Monday, September 07, 2009

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand, BBC Edition

Last week, I wrote about an upcoming theater broadcast of the Last Night of the Proms. It occurred to me that perhaps there were other broadcast locations in the U.S., so I started to do some research. What followed was...well...Here's what happened.
  1. I started by looking at the Proms web site, where I couldn't find anything about the dates and times of the broadcasts, though I did find a press release about the broadcast. If you read the press release, you'll see that there are no dates or locations listed.
  2. I looked for a Contact Us page with press contact information, but never found it.
  3. I did find a Contact Us page with a form on it, which I filled out with my query. I identified myself as an Oakland-based music journalist and blogger.
  4. A member of the Proms press office responded on their next business day. This was fine; I sent my query long after London closing hours.
  5. However, she told me the Proms press office didn't know anything about the scheduling of the broadcast - BBC Worldwide handles such events, you see. Her email included a list of the U.S. and London offices for BBC Worldwide, with phone numbers and street addresses for each.
  6. In reply, I asked if there were email addresses for any of the offices.
  7. She was able to provide one email address.
  8. I phoned the Hollywood, CA office of BBC Worldwide. The person answering the phone didn't know what the Proms were. She transferred me to someone she thought might know. That person sounded like a deer in the headlights and suggested I try the NYC office.
  9. I phoned the NYC office, where the person I spoke to knew what the Proms were, but didn't know anything about U.S. broadcasts. She suggested I talk to someone else.
  10. I phoned the other person and left a phone message asking her to call me back. This was on Thursday, September 2. I haven't heard back yet, but that's okay; very possibly she stretched her three-day weekend to four days.
  11. Simultaneously, I phoned the Elmwood Theater in CA, where a very nice person in the business office suggested I send email, which the right person would respond to.
  12. I did this and got a timely response from the right person. She told me she knew of the Berkeley and Santa Rosa Rialto Theaters showings, plus one in Los Angeles. She knew who the U.S. distributor was and told me that name. She also knew that there are many Canadian venues, which I had discovered independently. (I can't recall exactly when I tried using Google, finding nothing useful about the United State, but turning up the Canadian list.)
  13. This morning I found email from my original contact at the Proms press office, confirming that there are only three U.S. venues this year. (The third is Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood.) Evidently, there was interest from other theaters and chains, but scheduling issues....very likely the Last Night will be more widely broadcast in the states next year.
The BBC has had sundry notorious failures in the past. There was the year they had to ask the fan base for home copies of some episodes of Dr. Who, the wildly popular TV series. The Beeb had somehow lost or erased those episodes. There are the many opera and other musical broadcasts recorded and then trashed - I know of a famous collector who swooped down on the BBC office when one of these purges was taking place, rescuing a few priceless items from oblivion.

I can't think of any publicity principle more central than "Make it easy for people to find out when and where your events are happening." The Proms press office should not be the last to have accurate information about where their most famous single event is being telecast worldwide, and it should be easy to find that information with a simple web search. Instead...well, see the above.

10 comments:

William said...

Thanks for all your legwork in confirming what I feared after two futile searches of the web, spurred by various BBC press releases in the last few weeks. I thought I was doing something wrong to be coming up so emptyhanded. I'm relieved, yet disappointed that the U.S.ers won't have much opportunity to join in.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You're very welcome!

calimac said...

If Rule 1 is, "Make it easy for people to find out when and where your events are happening," then Rule 1A is, "Put it on your website."

I'm amazed at the number of arts groups that don't think to update their websites promptly, that even go to the trouble of laying out, printing, and distributing a glossy printed brochure, but don't update their websites. This is your first point of contact in today's world, people. Keep it current.

On the other hand, there's those so current that they erase every concert the day after it takes place. Don't do that either! Move it to a back page or something, but there's nothing to give a visitor a clearer notion of what you do than a look through what you have done. Past seasons, too.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I agree with everything you say and note the following.

The Proms web site is extremely complete and informative - about the concerts themselves. I could have easily bought tickets to 30 of them or listened to all of them on the net, for example.

The question is really whose responsibility it was to get the information about thetheater broadcasts on the web. Not BBC Worldwide's, evidently, since they didn't do it. Not the Proms, since they aren't in charge of theater broadcasts.

Linda said...

Blessings upon your head Lisa, for taking so much time and trouble.

Like William, I also thought that I must have been doing something wrong when I couldn't find any listing of a US venue for the "Last Night" transmission. (Isn't it funny how we've come to believe that Google has the answer for EVERYTHING and if we can't find it there then there must be something wrong with us?)

Thanks again, for responding to my question in the first post re "Last Night."

Lisa Hirsch said...

You are welcome. For once I felt like a real journalist!

No web index covers the whole web, not even Google's index. There's what's called the "dark web," sites on online databases where you need a password for entry and web indexers are not allowed. The dark web is supposed to make up a very high percentage of online material.

There are also sites and pages that are not linked to by other sites, meaning web crawlers won't find them.

However, any page on the BBC web site will absolutely be found, so....

Michael said...

Thanks for the research Lisa. In the past I've been able to obtain a recording of Last Night and some of the other Proms via TheBox.bz (BitTorrent tracker) not long after it airs, but I was hoping there would be an easier way to watch Last Night this year.

Geo. said...

Thanks also from here for doing the digging about where in the US the LNoP will be HD-cast. The short answer; not many places. Still, there is the chance to hear it from the BBC Proms website as it's aired on Radio 3, so that's definitely better than nothing (page on the program here). My guess is that like last year, some kind person may upload this year's Last Night in dribs and drabs on YouTube, obviously from the BBC TV broadcast.

Geo. said...

Sorry I forgot to put these links in my first post, about the venues:
(1) Rialto Cinemas, Berkeley, 9/19/09
(2) Santa Rosa Rialto, 9/12/09 (i.e. "live live", not "live Memorex")
(3) Mann Chinese 6, 9/12/09

Lisa Hirsch said...

Thank you, Geo. And you're welcome, Michael.