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Month Roundup: December 2009

Simon Pitt | News | Friday 1st January 2010

December 2009 was the month snow trapped everyone inside, and the newspapers gave up publishing anything except lists of the top one million things that happened in the noughties (the award for the best list goes to the Telegraph, which published the 15 best Facebook status updates in 2009). Meanwhile, the BBC cancelled the news and replaced it with round the clock coverage of your pictures of snow. Thank God consumer HD camcorders are now affordable: BBC HD will now have something to broadcast. Before the month, year and decade ended, though, pretty much everyone suddenly decided to charge for everything.

This started at the beginning of December when old moody-face Murdoch tried to persuade everyone else to charge for news so that he could make money. "High-quality, reliable news and information does not come free," said the owner of the Sun, adding: "Critics say people won't pay. I believe they will." The original plan was for all News Corporation newspapers to be behind paywalls by June 2010, although Murdoch has now backtracked on that date and has yet to say when this will happen.

Having bashed the BBC a few months ago, Murdoch carried on his quest to attack every popular company, and accused Google of "theft". Surprisingly, Google announced that they would set a limit on how many free articles people could read through Google. To many people, this was seen as Google backing down under pressure from News Corp. The thing was, most people hadn't fully understood what the argument was about. In fact, Google didn't change anything, but just reminded content providers (such as Murdoch) that they run a programme called First Click Free where users view one free article, but have to pay for subsequent articles.

At the same time as demanding that everyone pays him for everything, Murdoch also spent his Christmas complaining when other people charged. Discussions began about whether BT should be allowed to charge more to plug its £9.4 billion pension deficit. "This would be a reward for failure", whined one Sky spokesman. "It is entirely reasonable," countered a BT spokesman. He might as well have said, "the bankers could, why can't we?"

In fact, Murdoch's rallying cry of "charge for stuff" was taken up. December became the month of putting crap online and then charging for it. SeeSaw signed a deal with the BBC to put BBC programmes online and then Channel 5 signed a deal with YouTube (although exactly what Channel 5 will be putting online no one is quite sure). Unfortunately for fans of free, the Telegraph revealed that Google was in talks with TV networks to charge viewers for YouTube . What the Telegraph failed to make clear was that these were only preliminary discussions, and would only be to view ad-free versions of programmes. Later in the month, the Telegraph said Google were considering a subscription model for YouTube. Sometimes I just wish companies would have a chat amongst themselves and then just tell me when they've decided.

December was a busy month for Google. As well as making all the grown men at RightMove cry when they announced they would create a housing search engine they also started including results from Facebook and Twitter in their search listings

December had its fair share of good news though: mobile phones don't cause brain cancer, so everyone can start using them again. And, Simon Cowell is going to save democracy with a new show that's sort of going to be a cross between Britain's Got Talent and the Today Programme. Everyone's least favourite leader of the opposition, David Cameron, loved this idea, and called Cowell a big bucket of talent. Just a few days later it was announced that 2010 really will be the year of politics on TV with the big three appearing in live TV debates. Nick Griffin asked if he could join in but was told no; he'd already had his go.

Speaking of Simon Cowell, there was a bit of a shock just before Christmas, when not-particularly-popular 1992 song, Killing In The Name, became Christmas number 1. As the Guardian said, "Depending on your view, the Rage victory was either a delicious dismantling of the X Factor Christmas No 1 juggernaut or a cynical assault on the festive charts". The Rage song became Christmas No 1 after a Facebook campaign started by Jon Morter. Morter had, in fact, tried last year to get Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up to the top of the charts. This time, however, Jon was helped by Peter Serafinowicz, who mentioned it on Twitter to his 300,000 followers. He probably did it on his Android smart phone as well. How much more contemporary can you get? Of course, the real winner here was Simon Cowell, since the Rage track was released by Sony. Just to summarise the summary here: a load of people paid basically nothing (29p on Amazon) for something they didn't really want. Merry Christmas everyone.

Christmas TV was a bit of a shambles, with 600 hours of repeats - and what wasn't repeats was either David Tennant, Catherine Tate or Mathew Horne. Amid complaints that the BBC were just putting on the same people over and over again, the year ended with David Tennant regenerating and John Simm playing everyone (literally). Good news for the BBC, though, with the premature announcement that the Christmas Radio Times will make £7 million. Meanwhile, Ofcom revealed that the British watch more TV than anyone else, and also complain more than ever as well. This, of course, led the Guardian to publish the definitive list of most complained about programmes in 2009: the complaints that summed up a decade. It seems that the period from 2000-2009 will now forever be known by the idiotic moniker "the noughties". We'll be able to look back and be proud. Happy New Year and decade.

SP



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