среда, 5 ноября 2008 г.


WARNER BROS. RECORDS debuted its World Wide Web Internet site Aug. 15 (http:/www.wbr.com) with another de-but--that of the first single, "Warped," from the forthcoming Red Hot Chili Peppers album, "One Hot Minute," due out Sept. 13. The single went online three days prior to its release to radio. Warner is putting together a "hot minute" of music, composed of sound bites from every song on the album, which will be made available for download beginning this week. Warner also plans to preview videoclips and other songs online, according to the label's new media director, Todd Steinman, and is running a slow striptease of the album cover--veiling puzzle pieces over the course of the month before the Sept. 13 launch. The strategy is one that Warner intends to pursue with other releases online, Steinman says.

WARNER BROS. JAZZ, meanwhile, is showing off its hot new look in the "WB Jazz Space," its revamped arena in the comprehensive Jazz Online (http:// www.), which is hotlinked to the sister Warner Bros. Records site. Randall Kennedy, Warner's senior director of marketing and sales, jazz, has big plans for the jazz site--including a live audio/ video online event based on the new Xing technology (Billboard, Aug. 19) marking the kickoff of Joshua Redman's world tour in October. He also has lots of the lower-tech information his visitors clamor for. "They want to know simple things: 'Who's producing? Who are the side guys?'" Kennedy says. "These things mean a lot to the jazz lever." Audioclips, peppered throughout, are also crowd pleasers, he says.

ELEKTRA RECORDS IS adding a live-chat feature to its recently launched World Wide Web arena (http://www.elektra.com) and will inaugurate the section with a "live" appearance by recording artist Natalie Merchant Wednesday (23) at 8 p.m. EST.

Merchant, who is promoting her new album, "Tigerlily," will be the first in a planned series of Elektra artists stopping by to chat in real time with Web visitors within the label site, Elektra says.

To take part in the chats, users first need to download a special software program, "Global Chat," which is being made available for free through developer Prospero Systems' home page (http://www.prospero.com). The chat room is accessible through a link within the Elektra site, which is designed as a "virtual" office, complete with snaps of Elektra employees at work.

STEVE RACE, who abruptly resigned as president of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Aug. 8 (Billboard, Aug. 19), is back on top--at Spectrum HoloByte. Race was named CEO of the Alameda, Calif.-based game publisher two days after leaving SCEA, which is the Sony arm charged with the Sept. 9 U.S. launch of Sony's new video-game unit. Spectrum HoloByte's most recent project is the just-out CD-ROM "Star Trek: The Next Generation--The Final Unity." Martin Homlish, formerly senior VP of the consumer products group of Sony Electronics, took the SCEA reins as acting president.


Should elementary schools in this country be connected to the Internet and be given the opportunity to reach out and explore the far corners of the globe? That this happened at Carminati Elementary School is the result of a district-wide planning effort involving teachers, the state legislature, the community, and business leaders. While the journey toward Internet connectivity is sometimes long and tedious, our experience has yielded rich rewards for the students and faculty of our small K-5 school in Tempe, Arizona. HOW IT HAPPENED

Six years ago, Carminati Elementary was a good school. It was successfully serving the needs of its students. The Tempe Elementary School District had already developed strategic plans to improve the quality of education for all students throughout the district. It seemed a logical next step for each school to also put together plans for improvement. The Carminati staff began to think about how they could create an even better school and provide the best education for every student.

Under the leadership of an innovative principal, teams of teachers applied skills from Total Quality Training to create a framework for change. After the 1989-1990 school year, most of the staff volunteered to return for two days of hard work. They developed a vision statement, and a mission statement, and set many goals. Specific areas of weakness were targeted for improvement; teams were formed and action plans were written. The process of reform and restructuring had begun.

Later that summer, some Carminati staff attended the Arizona Leadership Academy sponsored by the Arizona State Department of Education, and began to solidify plans for change. At the same time, the Arizona Legislature offered grants for school restructuring. Because the groundwork had been done and a plan was in place, Carminati completed an application and was one of the fifteen schools selected. Each school received funds according to its student enrollment. Over a 4-year period, Carminati received $56,000, most of which was dedicated to staff development to support and sustain technological change. Concurrently, the School Governing Board and administration of the Tempe Elementary Schools proposed a $67 million school bond to improve physical facilities. Of that amount, $13 million was earmarked to upgrade district technology. The voters supported this bond issue. Change at Carminati was assured. THE PLAN UNFOLDS

Soon after the bond initiative, an opportunity for a business partnership developed for Carminati. Motorola Corporation had been working with many schools in the state to support the use of technology to educate children. Because Carminati already had a plan to incorporate technology in the school, the timing was perfect for one of the community's largest employers to join with Carminati to work for Tempe children.

The partnership board of directors established two main goals at Carminati: 1) to foster parent and community involvement and 2) to promote the use of technology at the school. Carminati would become a model for the school district. It was due to the countless hours of technical assistance donated by Motorola and the forward thinking of many interested Tempe citizens that Carminati became the first elementary school in Arizona with a direct connection to the Internet.

This private-public partnership represented a big step forward in a continuing district effort to encourage business involvement in the district. When the Carminati plan to become a model for technology implementation in the district was presented to the Tempe Schools Governing Board, Carminati was moved to the top of the school district priority list. In the fall of 1993, a T1 line was installed. Motorola donated two servers--one for district use and another was placed at Carminati. Motorola engineers designed the layout and plan for the local area network. School district staff arranged Internet access courtesy of Arizona State University. They also installed the necessary wiring and hardware to support the local area network connecting all classrooms in the building. Each classroom was equipped with a telephone, television, and VCR, and the ability to reach laserdisc players and the satellite access in the Media Center by remote control. A school-wide voice mail system was installed. And, in December 1993, the Carminati Internet connection was officially established.

Although the bond issue guidelines had stipulated the purchase of one computer for every three teachers, Carminati asked the School Board for an exception to pilot, the effect of which was having a computer on every classroom teacher's desk. Because of a price reduction at the time the purchase order was placed, we procured additional Macintosh computers. Equipping each classroom teacher with a networked computer is a productive model that will eventually be implemented throughout the district. The networked classroom computers also enable teachers to share two laser printers, access the Internet, and keep in closer contact with parents via the voice mail system. In one two-week period, 175 parents were called by teachers, and this in a school with a population of 380 students! TECHNICAL SUPPORT AND STAFF DEVELOPMENT

Most school district employees who work in technical services are familiar with computers, tape recorders, and video cameras, but they have never been trained to install network systems or to connect routers to a global network. Formal training is needed to provide district staff with the necessary skills for continued technical support. Presently, Motorola is supplying technical support for the server at Carminati, and district technical support persons are learning to cope with many challenges. But, because of the limitations on the ways bond money can be spent, priorities must be changed within our school system to support new equipment purchased.

Just as students need time to become comfortable and competent with any new skill, teachers must be introduced, convinced, and inserviced in the advantages of using a new tool to enhance a job they already do quite well. In the fall of 1993, Arizona State University helped us get started. Doctoral students shared their ideas with us and introduced us to the mechanics of logging in and traveling around cyberspace. This workshop proved important as it encouraged teachers to begin personal learning. The presentation also represented an important first step in forming a strong and continuing relationship with the Department of Education at ASU.

Ongoing assistance has been provided by an ASU graduate student who visits Carminati to help with project plans and technical problems. In May 1994, still more ASU graduate students returned to demonstrate Mosaic to all teachers. Our resident doctoral student has constructed a Carminati home page, which will point to the many World-Wide Web resources of interest to Carminati teachers and students. Mosaic enables us to take "virtual field trips," something that may change the way many subjects are taught. From Tempe, students can "stand" in the Louvre and look at classic artwork or "walk" through the botanical gardens in Missouri or Australia and compare what they see with their own desert landscape.

Hive wins grant

According to a recent report issued by Amnesty International, Chinese authorities have dramatically increased actions against citizens who express opinions or download information from the Internet. The report, "People's Republic of China: Controls Tighten as Internet Activism Grows" (http://news.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA170012004), contains details of actions against Internet users and makes specific appeals on behalf of eight individuals, including Huang Qi, a computer engineer from Sichuan who has been detained since June 2000 and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

INTERNET software developer HarvestRoad has been awarded a $900,000 AusIndustry research and development start grant.

The grants are awarded to Australian companies that are able to prove they are working on products with potential for international success.

HarvestRoad managing director Grame Barty said the grant would be used to develop the company's content management system.

Called Hive, the product is a browser-based application that separates the structure of the content from the way it is presented.

This allows content to be easily viewed on any type of device.

International REPORT

Amnesty International's records indicate that in 2003, there was a 60-percent increase over the previous year's figures in the number of people detained or sentenced for Internet-related offenses. As of Jan. 7, 54 people were held and a further unknown number detained for disseminating information relating to the spread of SARS. Criminal charges of "subversion" or "endangering state security" have been brought for offenses such as signing petitions, calling for reform and the end of corruption, or communicating with groups abroad.

The growth of Internet use in China (as elsewhere) has been phenomenal. Only 6 percent of China's population has Internet access, but that still amounts to 80 million users, a number that's nearly equivalent to the entire population of Germany.

Growing user sophistication and activism make censorship and control difficult for China's Ministry of Culture. But in the report, Amnesty International draws attention to Western companies that it believes have supplied technologies to help the Chinese government do just that. These businesses are Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Nortel Networks, Websense, and Sun Microsystems.

The companies dismiss such allegations, claiming that they have no control over how their technologies are used. However, Amnesty International is concerned that in their pursuit of new and lucrative markets, corporations may be indirectly contributing to human rights violations or at the very least failing to give adequate consideration to the human rights implications of their investments.

On Feb. 25, the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor issued its 2003 Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The section on China (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27768pf.htm) reiterates many of Amnesty International's concerns about freedom of speech, Internet use, and the imprisonment of journalists.

However, China does not accept such criticism without pointing out what it views as serious human rights issues in the West. On March 1, China released "Human Rights Record in the United States in 2003," a response to the U.S. report.

Reported in full in the People's Daily (http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200403/01/eng20040301%5f136190.shtml), the report points out the U.S.'s poor record in crime, violence, drugs, and race relations and includes a special mention of the USA PATRIOT Act. "Under the authority of the PATRIOT Act, the government departments are empowered to wiretap phone calls of citizens, trace their online records, [and] read their private mails and e-mails. The FBI is even allowed to keep a watch on people's reading habits. They check the booklists of what people borrow from libraries so as to judge whether they have been influenced by terrorism." Internet Hate-Mongering

The rights to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been signed but not yet ratified by China, says: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or in print ... or through any other media of his choice."

It seems reasonable for Amnesty International to quote this article in its case against China. But coincidentally, only a couple of days after the release of Amnesty's report, Bertrand Ramcharan, U.N. Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for new measures to prevent genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the propagation of hatred through the Internet.

At a meeting of an intergovernmental working group on racism in Geneva, Ramcharan called for an international convention on the prevention of ethnic cleansing, an international convention on human rights education, a protocol to the Genocide Convention enshrining strong measures for the prevention of genocide, an international declaration to counter discrimination against indigenous populations, and an instrument to prevent the propagation of hatred through the Internet.

Expanding on his concerns about the Internet, Ramcharan said: "It is a sad fact of the contemporary world that hatred is being spread through the Internet by unscrupulous and misguided people. The Internet is one of the most effective medium[s] of communication we have in the contemporary world. If we are seeking to promote the values of human rights, tolerance, and respect, can we turn a blind eye to this phenomenon--even recognizing the legitimate issues of freedom of expression involved? It would be hard to let the spread of hatred continue. The drafting of an international convention would provide a process to distill the issues and to work out the strategies and norms required."

It's not clear what form this "instrument" or "standard" would take, and no doubt there will be many months of U.N. debate and argument about it. Let's hope the U.N. doesn't lose sight of its aims to prevent one evil--censorship and the suppression of freedom of speech--while preventing another: the propagation of hatred.

Half of all email is junk: report

* Internet attacks

GENEVA: About 50 per cent of all email messages in circulation by the end of the year could be unsolicited spam, which would cost as much as E17.2 billion ($28 billion) in wasted technical resources, a UN report warns.

Digital attacks over the internet are also rising.

The US was hit hardest in 2002 followed by Brazil and Britain, according to an annual study undertaken by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Internet security problems ``have acquired serious dimensions, and spam is now proliferating at an alarming rate,'' the E-Commerce and Development Report 2003 says.

Most spam victims are in North America, which generates about 58.4 per cent of the junk mail, the study finds.

It notes that a growing number of governments are developing anti-spam laws. UNCTAD says cyber attacks, such as the damaging Blaster worm virus that struck in August, undermined public confidence in the internet, particularly in developing countries.

Citing statistics compiled by mi2g, a digital risk manager, UNCTAD says more than 91,000 digital attacks occurred in the first half of this year, up from about 87,500 in all of 2002.

'Web for Development' conference concludes at Headquarters

The third annual Web for Development (Web4Dev) Conference, which brought together more than 80 organizations to exchange ideas on how to best incorporate the use of information and communication technology in development projects, concluded at United Nations Headquarters today.

The Conference was held in conjunction with the AIT Global Eighteenth Annual Conference and Exhibit at the United Nations. AIT Global was selected by the Global Alliance to help plan and manage the information and technology component for the largest United Nations meetings and conferences.

Topics discussed over the past three days included building service-oriented information and communication technology architecture, website evaluation, multilingual websites, accessibility and inclusive development, Internet broadcasting and collaboration tools.

In closing remarks, Ahmad Fawzi, Director, United Nations News and Media Division in the United Nations Department of Public Information, said that, while access to information and technology tools was "inching" forward, real steps could truly be taken with the involvement of the private sector.

"There are more Internet cafes in Accra now than in London," he said. Indeed, the private sector was looking at ways to involve the developing world, with a very real interest. For one, this year's partnership with AIT meant that horizons had been expanded. Second, the joint cooperation signified that the "buzz" surrounding cutting-edge technologies -- and one normally reserved for the private sector -- would be accessible to the non-profit sector, as well.

He added that the Department of Public Information was tasked with a challenging mandate -- that of strategically communicating to its constituency, the world, with maximum impact. In fact, that task was larger and broader in scale than any other enterprise in the Secretariat. The Web had, therefore, become invaluable.

He said that over the few days, the Conference had included many informative presentations, including one by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Editor, Fortune Magazine, who spoke to the scope of the opportunity for the United Nations Information and Technology Task Force (ICT), in all its forms, to advance worldwide economic and social development, particularly in developing countries. Alsoilluminating was a presentation made by Professor Jeff Cole, Director, Centre for the Digital Future, USC Annenberg School for Communication, resulting in a number of concrete predictions and pointing out several, notable future trends in technology.

One such trend was Short Message Service (SMS) being the way of the future, which implied huge cost savings and benefits for the developing community, he added. The use of SMS for microbusinesses, such as those found in the slums of Mumbai, for example, allowed for cheap and accessible technology that could transform lives.

Mr. Fawzi said he hoped to see all participants again at the 2008 fourth Web4Dev Conference and he opened the floor up to proposals on where to hold it. The three locations discussed were Nairobi (to be hosted by United Nations Habitat); Paris (to be hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)); and Geneva (to be hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO)).

New city Web site caters to prospective employers

If nothing lasts longer than a good first impression, Waterloo should stay high on the minds of prospective businesses for quite some time, thanks to a new economic development Internet site, www.cityofwaterlooiowa.com

The site was developed by Terry L. Butz Creative of Waterloo for the city in cooperation with the Waterloo Industrial Development Association. Each contributed $15,000 to the project.

Butz put the site together in consultation with a WIDA committee. "The city of Waterloo probably has one of the best economic development Web sites, frankly, I've seen anyplace in the country," said Tom Penaluna of CBE Group, a member of a WIDA committee working on the project and a former Waterloo City Council member.

"We owe that to the committee for vision and patience to put this together," Butz said. "There's nobody that can compete with this site."

It took nine months to develop. "Tom's committee went over a lot of ideas. They didn't approve the first run," Butz said. "We had to do a lot of proposals, a lot of ideas to make sure we hit the nail on the head. What they came up with is a winner."

The site is amied at anyone interested in economic development in Waterloo.

The site includes area demographics; available development sites and buildings; economic incentive programs and designated economic development areas; building and zoning regulations and maps; quality of life attractions; utilities; transportation; as well as economic development news and testimonials from businesses which have located here. It links to the Web sites of a number of community attractions and organizations and offers contact information for Waterloo senior planner Noel Anderson at City Hall.

The committee got input from people looking to relocate or open a new facility.

"There isn't too much that isn't here," Penaluna said. "We wanted a Web site that is second to none. This is a Web site that will be copied and utilized by businesses, cities and counties all over the country because of how easy it is to use and all the elements it provides businesses."

"We're not going to lose any (business) leads because they don't know what's here," Butz said. "The bottom line of this whole process is you're going to attract business. Tom's committee is going to generate millions of dollars in revenue to this city because of this site if people get the information they need and relocate here."

It is a site where prospective new or expanding businesses can obtain basic information about economic development in the city, said Lisa Skubal of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, who worked on the project in an advisory role.

Such Web sites are indispensable for economic development, Skubal said. "Companies, individuals will call and say, 'I need some demographic information and I need it now.' There's nothing better than to be able to say 'This is where you can find it on our Web site.' The moment you tell them that, it's like you gave them a $100 bill."

With the new Web site, a prospect also can have a presentation of information tailored to their needs transmitted to them over the site.

"They can seek information in Washington and we can send them the necessary stuff right off the bat off the Web site," Molinaro said. "You want to communicate directly with people, and that allows us to do it."

The cost of the project was low in comparison to what Butz and his staff invested into the project, WIDA committee member and Warren Transport Inc. president Bob Molinaro said. "There was a lot of Waterloo pride on his part. He wanted to do something for the community," Molinaro said.

"This is a work in progress," Butz said. "As people call in and want to be investing Waterloo, we're going to add new businesses."

"It'll always be updated and changed," Molinaro said. "We're at the point now where it's more than good."

"I think it's great," Mayor Tim Hurley said. "One of my goals when I ran for mayor four years ago was to improve the image of the city, both real and perceived, and this certainly is one of those gateways. I navigated this site and found it very user-friendly. And I know there'll be some continuous improvements on it. So it's a great first step."

It eventually will be linked to a revamped official City of Waterloo Web site, a separate project still under development, Hurley said. A Web service offered by the National Council of Mayors will be in town this summer, filming different aspects of the city for "video streaming" on that revamped site. The mayor also is working with the private sector for assistance to fund the update.

"It will again, complement the economic development" site, Hurley said. "We're going to have an eventually interactive city Web site, to get into the 21st century."

New Study Provides Internet User Forecasts to 2010 and 2015 for 16 African Countries

Dublin - Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c74905) has announced the addition of 2007 African - Broadband and Internet Markets to their offering.

This annual report offers a wealth of information on the Broadband and Internet markets in 34 African countries. Subjects covered include:

* The broadbanding of Africa
* policies, initiatives, projects
* Internet statistics and market analyses
* Barriers to Internet development
* Internet and broadband infrastructure
* International bandwidth and local connectivity
* Community telecentres
* The emergence of ADSL in Africa
* Internet via satellite
* Wireless Broadband
* Local, national and regional ISPs
* The role of the mobile networks and 3G
* VoIP telephony liberalisation and grey markets

Executive Summary

Africa's data traffic is on the rise, fuelled by rapid growth of ADSL and wireless broadband services. Massive efforts are under way to adapt the continent's underdeveloped infrastructure to the growing need, both on the national and international level. Broadband has begun to rapidly replace dial-up as the preferred access method, and this process is already virtually completed in the continent's more developed markets. Overall market penetration is still low, leaving ample room for further growth in the coming years.

Africa is still the least connected continent in the world, both from an Internet penetration perspective and in terms of the total bandwidth feeding the continent. Growth has, however, accelerated in recent years due to improvements in infrastructure, the arrival of wireless access technologies and lower tariffs. The introduction of competition and increasing regulatory pressure on monopolistic pricing by incumbent telcos for international bandwidth is beginning to have a positive effect.

VoIP continues to gain ground in Africa with growth rates in excess of 100% per year, following steady improvements in Internet bandwidth and deregulation in several key markets. Nevertheless, at least 10% of international calls in almost every country on the continent are still carried by unlicensed grey market players, because many operators are not yet passing on the full cost savings from VoIP to their customers. Profit margins are still very healthy in this emerging market.

More than half of all African countries now have commercial DSL services, but their growth is limited by the poor geographical reach of the fixed-line networks. The rapid growth of Internet access has therefore been mostly confined to the capital cities so far. The introduction of mobile data services is changing this as Africa's mobile network operators are moving into the ISP business, bringing Internet access to many areas outside of the main cities for the first time.

Key highlights:

* Internet user forecasts to 2010 and 2015 for 16 African countries;
* Broadband is rapidly replacing dial-up Internet access;
* Commercial DSL services are now available in at least 30 African countries;
* Mobile network operators are pushing into the ISP space;
* Wireless and mobile broadband is set to overtake ADSL;
* Several new submarine fibre projects currently under development will improve the supply of international bandwidth at drastically reduced prices;
* WiMAX trials, rollouts or commercial services in at least 20 African countries;
* The number of African countries where VoIP can be regarded as open to private operators has more than doubled to around 20 in 2007.
* Telkom South Africa ADSL, dial-up and satellite Internet subscribers - 2003 - 2007

New Report Examines the Diverse Asian Broadband and Internet Markets

The 2007 Asia Broadband and Internet Market Reports, contains over 460 pages of research and analysis on the Broadband and Internet markets in Asia. Consisting of 4 volumes this research covers 35 Asian countries, grouped by geographic regions (Central, North, South and South East) and includes -

* Internet infrastructure and development;
* Internet policies, models and concepts;
* Internet access - DSL, Cable, Wireless;
* Internet and broadband statistics;
* Internet censorship;
* Internet forecasts in selected countries;
* Internet Infrastructure and Developments;
* National Policies, Government Policies, Regulatory Regimes;
* Internet VPNs and VoIP;
* Network Operators, and ISPs.
* Network Players;
* xDSL, Cable Modem, FttH, Satellite;
* Wireless Broadband, WiMAX.

Central Asia

While the countries of Central Asia have struggled with poor telecom infrastructure and underdeveloped

regulatory, one segment of the market that has been most adversely affected has been the Internet. With

none of these countries having Internet user penetrations higher than 10% at the end of 2006, the race

is now on in each of the markets to build increased capacity to access the Internet. Turkmenistan and

Tajikistan with Internet user penetrations of less than 1% by end-2006 are the lowest ranked by this

measure and certainly have a huge task ahead of them. Right across the sub-region, Internet access has

been predominantly provided as a dial-up service. The first signs of higher speed, broadband access

services are evident in a number of the markets, but the total broadband subscriber base remains very

tiny for the time being and therefore constitutes only a small proportion of the total Internet

subscriber base in each country.

The rate of expansion of Internet services will no doubt increase on the back of the wider push to improve the overall telecoms capacity and infrastructure in each market. Although the pace is variable across the markets, there is certainly a consistent commitment to developing the national networks. Of course, it is not simply a matter of increased investment in infrastructure. There also needs to be a commitment with regard to regulatory reform. Interestingly, the Internet market has experienced some distinct challenges in Central Asia in this regard, as some of the governments have seen online access as a specific threat to national security and good order of their respective countries. The two lowly penetrated Internet markets, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, have both been subjected to tight government restrictions and limitations on access, no doubt helping stunt the growth of online activity in both these countries. But they are not the only markets in Central Asia with laws aimed at Internet censorship. Kazakhstan and Georgia, for example, both have restrictive regulations in place that can be invoked as and when the government sees fit.

North Asia

In the rush to go online, North Asia is being led by a group of the most highly penetrated Internet markets in the world. With Asia the world?s leading regional Internet market in terms of subscribers, with the region North Asia is the outstanding driving Internet force. Not surprisingly, Internet growth in Asia continues to be dominated by the developed economies of North Asia - Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. This group has been joined by China, based on its sheer weight of numbers; it was claiming 137 million Internet users by end-2006, a penetration in excess of 10%. South Korea is the top ranked North Asia market in terms of user penetration with 71%; at the other end of the spectrum is Mongolia with 10% and just behind China in user penetration.

A focus on high-speed broadband Internet access in its various forms is also a feature of North Asia?s Internet growth. Again, following the example set by market leader South Korea, the emphasis has been on delivering faster broadband speeds to the customers.

In terms of broadband access, Asia is one region in the world where Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) has started to emerge as a serious broadband platform. The technology has taken off in a big way in Japan. There were already 10 million FttH subscribers in Japan by mid-2007. Not unexpectedly, the movement towards fibre has been occurring in Asia?s more developed markets, where positive government intervention has been playing an important role.

South Asia

Generally speaking, the penetration of Internet across South Asia remains low. Broadband access is almost non-existent across much of the sub-region and there are no signs of an early major upturn. The more significant impact of Internet in South Asia is to be found in India and Pakistan, where Internet usage is creeping towards 10% penetration. But for most of the other markets going online has been a struggle. One interesting exception has been the Maldives; with its small population combined with a healthy tourist industry, Internet usage has been relatively substantial.

South East Asia

Of Asia?s estimated 450 million Internet users in early 2007, only about 65 million were to be found in South East Asia. In other words, South East Asia had around 14% of the Internet user population of the region at the time. Despite highly penetrated Internet markets to be found in Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia, South East Asian economies are more generally in the developing phase when it comes to Internet, with user penetrations typically at the lower end of the scale. At the lowest level we find Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, all with user penetrations of less than 1%.

In terms of broadband access, only Singapore rates as a highly penetrated market (65% of households by early 2007). Despite a flurry of activity in markets like Malaysia and Thailand, South Asia continues to lag well behind the more developed markets of the region in the application and penetration of broadband Internet access.

Dyke makes a difference

THE most obvious difference between Greg Dyke and Sir John Birt is that Mr Dyke is an exceptionally likeable man, and Sir John is not. In a place as unhappy as the BBC, that matters. But there are bigger differences that may matter more to the BBC'S future.

One concerns the licence fee. Sir John has squashed any internal discussion of whether it is sustainable. Mr Dyke has said publicly that he doubts it can be sustained for 20 years. Looking at what has happened in America, he says, mass broadcasting may turn out to be a blip in history. Most people will soon have access to a subscription system, so will be able to choose whether they want to pay for the BBC or not. But he is not entirely comfortable with this idea. If the BBC switches to subscription, he fears, a class of "information poor" may develop.

The cultural instincts of the two men are also sharply different. Sir John is a Reithian figure, who arrived at the BBC with a "mission to explain". Mr Dyke is no anti-intellectual--notwithstanding Roland Rat, the gimmick he used to popularise the failing TV-AM, which will forever be his albatross--but he is an anti-elitist. His favourite illustration of the social origins of British broadcasting is a quotation from Lady Plowden, once head of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which used to regulate commercial television. She described "Crossroads", a blameless soap opera, as "distressingly popular", and ordered that transmission be cut from four to three times a week.

Mr Dyke is both a decentraliser and a democrat at heart. When Tony Blair put him in charge of a committee to design a charter for the National Health Service, he failed to produce one, saying that when conditions varied so widely across the country, it did not make sense to impose the same document everywhere. Different hospitals and health trusts should develop their own, he felt. In the BBC, which is sometimes said to combine a Stalinist lust for central control with a Trotskyite taste for permanent revolution, such an approach should be refreshing.

Doing the splits

"AH, BUT a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" So Sir Christopher Bland, the BBC'S chairman, reached for his Browning to explain some of the corporation's imperfections as he released its annual report on June 23rd. He might have applied the quotation more generally to the BBC, which has lately become one of Britain's most ambitious media organisations.

Six years ago, when Sir John Birt took over, the BBC was in bad shape. It was out of favour with the politicians--Margaret Thatcher was narrowly dissuaded from privatising it-grossly inefficient and had ignored multichannel television, BSkyB was taking off, and taking viewers from the BBC. At the time, Sir John expected the combined ratings of the BBC'S channels to drop to 30%.

Sir John--whose career in current-affairs television gave him a feel for political sensitivities--transformed the corporation's relations with the politicians. He talked the talk of the market; and when the health service was dragged kicking and screaming towards a purchaser-provider split, the BBC went voluntarily. His reward was a big increase in the licence fee, which finances the BBC, and which all Britons must pay for the privilege of watching television. The extra cash allowed the BBC to invest in digital broadcasting.

Two stages of management changes shook up the corporation: "producer choice"--which enabled producers to buy services, such as studio time and editing, from the private sector as well as from within the BBC--and the split between the broadcast and production functions, which gave the broadcast side a budget for which the producers were to compete. There were a number of flaws in these designs--the broadcast-production split, for instance, gave broadcast plenty of suppliers but production only one customer--but they have at least changed the BBC'S culture. People within the corporation now think much more about costs.

Sir John also professionalised the corporation's approach to broadcasting. It began to research what its audience wanted, just as any private sector company would; and, in consequence, to think harder about programming and scheduling. As a result, the BBC's ratings first stopped falling and then even recovered a bit. They have been running at around 40%, rather than the 30% Sir John had anticipated.

But the biggest change has been digital. Over the past three years, the BBC has spent more heavily on digital than has any other media organisation in Britain. As a result, the BBC is providing most of the new digital programming that consumers receive. It owns nine digital channels, four of them free-to-air and five commercial; and it wants more. They lose money, of course, but then even in its "commercial" operations the BBC is not constrained by the need to provide returns to shareholders.

On the Internet, too, the BBC is way ahead. It has spent probably four times as much as its nearest competitors and has got twice as many page-views (the meter of web popularity) as its nearest British rival. Only Yahoo!, the giant American search engine, is more popular among British web surfers.

The BBC'S dash for the future has left most others standing. But it has also heightened existing tensions in the organisation-between public service and commercial operations, between high-mindedness and ratings, between spending on the present and investing in the future.

Public service and commercial operations used to be clearly divided. Commercial was magazines and public service was everything else. Now digital television and the Internet have both commercial and public-service sides. The divide often seems arbitrary. Why should Choice, a general entertainment channel, be a public-service channel, while Arena, the arts channel, is commercial and so available only to subscribers? People working on different sides of the divide start competing with each other. By trying to do both, the BBC risks doing neither as well as it should.

Because it is spending so heavily on the digital future, the BBC is finding it harder to keep a grip on the present. Its ratings are falling again, now that ITV has got rid of its ten o'clock news programme, and grumbles are growing about wasting money, making stuff for digital channels that nobody is watching. Some say keep the digital, forget the ratings and junk populism; others fear that each percentage point lost in the ratings is another blow undermining the licence fee that pays their wages.

Gavyn Dawes, chief economist at Goldman Sachs in London, who is chairing a panel reviewing the future of the BBC'S finances, may provide what looks like a resolution of these problems. He is expected to give the corporation a whacking increase, either through a higher licence fee or through a supplement on those who subscribe to digital. That should enable the corporation to buy lots of stars and sport (both of which it has been losing) and pay for digital broadcasting as well.

But if that happens, it will heighten another of the strains on the BBC. Sport and stars notwithstanding, ratings are likely to go on falling, not just because of new television services, but also because television viewing is falling as children and teenagers increasingly spend time on computer games and the Internet. There has been extraordinary public support for (or apathy about) the licence fee. But it looks as though people will be asked to pay more and more for the BBC while watching it less and less. If the licence fee increases sharply, so does the risk that somebody, somewhere, will just say no.


AMSTERDAM If you are selling pay TV windows or programming that has an Internet component, get ready to sign on the dotted line: the Dutch are hitting the Croisette.

Buyers from the territory that spawned such formats as "Big Brother" and "The Bus" are now in full tracking mode for interactive programming with Web synergy potential.

Even highbrow Dutch pubcaster NPS is gearing up to broadcast the BBC's 10-episode drama series "Attachments," which comes complete with an online companion.

"We're seeing Web-linked programming as an important development for the television industry, and it brings in a younger audience as well," notes NPS head of acquisitions Frank Peijnenburg.

Frans-Jan Punt, director of programming for Fox Kids Europe's Dutch feed on Fox 8, says: "We'll be keeping an eye on traditional series but we'll be looking at them from a new angle: Can they link up to the Web?"

Fox Kids aims to eventually have 'Net components to all its shows. "It may not have an interactive link," Punt says. "But there must be the possibility of giving it one. 'Pokemon' is a good example; it has at least 2,000 connected Web sites."

Patty Geneste, president-owner of Absolutely Independent, a company that specializes in representing formats and format creators, points to a new breed of product with not only simple interactive links but also highly sophisticated crossover programming, especially in the gameshow area, in which viewers at home "are an essential component" to the program.

If interactive is not your bag as yet, there are plenty of buyers around for traditional shows, such as Amsterdam-based UPCtv, which has launched some eight channels across 19 territories in Europe and Israel. Acquisitions exec Leila Trainor notes, "We need 500 hours annually per channel."

In Debut, Discovery Shares Mixed

Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications became a publicly traded company yesterday, a move aimed at giving it a new vehicle for acquiring programming, Internet sites and network distribution properties.

"We'll now have a currency which will help us to be more competitive in recruiting the best talent, some financial flexibility in the marketplace, and we're really going to focus on international growth," said chief executive David M. Zaslav , adding that the company's ability to issue stock or use stock to buy companies "allows us to be opportunistic in terms of acquisitions."

Discovery's A shares opened yesterday at $18.53 and closed down 25 percent, at $13.81. Non-voting C shares opened at $12.80 and closed up 25 percent, at $16.

Control of the company remains largely unchanged, but the transition from private to public streamlines its ownership structure. The new company was created from the consolidation of interests in Discovery Holding Co. , controlled by billionaire John D. Malone, and Advance/Newhouse Communications, which owns the New Yorker and other magazines. Each two shares of Discovery Holding became one common A share and one non-voting C share of Discovery Communications, according to a regulatory filing.

Discovery Communications Chairman John S. Hendricks said market turmoil did not affect the company's plans to become publicly traded.

"Going public typically involves a company that's raising money on an IPO. We're not raising money. If that were the case, this would be poor timing," he said.

Discovery Holding shareholders voted to approve the merger Tuesday, and shares began trading yesterday on the Nasdaq Stock Market under transition symbols. After 20 days, A shares will switch from DISAD to DISCA. C shares are trading under DISCK. Shareholders of the former Discovery Holding control 74 percent of voting power, while Advance/Newhouse controls 26 percent of voting power and will elect three of the 11 board members.

Hendricks said Discovery is ready for the scrutiny that being a public company brings.

"Our timing is pretty good on this because if we had gone public back in the mid-'90s, after we were about a decade old, that was right in the period when we were really investing in our international platform as well as our digital platform," Hendricks said. "Whenever you make long-term investments it depresses short-term earnings. So now the timing is perfect because so much of the infrastructure investments are behind us."

Today, the company says it has 1.5 billion subscribers in more than 170 countries, and its networks include the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet . Discovery has been growing online through the acquisition of companies including United Streaming, which became the centerpiece of its online on-demand education services, and HowStuffWorks.com.

ESPN selling premium content to Internet providers

American office workers can watch every play of the midday World Cup soccer games on their desktop computers -- but only if they subscribe to the right Internet providers.

In a strategy inspired by cable television, the Walt Disney Company's ESPN sports network offers online broadcasts of the World Cup and other sporting events as premium Internet programming. Internet providers who want to offer the service, called ESPN360, must pay special fees for the right to carry it, in the same way that cable TV systems pay Disney to carry ESPN's TV shows. So far, a handful of Internet providers, including Verizon Communications Inc., Adelphia Communications Corp., and Charter Communications Inc., have signed up for ESPN360, making it available to about 8 million US households.

It's a policy that could help Disney and other companies find new revenue streams for their entertainment offerings.

"We are really talking about high-quality premium content that a lot of consumers have a demand for," said Tanya Van Court, vice president and general manager of new media video products at ESPN.

Bill Heilig, Verizon's executive director for portal and content services, said his company has similar deals with online content providers such as Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., and Viacom Inc. These give Verizon services and features that distinguish it from rivals like cable TV giant Comcast Corp.

"It is similar to the cable model," said Heilig. "We go out and source the best combination of content and services."

But others worry that making the Internet more like cable TV will lead to higher prices, as consumers are forced to pay for premium services they don't want.

"It doesn't matter if you're not a sports fan. You're going to pay," said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a high-tech public interest group.

The rise of premium Internet programming comes when Congress is considering "network neutrality" legislation that would ban Internet providers like Verizon from charging extra fees to companies that want to distribute their content over new premium-quality data networks. A coalition of nonprofit groups and Internet content companies, including Microsoft and Yahoo, say that allowing Internet companies to charge them for the data they broadcast could cripple creativity on the Internet.

Sohn is one of those lobbying for a ban on premium network fees. But she has no problem with companies charging premium prices for their Internet content, as long as only those who use the services pay for them. If the Internet companies use an "a la carte" pricing system, customers would pay only for the Internet services that they use, and the cost of ESPN360 would be borne only by those who want it instead of being spread out across everyone who subscribes to a participating provider.

"The Internet's been great because it's been a la carte," Sohn said. "It allows consumers to pay for what they want."

Cable TV companies are under pressure to embrace the a la carte system. A bill recently introduced in Congress by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona would grant video providers a streamlined nationwide licensing process, bypassing the need to get licenses from thousands of local government bodies. In exchange, the companies would agree to let customers pick only the channels they want.

For now, Verizon has no plans to offer its premium Internet services on an a la carte basis. All subscribers to the company's broadband services get free access to ESPN360, as well as a choice of either Microsoft's MSN Premium service or Verizon Yahoo Internet service. Verizon has also signed a deal with Viacom to offer exclusive content related to Viacom's Nickelodeon and MTV cable TV channels.

Verizon's Heilig said that the addition of premium content isn't driving up the price of his company's broadband services. "Our broadband rates are among the lowest, if not the lowest," he said.

Meanwhile, ESPN plans to use another cable TV gimmick to boost interest in its Internet service -- a free sample of ESPN360. From June 26 through July 19, broadband users can log onto espn360.com to watch World Cup games and other programming, even if their Internet provider hasn't signed a deal with ESPN.