course of a match.  If the chips are down, they are really down.

And this is why I am upset about today’s loss: this was another chance for England to win a global trophy when things had fallen into line for them.  It was the conditions that suited them, they had the momentum of an English summer and they had won an important toss.  But, as soon as the match became a 20 over contest it became a lottery, a farce.  It is unfortunate that there was no reserve day and the full 50 over match that we all wanted to see could take place.  India were always going to win a T20 contest – they are T20 kings with all their IPL experience.

So yet again, England conspired to lose a final that they should have won, but this time it was more excusable: India’s T20 experience marked them out as favourites the moment that the overs were reduced.  And I am actually fairly positive about the 2015 World Cup.  For once, England are not coming straight out of a tiring Ashes campaign and the Australian conditions should play to their strengths.  If England can keep this same band of players together, bringing in new talent and developing the youngsters (such as Jos Buttler) then they have a real chance of at least making the final, I would say.  So at least this tournament has been an important stepping stone in that direction.  Even if it could have been so much better than that…

Frank Skinner in conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury

By way of resurrecting this blog, following its transfer to WordPress (after the closure of Posterous last week), I thought I would link to a series of videos that I enjoyed watching over the weekend.

Frank Skinner’s event with the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, took place back in 2011 and is well worth watching.  Apart from the amazing moment during the first video where the PA system lets them down and a man can be heard to angrily shout, “I can’t hear you!” several times (failing PA systems are one of the cornerstones of the Anglican church, in my opinion!), there are many excellent points raised by Skinner.  I have long admired him as a comic, but did not know of his religious inclination until I happened upon this video.  He makes many excellent points, from the rise of atheism as an intellectual position, to God’s ultimate sacrifice in becoming man.

All four parts of the video are embedded below, and here is the transcript of the event.

Removing Children’s Programmes from BBC One: Not as ridiculous as you might think

It was announced a few days ago that as part of their ‘Delivering Quality First’ cost-cutting exercise the BBC would stop broadcasting children’s programmes on the flagship channels BBC One and Two. It was unfortunate that the headline “Blue Peter axed from BBC One” got misinterpreted by the Tweeting Mob as “Blue Peter axed” as that misreading caused a large amount of unnecessary outrage!

Nonetheless, there was also plenty of more considered comment from those on the popular social networking site and other message boards. Is this a downsizing of children’s television? After all, in 2006 CITV disappeared from ITV1 onto the brand-new CITV Channel and this coincided with the closure of ITV’s children’s department, far fewer newly-commissioned shows (you can count on one hand the number of new CITV programmes in the last five years) and a downgrading of quality compared to the energy and excellence that CITV showed just five years earlier. There are similar comparisons to be held with CBBC although to nowhere the same extent. When ‘the channel’ launched over a decade ago, there was live in-vision continuity on both the digital channel and the CBBC slots on terrestrial channels, with plenty of live shows on the digital channels, such as XChange, the cartoon phone-in Nelly Nut and Newsround updates. However, this gradually watered away and 2007 saw a repositioning of the CBBC channel. In-vision continuity returned to the ‘broom cupboard’ style with the launch of the CBBC Office, the puppet behind the desk and the feeling of one man creating his own fun. However, this popular re-launch took place only on the CBBC Channel, thus making it the principal channel over the terrestrial channels. New shows began to debut on the digital channel and the terrestrial slots became more like a ghost town, full of repeats and lifeless continuity. In January, Blue Peter made the switch to debuting on the digital channel and now Newsround is the only programme that premieres on BBC One.

Therefore, it is no doubt that children tune straight into the CBBC Channel rather than BBC One for their fix of programmes – that is where the new programmes are shown, that is where all the fun is, that is where to be, rather than on BBC One. Therefore, ratings have fallen on BBC One, sometimes below 1000, and thus the BBC have confirmed that they are to remove the children’s slots from BBC One and Two.

As Simon Howard correctly points out, BBC One’s remit is to be inclusive and show a diverse range of programming. However, if the programmes are not being appreciated by the target audience then why split the CBBC channel’s audience (and everybody will be able to receive it following the final DSO later this year)? It would have been sensible to simulcast the CBBC channel on BBC One, thereby saving the cost of having two separate children’s schedules, but as somebody pointed out to me on a discussion forum the repeat costs of showing major children’s shows would be far higher on BBC One than on CBBC – and the reasoning behind DQF is to save money. It probably would be cheaper for the Beeb to show Cash in the Attic or other daytime far, hard as it may be to believe.

Therefore, I completely understand the argument behind removing CBBC from BBC One – in reality this died a death long ago, and why have an antiquated service that nobody watches, perhaps denying some new programmes on the digital channel as they don’t bother searching beyond channel ‘1’ on the remote control. However, it is the axing of long BBC Two slots which confuses me. At present this constitutes several hours of BBC Two’s daytime – an area of the BBC which requires saving anyway. There’s only so much simulcasting of the BBC News Channel that can be done! It remains to be seen how the BBC will fill this gap. However, the arguments I made above regarding BBC One stand to the same extent for BBC Two, I am sure.

I grew up with CBBC on BBC One (Studio 9 was my era, with Otis the Aardvark a childhood hero of mine!), but, sad as it is, times change, and just as I was used to pressing ‘1’ on my remote when I got home from school, many children now press channel ’70’ for the CBBC Channel instead (or catch up via iPlayer or other services).

Whilst it is a bold move for the BBC, and surprising that it will occur in such blanket fashion, I don’t think that it is the terrible decision that some are painting it as – after all, if anybody understands multichannel TV, it is children!