Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The alternatives to the Dawlish route, and those getting in the way.

BBC News Online has a page up about the alternatives to the Dawlish route, for the railways in Cornwall and Devon.

Now, I’ve posted about this before, both on my radio show’s Facebook page, and here on the Viewpoint blog.  And I’ll be honest with you, this matters a lot to me.  After the closure of Plymouth City Airport, the loss of the helicopter link to the Isles of Scilly, and the continued situation at Newquay airport, which could close if subsidy isn’t made available, the fact that our only rail link to Exeter, Bristol, London, Birmingham, Scotland, and Wales is shut for 2 months, is a situation I want us to avoid in the future, AT ALL COSTS.

Let me say that again, at all costs.

With that said, let’s look at the routes proposed. 

The first three I’ll mention here, are new routes, which require a lot of work.  They basically by-pass Dawlish to rejoin the main line, either at Dawlish Warren, Powderham or Exminster.  These are not pre-existing lines, and would require a lot more work than any of the other routes.  In my view, these would only be any good if there had been no other alternatives.

The next route I’ll mention here is the old Teign Valley line, which connects Newton Abbot to Exeter, via Chudleigh and Christow.  It needs a little rebuilding, but it is a workable solution for when the Dawlish line is disrupted as it has been this winter.  I do have to agree with what the experts say though, it is of limited benefit really, but after the disruption we’ve had, I’ll happily take a limited benefit route over the messy situation that we as travellers have had to put up with.  This route should be put in place.

The last route is my personal favourite and should be running all the time, even alongside the main Dawlish route.  This is the over Dartmoor route that runs from Plymouth, up the current Gunnislake branch line to Bere Alston, then up an already committed line to Tavistock, then along a rebuilt stretch to Okehampton before joining up with an existing line that is currently used for freight, and Sunday passenger service during the summer, to Exeter.  This route should never have closed in the first place, and frankly, it shouldn’t be just an emergency route, it should be in operation all day, every day.

Unfortunately some people near the Tavistock route, seem to have very distorted priorities in this affair…

“…Colin Rogers, who owns the old Tavistock station - a mixture of holiday cottages and private homes - said property owners were concerned about how much compensation they would get…”

Compensation?  COMPENSATION???

Perhaps those property owners should consider compensating the business in their own area and everywhere westward for the loss of income that has resulted from the line closure at Dawlish.  If they invested in property without having a substantial cushion of liquid capital, then they’re playing in a class that they have no right to be in.  If they can’t handle the risk, they shouldn’t be playing the high risk, high rent district of property.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Viewpoint Sports: Does being 'booked' actually mean anything?


I've been thinking about this for a while, during various times watching either live football or football highlights programmes.  You watch a player commit a foul, and the referee decides that the foul is serious enough to warrant a 'booking' as it is called.  So the referee calls the player over, produces a yellow card, and puts the player's name and/or number in a little black book that he carries.

Sorry, but what kind of penalty is that?  What does going in the referee's little black book actually mean?

Apparently, not much.  A yellow card is a 'caution' that is issued to the player concerned.  That's it, merely a caution.  In Rugby Union, a player that is yellow carded is sent to the 'Sin Bin', for 10 minutes, temporarily reducing the team by 1, which in other sports is sometimes refered to as a "Power Play".

On this day, there were 5 Premier League matches in England.  Between those 5 games, there were 17 yellow cards and 2 red cards.  Now one of those reds was a straight red card, and upon viewing the footage, even that seemed harsh.  The Scottish Premiership saw 2 matches today, one of which had no yellow or red cards, the other had 5 yellows and no reds.  7 top flight games in the UK, and between them all, 22 yellow cards and 2 red cards.

In the English Premier League today, one team, Southampton, had 5 yellow cards issued against them. That's almost half a team in the referee's book.  It's not as bad as an infamous match in the 2006 World Cup when Portugal and the Netherlands were issued 16 yellow cards between them and 4 players got yellow carded twice and got sent off. 

It seems that cautions mean nothing.  Maybe it is time to change what a yellow card actually means in Football. 

Now there are two possible options.  One is to make a yellow card mean the same as it does in Rugby Union, 10 minutes in a penalty box or sin bin for the player shown the card, temporarily reducing the team strength by 1.  Such a move would stop the cynical fouls that result in bookings that prevent what look to be potential goals.  It would also make players think twice before making silly challenges as your team being down a player for 10 minutes is more of a penalty, than a mere caution.  Upon a second yellow card, it would still become a red and a sending off for the duration of the game. 

The other, is to separate the yellow card and red card offences, in other words two yellows would not be an automatic red card, and have various penalties, probably various cards, for differing lengths of time in the 'Sin Bin'.  You could have three levels of penalty, worth 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 15 minutes depending on how serious the foul was, and the red card would still mean sending off. 

I like both thoughts, and to be honest, either one would have more of a deterrent effect than a mere caution. 

Friday, March 07, 2014

Good Morning Britain to return, but is it the change needed?

Earlier this week, we had perhaps the worst kept secret in broadcasting revealed to be true.  Good Morning Britain was indeed to return to ITV, although this time the hosts would be Susannah Reid, joining from BBC Breakfast; Ben Sheppard, former GMTV host; Charlotte Hawkins, joining from Sky News; and Sean Fletcher, joining from Sky Sports News and previously with BBC News Channel.

But this is not the first time ITV has changed the name of their breakfast programme.  In fact, Daybreak came about as a result of perceived problems with GMTV. 

But is another change of name and personnel what is required, or is it a case of moving the deckchairs on the Titanic?

In my analysis of Daybreak, and it's competition, BBC Breakfast, I noticed that whilst Breakfast looks like it comes from a BBC News studio, the look of Daybreak contrasts quite wildly with ITV News, despite having ITV News branded bulletins as part of Daybreak.  If anything, ITV needs to make it more like ITV News.  At the very least, the news bulletins every half hour should come from the ITV News virtual studio, albeit the colour scheme of the studio should reflect the Good Morning Britain look, to distinguish it from other ITV News bulletins, in the same way that ITV News at Ten does from the other bulletins.  

Editorially, the ITV News agenda has improved massively since the days of the 1999-2004 editorial debacle that was the excessively tabloid ITV News, which had replaced ITN News, even though the new look ITV News was still produced by ITN.  But the morning agenda, which has been carried through GMTV and Daybreak, hasn't caught up quite.  At times, it does catch up, and at other times, it seems to go backwards to being more tabloid again.  GMB needs to be popular, not tabloid.  There is a distinct difference, and it needs to be explained.

Tabloid is what you see in the red-tops, over-hyped, editorialised, and generally overdoing everything kind of news.  Another form of tabloid agenda is one that has been popularised by some local US TV stations, 'If It Bleeds, It Leads'. That's tabloid.  Shock value over News Value.

Popular News, as I call it, is the kind of news that actually isn't overhyped, isn't sensationalised, and isn't necessarily showbiz-based, but it is based on what people actually need to know.  It includes news about the economy and consumer related items, essential news about politics, mostly about real issues rather than the endless debates about Europe in the Westminster bubble; and it would also include some news about crime, although not in the hyper-sensentionalised 'if it bleeds, it leads' way that tabloid news does.

If ITV wants Good Morning Britain to be more successful than Daybreak, then it needs to totally embrace the current ITV News agenda, which is more like what I call 'Popular News'.  

But more than that, it needs to avoid the trap of going for competitions through the morning. Competitions are not required at that time of the morning, because most people who have the TV on at that time of day, can't stop to think about what the answer is, so don't bother with them.  Radio is learning this, and slowly moving away from competitions during their breakfast shows.

More than that though, GMB needs to cover things like Sport, which seems to get very little coverage currently on Daybreak.  Having Sean Fletcher as part of the team seems to indicate they are taking that angle more seriously.  Another angle that needs more coverage in the mornings is regional news.  6 minutes of regional updates across 3 bulletins, one per hour, isn't enough, when your competition is running 18 minutes of regional updates across 6 bulletins, twice an hour.  The contrast is stark, very stark.  If anything, even just a doubling of the number of updates, making theirs twice an hour, would be an improvement, but more than that, they do need to make their updates longer, and do something with them that makes them not just a copy of what the BBC does, but distinctive.

Some showbiz news will be a part of the programme, especially around the time of the awards ceremonies, like The Oscars.   But overdoing showbiz news is not a good thing, especially in the mornings.  ITV News has a lot of resources across the country, and using those resources wisely for the right stories, is going to be part of making GMB a success.

If they make a few changes of substance alongside the returning name and the new presenters, then it could help turn ITV's fortunes around.  If not, then it will simply be moving the deckchairs on the sinking ship.  Only time will tell us, if that is what happens.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dawlish rail link to re-open April 4th.

This is a story that pleases me no end.

It will be exactly 2 months between the line getting damaged by storms, and the line re-opening, and that is great news.

Network Rail has been working around the clock to make the repairs that are needed to restore the line to working order.  They deserve our thanks and our appreciation.

Also, First Great Western deserve a lot of credit, for how they have handled the entire situation.  They have worked very hard to make sure that, as much as physically possible, some kind of service remained in place, even if it wasn't the one they had wanted to run, as based on their published timetable.

However, the whole situation has shown up issues that need to be tackled without delay.

The first one I'm going to bring up, is the continuing debate over whether there should be an airport in Plymouth.

I'm going to make no bones about this.  THERE MUST BE AN AIRPORT IN PLYMOUTH.

Why?  You even need to ask why?  The old Plymouth City Airport to London service could transport people there in less than an hour, whjilst the train still takes 3 hours at quickest.

It was also linked to Newquay Airport, in fact the route started there.  The whole route from Newquay to London via Plymouth took no more than 90 minutes, and was run up to 5 times a day.  And if you think that is the only route that Plymouth had, think again.  There were many others to other UK domestic airports, which made for a speedy connection to many places.

Such services could be provided again.  Flights to the Channel Islands, Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Derry, Birmingham, St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly (via Newquay and Lands End[if they can tarmac it]), Leeds, Southhampton, Manchester, Liverpool and many more places are all possible, helping to create an air network that would be speedier than the train, and enable cross country travel between the South West and the rest of the country in no more than 3 hours.  Heck, even some limited international flights to places like Dublin or Paris would help no end.

Sadly, the airport's owners, Sutton Harbour Holdings, have shown no real interest in re-opening the airport, claiming it wouldn't be viable.  Yet it seems to be the case that the airport was viable when Plymouth City Council operated it.  And maybe a consortium could run Newquay and Plymouth airports together, making sure both remained viable and operational.

Because in many ways, when Plymouth City Airport closed, the routes that ran from Newquay became a problem, as the customers that were picked up at Plymouth made those routes viable.  Now the airport at Newquay needs subsidy to run.  If Newquay closes, then Exeter becomes the only major airport in the South West, and as we've seen with the railways since February 4th, getting to Exeter would be problematic.

So what to do about the railway itself?  Well, the favourite idea for creating a second route, has been the re-opening of the old LSWR line that ran from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock.  The route from Plymouth to Tavistock has already be committed to prior to this, and it does seem to make sense to re-open that old stretch of track.  The line was closed in 1968, and it was a shame that this happened.  The process of concentrating traffic on one line, the one that got damaged on February 4th, meant that old LSWR line was deemed surplus to requirements.  It doesn't seem surplus to requirements now.

There is also an old Teign Valley route which is being considered, and in my view, reviving this, AS WELL AS, the Plymouth, Tavistock, Okehampton, Exeter route, would be an ideal double solution to the problem.  The northern line needs to be revived anyway, and run as a regular service all the time.  The Teign Valley line would work as a back up should the line at Dawlish get damaged again.

There is one other point that I would like to make in regards to the railways around Cornwall and Devon.  The fact that some areas, especially around North Cornwall, have been cut off from the railway network and could do with being revived in order to create a second Great Western route.  The line between Newquay and Perranporth should be re-opened, as should the lines that connected Padstow, Bude and Launceston to the rail network.  Indeed, connections should be made between Penzance and Perranporth, possibly via St Ives, and between Newquay and Padstow, which would have the effect of creating a nice mini network of lines that since 1963 have only been served by bus services, and that has meant that the bus companies, First Western National and Western Greyhound, have something of a public transport monopoly in those areas, and it would bring competition back. 

At the moment, the lack of transport connections is reinforcing the old image of those of us in Cornwall and Devon as being in the sticks and cut off from the rest of the country.  We need to counteract that immediately.  Restore the lines that should never have been cut, the connections that are in danger need to be protected, and even enhanced as much as possible.  We must not rely entirely on roads, especially roads like the A38 where there are accidents every day, which close the road for hours at a time.

Newquay Airport must remain open.  Plymouth City Airport must be re-opened.  Lands End Airport must be tarmaced.  The old railway lines that were closed must be re-opened.  We must do whatever it takes, pay any price, to make sure our links with not just the rest of the country, but also the rest of the world, are not cut off.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Daily Star goes hyperbole-mad, and made up words.

This is not a news story that needs any further promotion, but what The Daily Star has done has highlighted what is wrong with the tabloid media today, and in no small way either.

The story is about someone who has been labelled a former 'it' girl.  She also happens to be the Daughter of the 6th Marquess of Bristol, and elder sister of the current holder of that title, and the story concerns the outfit she wore to a party in Los Angeles, something she actually tweeted about, including a picture, obviously taken in the back of her limo, which gave a slight preview of her dress.  In other words, this ain't much of a story.

But, The Daily Star, also known as the Daily Star-Struck(!), decided it was worth covering and hyping to levels unseen outside of the Superbowl or the Olympics.  To do that, they describe her outfit thusly...

"...The socialite merged gapboob and dominatrix leather while attending a charity gala in California..."

Gapboob?  The very fact that the computer I am writing this post on doesn't even recognise gapboob as a word says a lot.  It's a made-up word, because somehow they think their audience won't understand the technical term of cleavage. 





As for it being 'dominatrix leather', leather is worn by many people other than dominatrix-types, but of course, since the whole '50 Shades of Grey' thing became popular, tying it in to that imagery has become the standard thing to do.  But somehow, I can't imagine a dominatrix wearing a full length dress with a fishtail hem, as the Daily Star describe it...

"...The full-length frock, complete with fishtail hem, was made from biker chick leather, bringing a very Fifty Shades of Grey vibe to proceedings..."

See what I mean about '50 Shades of Grey'?   Wait, it gets worse...

"...Lady Victoria's attempts to soften her look with an elegant updo and silver chandelier earrings failed to steer this look away from fetish friendly as she attended the unite4:humanity red carpet event..."

First, why would you need to steer this look away from fetish friendly?  Second, she looked glamourous, stylish and elegant in that dress.  And that is something not every woman could achieve.

She pulls of an elegant look, with leather, and she is critcised in the article for an indecent neckline, and wearing dominatrix leather.  Is it any wonder that newspapers are losing readers, as their grip on the real world seems to get more tenuous by the day, and the amount of hype that they put in to a non-story to make it a story, does the exact opposite of justifying the story's existence in the newspaper.  It highlights that the 'story' probably should never have appeared.


More power to Lady Victoria Hervey, I say, for wearing a very stylish leather dress, that made her look stunning.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

30 idiots complain about Celebrity Big Brother.

The Daily Star reported that 30 people had complained to Ofcom about Celebrity Big Brother, specifically the task that required some of the housemates to perform 18-rated entertainment, a task that by the way, producers had to censor for broadcast after the 9pm watershed.

Honestly, what do these 30 people think they are watching?  Celebrity Big Brother is nothing more than licenced and legalised voyeurism.  It's the only way the general public can watch celebrities being themselves without finding themselves in court on a stalking charge.

Unsurprisingly, Mediawatch, the ex-Mary Whitehouse organisation, ciriticised it, but then, that's not news.

It's not high culture, it's programming designed to appeal to the base instincts.  That was just another expression of that. 

By the way, extra hypocrisy points go to Daily Star and Channel 5 owner, Richard Desmond.  He owns the channel that commissioned it because he wanted material to fill up his newspapers and magazines, and now his own newspaper is giving voice to those criticising the programme on his own channel, and partially encouraging the criticism.  That takes a total lack of any scruples.  If you are going to have a programme on your own channel, and you allow your own newspaper to be critical, then you are undermining the staff who produce the programme, and you are also saying that you are only interested in ratings and sales, not in anything else. 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Rupert Murdoch: The captain is unapologetic and beligerent

Yesterday, Channel 4 News in the UK reported on the revelation that a secret recording of a March 2013 meeting at News International, now News UK, of journalists for his newspapers.  The report is shown below.



This shows we've all come to know over the years.  He is totally beligerent, unapologetic, and contemptuous of all authority other than his own.  This is why he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a major broadcaster, or indeed, a major newspaper these days.  He is so out of touch with the public mood.  He lives in his own bubble, with little real connection to the world that his readers and viewers inhabit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Glenn Greenwald v David Gregory - The state of journalism these days

Earlier today on NBC's Meet The Press, David Gregory had on as a guest, Glenn Greenwald, the man who broke the stories of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

This was always gonna be interesting...


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Now, let's be honest here. Neither of these two people were starting from an attitude of trying to find the truth.  Both are basically political operatives, especially Glenn Greenwald.  Most journalists that operate in the Beltway bubble, are basically too close to Government to be truly independent of it, we've seen that before between 2001 and 2003.  And Glenn Greenwald has a history of attacking people who challenge him on his stories.  Trust me on that one, I've been on the recieving end.  He doesn't debate people, he just tries to humiliate them, which totally debases and devalues whatever points he was trying to make.

The fact is, the real story is getting lost in this "Where In The World is Edward Snowden?" nonsense, and also being lost in Glenn Greenwald's egomania.

The real story is this.  Why did two parties flip positions on this whole idea, just because a Democratic Party president is now in office as opposed to a Republican president?  Why do politicians think it's okay to have people spying on innocent civilians?  If it wasn't right for George W Bush's administration to do it, then it still isn't right for Barack Obama's administration to do it.

In Britain, our government is not really run by politicians, but by civil servants.  They keep the machinery of government operating all the time.  They're not called civil servants in the US, but basically, there are government workers, who are employed to keep the US Government operating, and basically, these people are not elected, they are employed, and basically, they, like most other workers, will do whatever it takes to justify their existence.  And there are similar individuals in most governments around the world.  That's who really runs your government.

There is no Illuminati, no secret organisation that controls governments worldwide.  It's much simpler than that.

But that's not what makes for good journalism these days.  Truth does not sell newspapers.  Truth does not sell advertising on talk radio stations.  Truth does not help the bottom line of media companies.  So, here's the truth about journalism these days.  Journalism is not about truth any more.  Journalism these days, is about supporting a political agenda, and using that agenda to make money from it.  Most so-called journalists these days are nothing more than political operatives supporting agendas that are designed to make money for their political and economic masters.  Reality and actuality have very little to do with journalism these days.  From Fox News, Sun News, The Daily Mail and The Daily Star on one side, to the Mirror, The Guardian, Current and MSNBC on the other, journalists these days are just about making money, and not about telling the truth. 

That's the reality of journalism today.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dan O'Day tells the truth about Radio.

I read a lot of material on the web, and sometimes, it gets me so riled up that I need to comment, and I often do that here on Viewpoint.

But just sometimes, I read something that I think is so well written, or so accurate, that I should probably point some of you in their direction.

In this case, I am directing you to the blog of radio talent coach and advertising expert, Dan O'Day, and a post of his about 25 traits of a good radio programme director.

I think every body who does a radio show should read this, and incorporate the attitudes in his post into their own work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

2Day FM - Challenging the regulator never works.

2Day FM have been very foolish.

Recently, the Australian media regulator, the ACMA, announced that it was going to conduct a formal investigation into the prank phone call to a London hospital that ended up causing a nurse at that hospital to commit suicide.

Upon the release of preliminary fiundings, 2Day FM filed suit with Australia's Federal Court system to block any further progress in the investigation, and to prevent the ACMA finding them guilty of breaching their licence.

Basically, this is a clear admission of guilt. 

2Day FM have basically admitted that they are guilty of the offences that the ACMA is investigating them for.  And they know, full well, that they could lose their licence.  So, they have decided to take on the regulator.  Huge mistake.

In all the years I've followed the media and covered it, every media company that has taken on the regulator, in any country, has lost.  Courts have never overturned a regulator's decision, nor have they basically prevented a regulator from doing it's job.  Trying to accuse the regulator of overstepping boundaries, is ridiculous.  Trying to say that the regulator does not have the power to say that it breached the terms of it's licence, is incredibly ridiculous.

These are the death throes of a station that did not respect the rules, had no sense of where boundaries were, in fact, a station that had no sense at all.

Once the Australain Federal Court does the right thing and throws this ludicrously silly challenge out of court, then 2Day FM might as well take themselves off the air, because it will be a case of licence revoked, pretty soon.

Goodbye 2Day FM.  Your shameful behaviour in this whole sorry saga, will mean that you will not be missed.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Far Right UK Parties - Worth worrying about?

I was busy minding my own business reading round the various internet sites, and I happened to be reading Daily Kos, when I came across this diary about Far Right extremist politics in this country.  Now I have discovered that this diary is an American's viewpoint on our Far Right politics, and it makes some sense, and is mostly pretty accurate, but for the authoratative viewpoint on UK Far Right politics, you have to ask someone who actually lives in the UK and writes about the political scene, amongst other things, and round here, well, that would be me.

It was a fascinating piece of writing, but the one thing that shines out from it to my eyes, is the fact that because the Republican Party in the US has veered to the extreme right in more recent years, there's always a lot more fear about right-wing extremism in the US than there is in the UK.  In some ways, it reminds me of the fear over Commmunism that we saw in the US back in the 1950s, with the McCarthy witchhunts.  The EDL, BNP and the National Front along with UKIP are the current incarnations of far-right wing politics in this country, a history that pre-dates the Second World War.

In fact, we go all the way back to 1902, and to an organisation called the British Brothers League.  The league was formed as a response to waves of immigration from Eastern Europe which had been going on since 1880.  It's weird, a lot of the debate on immigration now is over immigration from, once again, Eastern Europe.  History does have a way of repeating itself.

Initially, the League was only interested in keeping "Destitute Foreigners" out of England.  Later on, that slowly changed to the more familair refrains of anti-semitism.  Although the league claimed to have 45,000 members, no membership fees were ever taken.  It was mainly a London based organisation, and although it disbanded in 1923, it left a legacy of far-right support that would be used by Oswald Mosley later on.

The next organisation to come out of the woodwork, was an organisation known as The Britons.  Formed in 1919, by now we have the classic anti-semitic, anti-immigrant extreme right wing organisation.  The organisation published extremist propoganda under the label of The Judaic Publishing Company, and later The Britons Publishing Society.  The organisation was dormant during World War 2, though it continued to exist until the late 1940s.

1923 may have seen the disbanding of the British Brothers League, but another organisation was ready to take it's place.  This one was known as British Fascisti, later on The British Fascists.  Despite their name, their inital motivation was more fear of left wing politics, than actual fascism.  There is historical evidence to back this.  Back in 1922, the Conservative Party had won an election under Andrew Bonar Law, who was already an ill man at this time, having previously stood down as Conservative Party leader the previous year, despite the fact that David Lloyd George, a National Liberal, had been the Prime Minister until the 1922 election.

Labour, a relatively new political force at the time, having been formed in 1900, were now starting to have an electoral impact.  They'd won 142 seats in that election, up from the meagre 57 seats they'd won in the 1918 election.  Labour, under Ramsay MacDpnald, had become the official opposition for the first time in their history, overtaking The Liberal Party under Herbert Henry Asquith, a different Liberal party to the National Liberal Party, who had splintered from The Liberal Party, who had been in coalition with the Conservatives. Some on the right wing say the growth of Labour as a threat, hence why British Fascisti was created. 

Strangely enough as well, The British Fascisti were heavily influenced by the Boy Scout movement, as many of the initial members of the British Fascisti had been Boy Scouts in their childhood, and wanted to "...uphold the same lofty ideas of brotherhood, service and duty...".  It seems an unlikely mixture for creating what would be a breeding ground for one of the most famous fascists outside of Oswald Mosley.  The man who later became Lord Haw Haw, William Joyce, was a member of the British Fascisti, after having been attacked, he claimed, by a Jewish communist whilst stewarding a Conservative Party meeting in 1924.  He would later leave The British Fascists to join Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in 1932.

The British Fascists were declared bankrupt in 1934.  By this time, The BUF had established itself and was the major force of fascism in the UK.  However, on the political scale, they were miniscule compared to the mainstream parties of the time, Conservatives, Labour, Liberals and National Liberals.  Even amongst the extreme right, the BUF might have been the most well known, but there were other organisations espousing various ideas of fascism, and fighting between rival groups, was not uncommon.  The Imperial Fascist League, which had formed in 1929, had a rivalry with the BUF.  Although the British Fascists, the BUF and the IFL had discussed mergers, they could never agree to work together, and merge their limited memberships.

Ultimately, this early history of Fascism in the UK is as instructive as it is interesting.  There is an almost tribal mentality to these organisations.  Some people did move between organisations but generally, most stayed loyal, almost to a fault, with the organisation they joined.  The same is also true today.  The BNP, the EDL and the National Front may be the extreme right parties and organisations that most are familiar with, but there are and have been a number of minor far right parties and organisations, including The British Freedom Party, Britain First, The British Democratic Party, British People's Party, The Christian Council of Britain, England First Party, the White Nationalist Party, the Nationalist Alliance, and many other organisations, some of which have been and are organisations that splintered off from the BNP.

Whilst the BNP and the National Front have been the most successful in terms of electoral success, both are so far behind the mainstream parties, that their successes are rather limited really, in the grand scheme of things.  So, is there anything to worry about in regards to the EDL, the BNP and the National Front?  It's very unlikely that there is anything to worry about.  Most of these organisations do not garner much in the way of support outside of their base, and they are so far away from where the majority of the British public politically reside, the political centre, where ultimately elections are won, that the likelyhood of any group getting the necessary votes to get more than token representation in anything beyond local council level, is so small as to render it almost impossible. 

This is down to the way our electoral system works.  First Past The Post is a simple, most votes wins system.  One person, one vote, just a single cross on a piece of paper, and the candidate that gets the most votes wins.  No requirement to get more than 50% of the votes cast in a single constituency, and no complex ranking of candidates by order of preference.  Smaller parties like UKIP, The Greens, even the Liberal Democrats at one stage, complained that the system kept smaller parties out.  And whilst the system does keep some minor parties out, the flipside of that, is that it also tends to keep the BNP and National Front out as well, because to win in any constituency, you need a large concentration of support for your party within that constituency.  One of the reasons the Greens rarely win seats, is because their support is thinly spread across the country, where as pockets of BNP support have sprung up in certain areas, and that's why the BNP has won some council seats in the past, although in the last local elections in May, the BNP lost all the seats they were defending.

And Fox News lending support to the EDL isn't as big a deal in this country as it might seem.  Fox News reaches over 3 million people each week in the USA, around about 1% of the population overall, and is the most watched cable news channel in the US.  Fox News Channel is also shown in the UK.  However, they reach no more than 200,000 people each week in the UK, far less than 1% of the 60 million people that live in the UK.  In terms of people watching news channels in the UK, BBC News leads the way with over 9 million watching each week, Sky News comes next with over 5 million watching each week, and editorially, although owned by the same company that owns Fox News, Sky News is far less right wing that Fox News, mainly due to neutrality regulations that are in place for all broadasters broadcasting from the UK.  Outside of the two main news channels in the UK, Fox News is watched by less people than watch Al Jazeera, or Russia Today, or even EuroNews.  Fox News active support of the EDL is actually causing viewers of Fox News in the UK to change channels.

There is one other reason why it is unlikely that we will see Fascism rise up, and it comes from history and the UK's response to the force that wasthe countries known as "The Communist States".

Communism really first came to prominience in the 19th century with the publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848, a document written by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels.  Their "communism" was a form of socialism that sought to end capitalism, and the systems that they believed were exploting workers.  It was this basic idea that brought down the Czars in Russia in 1917, and formed the basis for the Communist state that was The Soviet Union until the 1990s.

Communist Parties began forming all over the world.  1920 saw the formation of the British version of the Communist Party.  The US response was best categorised by what happened in the 1950s, and the phenomenon that was McCarthyism.  Joseph McCarthy was a Wisconsin Republican Senator, who led a Senate commitee into the infiltration of American Communist Party agents into the Government.  His over-zealous interrogations of suspects, and demagogue-like attitude, led to him making wild, unsubstatiated accusations against people who were not guilty of any such misdemeanours.  Such McCarthyism is still used today by the Republican Party to call people unpatriotic, or question the morality of an opponent in a political debate.

But in Britian, instead of being scared by '...reds under the bed...', the British establishment gave it little credence or indeed thought it much of a threat, despite the fact that in 1945, 2 Communist Party candiates had been elected as MPs.  Both lost their seats in 1950, and the party began a slow, gradual decline eventually dissolving in 1991, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  A splinter group left the main party in 1988, and formed a new Communist Party which still exists today in the UK, however, the membership has never gotten to the 1000 mark.


So, when it comes down to the likes of the British National Party, the English Defence League and the National Front, they are small parts of a small movement, that is significantly splintered between over 15 different organisations already.  These various splinters are like individual tribes, struggling to work together for a common cause, because one tribe feels that another's slightly different viewpoint on something means they are less true to the cause or less pure. 

Two quotes for me sum up my feelings on this, and I have added particular emphasis to the parts that speak most on this subject..  First comes from the Inaugural Address of President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1933...

"...This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance..."

...and the second comes from Edward R Murrow from his See It Now programme in 1954, talking about McCarthyism...

"...We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men..."

(Cross posted on my Daily Kos diary

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Russia goes backwards on LGBT

Russia Today are reporting that the the lower house of the Russian Parliament, The Duma, has voted for a ban on promoting non-traditional sexual relations to minors.  Now whilst this might sound sensible, it is one of those ideas that in practice causes a lot more problems than it solves.

The situation in Russia regarding LGBT relations has been pretty stable since 2003.  The age of consent is 16, for both heterosexual and LGBT relationships, homosexual sex is legal, as is the right to change your gender, but there is still a long way to go. 

There are no anti-discrimination laws in place for the Russian LGBT community, and this new law seeks to take the issue further back into the dark ages.  People start to express their sexuality as early as their early teens, and they will want to find out information.  Blocking access to that information will not promote heterosexuality, but will make LGBT relationships, and other non-traditional sexual relations more interesting.  It's classic reverse psychology, tell somebody they can't do something and they want to do it all the more.

Some ideas sound eminently sensible.  However, most of those ideas end up causing more problems, especially when those measures are directly against a person's sexuality, and also, trying to place societal controls on something that Mother Nature decides.  It comes across as being a fool's errand to try and place societal controls, such as laws, on things that are not decided by societies, but by nature.

What's worse is that the public backs this ban.  88% back it, and 42% think homosexuality should be made a criminal offence.  This is a backward step for Russia, and it will come back and bite them, when they least expect it.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Abolish the Seanad? No thank you.

In terms of politics threatening to get out of control, this is one situation where that could easily happen.  Enda Kenny, The Taoiseach, announced that he was bringing forward a bill to abolish the Seanad Eireann, the upper chamber of the Irish Parliament, the Oirechtas.

Unlike here in the UK, where the upper house, The House of Lords, is an unelected body, appointed by the Prime Minister via the system of honours bestowed by The Queen, The Seanad Eireann is made up of 60 members.  11 of these are directly appointed by the Taoiseach.  3 are elected by graduates of the University of Dublin, 3 are elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland, and the remaining 43 are elected from 5 special panels called Vocational Panels, made up of TDs, Senators and councillors.

Yeah, it's a little complicated, and that's one of the aspects of the Seanad Eireann that needs reform.  The Seanad should be directly elected, just like the US Senate is.  Further more, let's keep it simple.  Two Senators elected from each county in the Republic of Ireland, 26 counties, 52 Senators in all. 

That's just one aspect of the Seanad that needs reform, there are many others too.  Nobody thinks the Seanad can survive as it currently is.  But I believe Enda Kenny is wrong to call for the abolition of the second chamber.  In parliamentary democracies, the upper chamber is always the modifier, the body that curbs the excesses of the lower house.  With no upper house, there is no body to oversee the lower house and curb it's excesses.  That is why that abolishing the Seanad is wrong, no matter what additional measures you might put in.  The upper chamber must be there to give legislation a more considered opinion, than the lower house can.  That's what it should be doing, and that is why I would recommend everybody in Ireland to vote against any move to abolish the upper chamber.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Making Sense: Protests in Turkey and Comparisons to Arab Spring

For about the past week, there have been protests going on in Instanbul, not Constantinople.  Originally, these protests began over plan to redevelop a park.  Gezi Park to be precise.  But it has turned into something quite different. 

Basically, the protestors right now are worried, worried for their freedoms, worried that secular Turkey, which is constituitionally secular, might be changed to an Islamist state in a new constitution.  It wouldn't be the first time that Turkey has had a new constitution.  The first one was back in 1873, then 1921, 1924, 1961, and finally, 1982, which is the current constitution of Turkey, which enshirnes into law, the fact that Tirkey is a secular and democratic republic which derives it's power from the people.

The constitution was the subject of a referendum in 2010, after Parliament failed to give constitutional amendments the necessary two thirds majority, although they did vote in favour.  The amendments were passed by the referendum.  Some people in Turkey have started to feel that Turkey's three time Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of the conservative AKP party, may be moving towards turning Turkey into an Islamic state, and an authoritarian one, despite his denials.

That's what is really driving the current wave of protests in Istanbul, Ankara and other Turkish cities right now.  There have been calls for the Prime Minister to resign, which he has dismissed, but it is clear that the Prime Minister and the AKP has lost the confidence of at least some of the people. 

Some have compared this to the Arab Spring uprisings that happened back in 2011.  Whilst those comparisons are understamdable, I believe those comparisons are a little bit far fetched to be honest.  Those were protests in Islamic countries with autocratic governments.  As I stated earlier, Turkey is democratic, and secular.  It is so polar opposite, that the simialrities are literally only superficial ones.  Protestors taking over a local square and promising to stay there until their demands are met.  Sounds more like the Occupy movement. 

Undoubtedly though, this is a local problem within Turkey, and the AKP and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have got to listen to their own people.  Otherwise, they will be regarded as elitist and out of touch with the electorate that gave them their mandate, and that is a situation that few politicians ever recover from.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cornwall Independent councillor out-crazies the Tea Party.

I never thought that I'd see the day when a UK politician presented something crazier than the Tea Party Republicans do.  I even less expected to find that crazy UK politician within my own home county of Cornwall.  None the less, this year, it happened.  What's even crazier is that he resigned, re-stood for election, and got re-elected.  What's worse is that this politician is not a Conservative, not a member of UKIP or the ultra crazy BNP.

Oh no, this was an Independent councillor, unaffiliated with any major political party in the UK.  Sit back, relax, and listen to a cautionary tale from the other side of the big pond, about a Cornwall councillor, disabled children, and council spending.

First, we must add in some relevant context to this tale.  The UK Government is currently a coalition between the Conservatives, the UK equivalent of the Republicans, and The Liberal Democrats, a centre-left party not dissimiliar to the Democrats.  That's enough to make you think that coalition would never work, but surprisingly, more than halfway through the five year term, it's holding together.  Some activists in the UK have refered to it as a Con-Dem administration. 

However in Cornwall Council, these two parties have been on opposite sides of the chamber since 2009.  Conservatives once again were in coalition running the council, but this time, with a large group of independent councillors who held more seats than the Liberal Democrats.  Cornwall is one of the few counties in the UK where Independent, unaffiliated councillors form a major political force, and will often work together, almost like a political party.  The Liberal Democrats had been in charge of the previous county council from 2005 to 2009, but had been voted out of office for creating the current Unitary council, which combined the previous county council and 6 smaller district councils into one body.  So, after the 2009 local election, they were the opposition to the Conservative/Independent coalition, along with 3 Green Party councillors.

Our story involves one of the Independent councillors, from a ward called Wadebridge East.  His name is Collin Brewer, and he was elected relatively comfortably in 2009.  At the time of his election, nobody knew that he was going to become one of the most hated people in Cornish politics.  The incident that was to cause him to become the most hated man in Cornish politics happened in 2011 during an event at County Hall in Truro, the administrative capital of Cornwall. 

The event was a disability forum, and Mr Brewer was speaking to a member of the organisation Disability Cornwall.  Mr Brewer claimed that "...disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down." 

Now, you'd think a comment that controversial would have been reported straight away.  Nope, it wasn't reported to the public until February 2013, almost 2 years after the incident happened.  Hey, I know the pace of life in Cornwall is a bit slower than in big cities, but not usually that slow!

However, the charity Disability Cornwall did complain to the council and the Standards Committee (yes, we actually have standards committees in UK politics, and they actually do hold people to acceptable standards.) reported its findings in February 2013.  After that report, there were many calls for Mr Brewer to stand down as a councillior.

Collin Brewer put up a vigourous defence, claiming that he wasn't being serious, he was only trying to provoke a discussion on the issue of service costs provision, during a time when central government grants to councils was being cut back, and regulations prevented them from raising all the money that had been cut through local taxes like council tax and business rates. 

Facebook was mobilised against him, a page that demanded his resignation garnered over 3600 likes.  He was told he was no longer welcome as part of the Independent group on Cornwall Council.

But finally on 28th February 2013, Collin Brewer finally realised his position was untenable, and he finally resigned admitting he was wrong, and that he would probably be apologising for it for the rest of his life.  He also said it was unlikely that he would stand in the local elections in May.  Now you might think that this would be the end of the story and 99 times out of 100, it would be.  But as Keith Olbermann once said about an unrelated story, "...this is the 100th time out of 100."

On the 5th of April, Collin Brewer announced that he would be restanding for the seat of Wadebirdge East that he had previously held, in the May local elections, once again, as an Independent.  In 2009, he had been one of four candidates, but this time, he was up against 5 other candidates, one an Independent also, the other four represented four of the political parties in the UK.  Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party).  He stated that the decision was a response to local people who had asked him to stand again.

During the election campaign, the movement that had gotten him out of office, suddenly coalesced again, this time to persuade people not to elect him.

On my own Viewpoint blog, I highlighted the Wadebridge East ward as one of the stories to watch for that night.  I didn't know if Collin Brewer was going to be re-elected, but I suspected it would be close.  I thought it was too soon for him to have been forgiven for his comments, but I did wonder if he might have persuaded enough people that he hadn't meant what he said.

Come the following day, it was discovered he had won his seat back, by just 4 votes.  4 measley little votes gave him victory, a victory that he certainly hadn't deserved, nor should he have been allowed to earn.  Disability Cornwall's chairman Steve Paget was "staggered" and "appalled" at the result.  Almost immediately, the movement that had gotten him out once before, went into overdrive, in order to drive him out once again. 

In the less than 3 weeks since his election victory, there have been a number of protests and tons of calls for him to resign once again.  The leaders of all the political groups in the new council, Liberal Democrat, Independent, Conservative, Labour, Greens, even UKIP, have all called on him to stand down.  The new leader of the Independent group, now in coalition with the Liberal Democrats on the new council, has taken the same decision, and said that Collin Brewer is not welcome as part of the Independent block.  Collin Brewer is a councillor with no support at all in council.

But even that might not be enough to unseat him, now he feels he has a mandate for his views and an electorate behind him.   He has gone one stage further now, in an interview with the Disability News Service, he linked the killing of disabled babies, to farmers killing deformed lambs, a situation that had occured recently due to a disease that was causing many lambs to be born with deformed limbs.  Devon and Cornwall Police are investigating complaints about this interview, and more complaints are expected to be lodged with the police.  Cornwall Council are also investigating.

As far as my research goes, no Republican has ever dared to suggest such an idea.  If you do know different, let me know and point me in the direction of where it was said, I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

So you see, political crazies are not limited to the extreme right wing, they can appear from almost anywhere, even those unaffiliated with any political party or movement.  Remain alert everyone, and watch out, for you never know when a political crazy will suddenly rear it's ugly head.

(Cross posted on my Daily Kos diary.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Viewpoint Extra: Woolwich murder

As a follow up to my post, I am glad to see that at least one politician agrees with me about not allowing fear to win, and even quotes the Koran verse 32 chapter 5 in showing how Islam is not a violent religion...

"If anyone kills a human being it shall be as though he killed all mankind whereas if anyone saves a life it shall be as though he saved the whole of mankind."

The full story is here.

Thank you, Nick Clegg, for being a voice of sanity within the madness.

Woolwich Murder and the problems of using the wrong word.

It's no secret that a lot of us have felt something in the wake of a soldier being murdered just outside of Woolwich Barracks in South London.  The story has some unique oddities to it anyway.  No criminal of any kind hangs around waiting for the Police to pick them up, and only the dumbest think that the police will kill them rather than capturing them.  Also, not since the days of the Northern Ireland troubles have the armed forces been a regular target for murder in this country.  So, this is an unusual case all told.

But the media, especially the press, and parts of social media have been bandying about the words "terrorist" and "terrorism" in relation to this murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, a member of the 2nd Batallion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. 

It is far too easy to use the words terrorist and terrorism, in situations where we just don't know the full back story.  The security services had picked up one of the suspects before, and one is believed to have converted to Islam.  However, no killing done in anyones name, never mind the name of God, is justified.  Calling it terrorism, or the perpetrators terrorists, is giving credence and credibility to their complaints, which is the last thing you need to do.  In some cases, it might actually glorify their actions and their motives, and that is a definite no-no.

And just as bad, is several facebook postings that crop up all over the social network from pages and organisations with agendas of their own, shared by well meaning people who do not realise what these postings really mean.  Some of these posts that get shared espouse racial hatrid, contain statements attributed to politicians that were in fact never made by those politicians, and do nothing to help solve the real problems of the world.  In fact, some of these posts are borderline incitement to violence against other people.  Be very careful what you share, some of these posts are close to or borderline illegal.

What happened was a murder.  That is emotive enough.  Calling it terrorism is too emotive, it provokes fear and anger, which is exactly what these people want.  They want us to be afraid, they want us to be angry.  It's irresponsible, especially for this Conservative government and the media, to do the radical's job for them.  They should be more responsible and not use over-emotive words, that do the radical's bidding.  For the Conservative government, that's their modus operandi, provoke fear, emotionalise everything, divide and conquer. For the media, it's all about sales, ratings, numbers. They think emotionalising the story will get better ratings, more sales.

The best thing to do, is actually to de-emotionalise and de-editorialise this story.  It was a murder.  The murder victim was a serving soldier, two men charged at police, they were arrested.  Those are the pure undiluted facts.  Calling it terrorism, or butchery as one columnist in the Telegraph did, is emotionalising and editorialising the story.  Now a newspaper columnist can do that if they want.  But if they feel like they should do things like that, then do it about a week or so afterwards, not in the relatively immediate aftermath, up to 72 hours after the event.  

The English Defence League amongst others are not helping this whole situation by declaring war on extremist preachers of Islam.  That will do nothing to decrease tensions.

In short, never call it terrorism.  Never call them terrorists.  You will give them what they want.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Instant Karma

This story comes from Bogota, Columbia and is just more example of why crime doesn't pay.  Fortunately, the victim got her phone back.

The would-be robber, suffered minor injuries in his run in with the bus.  He's lucky he didn't suffer much worse injuries.  His victim even helped him out from under the bus.  He was detained by police.  Something tells me he won't be committing any more crimes every again, after that incident.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: The Distraction Express.

Rob Ford was elected Mayor of Toronto in 2010, and ever since then, it's been one piece of silliness or scandal after another.  Rob Ford is The Distraction Express when it comes to Toronto politics.

Today's story is no different.  Apparently the Toronto Star and Gawker have been offered a video that reportedly shows Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.  And apparently, the sellers wanted a 6 figure sum for the video.

Now, I haven't seen or been offered the video.  But, I always have my suspicions on stories like this.  It is said that everybody has doppelganger somewhere, and I've seen enough evidence to support that thought.  Also, these days computer editing software can make just about anyone look like anyone else.  So even though it might look like Rob Ford, there's no guarantee that it actually is.

He shouldn't be in office really, after being convicted of a conflict of interest back in November 2012, though Rob Ford successfully appealed against being removed from office.  That case isn't over though as the lawyer who brought the case is seeking leave to appeal to Canada's Supreme Court.

But this quite frankly, is a piece of silliness, just another one in a long line of silliness surrounding this Toronto Mayor, who has never helped himself, ever since being elected. 

UKIP feeling the heat in Scotland

UKIP's Nigel Farage never met a controversy he didn't like.  In this case, it's being protested against in Edinburgh.  A number of protestors yesterday confronted him as he held a news conference in a pub, and he had to be locked in for his own protection. 

Now he is trying to put a brave face on it today, by saying that he'd been in worse places than that.  Yeah, right!  You felt scared for your life, so you got the police to bring a van so you could get away without facing the protestors again.  Because you knew in your heart, they had you pegged, to a T.

UKIP describe themselves as "...the UK’s third political party – and the only one now offering a radical alternative...".  Third political party?  Not true.  In terms of elected representatives, they have only 11 MEPs, 3 members of the House of Lords, 1 Assembly Member in Northern Ireland, and 201 councillors in Local Elections.  That's a lot lower than many parties, behind the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and even The Green Party. 

Yes, they may have made a major breakthrough in England, but outside of England, they have just 1 MEP, for Wales, and 1 Assembly Member in Northern Ireland, and even this was a defection.  Their only electoral success outside of England is the one MEP in Wales.  This gives the impression that they are somewhat of a band of 'little Engalders', as it were.

They're fighting hard to establish themselves as a mainstream party, even going so far as to ban former BNP Members from joining or standing as candidates, but this is mere smoke and mirrors.  The party's policies and actions in various situations have spoken far louder.

They proposed a 5 year freeze on immigration, and they wanted to initiate a drive to remove all illegal immigrants from the UK, something that in cost terms, is impractical.  They want to leave the European Union, withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Convention on Refugees.  They want cut corporation taxes and abolish inheritence taxes and national insurance.  UKIP lost a sex-discriminitation case when Nikki Sinclaire was expelled from UKIP.  Now you might say they lost because they mounted no defence, but to be honest, they must have known what they'd done was indefensible.  This is an extremist right wing party.

And whilst Nigel Farage might find it easy to accuse Scottish Nationalism of being extremists and being "akin to fascism", but it's clear to me, that he obviously has little understanding of Scottish politics and his view of the UK is obviously a view of England primarily and not of the other nations in the Union.

However, SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, got it wrong when he said the UKIP Leader had "lost the plot." as to be honest, UKIP and Nigel Farage never had the plot in the first place.  Farag'e accusations of a hate campaign as well are liudicrous.  If you think a small student demonstration constitutes a hate campaign, then you know nothing about politics.  UKIP has little credibility, and even less believeablity after this.

Nigel Farage might be trying to make UKIP seem more electable, but nobody should be fooled by extremism dressed up in a suit.  And their audience outside England, might be extremely limited indeed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

RAJAR Q1 2013: P... P... P... Problems?

It's been a busy day for me, finding time in amongst appointments, shopping and other day to day activities to look over the RAJARs.  But this was one of the things that I was most interested in.  What would I make of the latest results.

BBC Radio Cornwall saw an increase in listenership, on both quarter by quarter and year to year.  Up 6,000 on the year, and up 23,000 on the previous quarter to 175,000.  Share also rose on the quarter, up from 16.1% to 17.5%, and even though in terms of total hours, there's over 100,000 more hours recorded this year than last, somehow, that 17.5% share this year is down from last year's 18.7%.  Can't figure that one out.

BBC Radio Devon also saw an increase in listenership, up 16,000 on the year and up 20,000 on the quarter to 245,000.  On share, we have a strange quirk, being up from 10.0% share on the last quarter, and down from 13.6% last year, to right between the two, 11.8%.  Rarely do stats come out that well.

Heart South West, in the first quarter where we can make a legitimate quarter to quarter comparison, is up from 394,000 to 408,000, an increase of 14,000.  Share however was unchanged at 9.8%.  This is in stark contrast though to the network figures, which are down.  Heart have lost 255,000 listeners in the last year, and 132,000 listeners in the last quarter.  Their share has dropped from 5.0% to 4.8%, and total hours in the last year has gone down by over 2 million, and in the last quarter by over a million.  It seems that Heart South West is gaining listeners seemingly because it is not local radio, but a quirky hybrid of local and national that is relatively new to some parts of the region, and is piqueing the interest of listeners.  But Heart as a network is not doing so well.

This is also the first quarter where we can make a legitimate quarter to quarter comparison for Radio Plymouth.  On reach, they have gained an extra 1,000 listeners, going from 37,000 to 38,000.  However, the change of breakfast presenter seems to have hurt the station quite significantly.  Total hours dropped from 271,000 to 219,000.  Share was also down, from 4.9% to 3.9%.  How did that drop occur.  Average hours per listener went down, quite sharply, from 7.3 hours per week, to 5.8 hours.  It seems that work is needed to get people listening longer, because that kind of drop in just 3 months, really hurts a station like Radio Plymouth.

Radio Exe by contrast has had a more positive quarter.  Like Radio Plymouth, their reach went up by 1,000.  But they also saw an increase in Total Hours, from 176,000 to 196,000; and an increase in share, from 4.0% to 4.6%.  They too made changes early in the year, and these changes seem to be paying off, at the moment.

Palm FM can't seem to win at the moment.  They've lost 2,000 listeners in the last quarter, down to 35,000; and their share is down from 4.7% to 4.4%.  They've been in flux for most of the past two quarters though, and it's only recently that things have settled down again, with a new breakfast show host.  Hopefully, by Q3, we will see whether these changes are paying off for Palm.

Gold Devon saw a positive quarter, going up from 36,000 listeners to 42,000, and increasing their share from 1.3& to 1.6%.  However, they have been stuck in a small range, and need to break out of it.

Pirate FM had a dire quarter in Q4 2012, and Q1 2013 doesn't look any better.  They've lost 1,000 listeners, down to 152,000.  Total Hours down from 1,418,000 to 1,371,000 and share down from 11.8% to 11.2%.  The problem is quite easily indentifiable.  Outside of breakfast, content has been cut right back to the bare bones, and they are doing mostly music and imaging.  In other words, they are trying to out-Heart Heart South West.  You don't win a battle by trying to sound exactly like your competition.  You win a battle by being different from yoour competition, different enough to highlight their weakness and portray them as your strengths. 

Overall, it seems that the three Ps, Pirate, Palm and Plymouth, need to do a lot of work to recover lost ground.  The BBC and Heart are gaining at their expense.

Fetish Festival blocked by court ruling

CBS Baltimore is reporting that a fetish festival that was supposed to happen this weekend coming at the DuBurns Arena in Canton, Baltimore has been cancelled after the new owners of the arena, Coppermine, got a court injunction to prevent the event taking place.

Apparently, a contract had been signed by the previous management of the arena.  And Coppermine were so desperate to get out of the contract that they asked a court to intervene.

Now, there were arguments about the event not being right for the area, and that the event would have contravened the new owner's policies, but at the end of the day, a contract is a contract, and should be honoured.  Just think, if they are prepared to find a way to not honour this, then they could be prepared to find a way to not honour anything else that they might happen to personally disagree with.

Would they find a way to not honour a wrestling show perhaps, becuase of health and safety concerns?  Or maybe a fashion show might not get the go-ahead because the outfits being modeled might be too racy?

If I were organising an event in Baltimore of any kind, I'd be reticent about hiring the DuBurns Arena now, as I'd be wondering if they might find some obscure reason not to honour the contract.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TruthSeeker: Ten Myths About DAB

It seems the anti-DAB crowd are being just as vocal as they ever were.  But are they making any points?  Is there any truth to what they say or is there more spin and propoganda than actual facts?

To find out, I've been reading the site Ten Myths of DAB, which claims to "...explain why the Government is intent on steamrollering this through and the secrets they are keeping from us."

The site actually manages to get off to a good start...

"The more one looks into the whole question of the proposal to switch off the FM transmission network for national stations, such as Radio's 3 and 4, the more one realises there is no compelling reason or mandate to do so as far as the consumer is concerned."

Perfectly correct, actually.  There is no compelling mandate as far as the consumer was concerned.  In the same way, there was no compelling mandate for the consumer to switch from Sky analogue to Sky Digital, until Sky decided they were going discontinue analogue transmissions in 2001, 11 years before the analogue terrestrial network was switched off.  Sky created the mandate, just like the Government did with the analogue terrestrial television network, and they want to do with analogue radio. 

But after that good start, the site goes downhill very quickly...

"The more I researched into this, the more apparent it became that because of this lack of mandate, with the exception of one report, every single document from the Government or Ofcom regarding the FM switch off is redolent of hype, marketing spin and smacks of desperation.  As an ex-Marketing Director, I can smell it a mile off.

Yet the Government remains firmly committed to doing this.  So why the steamroller?

The answer is simple.  The commercial radio guys want to make more money.

At your expense."

Hmm.  Are you so sure about that?  If that were the case, the commercial radio powerhouses would be far more committed to DAB than they really are.  Their support is lukewarm at best, and in fact, at worst, they are downright hostile to DAB.  And they have been ever since 2008, and a report from Grant Goddard of Enders Analytics, a report incidentally I wrote about at the time.  It was a hit job worthy of Fox News on a Democratic candidate, not an analysis at all.

So, if this was about the commercial radio companies, they would not be as opposed to it as they are.  That is one big mark against the site.

So let's examine each of these 10 myths that the site talks about.

"Myth 1 - DAB is being consumer led."

Now, this is actually kinda interesting.  This is the first myth, yet nowhere in the piece do they talk about consumers actions.  They don't mention that in the past 3 years, DAB reciever sales have been consistent at 1.9 million units per year.  Nor do they mention that DAB accounts for over 20% of all radio listening in this country, 4 times as much as Digital TV or the Internet, although internet listening is growing at a much faster rate, partially because of the availablity of good, solid, internet radio apps, such as TuneIn, UK RadioPlayer. BBC iPlayer Radio, and RTE Radio Player.

What they do mention is the change in emphasis in the Government's 50% target, from 50% of all listening on DAB, to 50% of all listening on Digital.  That change in emphasis had not gone unnoticed by many, even within the industry. 

The other thing they mention is transmission costs for the radio stations, and how they've gone up.  Well of course they've gone up.  Think about it, if you were transmitting on FM only, and now you're transmitting an FM signal, a DAB signal and two online streams, one for home use and one for mobile use, then transmission costs are bound to have gone up.  They even quote from a 2010 House of Lords Communications Committee report that quotes figures from the RadioCentre.  RadioCentre is the UK's commercial radio industry trade body., and this is the quoted piece.

"...RadioCentre told us that total transmission costs have risen from £50m a year, five years ago to £70m, of which £40m is for analogue transmission (FM and AM), £20m for DAB transmission and £10m for other forms of transmission, such as DTT and satellite..."

So, naturally they extrapolate from those figures that analogue transmission is more expensive, and that the commercial radio industry wants to shut down analogue. 

Wrong.

That £40million is spread between far more analogue transmitters than DAB's £20million is.  More than double the amount of transmitters.  Think about this.  From the Redruth transmitter, the following signals are transmitted on FM...

BBC Radio 2 on 89.7 FM
BBC Radio 3 on 91.9 FM
BBC Radio 4 on 94.1 FM
BBC Radio 1 on 99.3 FM
Classic FM on 101.5 FM
Pirate FM on 102.8 FM
BBC Radio Cornwall on 103.9 FM
Heart South West on 107.0 FM

...and the following singals are transmitted on AM...

BBC Radio Cornwall on 630 AM
BBC Radio 4 on 756 AM
BBC Radio 5 Live on 909 AM
TalkSport on 1089 AM
Absolute Radio on 1215 AM

...and each one of those signals is transmitted by a separate transmitter, on the Redruth mast.  13 stations, 13 transmitters.

In constrast, on that same Redruth mast, there are just 3 digital transmitters...

South West Digital Radio on 218.64 MHz, aka block 11B.  That block transmits 7 stations.
Digital One on 222.06 MHz, aka block 11D.  That block transmits 14 stations.
BBC National DAB on 225.64 MHz, aka block 12B.  That block transmits 12 stations.

3 transmitters, 33 stations.  Surely less transmitters to transmit more stations makes it cheaper?  No, it doesn't.  DAB transmission is much more expensive than FM or AM transmission, and not every AM and FM station currently broadcasts on DAB.  In fact, stations like The Breeze have stopped transmitting on DAB, simply because they are not making enough money to justify transmitting on DAB.

So much for that argument.

Overall, the 'myth' that DAB is consumer led is in fact, only Half True.  Consumer demand can be described as steady, both for the equipment, and the services.  And in a time of recession, where spending on discretionary items such as consumer electronics has gone down significantly and led to the collapse of Comet, DAB's steady performance is more encouraging than discouraging.

Myth 2 does not have a title, but is all to do with the sound quality.  Certainly this topic has sparked many a debate between audiophiles, who want the quality of signal maintained, and others, who prefer more choice, without necessarily maintaining the quality.  Unless enough frequencies are released to ensure every digital transmission has a minimum of 128 kbps, and that looks unlikely, you are never going to satisfy the audiophile.  I have to rate this myth as Mostly True.

"Myth 3 - DAB sales are growing year on year."

Having read this through, I have to rate this as "Pants On Fire".  Here's why.

They reference the DWRG Interim Report, but notice they don't say when that report was.  This is what they quote from that report...

"The take-up of DAB digital radio over the last few years has been impressive.  By the end of May this year sales of DAB sets exceeded 7 million, with this figure predicted to rise to 9 million by the end of the year."

Those are not yearly sales figures, by the way, but cumulative.  Then, they manage to make the dumbest of statements.

"These figures are irrelevant unless one asks the questions "Are those digital radios in daily use?" and "Are those digital radios using FM or DAB?".  If a local straw poll I carried out locally is anything to go by then the answers would be "No" to the first one and "FM" to the second."

Would a local straw poll be carried anywhere else other than locally???  That's pretty dumb in itself.  Then to ask if that straw poll would be anything to go by... oh dear.  No, a straw poll has little value other than being very circumstancial and very flimsy.  Remember, DAB represents over 20% of all radio listening in this country.  1 hour in every 5 hours is heard through DAB.  Those DAB radios are definitely tuned in DAB for a not insignificant amount of time, that much is obvious from the evidence.  Does it matter whether those radios are in daily use or not?  Not really, that's perhaps the silliest question of the two. 

Whilst it would be accurate to say that DAB have not grown in the past 3 years, and are in fact slightly down on 2008, the lack of economic context to the whole question, ie that we are and have been in a recessionary period since 2008, and sales of discretionary items like consumer electronics have plummeted to the point that one major retailer of consumer electronics collapsed under a mountain of debt, so fundamentally undermines the whole point, as to render the whole 'myth' as totally irrelevant.  It's totally busted.

"Myth 4 - Radio listeners want more choice."

This is another one, where there is evidence both ways.  Ask most people upfront if they want more choice, and most will generally say no.  However, the evidence also says that when they have more choice, they tend to use it.  This myth is rated as "Half True."

"Myth 5 - There is a robust Cost Benefit Analysis in favour of the FM switch off."

This one is more difficult, because there is a lack of evidence either way.  An Ofcom commissioned report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 2009 was only released after being heavily redacted.  Now you can go with the "no smoke without fire" principle if you like.  I will point out that tyres can spin and produce smoke, but will never catch fire, rendering the whole principle useless.  You have to look at this from the same kind of perspective as you would in Court.  And what's more, you have to apply the same principle of "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" to both the pro and con arguments.  And if you do that, neither argument satisfies Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.  This is a classic "Not Proven", a verdict that is only rendered in Scottish courts.  So, due to the lack of conclusive evidence either way, the only way I can call this is "Plausible but Not Proven."

"Myth 6 - DAB has no interference"

This is another myth, that I have to rate as "Pants On Fire", because although it looks more sensible, again the evidence paints a totally different picture.

Unless you are practically right next door to an FM transmitter, nobody hears an FM signal without some background interference.  No AM signal is interference free either.  A decent DAB radio, placed in a good reception area, gives a signal that is free of background interference. 

Now granted not everywhere has decent DAB reception.  The same applies for FM.  Just spend some time listening to FM on the train.  Reception comes and goes like crazy, and white noise can drown out signals.  DAB suffers in the same way, but instead of white noise, you get this burbling sound that is actually worse than white noise, and just as frustrating.  But that is the physics of radio transmission, not a problem with DAB as a platform. 

So, on the basis that the basis for the myth, is totally undermined by simple science, this is rated "Pants On Fire."  It's totally busted.

"Myth 7 - The analogue infrastructrure needs £200million of capital expenditure."

This is another myth, that actually has very little evidence at all.  The figure does seem to have been plucked out of thin air.  £200million over the next 20 years, to maintain the FM network?  That figure could be an overstatement, or it could be an understatement.  Transmitter parts do need replacing from time to time, and transmitters do need regular maintenance, so that figure actually could be a gross understatement.  But without more evidence, it's impossible to answer conclusively either way.  This one too is "Plausible but Not Proven."

"Myth 8 - The Government are doing this to sell off the FM spectrum."

This is one of the easiest myths to bust.  This is all they write on the page for that myth.

"If they are then it's wishful thinking because no-one (including PwC) have identified any commercial purpose, other than audio, for the FM spectrum were it to be freed up."

I may suggest that whoever wrote this hasn't been paying attention.  Mobile phone networks are always looking for more frequencies to expand their calls and data services and increase capacity.  Those companies that produce hand held walkie talkies have been lobbying for the frequencies to be used for local communication networks.  Even computer network manufacturers are looking for frequencies for Wi-Fi and other wireless network technologies.  To say nobody has identified any commercial purpose other than audio, is totally wrong.  This one is busted and gets the "False" rating.

"Myth 9 - Digital radio listening is really taking off."

Apparently, the writer of the website, does not understand mathematics.  He tries to claim that an increase from 13% to 26% is an increase of 13%.  In fact, it's an increase of 100%, as the figure has doubled.  Similarly, he claims that going from 19% to 21% is an increase of 2%.  In fact, it's more like 10%.  And with DAB listening going up by around 10% in 2012, well, it's not exactly taking off, but it is growth.

On that very simple basis, he so totally undermines his whole argument on that myth, as to render other points he makes on that page as moot and irrelevant.  This is another "Pants On Fire".  It is totally busted.

"Myth 10 - No such thing as a digital radio switchover.  No such thing as a DAB switchover.  It is an FM Switch Off."

Okay so if that is the myth, why do you then contradict yourself by then writing...

"The DCMS and Ofcom have been very clever here and a masterclass in subterfuge.  Rather than talk about the Great FM Switch Off, for that is what it is, they started talking about the DAB Switchover."

You just busted your own myth, with your own words.  And by the way, factually, AM still hasn't been switched off yet, and there are still a number of stations across the country broadcasting AM signals.  So it wouldn't be just an FM switch off, but an analogue switch off, but it would only be a switch off, if there were nothing to replace it.  But there is Digital Radio, so it is a switchover.  "Pants On Fire" rating again, and this one is double busted!

Overall, this is just another example of spin and propoganda against the DAB platform, based upon half truths, and unprovables.  Not one of the ten myths stood up to scrutiny and came away unscathed.  The closest was myth 2, but with the demand from various companies for frequencies, the likelyhood of broadcasters being allowed to expand the number of frequencies that they have available, is so small as to be virtually impossible, which took the edge of something that was otherwise pretty accurate.  Unfortunately for the anti DAB community, this site is so full of misinformation as to be useless.  As a site, it gets a "Mostly False" rating.  What truth there is here, is often so far out of context and over extrapolated as to make what is written very very shaky.

Friday, May 03, 2013

UK Local Elections 2013: What actually happened.

Well, that was a very interesting election.  Let me start with the three stories that I originally posted about after 10pm last night.

Let's start with the overall result in Cornwall.

Liberal Democrats - 36
Independent - 35
Conservative - 31
Labour - 6
UK Independence Party - 6
Mebyon Kernow - 4
The Labour and Co-operative Party - 2
Unspecified - 2
Green Party - 1
Liberal Party in Cornwall - 0

Compare that result, with the result from back in 2009

Conservative - 50
Liberal Democrat - 38
Independent - 32
Mebyon Kernow - 3
Labour - 0
UK Independence Party - 0
Green Party - 0
Liberal Party - 0
British National Party - 0
English Democrats - 0
Unspecified - 0

Now the first thing  you'll notice is that the Conservatives have lost a lot of seats, 19 in all, so yeah, not a great election for them, going down from first to third.  But the Liberal Democrats shouldn't be celebrating too much either.  They might be the largest party in the council now, but they have lost 2 seats overall, so not exactly a stellar performance either.

Labour had a reasonable election gaining back 6 seats, 8 if you include their Co-operative allies.  They had been totally wiped out when the county council became a Unitary authority in 2009, but this is a good result.  Most of the seats were in the old Falmouth and Camborne constituency, although two were in Penzance, one in Mevagissey and the biggest surprise was Labour winning the Gunnislake and Calstock ward, although the candidate who won this time, was orignally an Independent in 2009.

UKIP did well as well, gaining their first seats on the unitary authority.  They won 2 wards in Camborne, they also won in Four Lanes; Lynher; Mabe, Perranarwothal & St Gluvias; and Newquay Treviglas.

Mebyon Kernow made 2 gains in Penwithick and Boscoppa, & Crowan and Wendron, but lost a ward in Camborne, bring their seat count to 4.  The Greens made a gain in St Ives as well, and two candidates who got elected did not even specify their political affiliation  Kinda strange to think two councillors got elected and nobody knows their political affiliation, so you don't know what you were voting for.

Surprisingly, Independent candidates continued to do well with 3 more Independents being elected this time compared to 2009.  And one of those candidates who got elected was surprisingly, Colin Brewer.

The man who said disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down, got re-elected by only 4 votes in Wadebridge East.  335 votes to 331 for the second place Liberal Democrat.  Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of boos ringing out in Wadebridge at the count when that result was announced.  There was a facebook campaign running to stop him running in the election, I imagine the campaign to get him out of office again will picking up steam.

However, one man who did lose his seat today was Alec Robertson, the former council leader, before he was forced to resign.  His seat in Helston North was won by Independent Phil Martin with 590 votes, with Robertson only getting 494 votes.  Robertson was one of 19 Tories as I said earlier who lost this time around.

Nationally, the picture wasn't much better for the Tories.  They lost control of 10 councils. Two councils Labour retook control of.  Those councils were Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.  The Liberal Democrats and UKIP gained no councils at all.  The Conservatives also lost 335 coucnil seats overall, with the Liberal Democrats, their coalition partners, also losing councillors, 124 in all.  Labour recovered most ground on the night, gaining 291 council seats, and UKIP, the major talking point in the news tonight, gained 139 seats.

Overall, the smaller parties made small gains.  Greens gained 5 seats overall, Residents Association gained 2 new seats, bringing their total to 12, and the Liberal Party, the remnants of the original Liberal party that didn't merge with the SDP to become the Liberal Democrats, they gained another seat too, bringing their total to 3.  However, not all the small parties gained ground.  The British National Party lost the 3 seats they held on councils.  So now, there are no BNP councillors.

In the South West, whilst Cornwall and Bristol remained in No Overall Control, the Tories did manage to hold onto Devon, Somerset and Dorset councils.  As I reported earlier, the Tories barely held onto Somerset, whilst Dorset was more comfortable.  Devon also ended up being reasonably comfortable for the Tories, winning 38 of the 62 seats available.  No other party got into double figures.  Liberal Democrats won 9 seats, Labour 7 seats, UKIP 4 seats, Independents 3 seats and Greens 1 seat.

Bristol remians in No Overall Control, but the picture was very interesting.  Out of the 23 seats contested this time, 10 changed hands, and they were all from the Liberal Democrats.  7 went to Labour, 2 to the Green Party and one to an Independent.  Bristol was one of the few areas where UKIP failed to win a seat.

UKIP though did have a good night overall.  In Lincolnshire, they won 16 seats from a total standing start.  In a few councils, UKIP are now the official opposition, mostly to the Tories, who should really be their right wing allies, but are splitting the right wing vote, in much the same way that the SDP caused a major split in the left wing vote in the 1980s after they split from Labour.

So there we have it.  Good night for Labour, better for UKIP, not so good for the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats could have come out worse, but they also could have faired a lot better.