The DOG Filth & The Fury
Last week BBC Three changed the DOG on the channel, changed it again following complaints (one poster on POV wrote " Stuart Murphy - I hate you more than words can say. You are the lowest form of human life because of this. I even rate you lower than those scumbags who did what they did in London on July 7th"). The BBC Three website then issued a tongue-in-cheek news story about the DOG issue. Which didn't go down very well. At all.
The contents were edited, and an apology issued, but the original article has been quoted widely around the web on message boards such as Digital Spy, and then re-quoted by media outlets like Media Guardian:
The website article, entitled Beware of the Dog, poked fun at viewers who object to digital originated graphics, or DOGs, the permanent graphics identifying a channel in the top corner of the screen.
"In a world where international terrorism, indiscriminate murder and global poverty are facts of life, you might think people would have more important things to worry about than little logos in the top corner of their television screen," the article opens.
"Alas, no. Those little graphics displaying the names of all your favourite digital channels... are the cause of much consternation among certain viewers.
"Just don't call them geeks who should get a life..."
The double-edged sword of encouraging critical user comment in a space like Points Of View, and having permalinks for each thread, is that when an issue like this blows up, places like Digital Spy can link directly to the heat of the argument, and freely quote the BBC's own audience back at it.
"I can't believe the opening sentence," wrote one member. "How dare the BBC use the death of 57 people & dozens of others that lost limbs on 7/7 for BBC's political gain," the user added.
"I usually stick up for the BBC," said another member, "but they are bang out of order on this one."
"I think it says much about the quality of the Channel that 'In a world where international terrorism, indiscriminate murder and global poverty are facts of life,' their idea of a major news feature is one which talks about their own channel and belittles their viewers," reads another post.
Others, however, saw the issue differently.
"I thought the BBC Three article was pretty funny myself," reads this post. "If only the BBC had the balls to defend itself like that a bit more often." That sort of positive comment, however, was clearly in the minority.
I suspect we may have had quite a few new registrations on the POV site over the last couple of days.
There is now an official response on the Complaints site:
We received complaints that an item on the BBC Three News website about digital on-screen graphics (DOGS) and viewers' attitudes to them was offensive in its content and tone.
The BBC's response
Like its on-air counterpart, the BBC Three News website takes an irreverent look at the stories making the headlines.
The story on DOGS was intended to be light-hearted and to encourage discussion on the important issue of on-screen graphics.
On reflection, we feel that we did not quite achieve the right tone and apologise for the offence this has caused some of our users. For this reason we have decided to remove the story from the website.
This has also been published on the POV board - though of course as ever the 'S' word has raised its ugly head:
The writer of this article should be sacked
Becoming part of the anti-DOG movement appears akin to undergoing a religious conversion, such is the vigour with which they hold their world-view. As they claim that the broadcasters refuse to listen to them, they close their ears to any response from a broadcaster short of removing the DOG itself. This sort of behaviour has been typified on the Points Of View board today in an exchange between two posters. One came out as working for a non-BBC digital television station, and tried to make the point that broadcasters have business reasons for retaining the DOG, and that repetitive and abusive emails from the DOG lobby group do little to further their arguments within the broadcast industry. The response was vitriol:
Clearly whoever makes the decisions where you work is as thick as mince
That was in reply to "if we lose the Dog we lose ratings".
You do realise that people actually have to tune into the channel first, before they see the Dog?
My god the standards of employers today.
Do you pay my wages?
In that case, I'll be as rude as I like.
The main thrust of the anti-DOG dogma is that viewers do not need to be told what channel they are watching because their EPG and Digibox do that for them as they change channels. They refuse to listen to the arguments from broadcasters that this isn't always the case. They don't take account of the broadcaster having a legitimate business reason for wanting to identify their channel when someone new walks into the room, when you walk into a bar or pub with the TV on in the background, when you pass a showroom window full of televisions, when you are watching a live sporting event on a big screen - all situations where the DOG is the primary way of displaying the channel identification. Notwithstanding the fact that in the same way that people claim to have booked their holiday "through Google", people say they don't watch BBC shows, then claim EastEnders as one of their favourite programmes, because as far as they are concerned it comes via Sky.
The fact is that the DOG also effectively watermarks transmission, so when you borrow that DVD burn from a friend, or download the latest BitTorrent of your favourite show, you are still being exposed to the brand, and the channel is getting credit for showing the programme. That is important for all broadcasters, regardless of their business model. Whether trying to retain or grow a subscriber base, or trying to retain the universal appeal of publicly funded PBS, getting brand credit for the programmes viewers consume is vital.
The anti-DOG campaigners also refuse to accept that DOGs can be useful to the audience. I disagree with that premise from personal experience. When I recently downgraded our Sky package at home I knew exactly the channel line-up I needed to ensure that my wife continued to get her favourite shows. It wasn't because I trawled through the EPG, or a listings magazine, or because I have a firm grip on which channels show which variants of CSI and Law and Order. It was because I know which brands I am familiar with via their DOG, which I absorb on-screen regardless of whether I am paying attention to what my wife is choosing from the EPG.
Personally they have never bothered me. Although I found it strange when Sky introduced it over ten years ago, I can't imagine watching a football match without the score in the corner now, nor any mainstream channel without a logo in the corner.
It is a campaign and a debate that I expect to run for a long, long, long, long time.
[I should add further to the disclaimer on every page of this site that my opinions in this post are entirely my own, and not that of my employer. Additionally I should point out that my job has nothing to do with, or any influence on, broadcast playout, DOG policy, or television policy.]