TCS Daily


18 Doughty Street: Puts All The Pieces Together

By Edward B. Driscoll - April 30, 2007 12:00 AM

In early 2006, when I wrote "Will Video Kill The Blogosphere Star?" for TCS Daily, television and the Internet were merely good friends out on their first date. But a few hours of watching 18 Doughty Street shows how far the relationship between video and the Web has progressed in only a year.

The past year has seen the rise of several high-quality Websites that incorporate high-quality video clips. For example, the production values of Michelle Malkin's "Vent" segments on her Hot Air site are first class. But these daily segments typically run under five minutes; whereas 18 Doughty Street, which debuted last fall, has combined professional-quality video with daily long-form programming for five hours a night, which is then archived and made available for on-demand viewing at any time. 18 Doughty Street appears to have been one of the first sites that has managed to really put all the pieces together to create an Internet-based virtual television network.

21st Century Anti-Establishmentarianism

18 Doughty Street broadcasts from a five floor, five bedroom terraced house about two miles from Parliament (and a few hundred yards from Charles Dickens' home). Their main stage is a large, converted architect's studio, from which the fledging network began airing its programs this past fall. In a sense, they're England's equivalent of Fox News, or a Tory version of C-Span's interview shows.

Just as in the late 1990s Fox attempted to slay the big bad liberal dragon of CNN (and ultimately did so in the ratings), 18 Doughty Street also has an established liberal target in mind. But in this case it's even bigger: the BBC. Unlike Fox, the goal here isn't to win in the ratings; 18 Doughty Street's mere presence helps to counteract the BBC's biases to at least some extent. One example is this clip, which brought the British Internet network much visibility on the starboard side of America's Blogosphere.

The C-Span analogy seems most evident in the narrowcasting format of each network, and in the frequent appearances on the network of 44-year old Ian Dale, former Parliamentary candidate, blogger, and founder of the online Politico's Bookshop. As co-founder of 18 Doughty Street and one of their "chief presenters", Dale is more-or-less the network's equivalent of C-Span pioneer Brian Lamb, who was the near ubiquitous face of C-Span in that American cable network's salad days.

As American media critic Jeff Jarvis has noted, 18 Doughty Street doesn't immediately identify itself as "conservative" or "Tory", preferring instead language such as "anti-establishment". In England, a nation far further to the left and far more in the grip of institutional political correctness than America has a whole, that's a phrase that has taken on a whole new meaning since it was adopted for modern consumption in 1958 by the British socialist publication The New Statesman. (At least if this Wikipedia entry is to be believed.)

One big difference though between the establishment—in this case the BBC, an 80 year old nationalized British network—and its bantam-weight competitor is that for the foreseeable future, 18 Doughty Street is strictly an Internet proposition, which the slick look of its video presentation belies. Watching 18 Doughty Street's long-form continuous programming, it's easy to forget that you're sitting in front of a computer monitor.

Room To Maneuver

Of course, 18 Doughty Street is far from the average shoestring-budgeted Website, as its launch was funded by Stephan Shakespeare, who in 2000, co-founded YouGov, the pioneering British internet-based market research site. Donal Blaney adds that "within six years of its launch, YouGov is worth £100m." For Doughty Street, Blaney says that Shakespeare envisioned a Web site "that fused the irreverent tone of Fox News, the user-generated content of YouTube, the technology-based interactivity of YouGov and the voyeurism of Big Brother."

Blaney is general counsel of Doughty Media Limited, as well as the host of the Internet network's daily Up Front show, and also a blogger. He explained to me recently why being on the Web is financially advantageous to the site. "It costs in excess of £1m for a new channel to get onto the Murdoch-owned BSkyB satellite platform—and at the moment, given that we are less than six months into broadcasting, it is too soon for us to spend that kind of money sensibly on joining the Sky platform."

And the comparatively wide-open Internet helps to give 18 Doughty Street plenty of maneuvering room, in contrast to the much more regulated broadcasting sphere. "Whereas OFCOM (England's Office of Communications) regulates the output of mainstream broadcasters, OFCOM's remit does not currently extend to the internet", Blaney notes, adding, "In a typical attempt to stifle our increasingly less free society, the European Union is attempting to regulate internet broadcasting so none of us can say, for sure, how long we will remain unregulated."

What's Next? 24/7 Programming

If imitative satire is the sincerest form of flattery, then one sign of 18 Doughty Street's success is that it has already spawned a number of parodies and mash-up videos on YouTube, including "17 Doughty Street", a politically left-of-center reaction to the conservative video pioneers.

So what's next for the site? Blaney says, "The next year will see a major expansion in our output. We will be moving to 24/7 scheduled output in the coming weeks, together with a substantial increase in original programming. Many more events and debates are set to be covered on both sides of the Atlantic. Our citizen journalism capability [user-generated content from an army of amateur journalists who record, edit and upload their own clips to be broadcast on our shows] is due to come online in the next month too. We have also already begun recording shows in Washington and Brussels and our presence in the US and on the European continent is set to grow markedly too. Because we are the first anti-establishment internet-based political television channel in the world, we have a head start on the rest of the market and we are intending to continue to capitalize on that advantage."

As the cost of Internet video continues to diminish, and IPTV allows for full-length programs to be downloaded into television set-top boxes via broadband, expect many more channels like 18 Doughty Street.

They'll be on all sides of the political spectrum, of course. But if I were a venture capital firm or angel investor looking to fund the TV station of the future for the Web and/or IPTV, 18 Doughty Street -- given its format and especially its production values -- is the model I'd crib from as carefully as possible.

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5 Comments

Conrats to 18
It's good to see that some people in the (former Great)Britain, having some balls enough to challenge the left wing biased BBC, and the PC political elites there. It's about time. I'm just worried tho that the english might be too far gone already with all the brainwashing they've been exposed to over the years. For example, I have the UK friend who doesn't even believe that the Guardian is leftist biased! And another english guy I met up in northern thailand a few months ago, was really insulted when I told him the BBC was an organ of the government and wouldn't even exist if not for being subsidised. He didn't say it wasn't true exactly, he was just shocked at being confronted with the reality.

RE: Conrats to 18
"I'm just worried tho that the english might be too far gone already with all the brainwashing they've been exposed to over the years."

Britain will fall to Sharia before France does. Now would be a good time for Argentina to take the Falklands.

Britain falling to sharia b4 france
Good comment. After the disgraceful humiliation of the Royal Navy recently with Iran, the (former Great)Britain couldn't pull off anything like the freeing of the Falklands. Guess there'll be no more Thatchers, or Churchills, or Lord Nelsons. Those post-modern poofters think that the statue in Trafalgar Square is NELSON Mandela! They think Trafalgar is some vacation spot in the south of France where English guys buy old farms. They think it's really fair and balanced to have a muslim alternate parlament to balance the racist british one. They think you should change the fairy tale of the three little pigs in the schools because it might offend some muslims(as reported a few weeks ago, ignoring the fact that muslims also hate the puppy dogs they wanted to change it too). Let's hope for their sakes that the Normans, or the Vikings, or the Romans don't want to invade again.

The usual hyperbole
"They think you should change the fairy tale of the three little pigs in the schools because it might offend some muslims(as reported a few weeks ago, ignoring the fact that muslims also hate the puppy dogs they wanted to change it too)."

Perhaps you can tell me where you read such an article. The two I've seen from right-wing Brit papers point out that the Muslims interviewed ranged in opinion from baffled to an awareness that such idiocy could lead to a backlash against them if people believed it was they that called for the ridiculous ban.

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra from the Muslim Council of Britain branded the move 'bizarre'. He said: "The vast majority of Muslims have no problem whatsoever with the Three Little Pigs. It's always been the traditional way of telling the story and I don't see why that should be changed...
There's an issue about the eating of pork, which is forbidden, but there is no prohibition about reading stories about pigs. This is an unnecessary step."

Mr Mogra went on to say: "Every time we get these stories Muslims are seen more and more as misfits. We have to accept there's a predominant culture here."

Mohammed Imran, of the Hanfia Mosque and Educational Institute said: "According to the Koran it's forbidden to eat pork or touch a pig, but there's no ruling about talking about them or singing about them."

Or how about this comment from someone respoding to the article: "That really is stupid.Growing up in Pakistan we read these poems and stories about poems. What next?"

- Razi Rizvi, Dublin,Ireland

This contributor got it spot on: "These people [the PC idiots] are so incredibly insensitive. They clearly don't either understand or care that they are in danger of turning our Muslim fellow citizens into a figure of ridicule for no reason. The Muslims then have to deal with the problems caused by this silliness. All of us in this country regardless of our ethnic background are victims of the politically correct brigade and the way their manipulations result in creating unnecessary tensions out of nothing."

- Doug, Glasgow

You see, Dietmar, if you actually read ALL the article you wouldn't then conclude that Sharia law is just around the corner. What we do have is the politically correct cretins THINKING they know what Muslims want. Like you, they are invariably wrong.

18 Doughty St
It certainly has an interesting breadth of contributors. More so than the Beeb, ITV and Murdoch's Sky.

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