June, 2004

The Outsider

Recently Penguin commissioned one of those spurious polls which suggested that men who read are more attractive to the opposite sex. This isn’t something that I’d previously noticed.
Anyway, there were various followups on stations like Five Live where I heard a discussion which threw around a few books which should do the trick. One of these was The Outsider by Albert Camus. So I eagerly consumed this short tome on the tube (prior to today’s strike) to see if it worked. I can report no luck at all. I did get nudged in the back by one woman, and another gave me a dirty look when my rucksack toppled over onto the back of her calves. But I don’t really think either of these count.
The protagonist, Meursault, really is an outsider, and I thought the snappy postscript was quite a good summary of the book. Despite not being the most descriptive of books, I certainly got an understanding of what it might have been like in Algeria in those pre(?)-war years.

Dumb ITV

ITV has been berated by viewers and forced to apologise for including the Scottish flag in a title sequence for a programme they showed on Saturday called Dumb Foreigners. It seems that there were upwards of 100 complaints from Scots who were ever so slightly miffed that ITV should think them foreign. I was unfortunate enough to see a couple of minutes of this programme, and can report back that it’s basically a compendium of poor sub-You’ve Been Framed video clips from around the world. The brief section I saw involved people surfing with kites, and guess what? They fell in the see from time to time. How dumb can foreigners get? Who’d have thought that surfers fall off their surfboards, bmx-ers their bikes or skiers their skis?
While I can understand the offence taken by Scottish viewers, I was altogether offended by the name of the programme and the footage featured. This is the worst case of the xenophobic “Little Englander” mentality we see all too much of. Dumb ITV Execs Commissioned This Steaming Pile of Crap would be a fairer title.

Idea For Terrible Gameshow #1

[And this better not turn up as an Endemol production any time soon – I’m retaining copyright on the idea for the good of humanity] How Low Can You Go?
Two teams of contestants compete for cash prizes. Each round one person from each team is picked to perform a terrible stunt (eg. worm eating), and is offered an amount of money – say a thousand pounds. The contestants then underbid each other to see who’ll go the lowest, and how low they’ll go to do the stunt which they then have to perform to win the cash.
Simple mechanic. And the worst kind of TV.

Washout

Guess who had a pair of tickets to Wimbledon yesterday? We stayed until around 4ish before deciding that there was unlikely to be any play and headed off home. Once we’d made that decision, you begin to hope that all play really will be cancelled, because you’d hate to think that as you’re getting on the tube at Southfields, the covers are coming off.
I was surprised to see later on, via the rather excellent interactive BBC TV coverage, that people were still sitting hopefully on Centre Court until around 7.00pm when the announcement was finally made.
You get the feeling that they knew this was going to happen somewhat earlier than they admitted it, but there’s catering companies who are banking on making money etc. In fact with no tennis on, they probably had a field day yesterday!
Still, we did get quite early word of play today via a friend who’s an umpire… Not that I was likely to want to queue today after yesterday’s fun. In any case, I don’t think I own enough Union Flags or crosses of St George to be allowed in on Centre Court today. I’ve got no problem with opening up the middle Sunday to all and sundry – but calling it the “People’s Sunday” is somewhat unfair. This morning there were the expected interviews with people in the queue going on about how this was a chance to let the real fans in to see play.
Uhhh… I’d say that the “real fans” are those who actually made the effort to enter the public ballot (I’ve done it in the past – it works – you get tickets), or play the game. We all know that tennis clubs can be snobbish affairs, but people who play the sport are quite entitled to get ticket advantages. The same happens in rugby and football. In actual fact, it’s pretty hard for people to get tickets to any of our major sporting events, unless you pay close attention to the rules, and get your applications in early, and maybe join the relevant organisations. When the England football team are playing Wales in the World Cup qualifiers and tickets are hard to come by, nobody’s going to say that it’s not fair that real fans aren’t allowed in.
Certainly, there’s plenty of hospitality, but check out the number of hospitality seats the new Wembley is attempting to flog – a terrible deal incidentally. It’s part of sport and it’s not nice, but when was professional sport ever that wonderful?
Still Henman won today, and I suspect that the moment his game was over, some people will have been leaving the ground to get back in the queue for tickets tomorrow. It’d be unfair to characterise them all as middle-aged women wearing large felt top hats garlanded with flags and wearing free Daily Mail waterproofs (free with your copy in the queue)! But characterise them all I will. OK – that’s harsh. There are also a lot of Aussies and Americans, but they’re outnumbered. The only other time you come across this same cross section of the country’s population is if you’ve ever had the (mis)fortune to ride the tube home around the same time that a Cliff Richard concert has finished at Earl’s Court. You see? It’s no coincidence that Cliff famously cheered up the Centre Court crowd on a previous wet Wimbledon.
And speaking of Cliff, I really hope that all the newspapers and media outlets that gave space to that ridiculous stunt (free reg. req’d.) involving Tony Blackburn were fully aware what they were doing. Unique, the company who own Classic Gold “Digital” (mostly available on AM) was founded by one Noel Edmonds. And wouldn’t you know it? This week also saw their annual results. Tony Blackburn just about admitted as much at the NTL Commercial Radio awards on Friday where he was presenting an award.

TV Invasion

Listened to an enthralling documentary from the BBC World Service entitled TV Invasion, trying to detail the impact that television has made to the Himalayan country of Bhutan since its arrival in 1999. At the same time, the country also got the internet, so you’d think that it’d be quite an upheaval. But the country is incredibly young – in the sense that over half the population is under 15 years of age. And we know that kids adapt to this stuff pretty quickly.
The saddest part of this is that of the 45 or so channels available, only one has local programming, and that’s restricted to three hours a day. That’s sure to make it difficult to preserve the country’s unique culture. I suspect that they’d get on fine without coverage of the WWE. Actually, I suspect that we’d be better off without that coverage too.

Neil Report

The BBC have today published the Neil Report, which is effectively the BBC’s response to the findings of the Hutton inquiry. I’m not a journalist, and I don’t particularly work with journalists, but good and accurate journalism is a fundamental principle of a democracy. And the BBC is probably the world’s greatest news gathering organisation, so a report examining the organistation’s journalistic values is of vital importance.
The report speaks of five journalistic values: Truth and Accuracy; Serving the Public Interest; Impartiality and Diversity of Opinion; Independence; and Accountability. [NB. Fox News might want to consider points 1, 3 and 4 in particular] I won’t go into all the details of the report, since it’s worth a read in its own right, and I can’t really do justice in a few words to a 27 page report that’s taken several weeks/months to put together. So instead, here are a few things that I find particularly worth noting.
Single sources and anonymity: Sources should be named for the most part, and if they’re not, reasons why not should be given. Stories based on a single source should be “in the public interest.”
Fairness: The BBC should be fair to all – both contributors and the audience.
Two Ways: Should not ordinarily be used to break serious or defamatory stories. [This section seems to be the main focus of righting any wrongs Andew Gilligan may have committed] Outside Commitments: Restrictions are placed on what BBC journalists or presenters may do outside of the BBC, whether freelance or not. These don’t strike me as harsh as were maybe first reported.
The report goes on to highlight a whole section of what should be learnt from the “Gilligan affair”, before branching off into training.
Overall a fair and reasonable document I’d have thought.

Commercial Naming of Sports Stadia

So this article from Media Week has the findings of some research that says that fans don’t mind company-sponsored stadia.
What a load of nonsense. This research was conducted for Arsenal, and is obviously paving the way for some blue-chip company to pay many millions for the right to call the new Arsenal stadium something like “O2 Highbury” or “Nike Highbury”.
Personally, I think that this is pretty vulgar. Highbury has always been one of the finer stadia in the country, indeed the East and West stands are listed. I’d like to see the full research methodology to see exactly how this was question was asked. As the Media Week article states, none of the fans will use the name.

Fox News Nonsense

Thanks to Rob for pointing out in my comments that John Gibson, Fox News’ commentator, is at it again, speaking out over his disdain for Ofcom’s ruling. And should you really not be able to complain if you think the company you work for is being unfairly maligned by others? Gibson seems to think so.
And still he can’t leave the subject alone! On Friday he was back with yet more.
Quote: I was absolutely correct in every word I said.
Ofcom: a) Ofcom does not accept that Fox News�s claim that an appointment of a monitor to detect �pro-Arab� bias is proof of an �anti-Americanism that was obsessive, irrational and dishonest� within the BBC.
b) We do not accept that the Hutton Inquiry supported the statement that the �BBC felt entitled to lie and when caught lying, felt entitled to defend its lying�.
c) Fox News failed to provide any evidence, except that it felt that Gilligan�s reporting of the US advance into Baghdad was incorrect, that supported this statement.
d) There is no evidence, and Fox News did not provide any, that the BBC �insisted its reporter had a right to lie�.

So who’s the liar now Mr Gibson?
Certainly the BBC have taken a kicking over The Hutton Inquiry, but that was one incident. It is not the one-sided biased news organisation that you suggest.
Fox News on the other hand is certainly that. Feel free to provide me with anything to refute that? (Incidentally “Foxnews” and “biased” in Google return 37,200 pages. Irrefutable evidence, if Fox News’ testimony is to be believed, that this is in fact the case).
To be honest, I couldn’t care less about some partisan US cable television service on the other side of the pond. But some sad and deluded souls believe what they see on television. It’s for that reason that I’m glad we have the broadcasting rules that we do in this country.

SpaceShipOne

Congratulations to the team of SpaceShipOne (I’ll even forgive the needless nospacesrule in their name).
I did try to listen to live audio at work, but had problems, and only saw the video on the news earlier on. Quite a good source of coverage here (via Boingboing).