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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 23 August 2019, 4:00 pm

The golden age of television

I do enjoy television and over the years the use of the medium to tell stories has improved dramatically, especially for US content.

Of course, the delivery of said content has always been fraught with issues, not least of which is the move to criminalise customers who simply want to watch TV and not have it spoilt for them by the marketing efforts put out by the very companies that sell the content to broadcasters who don't screen it.

It's always reminded me of the direct versus channel PC distribution war sparked by Dell coming into the market.

Dell wouldn't even build a PC until you'd ordered it, so the catalogue of older kit was minimal to say the least. Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Compaq (among others) used the channel approach which involved guessing the number of units needed, often quite badly, shipping them to a distributor, having them ship to value-add resellers, having them ship to retailers and having them sell the PC to punters like you and me.

The only value added was, of course, a mark-up at every step along the way, leaving customers vexed and often unhappy.

Television was much the same. Make the content, then sell to a distributor who would on-sell to a regional broadcaster as part of a bundle, which of course wouldn't all be shown on TV because there aren't enough hours in the day. So for those of us with niche tastes, forget finding out about and watching obscure shows - there's just not enough of an audience in [your neck of the woods] to justify screening it.

All that went away with the advent of the internet and now we are all an audience of one and, once we got past the "don't you dare watch TV until I tell you you can" model, we now have pretty good access to content.

Not as good as we could, or as good as we will, but much better than it used to be.

Now we're facing another problem - an oversupply not of content itself, but of content providers.

Disney is about to launch Disney+, followed by HBO, NBC and all the others. We'll see content pushed back into silos and outliers and amalgamation portals (like Netflix) will struggle to access anything but older content. That's why there's such a push among these new entrants to build their own products - they're going to lose access to everyone else's very soon.

Plus we have new contestants for our dollar in the form of disruptors from outside the TV industry. Apple and Amazon are spending up large to become content makers - that's adding pressure to it all.

So now, instead of buying Sky TV at $150 a month (or whatever) and getting told what to watch and when, we've got the freedom to buy content from a dozen or so purveyors each of which will charge anywhere from $10 a month to $20 a month.

It's progress, it really is, but it's also quite annoying and it also makes it rather difficult for the current crop of TV content providers because the market isn't a single, homogenous blob any longer, it's made up of millions of people.

So what do we do about sport content? About news and current affairs? What do we do if we want to see New Zealand on screen? How do we make sure we have our own voice and culture and don't get lost in the crush?

Local content, produced locally, is the key. Netflix and Amazon and Apple and HBO aren't going to make New Zealand content for a New Zealand audience. It's up to us.

But of course, that's not cheap.

RNZ - New Technology with Paul Matthews, how you watch TV is about to change

Newshub - Disney Plus to cost $9.99 per month, launch in NZ on November 19

Stuff - Sky Television writes off $670m of 'goodwill', suspends dividend

NZ Herald - Streaming wars: Apple splashes $9b on new shows (PAID)

Stuff - Rugby World Cup: Spark's warning for those planning to use a HDMI cable during streaming

NZ Herald - Spark shares jump as profit rises (PAID)

Stuff - Plot thickens for TVNZ as a $17.1 million loss looms

The Spin Off - Revealed: TVNZ's plan to become a not-for-profit while it turns to face Netflix

Stuff - Big call coming on whether to merge TVNZ, RNZ and make TV One commercial-free

 

It's the teachers, pet.

Remember when you were at school and there were desks or chairs, we all stood in rows and the teacher shouted things at us and we had to remember them?

Good times.

I remember thinking, "I hope we don't ever have technology in the classroom because this experience is just too great to lose," but of course some damn fool invented the slate and the teachers began writing things down and then we got paper and pencils and it's been downhill ever since.

We've always had technology in classrooms for as long as there have been classrooms and long may it continue. Today's classes are charged with producing students who are life-long learners, who will face an employment market that is entirely unexpected and unfamiliar to either their parent's generation or indeed to them themselves. Yet somehow our educators have to prepare the kids for just that kind of environment, and that's an issue just on the employment front. What about parsing fake news? What about being able to hold contrary ideas in your head and work through to a resolution?

The World Economic Forum suggests that 65% of the children who started at primary school in 2017 will have jobs that don't exist yet and which their education will fail to prepare them for.

That's a startling number and one that keeps teachers awake at night.

I've worked with and around teachers for a long time. I've been on two school boards and seen the full range from parents who are angry that their children's education is different from the one they enjoyed, to parents who are angry that their children's education is exactly the same as the one they suffered through.

Technology plays a major part in the teaching environment, and that's only going to grow in the coming years.

Global spending on education tech is expected to double to around US$341 billion by 2025 and that figure seems conservative to me.

Locally, we've seen the Ministry of Education embrace digital technology through a new national curriculum and the wailing has started already. Teachers won't be ready, it's a waste of money, we should be teaching children to sit in rows and chant their times tables, and so on and et cetera.

Yes, it's going to be a step change in terms of education and yes, we are in effect experimenting on this generation of children but ever has it been so. Parents need to understand that the world their children will inhabit is likely to be vastly different from the world they grew up in and that we have to prepare our children for the uncertainty of that future. Teaching them how to find and understand information is critical - far more so than penmanship.

Techblog - Are our teachers ready for the new digital curriculum?

CNN - How to prepare children for the jobs of the future

Stuff - Gap in kids' digital knowledge feared as teachers not up to speed on new tech curriculum

Newsroom - Inside an 'Innovative Learning Environment'

NZ Herald - Parents pull a dozen senior students out of Queenstown school (PAID)

 

5G Health

5G: now healthier than ever

As you know on occasion I like to paint a big target on my back and walk around begging people to take potshots at me. It's fun, in a strange kind of way, because my current target of choice is 5G mobile networks.

I don't work for the mobile network companies. I have in the past, and really wasn't allowed to come out swinging quite so vigorously, so now I'm free to do so I quite like rolling around in the mud with the naysayers.

It's like that analogy about wrestling with a pig only I'm the pig and they have to come to me.

But it can get quite tiresome when the same trite old lines are trotted out and there's only me standing up saying "well actually…" and the only thing I can link to is an outdated page from the Ministry of Health.

But now that's starting to change.

Not only has the ministry updated its page (sorry, it's still only a pamphlet but at least it's a new pamphlet) but others have joined in too, obviously made deeply jealous by my muddied shrieking ways.

Consumer NZ has put out a lovely piece that explains why you don't have to fear 5G radiation and it includes research from an actual scientist who points out that the energy from the 5G frequencies is far too small to damage the electron bonds in human biology.

Hundreds of thousands of times too small.

So fret not, and let's just get on with the rollout, eh? Sure, there are questions about what possible use we'll put 5G to (and I'm pleased to say I have no real idea and nor does anyone else but that's as it should be - it's an enabler of new ideas, not an answer in and of itself) but the idea that we're frying our heads can be put to rest.

I'm feeling particularly chipper and am pleased to share these new materials far and wide. I'm doing more work for the mobile sector than I did when I worked there, which is odd, but as far as these things go, I'm happy in my work.

Consumer NZ - Why 5G isn't a health hazard

Ministry of Health - Cellsites (the pamphlets are off to the right of the page)

NZ Herald - Consultant to PM's department promotes 5G conspiracy theories (PAID)

NZ Herald - GCSB gives Vodafone the green light for 5G (PAID)


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