Cantillon: BBC3’s fate reflects on-demand TV world

RTÉ One’s next channel controller will be asked to lead ‘digital change’ as viewers disperse

BBC director-general Tony Hall, in seeking targets for cutbacks, found it easy to justify the reinvention of BBC3 as a cheaper-to-run online-only service for a reason: younger viewers have different patterns of behaviour. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

BBC director-general Tony Hall, in seeking targets for cutbacks, found it easy to justify the reinvention of BBC3 as a cheaper-to-run online-only service for a reason: younger viewers have different patterns of behaviour. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

 

The BBC’s decision to close BBC3 “as a broadcast or linear channel” is the most obvious signal yet that the life expectancy of the very concept of television channels is shortening. This trend, if it continues, may eventually prove something of a challenge if your job title happens to be “channel controller”.

BBC director-general Tony Hall, in seeking targets for cutbacks, found it easy to justify the reinvention of BBC3 as a cheaper-to-run online-only service for a reason. Younger viewers have different patterns of behaviour. They still watch most of their television the traditional way, but compared to programmes aimed at older demographics, programmes that are popular with younger people on channels such as BBC3, Channel 4 and E4 get a much higher proportion of their total views, often up to a third, from online catch-up services.

In Hall’s mind, that makes the BBC’s iPlayer “a key part of the future for public service broadcasting . . . the gateway for people who increasingly want to watch and listen to what they want, when they want it”. Hall is either being prescient or premature by pulling the plug on BBC3 as it exists now, but either way he is being pragmatic. By describing it as “an opportunity to look at new forms, formats, different durations, and more individualised and interactive content”, he is certainly breaking clear with the old model of the linear channel designed for viewers who sit down and sample only the schedulers’ entertainment menu.

RTÉ, meanwhile, is in the process of appointing a channel controller to RTÉ One, having lost the position’s first incumbent, George Dixon, to BBC Worldwide after just a year. RTÉ One, with its bumper peak-time audience shares, isn’t going anywhere any time soon. But the wording of the job advertisement is interesting, calling as it does for someone who can act as a “driver of digital change in a multi-platform world” and someone who has “experience of digitisation and on-demand delivery of content”.

The job description nods to the fact that in the present era of smart TVs, the fast-refreshing buffet of content on the RTÉ Player sits just a few remote control clicks away from RTÉ One and Two.

Revenue could get bigger bite of Apple
When it comes to the global corporation tax debate, the default reaction in Ireland appears to be that anything that might be done, courtesy of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the major powers, that is contrary to the interests of the multinationals, is by definition contrary to the interests of Ireland Inc.

But this may not be so.

There are two distinct elements to the type of tax planning engaged in by giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and so on. First of all they set up headquarters in Dublin to handle their affairs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and further afield. Sales in these jurisdictions are booked by their companies here.

Considering the growth of these companies over recent years, the corporation tax receipts that would accrue to the Revenue Commissioners would be very substantial, were it not for the second element of their tax structure.

This element usually involves tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, and the sending of royalty payments from Dublin onwards, so that the profits of the Dublin operations are massively reduced from what they would other wise be. It may happen that the debate over multinational tax ends up stamping on these, second-element type, structures. More profits would then end up being taxed in subsidiaries with substantial operational roles, such as those in Ireland.

Of course larger countries may look to have a stronger link between sales volumes and tax paid, but in broad terms more Irish corporation tax, rather than less, could well be the end result of the current debate.

A striking developments of recent years is the huge growth in US corporate cash piles. Apple is driving the concentration, accounting for about 10 per cent of all US corporate cash on deposit, or $150 billion. Last year Moodys said the top five holders – Apple, Microsoft , Google, Pfizer and Cisco – held $347 billion.

Aggressive tax avoidance is driving this cash accumulation, and if more of the money ends up being subjected to corporation tax, the benefits for Ireland could be very substantial indeed.


Desmond in the thick of pink and green
Life as a billionaire is never easy. The attention to detail at Dermot Desmond’s new holiday playground for the super-rich, the Pink Sands Club, certainly seems to know no bounds.

In last week’s edition of the Financial Times’ s How to Spend It magazine, Desmond’s new paradise for the rich was given the royal treatment.

Desmond (pictured) is spending $120 million (€86.5 million) on creating one of the world’s most luxurious resorts on Canouan, an exotic 13sq km island, in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“This is a James Bond island for our times,” an employee of Desmond let slip to the pink ’un.

The FT was suitably impressed. A one-bed suite starts from $3,938 per night, and guests can expect “in the bedrooms, the coup de théâtre . . . a floor-to-ceiling mirror at the end of your bed.”

At the touch of a button, a TV appears inside the mirror, push again and it slides back to reveal a “mesmerising lagoon”.

The resort seems a level above even Sandy Lane in Barbados, which Desmond co-owns and rebuilt in 2001.

Notably, the Pink Sands contains not a single palm tree. This is surprising given its tropical location. “Mr Desmond doesn’t like them,” the FT helpfully explains. Everything from the uniforms of the staff to cushions has a pink theme.

“Desmond loves pink,” the FT says, but not just any old shade. “We like Pantone 226,” Elena Korach, the Italian chief operating officer of the resort reveals.

On the green front, Desmond is also doing well.

Last week, Forbes said he grew his fortune by $200m, moving him up from the crowd of mere billionaires, into the more select $2 billion club.

Doubtless, Desmond also has his eye on the Sunday Independent , the newspaper he part owns, along with fellow paper fan Denis O’Brien. The Sindo produces its own rich list soon, and only names near the top of that list will be able to afford the Sands tickling them pink.

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