01 April 2007
18 Doughty Street.  Why it won’t work and how it might be made to.

18 Doughty Street (sometimes known as Tory TV and 18DS for the rest of this article) is the attempt to bring some semblance of balance into the world of broadcasting by setting up an internet TV station and spending squillions of quid on it.

It’s been going for a few months now, so they’ve ironed out the early bugs and we can see it for what it’s worth. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re getting value for money - certainly not with the sort of money that they’re spending.

My frustrations with 18DS start from the moment I log on and never really end. 

For starters, there’s no TV on the front page. Why not? Is this a TV station or not?  There’s none on the second page either.  That’s reserved for a blog.  Now, modesty is a good thing in many ways but this is getting close to hiding your light under the grain production of Saskatchewan.

Eventually, after a bit of moderate hair pulling you land on the TV page.  And then your problems really start.  The navigation is atrocious.  There is little indication as to what you should or might want to be watching.  Eventually, you give in and just click a link in desperation.  TV starts. 

Oh, but woe betide you if you are using a decent browser ie, Opera.  The controls don’t work and even if you’re using IE7 they’re not that much use.  For instance, where’s the bar which lets you to jump around the clip?  It’s as if someone somewhere is saying: “I have composed this wonderful televisual symphony and now you’re going to listen to it all - the rubbish bits along with the good.  Peasant.”  Haven’t they heard of YouTube?

It’s not all bad.  I like the set - although they could do with looking into some echo reduction - and Iain Dale is a star.  He could just be the best host/interviewer in the country.  OK, so I’m pointing out a bright star in a dim universe, but he does ask the right questions and let his guests talk.

But the real problem is… well… that it’s television.  I - and I am far from alone in this - have more or less had it with television.  I can’t stand the demand that I give something my undivided attention without being able to add my tuppenny ha’penny.  Actually, it’s an effort tuppenny ha’penny or otherwise.

When I think about how 18DS could be made better I am reminded of Julie Walters in the title role in Educating Rita: “I’d put it on the radio”. I mean, think about it - what is the value of the visuals on 18DS?  Almost nothing.  It’s not as if they’re covering bombs, bloodshed or Something Actually Happening.  This is the Moral Maze without the advantage of darkness.

I see Al Gore (registration required) is trying something similar.  OK, so he’s made the category error of putting his internet TV on cable - you can kind of see why he lost that election to George Bush - but he does, at least, seem to understand that you need to draw upon a larger range of potential contributors.  This is, I would guess, the thinking behind a third of content being reserved to citizen-generated “pods”.

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  1. I’m similarly underwhelmed and frustrated by the old school (not old skool, which would mean it had some coolness about it) qualities of 18DS. I suppose it’s telling that they’ve never had on a show I was dying to watch, and I only ever tried to watch out of curiosity. It all just strikes me as very…limp.(Full disclosure: I was invited on 18DS to run my mouth, but had a prior booking and so didn’t do it. I guess I won’t have to worry about being asked again.)

    Posted by Jackie on 01 April 2007 at 11:39am

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