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space4cycling

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space4cycling-3

Earlier this evening, while the House of Commons debated the Get Britain Cycling report, the LCC organised a massive cycle ride around the Houses of Parliament. The demonstration of something like 5000 cyclists was to make the case for road planning and traffic infrastructure to properly take cyclists into account. This certainly hasn't happened to date.

Here's a video I shot of the evening, including some lovely views of thousands of cyclists crossing Westminster Bridge into the bright sunlight.

Space For Cycling from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

(And yes - it does seem like someone "abandoned" their Bentley in the middle of the street towards the end of the ride)

And here are a few more photos from the evening.

space4cycling-2

space4cycling-1

Some more here.

State Intimidation

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I'm thoroughly sickened to learn of the intimidatory behaviour that representative of the UK have made against the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in holding his partner for 9 hours for questioning under Section of the Terrorism Act. He's not suspected of terrorism, and therefore it's entirely intimidatory.

Is this the kind of thing that a democratic country does?

Were it the friend or relative of, say, a Chinese dissident, I wouldn't be surprised. But is this what we do in the UK?

It's sickening.

I've written to my MP. Feel free to do the same.

Dear Nick de Bois,

I am thoroughly dismayed to read this morning that the UK Authorities have held the partner of a journalist under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act, seemingly to simply intimidate the journalist involved. What seems clear is that the man involved was in no way suspected of being a terrorist himself, suggesting misuse of the law.

This is simply outrageous, and an appalling thing for a democratic country to be doing.

This is the behaviour of a totalitarian regime - something we wouldn't be surprised to learn that China was doing. When allied with some of the surveillance techniques that are being applied to our every day communications, this seems directly at odds with the libertarianism that the Conservative party claims to stand for.

Just to be very clear. I will NOT be voting in future for any representative of a Government that sanctions this kind of intimidatory behaviour.

I'm loathed to draw analogies with recent history in other parts of Europe, but you can't help but think of Europe of the thirties.

I demand a full inquiry into how this bullying behaviour was sanctioned. I don't care how embarrassing the revelations that the Edward Snowden leaks are to the UK or US Governments. I think he's done us a great service in a time when secret laws, and secret rules seem to prevail.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Adam Bowie

Ignoring The Leveson Obvious

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As stupid politics ruins a perfectly good, and vitally necessary libel reform bill, I again get back into the quagmire that is Leveson reforms.

Her Majesty's Press sitting there refusing to have any kind of legislation oversee them, while Leveson seems to have done his best to work around this issue.

But it all feels like it's completely missing the point. While some kind of "All New PCC" is formulated there used to be the "Desmond Question" - would Express proprietor join the new organisation. We're told he will be in the "All New PCC".

Yet this is all absurdly parochial.

The business of news and journalism has changed irrevocably.

Forever.

And the vast majority of the internet will not be part of the "All New PCC."

Why are there absurd distinctions between what is and isn't the Press™?

The future is surely not going to be made of organisations that are "Registered at the Post Office" as a newspaper. So while the Mail Online might be signed up, what about other entertainment news websites based in the US? What about news outlets with no paper equivalent? What about the humble blog? Some of these do carry real news. They conduct investigations. They produce long form journalism.

From a consumer perspective, these are all the same and interchangeable in a connected 21st century. It's just that the new outlets never had an office in Fleet Street, and weren't delivered on dead Scandinavian trees.

So frankly, I don't actually care what HMP decides is or isn't right for it.

It's everything else. If a website hacks my email (phones are so passé) where do I go to? That's what I'm going to need to know?

PS And if you think I'm completely wrong about all this, then I'd really love to know

    why
. So do tell.

The Big Ride

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Watch in HD over on Vimeo

Yesterday, I joined several thousand others riding around some closed streets of Central London as part of the LCC organised Big Ride. In the week before Londoners vote for who should be the next Mayor, this was a massive protest to ensure that the person who does sit in that office realises that this is a real issue.

Transport is actually one of the few things the Mayor has real power over. Most other things fall either under Parliament, or our locally elected councils. But cycling infrastructure is one thing that can be improved. And I don't just mean painting a few roads blue. I mean thinking about designing roads and streets from the perspective of those who aren't in cars. That's actually a radical rethink, as anyone who's ever tried to cross the road at King's Cross might realise.

In the last week we've had the chairman of mini-cab firm Addison Lee busily back tracking on some of the views he made clear in his company magazine regarding cyclists. He also wants his cabs to use bus lanes, where taxis, buses, motorcyclists and of course cyclists already reside. He's managed to lose a government contract over that.

But the point is that too many people don't really understand that our streets are for all of us.

Anyway, I don't want to get too preachy here, but do take the time to visit sites like the LCC or ibikelondon for more.

(Incidentally, I wrote "several thousand" above, because I'm really not sure how many people came. I heard rumours of 10,000 but I'm not convinced. It was awfully wet, and I know quite a few people will have thought better given the weather. Anyway, whatever the truth, it certainly was a lot of people.)

Following the US Election in the UK

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As the US gets into the swing of things in 2012, the contest between Republicans to become the candidate who will fight it out with Barack Obama gets more intense with each week.

The best place to follow the ups and downs of the electoral combat would be on The Daily Show, and its sister programme The Colbert Report. We used to be spoilt for choice on this with The Daily Show airing nightly on More 4, and The Colbert Report running on FX UK.

Unfortunately, first FX, and then latterly More 4 dropped the shows. Now you can catch the weekly highlights "Global Edition" late at night on More 4 once a week, and that's it. In this election year, no UK channel is showing the programme that's unmissable. Even the brief excitement when The Daily Show's website seemed to allow UK viewers to stream viewers is tinged with sadness. No streaming for us (at least unless we play around with various proxy settings and so on). You have to hunt elsewhere online...

(I could also point out that Radio 4 ending Americana at the end of 2011 was grossly ill-timed too. Yes the excellent Matt Frei has upped stakes to Channel 4, but this was an essential programme to enlighten UK and World Service listeners about what was happening in the US. Stopping broadcasting in an election year was a miss-step.)

So where else to look? Well there's always the big papers like the New York Times, Washington Post, and our own Guardian.

But for columnists, you really can't do a great deal better than James Fenton, back in reporter mode, and filing weekly columnns for the London Evening Standard. I remember him as an Independent reporter in Far East during The Independent's early years, and would never miss a report. And you also shouldn't miss reading Carl Hiaasen's columns in the Miami Herald - particularly right now a couple of days before Florida Republicans vote.

Finally, Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources on CNN for another media view - perhaps a little more measured than Jon Stewart.

Obviously there are hundreds of other sources - probably thousands. But these are my favourites.

Tour Du Danger

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On Saturday, around 300 cyclists took part in the Tour Du Danger, a cycle tour of London's most dangerous junctions. This came less than 24 hours after a second cyclist had been killed at a junction in Bow which forms part of the Cycling Superhighway to the Olympic site.

This was a protest at the inadequate way that the Mayor's office and TFL are planning road junctions for all London's users - motor vehicles, cycles and pedestrians.

Organised by a pair of London a pair of">cycling bloggers, this was an excellent opportunity to show the various powers that be, that cyclists are a significant London community, and the old ways of dealing with traffic planning need to change.

To understand the full extent of the anger that has led to this kind of action, you only have to go back as far as Wednesday last week, when Boris Johnson responded to a question:

"Though I have to tell you ...sometimes I just go round Elephant & Castle because it's fine. If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable." (via London SE1)

This is a road junction that's seen 89 cyclist casualties within two years. Thanks Boris...

The event was excellently organised, and superbly marshalled by volunteers who made sure everyone was very safe as they toured the cycling blackspots of the capital.

The tour included a trip around King's Cross, an area I know very well as I cycle through it most days. Just a month ago, a student from Central Saint Martins, who have just moved to their new site behind King's Cross, was killed right around here.

Tour Du Danger - King's Cross

Here's some video footage from the event.

(Now in HD, so do make it full screen! Apologies for poor editing, but it's my first attempt to use Sony Vegas)

And a few photos from Le Tour...

Tour Du Danger - Hyde Park Panorama

(Click through to the big version)

Tour Du Danger - Hyde Park Corner

Tour Du Danger - South of the River

A couple more here.

Satire and Parliament

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Over the last few days, there's been a bit of a Twitter-ruckus (is that a word?) about the lack of More 4's Global Edition of The Daily Show this week.

Graham Linehan has full details (and this New Statesman piece essentially regurgitates Linehan), but essentially the episode had to be pulled because the main item was based around clips from UK Parliamentary procedings. Boing Boing has also published a piece today.

And as regular readers of this site will know:

no extracts of Parliamentary proceedings may be used in any light entertainment programme or in a programme of political satire;

The producers of Have I Got News For You, for one, are well aware of this, and it has been mentioned on the programme on several occassions. But people tend to forget.

Incidentally, it doesn't really need a Freedom of Information request to discover why broadcasters can't use Parliamentary footage. It's all right there on the www.parliament.uk website:

The guidelines for the use of the signals are:

a) no extracts of Parliamentary proceedings may be used in any light entertainment programme or in a programme of political satire;

b) subject to paragraph (a) above, extracts of Parliamentary proceedings may be included in broadcast "magazine" programmes which also contain music or humorous features, provided that the different types of item are kept separate;

c) extracts from Parliamentary proceedings may not be used in party political broadcasts;

d) no extracts of Parliamentary proceedings may be used in any form of advertising, promotion or other form of publicity, except in the form of trailers for programmes which use extracts within the requirement of these guidelines and where the trailers also comply with those requirements; and

The user shall at all times comply with all the rules of coverage, guidelines and directives laid down from time to time by the relevant select committee of each House in reports issued by them and otherwise.

Is it unfair? Absolutely.

Does it make us something of a laughing stock? Certainly.

I suggest we try a couple of courses of actions:

- employ those sketch artists we normally only get for court appearances, and over-dup them with the voices of actors previously employed to be the voice of Gerry Adams;
- get those nice Taiwanese news animators to use their vivid imaginations to denote how they think things went.

It's also worth noting that many daily newspapers employ sketch writers who are given privliged seats in the Commons, despite their sole job being to report procedings with gentle humour.

Whether or not The Daily Show was breaking the rules by rebroadcasting clips taken from C-SPAN, I don't know. It's worth noting that around the Royal Wedding earlier this year, they noted that they weren't allowed to use footage as that too was expressly forbidden in terms of satirical output.

All this does indeed remind us that a single late-night Global Edition of The Daily Show isn't enough. Someone needs to broadcasting the programme four nights a week as it used to be.

Phone-Hacking Media Talk

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Last night I spent a fascinating hour at a "live" recording of The Guardian's Media Talk podcast, presented by Matt Wells, in a packed room with somewhere around 100 Guardian readers in attendance. It was devoted completely to the hacking scandal, and featured some of the key players in the case including Nick Davies, the journalist who's been working doggedly at this for at least the last two years, and his Editor-in-Chief, Alan Rusbridger.

Also there were Jane Martinson, formerly editor of Media Guardian, and who'd spent the previous day in the committee room alongside Davies watching the Murdochs give testimony (at least until that idiot's utter stupidity meant that the media lost focus, and members of the public - including all the journalists - were thrown out of the meeting room), and Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, who pointed out that the editor of his series of thrillers under his alternative identity, author Sam Bourne, would have rejected all the twists and turns that this affair has seen in just the last two weeks.

Anyway, the podcast of this is already up, and it's really worth a listen, even if you're beginning to feel that you might have OD'd on the whole subject.

The News of the World

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I've been following this week's events with dropped jaw horror, as finally, after two years of solid reporting from Nick Davies and The Guardian, it all came home to roost for News International and the News of the World.

I hate to see people lose their jobs. We keep hearing about how 200 fine men and women are being layed off (give or take a few who will find employment elsewhere in the News International stable). But they're not the only ones going this week.

Bombardier - the last train manufacturer in the UK - is laying off 443 staff and 983 contractors following the government's awarding of a contract to Siemens in Germany since they didn't take account of the social cost of failing to award to a British company (something that German and French rail groups absolutely do do).

Administrators have laid off 557 from Homeform, the group that owns Moben, Dolphin and Kitchens Direct following the collapse of the business.

And they're just a couple of the groups that have seen significant loss of staff. The difference is that they - for one reason or another - were "failing" businesses or businesses that were unable to fill their order books. In every case, I've no doubt that there are going to be people struggling to make mortgage payments or pay the bills (and those gas and electricity prices are only going in one direction seemingly).

In the News of the World's case, it was still a highly profitable newspaper selling more copies and having more readers than any other paper in the country. Whether it or The Times of India was the largest English language newspaper in the world, I'll leave for others to determine (not having easy access to India's ABC figures). But we do know that the paper was selling an extraordinarily large 8m papers in the fifties when that must have represented close to one in five adults in the country.

I've got a whole collection of first and last newspapers that have been launched or died during my life. I have The Independent no. 1. I have Robert Maxwell's London Daily News; The Sunday Correspondent; first and last issues of Today. But I don't think I'll be buying today's News of the World. It was never a paper I liked especially. And that was before I learnt what has slowly become clearer and clearer over the last two years.

An unscientific sample of two local newsagents to me revealed one with stacks of unsold News of the Worlds at 4pm, while another was sold out, yet I could buy any other title there.

Looking at the front page, it's noticeable that the stories seem to all be from its recent tabloid era - the paper "only" turned tabloid in 1984, yet the paper itself goes far further back. Are our memories that short? I notice from the Andrew Marr programme that the paper includes a reproduction of the title's first edition with its values at the top of the front page. While it was always a paper that targeted the working man, I'm not completely convinced that the News of the World in 2011 would have been recognised by those men who first created it. Apart from anything else, it's title was the ultimate misnomer - it's been a long time since we learnt anything from around the world, at least unless it involved celebrities in other countries.

I'm always somewhat unconvinced that a twenty-something journalist working at the title today really worries about what a title's founders said about the paper nearly two hundred years ago. What we've learnt from this case is that journalists at the paper were under enormous pressure to get stories into the paper, and if you didn't get a high enough byline count, you were out. Of course Fleet Street is and always has been competitive. But it's now pretty obvious that out the window went any kind of ethics or morals. So get those stories however you can...

I've no doubt that, at times, there were some incredibly significant undercover stories that came out from the paper, including use of the infamous "fake sheikh." But even some of them turned out to be not quite as good as they might, as trials collapsed, or things actually not quite being as they were first presented. The paper's sports coverage was strong too. I know some who bought the title purely for its football coverage, with good writers who knew their stuff and had the inside track on what was going on; without the use of mobile phone messages, I trust.

In the end, the public also has to have a say in this. If you were buying the paper, you were also responsible for the kinds of stories it was digging out. Papers shift very quickly to meet the needs of their readers. And they delivered what the readers seemingly wanted. Of course those readers didn't know how the paper got it stories, but they happily devoured them nonetheless, and the paper has been a cash cow for many years. And that's not something that many papers from any area of the market can say.

What's going to happen to all those News of the World readers? Who knows. I suspect that many bought the paper alongside another - perhaps the Mail or a broadsheet. Some will switch to the Sunday Mirror or the Mail on Sunday - the real play for new readers will begin in earnest next weekend and I suspect that already the big guns in the marketing departments of Mirror Group and Associated are putting together strong offers for next week's paper. What's the best DVD or biggest value voucher they can afford to give away?

Undoubtedly the Sun will go seven days a week - not before the autumn I'd have said. I would look towards some serious offers being made to get current Sun readers to move to be seven day purchasers. While somebody might have been buying up relevant URLs, I suspect that in reality sun.co.uk will be the single place for readers to go, although the title may well be called The Sun on Sunday (The Sunday Sun being a 100 year old paper in the northeast of England).

As for the PCC. Well its patently a shambles. As things stands, it's hopeless with ridiculous limits on who's even allowed to complain - if I'm not the focus of a story, then it's nothing to do with me? It's been thoroughly useless all the way through this scandal. And it doesn't even monitor the whole press - Express Newspapers isn't a part of it at all.

The big question now is political. Is Rupert Murdoch going to take full control of Sky? And that means what Jeremy Hunt, David Cameron and Ofcom do over the next few weeks will... let's just say be fascinating. That's if a proposed Commons rebellion doesn't take place in the meantime. Murdoch's flown in now to try to sort everything out. But what's really encouraging is that the political parties now seem to have developed some balls, and don't have to worry about how a corporation may react to what they're saying. For too many years, too many politicians have worried far too much about getting on the right side of Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch is entitled to behave as he wishes in the best interests of his companies. But that does mean that UK politicians have to be in thrall to him.

I suspect that one way or another now, the BSkyB deal is going to get bogged down. Cameron's on enough shaky ground already. And we've probably seen one too many politically feeble performance recently; to wit Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport's pathetic performance on Newsnight earlier this week attempting to defend the loss of the rail contract I mentioned earlier. Compare that with Steve Coogan's withering put down of Paul McMullan, the man with most airtime minutes this week as he appeared on every show known to man defending the practices of the News of the World. Whether he really is wanted by the police as he asserted on live television this morning? Who knows.

I don't think that James Murdoch is guilty of much more than being foolish when he authorised some large cheques in an attempt to buy off problems earlier in the case. But Rebekah Brooks? Well that's an interesting question.

Murdoch is standing by her for the time being. But you've got to think that there are a lot of people losing their jobs that might hold a bit of a grudge as far as she's concerned. Look no further than today's News of the World crossword for proof of that. Of course, if she knows nothing, then there won't be anything to reveal.

But this story now has real legs. And we've certainly not reached the end of it yet, with at least two inquiries and who knows what more still to go.


Apologies if you were expecting something a little less political from me - perhaps about radio or the media. But this is something I've been following for years and feel strongly about. Clearly these are my own views and blah blah blah. I'd also strongly recommend that you read Guardian reporter Nick Davies' book that came out a few years ago. I trust that Davies is writing a definitive book about this scandal.

Taking Your Twitter Followers With You

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Twitter

A few weeks ago, Matt Deegan wrote an excellent piece about radio and usage of, and infatuation with Twitter.

He argued cogently on many aspects of stations' use of Twitter. But towards the end of his piece he raised a question that I'm sure many stations think about depending on how their presenters are using the medium:

Also from a cynical business perspective, presenters are plugging their own accounts on your time, to [station owners'] audience. Their growth in followers comes directly from them being on your radio station. The numbers they amass and the relationship built can then be transferred to your competitor radio station.

When Chris Moyles finally disappears off Radio 1 to a new station, he'll be giving 1 million Radio 1 fans reasons to switch radio stations.

Matt's solution is to have presenters host the stations' account while they're on the air. They pass on to the next guy or gal and so on. This may work in some places, but I'm not sure it's really what the audience is after. Part of the fun of following one of your favourite personalities - and that includes DJs - is hearing their thoughts on The Apprentice or learning about the mundane details (or otherwise) of their lives outside their broadcast hours.

But Matt absolutely has a point about potentially sending a presenters' biggest fans off with him when he ups and moves across to a competitor.

We've already have Jonathan Ross take his @wossy fans away with him when he left the BBC. And now there's a very interesting question (and answer) arising in television.

Today it was announced that the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg has been lured away to ITV, becoming their business editor.

On the one hand, it's just the usual movement of people around their industry. But on the other, it raised the possibly the first major case of someone with a signficant Twitter following being poached by the direct opposition.

As The Guardian's piece says, she's a significant user of social media, primarily on Twitter as @BBCLauraK where she has nearly 60,000 followers, and her Twitter username has been promoted on BBC News programmes.

Did Kuenssberg set up her Twitter account herself? Or is it a BBC sanctioned account?

I'd guess the latter, since she has now tweeted:

As you've discovered I will become @ITVLauraK in September! Thanks for all the lovely tweets - Back in Westminster tomorrow

While it's relatively straightforward to change your Twitter name - as long as the new one isn't already taken - it seems as though she's starting afresh. Currently the new account is dormant but already has 443 followers at time of writing.

In this instance, then, the BBC seems to have ownership and she'll be rebuilding her following from scratch.

She being in the BBC News department, there are some undoubtedly strict rules about what you can and can't do with regard to social media accounts. But what would happen if Rory Cellan-Jones upped and departed? His "official" Twitter account has 12,600 followers, but his older "personal" account has nearly 27,000 followers.

[Update] Interesting thoughts from The Guardian's Jemima Kiss.

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