Archive for September, 2008

Metaphor meltdown

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For some reason the current crisis in finance / banking is attracting an astonishing bevy of analogies. Many people have gone for classic weather metaphors (tornadoes, hurricanes whirlwinds), others prefer to up the ante and go for natural disasters (tsunamis, fires) and a few – not wanting to be overdone in the over-egging – go rather apocalyptic (black holes, doomsday machines):


‘This is about being in a bigger house in the middle of a financial hurricane. In the last fortnight we have seen financial titans falling like skittles’, The Daily Mail mixes its metaphors.

“The financial tsunami that has engulfed Wall Street since the weekend hit these shores yesterday” The Telegraph editorialises.

“It’s like having a fire in a cinema. Everybody is rushing to the door. You are rushing to the door because everyone is rushing to the door. Clearly, as a collective action, it is a disaster.” explains Hyun Song Shin, an economics professor at Princeton (from the Guardian Wrap).

“This week we face being destroyed by another black hole [following the threat posed by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN]“, says Valentine Low.

And Anatole Kaletsky accuses Hank Paulson of “activating a financial Doomsday machine” and of turning “his guns on his own side”.

A little more creative was the senior London banker who told The Times “The world is on the brink. The market is puking all over us”.

But my favourite came from the economist Joseph Stiglitz, talking on the Today programme: ”Some people are talking about the light at the end of the tunnel – except that light is coming from the front of a freight train barrelling towards us” (from memory)

Please do let me know if you spot any more.

Written by Martin Moore

September 18th, 2008 at 10:06 am

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Job ad betrays where PCC loyalties lie

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Anyone unsure where the loyalties of the Press Complaints Commission lie could do worse than look at the advertisement for a new Chair (printed in last Sunday’s Observer newspaper – not online for some reason, not even on the PCC’s own website bizarrely – hence the photo).

Bear in mind that this is a body that is supposed to work on behalf of the public. Indeed when it was set up, in 1991, its responsibility for protecting the freedom of the press – as well as protecting the public – was deliberately removed because it was felt this represented a serious conflict of interest.

Now take a look at the job ad. Nowhere in the ad is there a reference to the public. It tells you the candidate has to be “known to the newspaper and magazine publishing industry”. OK, so it’s clear who your friends are supposed to be. It tells you that the organisation “is funded by a levy paid by newspapers and magazines”. OK, so you know who your paymasters are (and that you’ll receive “Excellent remuneration” – though curious that there is no actual figure given it’s a public body). And it stresses that you “must be able to speak on behalf of the PCC” – rather, one must assume, than on behalf of the public.
But the role of the Chair as a representative of the public as opposed to the press? Absent. The role of the Chair to protect the public from misrepresentation, abuse, intrusion? No sign.
The ad is even disingenuous in its description of the Commission itself. The Commission does not, as the ad suggests “ensure that British newspapers and magazines follow the letter and spirit of an ethical code of practise”. This makes it sounds like it monitors the press and polices infringements of the code. It doesn’t. It reacts to complaints made by the public (more than three quarters of which it throws out before considering).
A few months back Lord Puttnam told the House of Lords Select Committee on Communication that the Press Complaints Commission was ‘essentially a cartel. It is a self-regulatory organisation that will very seldom do anything that will discomfit [the press] or make its life difficult’. Another witness, Alastair Campbell, described it as a ‘cosy media club’ (House of Lords Select Committee, Report on The Ownership of News, 2008)
This job ad does nothing to dispell those accusations.

Written by Martin Moore

September 12th, 2008 at 12:34 pm

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The Sun apologises… and next summer to be a scorcher

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A very rare thing – an apology from The Sun (credit to Regret the Error for finding it) to the former England football manager:


A big apology for Mr Eriksson:
THE Sun may have inadvertantly suggested that former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson was a prize twerp in selecting Theo Walcott for the 2006 World Cup squad.”

It remains to be seen whether next summer will indeed be a scorcher.

Written by Martin Moore

September 12th, 2008 at 8:04 am

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Show me the money!

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Back in April OFCOM launched its public service broadcasting review, bringing it forward by 2 years because it believed the crisis in funding methods was too urgent to wait.

Since then there has been an awful lot of discussion as to where the diminishing funds available for public service broadcasting will come from. What you might call a general media-wide chorus of ‘show me the money!’ Until now much of this discussion has focused on how to slice and dice the BBC’s Licence Fee (with the BBC strongly demurring of course) and very few suggestions of different ways in which to fund public service broadcasting.
Well after today, thanks to Steve Morrison (CEO of All3Media) we have some alternatives.
Morrison was speaking at one of OFCOM’s (in)famous ‘Stakeholder Events’, held at the London School of Economics this morning.  He was one of four people on a panel, each arguing the merits of one of OFCOM’s four future funding models (1. Evolution; 2. BBC only; 3. BBC & Channel 4; 4. Competitive funding).
He was arguing for model number 3 (what you might call the ‘have your cake and eat it’ model). In this scenario the BBC license fee is untouched, Channel 4 receives significant public subsidy, and there is a new ‘contestable funding pool’ of money for anyone prepared to make public service programming.
But unlike those who have previously argued the case for Model 3, Morrison had actual, tried and tested examples of potential future sources of funding. These included:
1. A sales tax on recording equipment – e.g. a 2.5% tax on MP3 players, PVRs, DVD recorders etc. (it’s not clear how/if this applies to computers/hard drives)
2. Retransmission levies – e.g. charging cable channels a small fee to rebroadcast material
3. Sales tax on other media – e.g. on cinema tickets, videos
4. A levy on broadband providers – e.g. an extra £1 on your £15 broadband bill
The difference between these and other, theoretical examples, is that each is currently in use in many other countries. The first is used in most major European countries (and raises over 500 million euros in revenue). Retransmission levies are in place in 30 European countries (according to Morrison) but not the UK. Similarly with the sales tax and levy.
These examples introduce a new dimension to the debate about the future of public service broadcasting. They reinvigorate a discussion that was becoming far too BBC-centric, and they give OFCOM new alternatives to research.
Whether there is any likelihood that, even were OFCOM to recommend one of these future funding methods, an incoming Conservative government would entertain the idea of introducing new taxes for future media provision is another question entirely. 

Written by Martin Moore

September 10th, 2008 at 1:30 pm

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