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BBC news on mobile phones in Burma

Although a country of almost fifty million people, it’s thought that less than 10% of the population own mobile phones, and internet access generally is still rare making Burma one of Asia’s least connected markets. However, the market is not set to remain untapped and the number of mobile subscribers will likely mushroom over the next four years as on June 27 the Burmese government will auction two mobile operator licences amongst a dozen or so bidders narrowed down from an original list of around twenty.

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The BBC World Service has become the first international media organisation in Burma (Myanmar) to deliver news bulletins on the mobile platform. An agreement between BBC World Service and Burma’s leading mobile aggregator, Blue Ocean Operating Management, the country’s 5 million mobile-phone users can now receive BBC Burmese audio news bulletins twice a day.

The BBC Burmese audio bulletins will be updated at 8am and 6.30pm local time every day via automatic feed. In addition, there will be special bulletins for breaking news. To listen on demand, subscribers can call 01-2399600.

Although a country of almost fifty million people, it’s thought that less than 10% of the population own mobile phones, and internet access generally is still rare making Burma one  of Asia’s least connected markets. However, the market is not set to remain untapped and the number of mobile subscribers will likely mushroom over the next four years as on June 27 the Burmese government will auction two mobile operator licences amongst a dozen or so bidders narrowed down from an original list of around twenty. The bidding will proceed without a Vodafone tender who, having partnered with China Mobile withdrew their bid at the end of May, The bidders include a joint venture between George Soros and Denis O’Brien

Burmese authorities are hoping the mobile market will grow to around 30 million subscribers by 2016, with a new infrastructure that reaches 80% of the population.  An ambitious plan in a country where mobile will be the first telephone connection for most people, and the country is starting with a sparse infrastructure – the estimates are that $50 billion of investment is required to facilitate the telecoms plans. It will no doubt be a profitable market – but the winning bidders will need the financial capacity to commit to the market for the longer term, with half of the population living in rural areas – which are more costly to connect with potentially lower returns for the mobile operator.

Couple this with the fact that smart-phones will be the mobile device of choice as the new-found desire for freedom of expression becomes the cultural norm, but in a country where the average annual income, although increasing, is still well below $1,000 means that mobile operators will need to be inventive in how they get new subscribers to sign up to packages with subsidised smartphones. Money lenders and accessible credit, (a problem that Thailand experienced during its mobile phone growth) to fund phones could have undesirable societal impacts so expect the mobile operators to provide modern technology, but with longer term and skinnier plans than in more developed markets.

Indu Shekhar Sinha, Head of Business Development Asia Pacific for the World Service said the BBC had also agreed with Blue Ocean that the launch of audio bulletins will be followed by the launch of a BBC Burmese news SMS, providing users with short text news updates.

Currently, BBC Burmese has a weekly audience of over 8 million listeners in Burma, reaching 22.9 per cent of the country’s population. Independent surveys also show that BBC Burmese has established itself as a trusted international broadcaster in Burma as the nation’s public develop an appetite for news and connectivity.

“The BBC continues to keep its audiences in Burma informed about regional and international events, via radio, online on bbcburmese.com, and increasingly via Facebook. This exciting development means these audiences will have access to our impartial and independent news content on the go. With the growing number of mobile-phone users in Burma, this is a great way for us to keep connected with our audiences and further expand our outreach in the country.”

— Tin Htar Swe, Editor of BBC Burmese and BBC World Service South Asia Hub

External Links & References

  1. BBC Burmese : twice daily Podcasts
  2. Telecoms in Burma : WIkipedia
  3. Blue Ocean : Burma
  4. New mobile phone licence close to being granted in Burma
  5. McKinsey: Myanmar’s moment: Unique opportunities, major challenges

BBC

The Now Show’s right notes

“The greatest sorrow in my life, I swear to highest heaven, I wish I hadn’t updated my iPhone to iOS 7.”

— Mitch Benn, sung, on The Now Show

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Comedy is hard, all agreed? But musical comedy is really hard. The evidence is there; a gazillion comedians, a much smaller cohort of good ones and a handful of those good comedians who make a decent living at it because enough of us watch their TV shows, buy their DVDs or get up and go out to see them live. The Edinburgh Festival often leaves me slightly despondent, as you reflect on the hoard of hopefuls who made you smile over the month but are never likely to bestow that same gift on their building society branch manager. And if you happen to see a musical comedy performer at Edinburgh their odds of success are as slim as a vegan lurcher. Weird Al in the 1990’s almost tortured the fondness of the genre out of me permanently despite growing up with a weekly dose of Morcambe & Wise. I may have a sepia memory of television from the 1970s but there really was a derth for a decade or two of good exponents and I eventually stopped looking. 

Occasionally though you do come across deft new talent. Jennifer Bede and the Pippa Middleton, Everyone’s Looking At My A*se parody was wonderful – and she’s nailed Lady Anna to a tee in her sharp Downton Gift Shop parody. Last night I watched Arthur Mathews and Matt Berry’s wonderful new show, Toast of London and a musical number found it’s way in – it really is a long time since comedy singing has worked on TV.

Tim Minchin has worked hard for his reputation and he gets it right so often but my first stop now is The Now Show on BBC Radio 4, and in particular the brilliant Mitch Benn. The Now Show created by the Bill Dare who also conceived The Mary Whitehouse Experience and Dead Ringers has been a platform for the Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt for 15 years and now in series 41 it’s still relevant and over the last two series, fresher as ever.

Recorded on a Thursday and broadcast Friday, I usually listen on Saturday mornings. So I caught up with this week’s episode early – regular Hugh Dennis is away – so Jon Culshaw is standing in – you’re just willing WIlliam Hague in to the fray! Boris goes to China, good piece by Nathan Caton, Vikki Stone sings it like it is, Julian Fellowes got what he deserves, and a nod to the most pretentious woman in Britain overheard in Waitrose “Darling, do we need parmesan for both houses?”, but the stand- out piece, which is happening more often, was by MItch Benn.

Certainly my favourite purveyor of humourous tones, Benn’s been around for some time; you may have bumped in to him on The One Show or BBC Radio 7 if you haven’t seen him live, despite the concise sketches, he’s at his best on The Now Show. Radio comedy demands precision and punchiness, and this week’s piece on iOS 7 is around 70 seconds long, and perfect radio comedy. If you’ve missed Mitch Benn before this, the time to catch him is Now.

“The greatest sorrow in my life, I swear to highest heaven, I wish I hadn’t updated my iPhone to iOS 7.”

— Mitch Benn, sung, on The Now Show

Click here to listen to the whole episode on BBC iPlayer

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New Peter Kay show to premier on BBC iPlayer

The six part sitcom created by Tim Reid and Paul Coleman, and directed by Peter Kayis the first-ever series to premiere on BBC iPlayer in its entirety before a television transmission, as part of a 40 hour content trial that showcases programming via iPlayer. 

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As Netflix and other companies launch own-content and online only content the BBC will premier a new BBC One Comedy program on BBC iPlayer before being broadcast on BBC One. Comedian Peter Kay’s Car Share is part of BBC iPlayer’s strategy to showcase a wider range of TV content.

The six part sitcom created by Tim Reid and Paul Coleman, and directed by Peter Kay, is the first-ever series to premiere on BBC iPlayer in its entirety before a television transmission, as part of a 40 hour content trial that showcases programming via iPlayer. 

Danny Cohen, Controller of BBC One, said in a statement, “It is hugely exciting that Peter Kay is coming to BBC One with his new series – even more so with the innovative plan we have to launch the show online.”

Launched on Christmas Day in 2007, iPlayer has been available on mobile platforms, for a number of years, following the iOS Beta launch in 2008, and a glance around an average London Tube carriage on any weekday illustrates the success of the initiative, which is used by around 1/2 of all British households serving at least 140 million program requests per month.  iPlayer is available outside the UK, with most radio broadcasts available for free, and a paid version in Europe providing access to some television programming and this model is likely to be the way the US market develops for iPlayer.

“It is hugely exciting that Peter Kay is coming to BBC One with his new series – even more so with the innovative plan we have to launch the show online.”

— Danny Cohen, Controller, BBC One

Premiering content on iPlayer may well herald the development of iPlayer almost as a stand-alone channel – one that provides access to programming that may not make it to BBC 1 or 2 with the platform used as sounding board similar to how BBC 3 has been used in the past. The opportunity to monetise content in other markets is one that’s hard to resist despite the complex licensing issues that must be addressed. What this development does show though, is that despite recent criticism of the BBC following cancellation of its £100 million Digital Media Initiative is that the Corporation is committed to technology development to help it address the needs of domestic and overseas customers.

The BBC has an obligation to its domestic customers, as licence payers, to deliver programming – and as the viewing and listening experience changes from radio to digital to mobile the BBC needs to facilitate the changing needs of its audience; a development like the amalgamation of other broadcasters program links into the iPlayer interface was a good example of how these needs were being met.

The global audience have no licence payer rights but have shown they are willing to pay for quality programming. Offsetting operating costs by increasing subscription and advertising revenue is too attractive to ignore. One benefit for the BBC and program makers, particularly niche program makers is that the platform and access to markets may make it economically viable to commission programming that appeals to smaller audiences, something that was impossible with two, or even four terrestrial  channels.

Niche programming could give a small sector of the UK audience what they want, connect with a diaspora overseas and monetisation and social satisfaction for the BBC itself. iPlayer  on mobile may be a small screen, but the world is watching.

External links & References

  1. Peter Kay Official Website
  2. BBC Comedy : iPlayer
  3. Mobile Devices are taking over Content Creation: Liliana Dumitru-Steffens
  4. BBC Learning: Fill lunchtimes with language : RedCert.com

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