Monday, December 10, 2012

Geri Haliwell Regrets Prank Call

Oops. Caption cock up...

For Christ's sake, Geri. You should have stuck to "singing"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bully Balls

Labour are attempting to blame Ed Balls' poor performance in his response to George Osborne's Autumn Statement yesterday on his stammer and, what they want people to believe was, "nasty" mocking by the Tory front bench.

Not content with attempting to smear the Thatcher cabinet with the Paedo tag (something he's gone very quiet about since the McAlpine debacle), Tom Watson is now chucking stones from within his glass house at Osborne and co, accusing them of bullying poor defenceless Balls. Of course, he, his parties' Shadow Chancellor and his ex-boss, Gordon Brown would know nothing about that kind of behaviour.

But let's not forget a genuinely nasty moment in the House of Commons that happened not too long ago. The moment when Labour MPs mocked Tory MP, Paul Maynard who has cerebral palsy, for the way he spoke.

Mr Maynard spoke subsequently about the attitude of some Labour MPs who take offence at the fact he, a disabled man, should have the temerity to be a Conservative. In their warped minds, the disabled should only consider Labour for their political home. Failure to comply with their thought policy immediately renders you a traitor to your "kind". You've got to wonder at the hypocrisy of this kind of nasty, myopic prejudice.

So, perhaps the likes of Tom Watson and his Watsonettes on Twitter should consider their own side before making ludicrous accusation about others.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

First They Came For The Press...

First they came for the press and I didn't speak out because I read all my news on the Internet. Then they came for the Internet... The call for press regulation will inevitably lead to internet regulation.

When trawling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I found it interesting how many people comment in support of state backed regulation of the press but against any kind of state mandated monitoring, let alone regulation, of the Internet.

Tom Watson and Stephen Fry are two big names who hold these views. They would argue that the press is dominated by over-mighty "barons" who have a disproportionate influence on content, while the Internet is a freely associating mass of individuals. They may have a point.

Perhaps its the freedom of the Internet and the social media it supports that has led to its exponential growth in popularity in recent years. Meanwhile, the dead tree press has declined, slowly at first but then more rapidly. The increasingly desperate search for readers led to the section of the press that wanted to continue to be described as "popular" to reach out to an ever descending common denominator; an audience that demanded salacious gossip, exposés of celebs as well as the high and mighty. Like a drug, the more they supplied the more their audience wanted. Eventually, the only way to supply this kind of content in ever vaster quantities was to use underhand, even criminal tactics. Not, always, to unearth wrong doing in the public interest, but to satisfy the salacious interests of a hooked public.

The press has been around for hundreds of years. Eventually, the print press technology became accessible to the masses and a myriad of pamphlets and papers spewed forth into the world. Ideas spread and progress was made. Eventually, individuals honed the art of journalism and sold more papers than other publishers. They grew to became influential and powerful within their industry and, as Leveson has illustrated, in pubic life too. Then, once an alternative medium came into the picture providing free content and access to information at a click of a button, the decline set in.

The Internet, however, is relatively new. Like a new Universe, not long after the big bang, billions of particles are flying around unchecked and unrestricted by systems or even gravity. 500 million Twitter users are generating billions of tweets. Nothing seems to control or influence them. Or does it?

The formation of the Universe eventually saw free particles start to coalesce and form stars that then attracted satellites to form systems that led to general order. We're already seeing something similar occurring on Twitter. And perhaps this goes some way to explaining the position of Messrs Watson and Fry. Because they are stars in the Twitterverse. Stephen Fry, for example, has amassed 5.1 million followers. He is highly influential. A Twitter baron, you might say. One tweet from him reaches far more people than an MP's speech in the House of Commons and more than an article written in most national newspapers. You see, they're happy to see the press regulated by politicians but not so keen on anything similar for themselves.

Perhaps they understand such regulation will only hasten the death of the dead tree press. Their hatred for sections of the press that have not been supportive of their brand of politics leads them to yearn for a day when we are rid of the likes of Rupert Murdoch and his Times, Sun and News of the World (well, one down...). This is humorously illustrated in Fry and Laurie's sketch back in mid-90s when The Sun was still heavily associated with support for Margaret Thatcher and the Tories (and before it started its 13 years of support for Labour during which time we heard NOTHING about the evils Murdoch from the left). But they are short sighted.

Once the traditional press is regulated and subservient to politicians, it'll be only a matter of time before it dies completely. Either through circulation collapse or suicide as publishers move on. But, it will only be the medium the dies. The content would have long since migrated onto the Internet. Once a successful business model is developed for Internet based publishing there's no stopping a wholesale move. The best writers, investigative journalists, commentators will coalesce around the web publications with the widest audiences.

A similar order that developed for the press will come to the Internet. And then, once they've lost their "most influential" statuses, you can rest assured the likes of Fry and Watson will be calling for it to be controlled and tamed.

If you want to see the press regulated more strictly than now, independently of the press barons and their editors, with improved and speedy redress for those wronged, but without recourse to statutory controls that would endanger press freedom, sign this petition: (Unlike the Hacked-off petition pushing for statutory regulation, you can only sign this once!)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Leveson On Political Spin

All the focus following the publication of the Leveson report has been on the big issue of press regulation and whether or not we want our newspapers answerable to politicians (i.e. statutory "underpinning"). This is a big question and one that deserves extensive coverage and public debate.

But there are a myriad of other questions addressed by The Lord Justice, not least, Labour's serious accusations about the Tories relationship with News International and Cameron's handling of the BSkyB bid. Leveson's findings here also deserve attention but won't get it due to the gravity of the press regulation debate. However, Guido helpfully distils Leveson's judgements:

Labour claimed the Conservatives did ‘a deal’ with NI over BSkyB and other policy in exchange for their support.
But Lord Justice Leveson says ‘The evidence does not, of course, establish anything resembling a “deal”’.

Labour claimed Jeremy Hunt ‘was not judging the [BSkyB] bid he was backing it’.
But Lord Justice Leveson says ‘there is no credible evidence of actual bias on the part of Mr Hunt’.

Labour claimed ‘Cameron should never have given the decision to Hunt in the first place’.
But Lord Justice Leveson says Jeremy Hunt ‘was the obvious candidate to entrust with the decision because of his portfolio… The evidence does not begin to support a conclusion that the choice of Mr Hunt was the product of improper media pressure, still less an attempt to guarantee a particular outcome to the process’.

Labour claimed ‘Jeremy Hunt “was acting as a backchannel for the Murdochs”’
But Lord Justice Leveson says ‘Mr Hunt immediately put in place robust systems to ensure… fairness, impartiality and transparency’ and Jeremy Hunt’s ‘actions as a decision maker were frequently adverse to News Corp’s interests’.

Labour claimed the Prime Minister had discussions with James Murdoch about the BSkyB bid at a dinner on 23 December 2010.
But Lord Justice Leveson says the Prime Minister was ‘perfectly in order’.

God knows there's enough dodgy behaviour going on in public life without this kind of mendacious spinning. Perhaps the next public inquiry should be into the ethics of party political spinning* and the way parties attempt to smear each other at every turn. No wonder politicians are down there with journalists in people's regard.

* Somehow I suspect this is one inquiry Ed Miliband will not be calling for.