EU Referendum: Immediate Post Mortem Thoughts

Women's Tour of Britain - Stage 4 - Cheshunt to Welwyn via Hertford-1

  • Cameron has to take a massive amount of blame for all of this. He probably didn’t think he was going to win the last General Election, and therefore including something in his manifesto to keep UKIP at bay was probably just a sop to them. But he won unexpectedly and so felt he had to carry through to prevent party divisions. This despite knowing it was a dangerous ploy, despite knowing that this is a complicated argument to make to the electorate, and despite nearly losing the Scottish referendum previously. He didn’t make the case strongly enough, and he’s now fallen on his sword, possibly to be remembered as the prime minister who ended our membership of the EU, saw the end of the Union, and possibly worse.
  • Osborne must be a dead duck. His Project Fear didn’t work. The “emergency budget” he talked about was just too extreme to be taken seriously. I don’t doubt that there will need to be remedial action, and we’ll find out in the days and weeks what that’ll be. But he over-egged the pudding, and voters saw through it. He was planning to be the next PM, but now his career must be in tatters.
  • Remain did not remotely make their case. It’s hard to prove a negative, and easier to say we should do something rather than continue as we are: “Something must be done!” But there’s no doubt that the Remain campaign was abysmal. It’s now pretty clear that while they reached the educated population, who understands why the economy is important. To many less educated, that’s just a nebulous thing. As the exchange rate tanks this morning, to many people that only really matters to them when it comes to changing some holiday money. They don’t think it affects them. The importance of the EU on jobs and trade wasn’t made clear in a way that reached the politically illiterate. There are a lot of people I’d class in that group. They will get out and vote, even if they don’t truly understand what they’re voting for. That’s not the whole story of course, but for some it truly is as you heard people giving the most awful reasons for leaving during the campaign.
  • Jeremy Corbyn was useless. I’m sorry — I’m sure he was a lovely guy — but he didn’t lead from the front. In the early part of the campaign there was silence from Labour, because the whole thing seemed to be about in-fighting Tories. They woke up a bit latterly, but there’s a suspicion that he’s actually a bit of a Eurosceptic. His call for invoking Article 50 immediately seems misplaced. But mostly, it was about not campaigning hard enough or loud enough. You need more charisma than he seems to exude. While I’m sure he’s a compelling speaker in a hall somewhere, most voters only see or hear candidates on television. I can’t think he really thought a Leave win would so damage the Tories, that Labour would be able to win through the middle. He must be wondering if Labour are going to replace him in time for any general election that might follow the Conservatives choosing a new Prime Minister, because I can’t see him prospering in the next election.
  • Immigration. The dirty word that Leave bandied around the whole time, but that Remain did little to really counter. When it comes down to it, this is the issue. Whether people really think they’re losing their jobs, or there’s just a little bit of racism, I’m not sure. I suspect some of both. But this was the key issue.
  • No facts. Electors were being asked to make a decision about something they didn’t really understand. This goes back to Cameron calling a referendum in the first place. But with a biased printed press, and a broadcast media forced to play a straight bat and counter any claim with a counter claim, it left people with little real understanding and no way to tell truth from lies.

In the meantime, the nearest A&E to me has closed down, and is currently being redeveloped as housing. And the only other hospital in my borough with an A&E department is now described as “unsafe” and “unsupported.” So I’m looking forward to learning in which week we’re going to get a shiny new hospital as promised by Leave. We’ll ignore the nitty gritty about not being in power, and there not being any staff to support such a new facility – at least not without lots of immigration.


John Oliver on Brexit

On Sunday night, HBO in the US aired a new episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The second half of the show was a long explanation/opinion piece from Oliver about what Brexit is (this is a show aimed at Americans after all), and was essentially a 15 minute piece imploring Britain to Vote Remain. It’s very good and hits the nail on the head.

On Monday morning the HBO had posted the full 15 minutes on YouTube.

In fact some of the videos from Last Week Tonight put on YouTube are blocked in the UK by the uploader – i.e. HBO. But this one wasn’t. The reason is almost certainly because Sky Atlantic has the rights to the show in the UK, and Sky prefers to limit access to clips from the show to its own subscribers.

But in this instance, UK viewers could watch — almost certainly because Oliver and his producers knew that the piece wouldn’t be broadcastable in the UK until the Brexit referendum had finished.

I noticed quite early on Monday that the piece was unbroadcastable under UK election guidelines, and later on Monday, Sky Atlantic pulled its planned broadcast from Monday night when new episodes of the show usually air. Sky Atlantic will instead broadcast the show on Thursday after polls close.

Now if you were to believe a certain section of the “Twittersphere” this is because Sky is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and his papers in particular are rampantly “Leave.”

But the truth is that Sky Atlantic couldn’t have shown the programme whether or not they had wanted to (Murdoch doesn’t fully own Sky either, although he certainly exercises a lot of control).

In the UK we have strict rules about impartiality in the run-up to an election or referendum. The UK regulator Ofcom, publishes a Broadcast Code which all UK commercial broadcasters have to adhere to (The BBC also adheres to some parts of the code).

Section Six of the code deals with Elections and Referendums, and is based on UK law:

Relevant legislation includes, in particular, sections 319(2)(c) and 320 of the Communications Act 2003, and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Broadcasters should also have regard to relevant sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (as amended) (“RPA”) – see in particular sections 66A, 92 and 93 (which is amended by section 144 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000).

Ofcom told broadcasters earlier this year that the “referendum period” would run from 15 April 2016 until 10pm 23 June 2016.

Rule 6.3 is critical during this time:

Due weight must be given to designated organisations in coverage during the referendum period. Broadcasters must also consider giving appropriate coverage to other permitted participants with significant views and perspectives.

It’s pretty clear that Sky Atlantic wouldn’t have been able to balance John Oliver’s piece appropriately, and so, they postponed the episode until after the election.

Topical comedy programmes are always tricky during election periods, and it’s notable that the current run of Have I Got News For You has been interrupted until after the referendum now. You can broadcast topical comedy, but you have to have “balance” in your comedy too.

What if Sky had broadcast the programme anyway? What could have happened?

Well Ofcom regularly finds broadcasters in breach of it’s code. Only this week the Discovery owned Quest (and Quest+1) channel was found to have breached several rules when they broadcast a post-watershed programme, complete with multiple swearwords, in an early-morning pre-watershed slot.

In this instance, the finding was simply a rap on the knuckles (Discovery was extremely apologetic, and put in place new compliance procedures to ensure that the mistake was not repeated), but no further sanction. Broadcasters who repeatedly breach rules can face fines or in extreme cases, have their broadcast licences revoked. In essence they can be shut down. This is rare, and for the most part has only happened to adult channels who have repeatedly breached rules. But a multi-billion pound broadcaster like Sky, reporting to shareholders, cannot possibly risk the loss of its licence.

You can be certain that Ofcom and potentially the Crown Prosecution Service would take greater exception to rules surrounding elections and referendums being broken by a large broadcaster. The Representation of the People Act would potentially leave senior people at an infringing broadcaster personally responsible for illegal actions, and subject to being prosecuted under the law.

Indeed, here’s what Ofcom published with respect to a much smaller local election recently:

Ofcom will consider any breach arising from election-related programming to be potentially serious, and will consider taking regulatory action, as appropriate, in such cases, including considering the imposition of a statutory sanction. (i.e. the removal of a broadcast licence.)

Furthermore, the fine that Ofcom can choose to impose can be informed by that company’s turnover. Sky’s 2015 turnover was around £11.3bn.

Since broadcasting the Oliver piece without “balance” would be deemed quite deliberate by Sky, the cumulative fine, risk to broadcast licence and the potential for personal prosecution means that there was no way Sky was ever going to broadcast it.

It’s not a conspiracy — just the law.

Note: I’m not a lawyer, and these are just my interpretation of the rules as I understand them.

The Secret Listeners of Trent Park

Trent Park Campus from the Air

Last night I heard a man named Fritz Lustig speak.

Fritz is 96. He came to Britain in 1939, as a refugee escaping Hitler’s Germany, where his family were classified as “non-Aryans” – an immigrant who was seeking asylum, if you like.

At first, like most Germans in Britain, he was interned once war was declared. But in due course he was allowed to work for the war effort, eventually joining intelligence and becoming a “secret listener.”

The meeting I was attending was a campaigning group working to Save Trent Park. The park, close to where I live, comprises of a large mansion house built in 1923 for Sir Philip Sassoon, and surrounding parkland.

During the Second World War, the mansion house became a prisoner of war camp for very senior German generals and other high-ranking officers. They were imprisoned in relative comfort, with the freedom to walk around the grounds.

Why did the British show such leniency to these people? Because they were lulling them into a false sense of security and had actually secretly placed microphones all around the building – both inside and out.

The “guests” as they were known, would discuss military secrets, while down in the mansion house basement, teams of German translators were listening in around the clock, recording and writing down what was said, and producing thousands of pages of transcripts. Secrets revealed included early knowledge of the production of the V1, V2 and the V3, as well as Germany’s work on an atomic bomb.

Trent Park and its two sister sites could be thought of as relations to Bletchley Park where of course code-breaking was carried out during the war. All were providing vital information and secrets to the Allied war effort.

Fritz talked eloquently for a 96 year-old, and he is one of only two “secret listeners” still left alive. His work for the war effort was essential.

And of course, this came on the day that MP Jo Cox had been murdered in the town of Birstall in her home constituency. While I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, want to draw any direct correlation between what Jo stood for, including her support for Syrian refugees, and why she was murdered, I couldn’t help think of a different age when fascists were on the rise across Europe, and Britain took in something like 70,000 Jews (Although I wouldn’t want to pretend that many thousands more struggled to find a country willing to accept them).

The fact that so many of these Germans, like Fritz, then went on to do critical work to defeat Hitler is also not lost on me.

The Save Trent Park campaign group is working towards turning part of the site into a museum to celebrate its importance in the war effort.

I remember the site being used by the then Middlesex Polytechnic – once attending a series of holiday music workshops for children. Then it became a full campus for Middlesex University who finally left the site in 2012, selling it to a Malaysian University. This didn’t go well, and the site was never used. Finally, last year, it was bought by Berkeley Homes. But there has always been an educational requirement for using the land, and Berkeley will need to adhere to that in at least some form.

The debate now is what proportion of the mansion is turned over to become a museum. Berkeley plans to knock down some fairly ugly 1960s and 70s building, and put up in the region of 270 housing units. They’ve yet to submit their formal application and it seems clear from last night’s meeting that they’re thinking of a fairly low-key museum, whereas supporters of the Save Trent Park group are thinking of something rather more along the lines of Bletchley Park, the CEO of which was at last night’s meeting.

I must admit that I’m still trying to work out how a fairly exclusive enclave (the properties might cost £1m each) can co-exist with a tourist attraction, and I was slightly worried about inferences that the museum might be too popular. All the properties will be set well away from the main road in glorious countryside at the end of the Piccadilly Line. There’s no doubt this will be an exclusive place. We’ll see.

You can read more about Fritz Lustig’s story here.


Euro 2016 – Staying on TV

As Euro 2016 kicks off in France tonight, my inbox has become flooded with nonsense PR stories. My email address has recently been sold to a number of PR agencies and I get a wide variety of emails asking me if I’m interested in writing about things I’m not interested in writing about.

I silently archive them all, but one company keeps popping up with some ludicrous claims about the end of TV as we know it.

This was the lead line (I won’t mention the company specifically):

“Euro 2016 will likely be the final major international football tournament aired exclusively on television”

Well a few things to say about that:

  • This tournament won’t exclusively be on TV anyway. Both the BBC and ITV in the UK will be streaming their live matches on their websites and in their apps alongside their regular broadcasts.
  • The BBC and ITV already have the rights for FIFA World Cups 2018 and 2022, and Euro 2020.
  • Both the Euros and the World Cup are Listed Events – and have to be shown on free-to-air broadcast TV in their entirety.

So it would take a review of Listed Events (they’ve tried before, and quietly parked the idea), and the broadcasters who already have the television rights choosing not to broadcast them for some reason despite both of them having plenty of capacity.

I’ve no doubt that more people will watch on more devices than ever before, but those internet-connected devices aren’t going to usurp the broadcast audience any time soon.

The press release goes on to highlight lots of irrelevances:

  • La Liga broadcast a game live. They don’t highlight the fact that it was a women’s fixture. Until recently, women’s football wasn’t broadcast at all in the UK. So it’s great that there’s increased exposure for a game that is generally poorly covered.
  • Twitter is streaming Thursday night NFL games. Those would be the games that are being broadcast on the NBC and CBS television networks. The NFL knows how to disaggregate its rights to its best advantage like few other sports organisations. Sure they want some Silicon Valley cash!
  • BT Sport simulcast its European cup competition finals on YouTube. As I’ve noted elsewhere, that was to keep UEFA happy and try to reach a decent sized audience when relatively few knew about their free-to-air channels.

Marketing Week recently carried a great piece noting the inequality of counting BARB measured TV audiences versus 3 second views on Facebook or other streaming platforms. They’re not the same and they shouldn’t be compared.

Last October, for example, Yahoo claimed its livestream of an American Football game attracted 15 million viewers. That’s an impressive debut given the average TV game garners 18 million. But this is not an apples to apples comparison, it is an apples to orange skins stuffed with bullshit comparison.

While 15 million different people did indeed, at some point, briefly encounter the coverage, the average audience per minute for the livestream was only 1.6 million viewers – less than a 10th of the typical TV audience.

Every time you see a digital video “audience” it is crucial to query the metric being used to define it. For example, we know thanks to BT that the Champions League final at the weekend was “watched” in this country by a total of 4.3 million people on TV and a further 1.8 million on digital platforms. Yet BT used BARB data for TV – so someone had to tune in for a least 30 seconds in a minute to be counted as viewer – while the digital figure is a “unique view” and “not done on time like BARB”.

So let’s not be stupid about all of this.

Is streaming growing? Certainly.

Is broadcast still dominant? Absolutely.

Will streaming one day beat broadcast. Quite probably – but that day is still a long way off.

Finally, just consider the last time you had internet problems? Perhaps you had no coverage somewhere rural (or urban!), or data went down on the network, or you were in a busy area, or you had to wait two weeks dealing with BT Openreach to get your broadband up and running, or… The list goes on.

Yet your local TV broadcast mast is probably really pretty good. The worst I ever get, is some satellite break-up in particularly heavy rain. The technology is incredibly robust.

Streaming will dominate eventually. But not yet.

An Open Letter to Facebook

Dear Facebook,

I just want you to be super clear that I am not installing your messaging app on my phone.


I’m a moderate user of your service. I’ve got a fair few “friends” on the service, and I’m a member of a few groups.

Occasionally I use your messaging functionality. But I use it in an email sense. I’m not sending instant messages all day long to people. But I do use it to drop a message to a friend. I have chat firmly turned off.

For reasons best known to yourselves, you’ve been desperately trying to disagregate messaging from the main Facebook service – in particular on mobile.

You say it wasn’t an optimal experience. Probably true. You say that it works better in your separate app. Probably true. But you’re forcing me to install a new app, and I’ve got to tell you, I don’t like being forced into anything.

I don’t use the official Facebook app on my phone because it was annoying, and full of bloat over time. Even in these days of 32GB or larger phones, app size still becomes an issue for many users, with devices stuffed full of other apps, music and video. Then there are the creeping number of permissions you want to get from me.

For the past few years, I’ve used an app called Tinfoil for Facebook – mainly because it gives me a nice wrapper around the mobile site, without demanding too many permissions, and it let me carry on viewing messages on my Android phone even as the official app stopped allowing that.

But this mobile website access has now stopped. As reported in the press, you are now killing access to any messenger functionality from your mobile site. Not because it doesn’t work, but because you don’t want to me access messages that way.

Yet in my case, you are in effect saying to me that the only way I can now read messages on Facebook is via a desktop machine! That’s a bizarre situation to be in. Most people roll out functionality from the desktop version of their site to the mobile version. You’re removing it.

In the meantime Facebook Lite isn’t available to us in the UK, even though it’s a data-light option and includes the messaging functionality.

I imagine this is an example of Nudge theory – getting me to make a behavioural change. “Install Facebook Messenger. You know you want to! Life would be so much better…”

Well it’s not going to work.

I’m very suspicious of you Facebook. You offer me a free service, but then take liberties. You change privacy settings and don’t make them clear, changing what I’m opted in and out of regardless of my wishes. You tweak what is considered by you to be trending. And they’re just from recent weeks.

I’m not ready to close my account because it does serve a purpose.

But I don’t trust you as a company, and I don’t like the way some of your businesses operate. You need to work hard to regain my trust, and you’re not doing this.

As for installing your Messenger app, well of course, I effectively already have two other Facebook owned social apps on my phone – Instagram and WhatsApp – and I really don’t need a third or fourth.

So thanks but no thanks.

Instead, feel free to include the full message in the email notifications that you’ll still send me. And then I’ll wait patiently until such time as I’m back on a desktop device.

And that will probably mean in time, that I use your messaging service even less as a result.

So that’s a win for you then…

Kind regards,


UPDATE- Wow. It now seems that people who’ve used the Facebook app to sync their mobile photos to Facebook face having them deleted unless they also install the Moments app. Charming.

The EU Referendum

Clearly these are my personal views. Now read on…

We’re now just under two weeks out from probably the most important vote I’ve had in my lifetime – far more important than any single General Election. We can change a Government after five years (or sooner). The effects of this vote last a lifetime.

But frankly, this whole campaign is a mess.

While I’m 100% certain of the way I’ll be voting – I’m voting REMAIN – this is despite rather than because of what’s going on around this dreadful campaign from all sides.

Media Coverage

You can divide media coverage into two – the regulated and unregulated.

Television and radio have strict impartiality rules, and that means that both sides of any argument need to be aired. And their reach is still the most important. No – it’s not the internet, even though you personally use Facebook and Twitter a lot.

Unfortunately, what “impartiality” means is that there’ll be a story on, say, the Treasury releasing a report suggesting that GDP or house prices will fall if Britain leaves the EU. This news has to be instantly countered by Vote Leave who say they won’t.

Who should you believe? You’ve just heard one campaign say one thing will happen, and the other campaign say, no it won’t. I need someone to tell me which is true – or at least which is likelier.

We’ve seen this behaviour happen repeatedly during this campaign, and the net result is a completely disengaged population who see the whole thing as some kind of political point-scoring rather than something that will directly effect their lives.

Meanwhile the printed press has essentially made up its mind… almost. The left-leaning papers are all Vote Remain while the right leaning ones (the majority) seem to all be Vote Leave. I say that with the small proviso that while these right-leaning papers seem to have adopted a Leave modus operandi, they may just change their mind on the eve of the vote. We’ll see.

There’s social media and the internet of course. But that’s not much better. There’s mostly a lot of singing to the choir, as people just visit sites that are friendly to their point of view – if they’ve managed to acquire one!

So we’re left largely uninformed. This is despite the fact that there isn’t a division of opinion on some of these subjects any more than there is on climate change. Pretending that there are two viewpoints is absurd.

For example, in higher education research, there’s a fairly unanimous view that the EU is a good thing – it invests lots of money that we wouldn’t otherwise have. But in the fishing industry, the view is pretty unanimously against the EU because of quotas and rights. Trying to balance everything is a nonsense.


While in some regards this is legitimate tactic, it feels like even the simplest things have been massively over-egged. Reports are published showing dire financial consequences if we don’t remain. Other reports are published showing that most of the population of Turkey is apparently moving here within weeks, regardless of whether Turkey could ever become a full EU member.

This scares people off voting. Neither views are remotely realistic. If people would just come out and speak a bit more honestly without the exaggeration, that might actually work better.

Political Point-scoring and Conservative Infighting

Look, I realise that for political reporters, this referendum is all their Christmases at once, with people calling one another out-and-out liars, and bizarre alliances between people like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. But can we get beyond all of this and look at the actual implications of leaving or remaining?

I have no idea about how the Conservative Party will pull together once we come out the other side of this referendum but right now, I don’t care. “Blue on blue” attacks are not important! What is important is everything prior to June 23, not afterwards.

We’ve seen political infighting before – cf Labour – and we’ll see it again. But park all that for now. Concentrate on what leaving or remaining actually means for the public at large.


Last weekend a boatload of Albanian migrants had to be rescued in the English Channel when the boat that they were being smuggled across in began taking on water. Cue lot of discussion about Brexit. But it’s all a bit pointless. Albania isn’t in the EU, and isn’t likely to be anytime soon. The people charged with smuggling the migrants are actually British, and similar things are likely to continue regardless of our membership within the EU.

That raises other issues, but let’s not pretend the two are related. Let’s stay on point.

An Ignorant Public

All of this boils down to an utterly ill-informed public. It’s scary when you hear that someone will be voting to leave because they think that it’ll be quicker for them at customs when they come back from holiday (no big “EU” queue, although it rather ignores the super-slow non-EU citizens queue they’ll face on the way out), or because they’re annoyed that we haven’t won Eurovision recently (nor have we entered a decent song, but hey…).

In the end, I worry that turnout will be disappointingly low. Seemingly a lot of people have registered to vote in the last few days. And it’s not too late as I type. You have until tomorrow!

I’ll reiterate. This is the most important vote in my life with profound implications on vast amounts of what we do and how we live, were we to leave the EU.

But last night on the news, I heard a political reporter say: “I think people may well just decide they can’t believe what’s being said, so they’ll make up their own mind – and maybe that’s not all bad because in the end, that’s what everyone will have to do.”

I’m sorry – but that’s useless. If one side or another is lying then why do we have journalists, if not to dig out the truth and tell us?

In many respects we are being asked to decide on something with which we simply haven’t been furnished with the facts. They are there, but it takes a ridiculous amount of digging to get to them. That doesn’t make the choice easy for anyone.

London Nocturne 2016

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For 2016, the organisers of the London Nocturne (aka the Smithfield Nocturne), moved it from its previous course around Smithfield market, and closer into the City of London on a new circuit set between St Paul’s Cathedral, Bank tube station and the Guildhall. As a result, the course was flatter without the slight drag that the previous one had, but arguably the roads are better, and there was certainly a good crowd – especially near the start/finish.

However what was not better was the atmosphere. The great thing about the old Smithfield course was that there were a large number of bars and pubs around the market itself. All of these were open, often serving food and drink especially for the Nocturne crowd. That was not the case in the city. The problem is that most venues in the City are closed at weekends, and for the most part, they didn’t open specially for the visit of the Nocturne.

A cynic would note that the VIP and hospitality areas were significantly larger, and well catered for. But the businesses that seemed to do best from these criterium circuit races were Tesco and Co-Op, both doing good business in alcohol sales.

The atmosphere notwithstanding, the circuit was fast, and it had improved television coverage with Eurosport broadcasting live on the night, and significantly more fixed camera positions as well as a the motorbike.

We arrived in time for the Penny Farthing race, which was followed by the folding bike race – which came down to head to head on the line. I couldn’t help notice that these races appeared a bit shorter than preivously.

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The main events were the men’s and women’s criterium races. The women’s race kicked off, and quickly broke apart with a group of leading riders gaining a significant advantage early on. From the breakaway, Alice Barnes managed to get clear and she soloed the last few laps to an excellent and very comfortable win.

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The men’s race also broke apart early on, not helped by a crash within the first couple of laps. Most of the big hitters were at the front of the race, but I noticed Ed Clancy had to chase hard to get back into the main group of contenders. Over the course of the race, the group thinned out a bit, and eventually a pair of riders – Owain Douall and Chris Lawless – got away. Their gap extended to about 30 seconds and held there. For a while it looked like the race could come back together, but they held on with Lawless winning a sprint on the line.

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There are yet more photos on Flickr!

Champions’ League on BT

Since I had a look at the Europa League viewership the other day, I thought it was only fair to consider the Champions’ League Final – particularly as some every-so-slightly misleading press information seems to have escaped.

First off, it’s worth saying that this year’s final was one of the worst directed finals I’ve seen in ages. Technically it felt all over the place, with inappropriate cutaways, overuse of the Spidercam, using it for replays of action for which it wasn’t really suitable. Worst of all were the continued crowd reaction shots.

It’s a repeated issue at sports events that directors task some camera operators with finding people “emoting” as much as possible on screen. As often as not, it’ll be a woman the camera lands on, despite the crowd being heavily male skewed. While I’d love to think it was making the sport accessible for both men and women, in fact, it’s an eye candy thing, and frankly it’s outright sexist. See also “podium girls”, coverage of much cricket around the world, and women with umbrellas at the start of motorsport events.

Worst than all of that was the rush to cut to a young girl supporting the losing Atletico Madrid, in floods of tears at full time, when there were plenty of celebrating Real Madrid fans to show. Showing despondent losing fans is fine, but featuring a small child is outright nasty.

UEFA need to get a grip. I don’t know who was responsible, but it was a mess. The sound for the needless opening ceremony at the start was abysmal (at least watching via BT Sport), and indeed either the event director or BT themselves lost interest in Alicia Keys preferring to show players waiting in the tunnel. It didn’t get much better for Andrea Bocelli who had to sing the pointless “anthem” that Man City keeps getting fined for booing.

Leaving aside Pepe’s appalling antics, what about the overall audience figures?

Well unlike with the Europa League, there don’t seem to be actual figures easily available. The Guardian’s report, which, like that in The Drum, seem to be drawn from a BT press release, mentions 4.3m watching with a peak audience of 3.3m.

That’s a bit odd. What you normally get is a peak audience, and then an average for the whole programme. The average is necessarily lower than the peak.

Therefore 4.3m must be the number of people who tuned in for at least a few minutes over the course of the game. A reach figure. Interesting, but not how TV ratings are usually reported. You get a big number, but it doesn’t reflect the audience of the match itself.

Based on a peak of 3.3m, it suggests an overall viewership of, perhaps, 3m. (I’ll update this if I can find an accurate number, but I think I’m being generous).

Let’s put that in perspective and compare with ITV’s audiences in recent years.

DateTeamsResultChannelAudience (m)
28 May 2016Real Madrid - Atletico Madrid1-1 (5-3 pens)BT Sport Europe/BT Showcase~3
6 June 2015Barcelona - Juventus3-1ITV4.31
24 May 2014Real Madrid - Atletico Madrid4-1ITV5.16
25 May 2013Bayern Munich - Borussia Dortmund
19 May 2012Chelsea - Bayern Munich1-1 (4-3 pens)ITV7.00

So clearly the lowest audience, although last year’s Barcelona-Juventus game was a little low itself. The last British team to make the final was Chelsea in 2012 when 7m people watched.

Ah yes! But this doesn’t consider YouTube!

Well as I said previously, making the match available on YouTube is smart, especially since it’s far more robust than most broadcasters’ own video players. But we need to be very wary of the numbers being bandied about.

“The telecoms giant, which said that it aimed to make the finals as accessible as possible despite paying £897m for the pay-TV rights, said about 1.8 million viewers watched the match live for free on YouTube.”

Now I’ve no doubt that BT got some reasonably detailed metrics from Google on viewers. But I’d need to be persuaded that the 1.8m number is an average viewership over the duration of the programme. More likely it’s based on YouTube “views.” That would tend to mean 1.8m views of at least 30 seconds, at which point YouTube considers you a viewer. A lot of views, but not the same as a lot of people or a large cumulative audience.

If I logged in from time to time during the course of the fixture to see how it was progressing, that might mean that I was considered another view on each occassion.

If I started watching the match on TV, but was then forced to watch in another room on YouTube because someone else in the household wanted to watch Britain’s Got Talent, I’d potentially be double counted.

On the other hand, I might have Cast YouTube to my TV set and watched with half a dozen friends. YouTube views isn’t able to help with this situation either.

Video views online are not the same as a TV audience.

Simply adding together peak audiences and YouTube views across the two European finals is not what anyone should be doing.

Considering that no British teams were in the final, BT didn’t achieve a dreadful audience. But reports that say the two finals were “watched by more than 12 million across digital and TV,” are utterly misleading, counting the same people perhaps multiple times.

Whether UEFA thinks that it’s premium club competition was as available to all as much as it might have been will be for UEFA and BT to discuss. But let’s not believe all the hype and dubious numbers.

Predicting Every Fixture at Euro 2016

In a frankly bizarre move, the Vote Leave campaign has offered a £50m prize to anyone who can predict the result of every fixture at the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament.

Now, I’m not quite sure what the purpose of this is in terms of politics, although the referendum takes place during the tournament.

I’m told it’s all for fun, but the absurdity of this “competition” is astonishing.

Seemingly the Vote Leave camp has had two donors provide the backing for the competition, and the prize is insured by Lloyds underwriters.

But let’s do some maths to show how mad this all is.

First of all, you don’t have to get the score right – just the result. So for every fixture that will be either a win for Team A, a win for Team B or a draw. There are three outcomes per fixture then.

The tournament has 51 fixtures in total (I’m glad to see that there is no pointless 3rd/4th place playoff).

Calculating the precise odds will be hard, although a bookie should manage it. But let’s simplify things enormously and assume every fixture is equally likely to go one of the three possible ways. In other words you have a 33.3% chance of getting the result right.

This is effectively a 51 fixture accumulator, so we need to know one third to the power of 51 (ie 0.33351) to get the probability of picking the right answer. [See update below]

This is a small number.


Put another way, it’s a 2,153,693,963,075,670,000,000,000 to 1 shot.

Or 2.2 septillion to one!*

Simply speaking, this won’t happen. Indeed, if everyone on the planet entered the competition, it still wouldn’t happen.

In fact, every person on the planet would have to make 302 trillion guesses each, with everyone’s guesses different from everyone else’s, for there to be a winner.

Let’s put it another way. The odds of winning the jackpot on the UK national lottery are 45m to one. That’s why you haven’t won yet. The odds of winning the jackpot three times in a row in three consecutive draws is only 93 sextillion to one – still lower than these odds.

I imagine the underwriter at Lloyds only really had to charge for their time in drawing up a contract. The only cost to Vote Leave is building a website.

I know that companies have run prediction based competitions in the past. For example, in 2010 Toshiba ran a promotion in which you were refunded the cost of a new TV if England won the World Cup. That’s a calculated risk. Again it’s insured, but the premiums will have been more substantial and probably came from a marketing budget. But in a 32 team tournament, so there is a chance that your team will win. Perhaps the insurance might have cost £5m based on £100m of TV set sales.

Look this particular competition is a stupid thing for a slow news day. But I don’t understand the point of a competition that isn’t just unlikely (Leicester City winning the Premier League), but is categorically NOT going to happen.

And I wonder what it says about a populace’s understanding of probability that anyone even came up with such a scheme.

[Update: I later realised that after the group stages, there are of course, only two outcomes for the 15 knockout stage matches. So in fact, the number should be 0.33336 x 0.515 = 0.00000000000000000002033%, or a 1 in 4.9 sextillion chance. Much more likely, I’m sure you’ll agree!]

* A septillion is a thousand times a sextillion, which is a thousand times a quintillian, which is a thousand times a quadrillion, which is a thousand times a trillion, which is a thousand times a billion, which is a thousand times a million… You get the idea. It’s a big number.

The Fragmentation of the UK Radio Sector

I’ve yet to properly write about the recently published RAJAR report, Audio Time, based on the last MIDAS survey. That will come. But it does implicitly present some food for thought about the future of radio in the UK, identifying some of the threats it may face.

“Amongst 15-24s, the weekly reach of radio is very similar to the total population, but there is a clear
preference for online forms of audio – the most widely used being online music video on sites like YouTube.”

After last week’s RAJAR release, I highlighted some serious concerns about how much the amount of 15-24s listening to radio falling.

To overturn some of these trends is going to take something of a concerted effort from everyone in the radio industry. These aren’t trends that can be ignored because we can’t just expect people to discover radio when they get a bit older.

So it’s interesting at this point in time, to note how fractured UK radio actually is.

Obviously, I’m not talking about industry ownership. That’s more consolidated than ever, with Global and Bauer dominating, and the latter having just bought up Orion. But not everyone in radio is singing from the same hymn sheet.

The news that Global Radio has pulled its Patron support from the Radio Academy has, I fear, been a while in coming. For those who haven’t been following recent developments, in short the Radio Academy over-spent on major events like their Awards (aka the Sony Radio Awards) and the Radio Festival, and had to make nearly all its permanent staff redundant – with just a temporary CEO left in place.

The Radio Academy Awards were cancelled altogether – the last set of awards were in 2014, and there is currently no sign of a replacement despite promises of its return. A pretty dreadful state of affairs. If you make great radio, there’s nowhere for you to compete against all of your peers. It’s not just about having a shiny piece of perspex in a cabinet somewhere; award recognition can drive someone’s career.

Meanwhile, the Radio Festival was slimmed down and moved to London, and the organisation has been trying to reshape itself, although the recent news about Global’s withdrawal from the Radio Academy suggests that an overall appeasement has not reached. (It’s also worth reading what Paul Easton thinks about the situation and what it means for members like him.)

But beyond squabbles within the Radio Academy, if you look across the wider industry, these are not the only lines of disagreement:

  • Wireless Group, formerly UTV, pulled out of commercial radio’s trade body RadioCentre a few years ago now, as did UKRD. (As a consequence, neither enter the Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards, even though the awards are now open to all commercial stations, regardless of RadioCentre membership.)
  • There are certainly differences of opinion over DAB and it took tortuous negotiations to agree a Memorandum of Understanding between commercial groups, the BBC and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. And you certainly won’t find uniform agreement about any kind of potential “switch-off” or “switchover” to a fully digital broadcasting solution. As we get closer to a symbolic 50% digital listening percentage, those differences in opinion will probably only widen
  • RadioPlayer is a joined up success and most stations have bought full into it. Yet visit some of Bauer’s sites (example link) and you still won’t get the universal player as you would with Global, the BBC and most other commercial stations, despite Bauer being a shareholder in the group as a result of its purchase of Absolute Radio.
  • The only real pan-radio group is RAJAR – everyone uses the same currency. Except, of course, some smaller commercial stations and most community stations, since RAJAR’s methodology would not satisfactorily measure these stations without increasing costs massively.

I should point out most people use RadioCentre’s Clearance services to ensure that advertising copy is fully complied, and pretty much all national radio advertising is scheduled via the JICRIT system for trading.

And of course an entire industry will never see eye to eye on everything – you wouldn’t expect any industry to do so. But radio, a medium now facing unparalleled challenges, really doesn’t present a particularly united front on anything.

Following Global’s withdrawal from the Radio Academy, On Twitter, I wondered, with my tongue only very slightly in my cheek, whether in fact Sound Women was now the de facto pan-industry radio group?

Sound Women of course has a specific set of aims and ambitions, notably: “to build the confidence, networking and leadership skills of women in audio.”

To those ends, they hold events and festivals, provide training, and including a regional programme.

They’re open to all – including men – and, at least at time of writing, I believe that they’re supported by most of the radio industry including Global, Bauer and the BBC, as well as several radio indies, Skillset, RadioCentre and Ofcom. Oh, and the Radio Academy!

I must confess that I’m not a member, in large part, I suspect, because I know I would feel like an usurper attending their events. I’m a white middle-class man after all.

(Aside: It’s perhaps also because my own bête noire is the representation of diversity in radio. It shouldn’t just be defined in terms of sex or ethnicity either. As I’ve argued before, social background is at least as important, because we’re not talking to our audience while our industry is predominantly middle-class. With so many routes to entry based around unpaid work experience, we’re effectively barring those without private incomes or who’s parents can’t support them.)

Sound Women is doing an excellent job in raising key issues about the gender imbalance in radio, audio, and indeed the wider media.

But beyond them, who’s looking after the rank and file of those who work in radio, audio and beyond? What’s the venue for sharing knowledge and learning from our peers? The Radio Festival and Hall of Fame are all very well, but only a minority get to attend. The Festival tends to be aimed at managerial types. Yes – that includes me. Meanwhile the Hall of Fame is somewhere to take your talent – or for the most senior people in your station to schmooze.

Regional Radio Academy events were open to all. Anyone could attend – even non-members for a small fee. You could learn, network and discuss relevant issues with your peers. For many members – most members? – these were the only things the Radio Academy directly offered them.

Is this being lost?

Now, if you work at a Global Radio station, you’ll need to personally spend at least £36 a year to get along to an event. That said prior to notification of the upcoming 30 Under 30 event, I honestly can’t remember the last time there was an event in London – and like it or not, that’s where the big groups, and a large proportion of Radio Academy members live and work. (Yes – I know that regional events have been rather better organised, with a number of events taking place recently).

One way or another, at a time when the medium is under attack from a variety of interlopers in the radio and audio world, the industry doesn’t appear to speak with a singular voice on pretty much anything. And now we’ve reached a point where there isn’t even a single representative organisation for everyone in radio.

This seems a pretty appalling state of affairs. Maybe I’m making it sound worse than it is, but you’re going to have to work to persuade me otherwise.

It seems that corporate differences, entrenched views and personal grievances have won the day. Will the all the UK’s commercial radio groups be sending delegates to the UK’s main radio conference later this year? Will they all speak at the event? Will talent regardless of station be eligible for the Hall of Fame? Perhaps the answer to all of these will in fact be ‘Yes.’ But these are awkward questions that we shouldn’t have to be asking.

Is it time to start afresh and do something different? Do we need something that is open to all without corporate involvement? Something for individuals and beyond the reach/interference of organisations? Of course doing something different will have costs, and that raises the question of funding. In many industries, corporate patronage is a key part of making these kinds of groups viable. Is that something we need to rethink in the future if at a corporate level, agreements can’t be reached?

Yes, there are independent operations – conferences like Next Radio (The 2016 conference has just been announced!) and Radiodays Europe. But they’re relatively few, and in the latter’s case, at nearly €1000 a delegate, few employees of stations are likely to dip into their own pocket to attend, meaning that you have to rely on your employer’s support.

I look slightly enviously at Television where the BAFTA Awards still happen – BBC; ITV; C4; Sky; Netflix; Amazon; everybody represented. There’s a conference in Edinburgh that anyone serious in the industry must attend. There are events for both BAFTA and Royal Television Society members. There’s a trade body that all the major commercial groups are members of.

I’m sure it’s not all perfect, and that there are differences between members. But it looks somewhat rosier than radio from where I’m sitting.

At a time when global giants like Apple and Google are investing ever more into audio, can UK radio be outward, joined-up and inclusive, rather than inward, fractured and narcissistic?