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Thursday 5 July 2012

YouView? WhoView? Er, Des Does

Today has brought not one, but two features in the Express on something called YouView. What that? Well, it’s an Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV, service, and was launched yesterday. It is backed by BT, and all the terrestrial broadcasters. That means Richard “Dirty” Desmond has a stake in it. Moreover, it was Des’ call that got Channel 5 back into the project after at first pulling out.

None of these Euro frighteners for a while now

So that’s the only Express connection, is it? Actually, no it isn’t: YouView’s current executive chairman, Alan Sugar, was brought on board at Des’ behest, and what the Express isn’t telling readers is that the appointment was tokill or cure” the project, which by its launch was running two years late, partly because of moves elsewhere in the industry to block it.

Yes, Rupe’s digital troops at Sky, and the devotees of “Sir” Tricky Dicky at Virgin Media have not been at all happy with YouView, which they regard as unfair competition, and their excuse for being agin it is that the BBC is involved. This enables them to accuse anyone else involved of being subsidised by all those hard pressed licence fee payers (but BSkyB will be on board after all).

Meanwhile, Desmond gets to ride along on the coat-tails of the project and hopefully steal a march on the big boys. It’s a neat way of getting a hold in what could be a very lucrative marketplace indeed, and a way of showing the Murdochs of this world that Des is a serious player. But the influence of the man not likely to feature on any of his rivals’ Christmas card lists doesn’t end there.

YouView is based at 10 Lower Thames Street, on the fringe of the City Of London. And, by the most fortunate of coincidences, this “landmark” building is also the headquarters of Express Newpapers. That should come as no surprise as the address is the headquarters of Des’ holding company Northern & Shell. So the Desmond involvement in YouView is significant.

And, although it is not known whether there may be any EU regulatory hurdle to clear in future for YouView, one favourite subject for Express front pages, and always portrayed in the worst possible light, is, er, the EU. And the EU is one target whose coverage in those front pages has been noticeably scaled back of late, which I’m sure is another of those mere coincidences.

Not of course that Richard Desmond exercises any influence over editorial policy or content at the Express. We know this because he said so, in court and under oath (and still lost to Tom Bower). That he is heavily involved with YouView, and that the Express is the only paper pushing the news so hard, is pure chance.

Although the outcome could be More And Bigger Paycheques For Himself Personally Now, which means, yes, another Benchmark Of Excellence.

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