Asking the wrong questions; Brendan Eich, boycotts & freedom of speech.

In recent days, the appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla has caused somewhat of a stir.  This is in no small part due to Eich’s history of political donations to various right-wing curiosities, specifically his donations to campaigns working against equal marriage rights for homosexuals.

While I find Eich’s purported view to be regressive and harmful, the vehement reaction on social media sites has been arguably more problematic.  Sites like OkCupid have asked people to boycott Firefox, and there is a growing crowd wanting his head on a silver platter or at least whatever counts as a silver platter on Twitter these days.

People – as far as I can tell- aren’t asking whether his views affected his work but are asking only of his views.  Since when did we blithely disregard the right to free speech, e.g. First Amendment to US Constitution, Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the somewhat mealy-mouthed EU Convention on Human Rights.  The overriding feature of a right is that is must apply to everyone – no matter how much of a prejudicial bawbag that person may be – at least up till the point that their rights don’t interfere with other peoples’ rights.

The important question should be whether Brendan Eich’s views have affected his work decisions, not whether we are opposed to his views.  If it has affected work decisions, yes, of course he should step-down; if not, we are ourselves heading into dangerous territory.

Are we really willing to go down the path of petitioning companies and charities not to post people in prominent positions because we oppose their political views, which is ironically one of the first criticisms we levy against repressive regimes?  If people are hired-and-fired according to personal belief, is that not discrimination?

I don’t like Eich’s views.  At all.  I am however alarmed at the scant regard we as a society have for the very rights we proclaim to protect.

As a final thought: how many people who have boycotted Firefox have also turned-off Javascript support in their new browser of choice…

 

 

Posted in Freedom of Speech & Censorship, Observations | Leave a comment

A question of principle; Edinburgh Napier University’s Principal, Dame Joan Stringer, issues press release on Craighouse.

Presumably in response to the recent letter sent by Friends of Craighouse, the Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, Dame Joan Stringer, has issued a press release.

Given this is one of the precious few public statements made by Joan – and no, I am not being rude by “first naming” her, she is referred to by first name in the press release – I shall proceed to make comment on each section.

First off the bat we have,

Craighouse view towards Arthur's Seat Sunny Day

Craighouse view towards Arthur’s Seat Sunny Day

“Dame Joan Stringer, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, has set the record straight over the proposed housing development on the former Craighouse Campus.”

Auch, no, that is not going to work.  There has been no setting straight of records at all.    For starters, there is no explanation of why the estate was sold at a bargain basement price of £10m to a property development company – Mountgrange Investment Management LLP – ran by people who, arguably, have a colourful record.

The two senior partners listed for Mountgrange Investment Management LLP are the same two people who were directors of Mountgrange Capital plc – Martin Myers and Manish Chande – that ran the Caltongate development, and we all know how well that little pet project went.  What you may not be familiar with is Mountgrange Capital plc’s accounts; well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun for you, so I shall link to an easily available source, here (login using either Facebook or Google to download accounts) – 2006, 2007 and 2008 are the most interesting.

Getting back to the release,

“Dame Joan said she was disappointed that an emotive disinformation campaign was being mounted by campaigners against the development.”

She’s disappointed, well, now that is a pity.  Although, precisely why the incumbent of the top post for an institution that has an annual income of £110m is disappointed at a community campaign is beyond me.

If she indeed feels that the information the campaign has published is not correct then perhaps she would wish to furnish the local community with relevant documentation to prove otherwise?

While on the subject of documentation, Napier appears to have misplaced their financial records relating to their continued financial interest in Craighouse, as least as far as the reply to my Freedom of Information request suggests.  Despite not bothering with such frivolities as paper-work for a multi-million pound business deal, we do get some meagre confirmation later, perhaps she has memorised the salient figures.

Moving on,

“She said: ‘I am saddened that that certain individuals appear to be attempting to distort the facts and discredit the name of Edinburgh Napier University.’”

Now, I am not sure whether by “certain individuals”, she refers to the 5,000 people that have signed a petition against the new build development.  On second thoughts, maybe she was referring to Jim Eadie MSP’s statements opposing the current proposals.  No, well, it could be that she was referring to the statements made by numerous politicians.  Oh, I really don’t know, she could even have been referring to the very detailed and considered letter from the Cockburn Association.  If she is going to be vague, I suppose we shall not get to know who those these people of whom she speaks are.

She is quoted verbatim,

“‘I am not prepared to get drawn into a war of words but I am determined to put the true facts into the public domain.’”

That’s fantastic news: we have been waiting for the true facts about Craighouse for well over a year now!  I wonder when Stringer & Co. will release this promised information.

She goes on to say,

“The university continues to be a good neighbour to the people of Craighouse. This is one of the reasons why the university is a co-applicant on the planning application, as we can continue a monitoring role.”

So Napier is undertaking a monitoring role, curious.  Well, if Napier stand to make money from the development, is that not somewhat a conflict of interest?  I also did not know that being a good neighbour was the main concern here, rather more preventing the destruction of a vital piece of Edinburgh’s heritage and preserving precious green space in the city.  Personally, I am not convinced that neighbourly politeness has much to do with protection of green space, planning law, conservation or use of public funds.

I also thought neighbours listened to each others’ concerns.  If we are to continue on this analogy then currently all her neighbours are shouting rather loudly over the fence telling her she cannot build on the garden while urging her to implement essential repairs to prevent her house falling down from dry rot damage.  Maybe if the community went round with a casserole and a bottle of wine, she would be more receptive to the complaints?

She goes on to say,

“‘The university would not have supported a development of high density, as was presented in some of the tenders.’”

The University should not be supporting this proposed development nor should Craighouse have been sold-off on the cheap to an off-shore investment fund.  Is it only I that hears alarm bells with the words “off-shore investment fund”?  No?

Thankfully, not too much public money was poured into maintaining the estate, oh, nope, sorry, that’s wrong.  There was a rather big grant from Historic Scotland, if my memory serves me right, over £2m.  Also, there was a fair amount ploughed into the estate from Napier itself.  So Mountgrange really have got a good deal!

To finish off, she says,

“’We continue to have a material interest in the site and that allows us to influence the final plan. 

However, there are details of the agreement which remain commercially sensitive but we are not making a ‘killing’ on the sale as has been claimed. We received £10m as an initial payment and we will receive a further payment at a later date.

The second payment will not be anywhere near the millions of pounds that are being quoted by certain individuals. We estimate that this is likely to be around £1.5m.’”

For that, we must be thankful.  If it were not for her good memory, the projected profit may have been lost to the ether!  Although, I suspect £1.5m is, in most peoples’ definition of money, “millions of pounds”.

 

Being more serious for a moment: The Craighouse Partnership which comprises Mountgrange Investment Management, Sundial Properties and Edinburgh Napier University are proposing to build more than 100 residential units in a pervasive and extensive new build development across the open green space.  This is despite their proposals being contrary to the Local Development Plan, Craighouse sitting within a conservation area, the green space at Craighouse been designated as Open Space  and an Area of Great Landscape Value, and the pending Special Landscape Area designation.  There is an exceedingly heavy legal presumption against development on the green space or woods at the Craighouse estate.  For Napier to be part of a consortium that is intending to run contrary to all of that should be serious cause for concern.

In my opinion, a University should be acting as educator, undertaking research and pursuing academic interests.  Mountgrange and Sundial are private companies in the property business, so their interests in this context are to an extent understandable.  In contrast, the public purse does not fund academic institutions to go off and play property developer, especially on protected land and against the context of massive public opposition.

In my own view, Joan Stringer’s handling of Craighouse has been poor and I would invite her to consider whether her continued position as Principal is tenable.

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In Defens; voices resolute in opposition to new build at Craighouse.

After Napier University sold the estate at Craighouse to an off-shore holding company owned/handled by Mountgrange Investment Management LLP, there has been grave fear in the local community that the beautiful green space would be decimated.

The plans put forward by the almost cabal-esque Craighouse Partnership – comprising Napier University, Mountgrange and Sundial – have been put to the community, rejected and put forward again in a more severe form.  Their current proposals would see the Orchard, the green space at the bottom of the lawn, and several other key areas of the site destroyed.  The essence and brilliance of the site would be forever lost.

Despite being contrary to the Local Development Plan and proposing extensive new build on a heavily protected site, for some reason it appears the Craighouse Partnership are still blithely promoting their plans.

Thankfully, the protests against these proposals are gathering apace.  Friends of Craighouse have secured formal opposition from two community councils, a petition comprising over 4,500 signatures, strong statements from a number of politicians, a letter of opposition from the Cockburn Association and yesterday Jim Eadie MSP stated he will “…vigorously oppose any planning application based on these proposals”.  You can read their article in full here.

I hope you will stand with us and oppose any new build on the Craighouse estate.  Originally designed as an asylum, it has survived for over 200 years as a pristine example of how the natural environment can heal.  Thousands of people from the local community use the land to relax, walk, take in views of the city and view the fireworks during the festival.  From families and children to romantic couples and the elderly, there are few people nearby that do not take amenity from the site.  Should we all be deprived and Edinburgh left so much poorer to satisfy the avarice of the few?

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Promise me this; manifestos for the Edinburgh local Council elections 2012.

The local Council election campaigning in Edinburgh is heating up before people go to the polls next Thursday, 3rd May.

Manifestos

As an easy point of reference, here are links to the manifestos of the five main parties a number of the main parties and independent candidates along with my preliminary opinions on having skim read the documents.  If any independent candidate or other party wish their manifesto linked to as well, feel free to leave a comment here and it shall be done.

Labour

While I have admittedly so far only read the manifestos in a rather rapid fashion, Labour’s production does seem to me as by far the best.  Aside from the initial diversion into negative campaigning, it quickly regains focus on some fairly concise and well thought-out plans.  Their policies appear to be derived from a public consultation exercise, which certainly shows and is to their credit.  Whether you agree with their plans or not, it is the only manifesto of the main five that have set out in fairly concrete terms what they intend to do and actually “put their head on the block”.

Greens

Well, it is in a very presentable format but left me slightly disappointed.  There is a distinct lack of engagement and it has essentially missed the mark.  When one reads into it further, there are good policies there, written in an non-obvious way.  A hint of passion behind those words and it would have been a winner, however the reader very much has to work for it.

Scottish National Party – SNP

Whether this has been created through disinterest or misplaced intent, I do not know.  From my own perspective, it completely and manifestly failed to engage and sounded like it was pitched to businesses rather than voters.  Not impressed one bit and I suspect SNP have probably lost any chance of obtaining my vote in these elections.

Liberal Democrats – LibDem

Whoever wrote this should probably not be writing material for public consumption.  Their writing style is akin to my own, which is precisely the type of writing you do not want for enticing voters.  In the same sentence that they accuse Labour of having been arrogant and remote they use the word “profligate”; fine, it may be the most suitable word but ornate language is likely to be interpreted by many a voter as a sign of showing-off.  Despite the poor formatting and the absolutely inappropriate style of prose, there are some interesting policy nuggets carefully burried in there.  I suspect it is worth the time to read, how many voters have that time is another story.

Conservative and Unionist Party – Tory

Despite my holding the current Westminster government in utter contempt, I did decide to be fair and at least skim read their local election manifesto.  I feel further comment is unnecessary.

Gordon Murdie; Independent (Newington / Southside)

From all other evidence, Gordon Murdie appears to be a very capable and committed candidate. Certainly, it is heartening to again see candidates stand for election purely for the purpose of changing things they perceive as wrong, a refreshing counter-point to career politicians. His manifesto is unfortunately not up to scratch and it is probably better either checking his blog here – which has far more concise information and relevant information – or tweeting/emailing him.

Pirate Party

If you are looking for an easily digestible, clear and concise manifesto then this has come top for me so far: I could read it and comprehend the policies advanced in less than five minutes. The policy content itself is unlikely to garner voters though. I get the impression there has been some significant difficulty in shoe-horning their very well delineated national policies into a local context. There are sensible suggestions in there such as allowing a connected journey on a single far bus ticket or the bike sharing scheme, however they are consistently undermined by oddities such as motorising the aforementioned bikes. More seriously, I suspect the true complexity and practicalities of the major issues have not been fully appreciated. I would posit the singular success of Phil Hunt’s campaign will be awareness of the party at a national level, which is not a bad result.

Twitter

For those who use Twitter, I have compiled a list of all the local election candidates I could find.

In the future, all parties should really take a leaf out of Labour’s book and list your candidates with email AND Twitter or Facebook addresses – it would have saved me a substantial amount of time doing Google searches and rummaging through other peoples’ followers.

Anyway, the full “official” Council list can be found here (I did have an easier list but cannot find it, typical).

For the Twitter list I compiled, it can be found here.  Again, if there are any omissions or errors, feel free to notify me.

REVISION HISTORY:

- 28th/29th April, correct spelling mistake.
- 30th April, add Gordon Murdie's manifesto
- 1st May, add Pirate Party manifesto

Posted in Edinburgh | 6 Comments

Pistols at nightfall; Wikipedia blackout and shelving of SOPA.

In the last few hours, the English language version of Wikipedia has confirmed that it will go dark for 24 hours on Wednesday this week (18th January 2012) in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which has been debated in the US House of Representatives recently and drawn opposition from wide circles including 83 prominent internet inventors, pioneers and engineers.  Curiously, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform have also released a statement in a rather hurried manner asserting that the hearing pencilled in for Wednesday on DNS issues has been postponed and that no move for a vote will be made until a consensus can be obtained.

The PROTECT IP Act / Senate Bill 968 is still very much alive and – from a careful reading of Chairman Issa’s words – SOPA is definitely not dead but merely held in waiting.  With battle-lines being drawn, the move to hold off on SOPA appears less of a retreat than a consolidation until public hostility is mitigated or peoples’ attention more distracted.

The rampant commercial interests backing SOPA may have gained a bloody nose but if anything is clear at this moment in time – the fight is far from over.

 

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Watch yer language; David Cameron compares Ed Miliband to someone with Tourette’s.

Not a month ago, I had written about Daniel Moylan’s comment in the London Evening Standard where he described Ken Livingston as “schizophrenic”.  Hot on Moylan’s heals we have our glorious leader, David Cameron, in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph describe speaking opposite Ed Miliband as

“… like having someone with Tourette’s permanently sitting opposite you.”

What a charming utterance from our Prime Minister.  To his credit – and probably on the behest of his advisors – he did apologise, although one really would not expect such comments from a skilled orator with a first class honours degree from Oxford to begin with.

If one were cynical – and when it comes to politics, I always am – his comment could be seen as drawing attention to himself and the associated Sunday Telegraph interview, which contains nice fuzzy items about finally kicking seven-shades-of-bonus out of over-paid corporate execs.  Yes, ok, that is a very appealing notion at the moment: when most people are struggling, it is absolutely obscene that a small minority of people should be paid seven-figure bonuses.  Massive corporate bonuses, however iniquitous, are small compared to the real wealth gap: the Sunday Times “Rich List” top 10 entries have a combined worth of almost £90bn; the OECD notes that the top 1% of earners took a 7.1% share of total income in 1970 but in 2005 were taking a staggering 14.3% (really think about that for a moment, 1% of people taking 14.3% of total income, year-on-year); and I suspect these figures will be dwarfed against the assets held by those stashing most of their doubloons off-shore, or in more inventive investments like third-world arms deals.

Looking back to Big Dave’s “Tourette’s” comment and his public-pleasing proposals on bonuses, are they perhaps to divert attention from a far more important issue?  Well, it turns out Nicolas Sarkozy is currently pushing rather hard for a European-wide financial transaction tax and Cameron has said unless the rest of the world joins in, he will not play ball.

This is a real pity, since four-out-of-five people in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy think the financial sector has a responsibility to clean up its own mess and support for a financial transaction tax in the UK is 65%.  The Robin Hood Tax campaign advocates a tax on certain financial transactions such as bonds, shares, forex and derivatives transfers of around 0.05%; they estimate if their financial transaction tax were to be applied globally, it would raise £250bn per annum and in the UK alone £20bn per annum.  Interestingly, one of the earliest proponents of using financial transaction taxes to control speculation seems to have been John Maynard Keynes in 1936.

Sums in the region of £20bn per annum can make real improvements in peoples’ lives, especially when you compare it to George Osborne’s 2010 announcement that he intended to cut £18bn from the welfare budget by 2014-15.

So why would a Prime Minister not be chomping at the bit to enact such a tiny tax on financial transactions that are almost wholly used for speculation and trading?  It would be very popular with the electorate and would immediately improve the Chancellor’s situation.  Well, that is for the reader to decide but for a moment, lets take a look at the scale of these sort of financial instruments.  On foreign-exchange trading alone there is a global daily trading volume of around $4tr – that is $4,000,000,000,000 traded every day – with UK Sterling comprising roughly 13% of that trading volume.  To put that into perspective, the UK annual GDP is in the region of $2.25tr.  If one calculates the potential tax revenue from forex alone, it suggests the figures from the Robin Hood Tax campaign are very much a conservative estimate of potential revenue.  Now, forex – and I would assume derivatives and bond trading – are what you call “OTC” or “over-the-counter” markets; that means that there is no central exchange nor global record of transactions, instead transactions are made between individual institutions or parties (which also implies there is no single market price, only what others are willing to offer you).  Can you imagine that an industry with daily trading volumes measured in trillions of dollars will be particularly happy with their affairs being subject to the very much tighter scrutiny involved in administering the financial transaction tax?  I certainly cannot.

That is all speculation though, except from fact that David Cameron used a definition of mental illness as an insult.  That is twice in as many months a Conservative politician has done so and is a bit of a poor show.  At least Cameron had the good grace to apologise, Mr Moylan has not.

In a wider context, definitions connected to mental health are pervasively misused or misattributed.  How many times have you heard people employ phrases such as “the shops were absolutely manic today” or “the football today was depressing” in general conversation?  When I was a child, it was common to hear the stem “schizo” – derived from schizophrenia – used as a derogative.  “Psycho” has even made it into film titles, quite whether it refers to psychopathy or psychosis still escapes me.  To those at the sharp end of mental illness, terms such as mania, depression, schizophrenia and psychosis have very real and specific meanings.  For example, mania has fuck-all to do with the town centre being busy.

To date, I have never heard serious illnesses such as cancer, pneumonia or coronary heart disease used in a similar context.  Why is it then considered acceptable to use definitions of mental illness as an insult?

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Talk to me; the effective use of Twitter for those in the public-eye.

In recent days, it seems Rupert Murdoch @rupertmurdoch has decided to dip his toe into the waters of the Twitter high-seas.  Now, while, to his credit he has started off better than most politicians, media hacks, corporations, et al, it seems he still has not quite grasped the nature of the beast – if one wants to use Twitter to spread a message then they have to realise that it is fundamentally a bilateral conversation.  Such nuggets as,

I LOVE the film “we bought a zoo”, a great family movie. Very proud of fox team who made this great film.

are unlikely to pass the average user’s inbuilt advertising filter.

Other very high profile users also appear to have missed the point, for example: @BarackObama does not tweet back to anyone at all, as far as I can see; the profile for our beloved Deputy Prime Minister, @nick_clegg, appears similarly bereft of replies; even an account that I would have expected to be conversing with their fan-base, @coldplay, has the air of a preacher on the pulpit.  I posit that to use Twitter merely as a means of disseminating links to other content is a missed opportunity and for those with an image to protect, possibly damaging.

It is not hard to find examples of high-profile people or organisations that have indeed embraced the true nature of Twitter – conversation!  The most obvious example that comes to mind is @johnprescott.  It is not by luck that his tweet,

Ok Twitter. #murdochsdeletedtweets Go!

rapidly started a deluge of people ripping-the-pish out of Mr Murdoch.  The difference between these two use-cases?  John Prescott has obviously realised that there are real people on the other side of @ addresses and will talk to them, frequently.

The list of folk that have got into the spirit is indeed extensive, including such gems as  @charltonbrooker (Charlie Brooker), @EricPickles, and the wonderfully eccentric @jonsnowC4.  Celebrity chefs have got the idea with people like @jamieoliver and @Nigella_Lawson frequently replying to recipe queries.  Even @Ed_Milliband seems to have figured it out with most of his stream comprising of replies to people, albeit with a slight hiccup or two early on, however he retweeted some of the more funny ones, e.g.

If you fell through a crack in the universe would anyone notice? #AskEdM

#askEdM Why doesn’t superglue stick to the inside of the tube?

#AskEdM how long is it to tipperary & will I have to go via the
congestion charge zone to get there?

suggesting he at least has a sense of humour and can take a joke.

So, morale of the story?  Twitter is essentially a tool to have quick conversations with people at a distance; to many,  not responding to other people on Twitter is almost as rude as not responding to someone who asks you a question in person.  People or organisations intending to use Twitter to further their image or public perception would do well to bear that in mind.

 

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Seeing the light; Home Office to trial laser deterrent device for Police riot control; Photonic Security Systems – SMU100

In the aftermath of the August riots in London, it appears the Home Office is looking at alternative measures for riot control.  As reported in the Telegraph, one of these options is a ranged weapon that uses a laser to temporarily blind the target.

SMU-100 Photonic Security Systems

SMU-100 Photonic Security Systems

The manufacturer of this device, Photonic Security Systems Ltd, a Scottish company based in Sandbank Business Centre in Dunoon, appears to have originally designed this technology for use at sea against pirates.  According to their brochure, the SMU100 can project a 4m square area at 500m range.  Aside from the range specification, there is little information available with which to assess the safety of the device.  A request under the Freedom of Information Act has been made to the Home Office in an attempt to ascertain some basic specifications.

To make a comparison with something more familiar: in the UK and most of Europe, laser pointer devices are limited to Class 2, i.e. in the visible range and <1mW power output.  Without deliberately abusing the device, it would be almost impossible to cause long-term damage with these types of laser as the blink response normally occurs at around 0.25secs, well before permanent damage could occur.  In other parts of the world, laser pointers up to 5mW are regulated for; while of low incidence there have been one or two reports of long term damage from device misuse.

Like the SMU100, these types of “dazzler” weapons have been used in military applications for some time with a range of weapons already developed.  While they seem to operate at higher output power (Glare Mout device) as compared to the humble laser pointer, it appears it is standard practice for a lens to cause the beam to diverge over distance, hence not directly comparable with a standard collimated laser beam.

If the SMU100 follows the same principle of using a higher powered laser but divergent beam then the device should be safe in proper use.  The flip-side is the device could potentially be dangerous if misused.  For example, if using the specs from the above “Glare Mout” device, we can see it uses a Class 3B laser operating at 532nm with max 125mW power output.  If such a device were used at very close range then the beam will have not diverged and the result would be a high risk of causing permanent blindness.

The value of these weapons in military settings is immediately obvious: one can conceivably control a number of given situations without being forced into shooting someone.  In that sense, they could potentially reduce casualties on both sides of an encounter.  In a civilian setting, decidedly different considerations come into play with serious questions over use of Tasers and CS spray / PAVA spray already in the media.  In the US, the situation of misuse of less-than-lethal weapons is arguably worse with recent instances of Pepper spray abuse being of particular concern (UC Davis protesters being arbitrarily Pepper sprayed).

Before the SMU100 is authorised, there must be physical assurances built into the device to prevent accidental or deliberate misuse as without those assurances it seems we are destined to repeat the mistakes made with introduction of Tasers in the UK and take another step towards militarisation of our Police forces.

 

 

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BBC advertising and common (ad)sense; BBC advertisements for non-UK users.

Ok, this is apparently old news, alas, I only noticed this was happening today and do not remember any debate or discussion on it at the time.

It seems, BBC is serving up Google Adsense advertisements on its online content for non-UK visitors.  The only reason I noticed this was because I do most of my web-browsing using a VPN I setup in annoyance at the general capitulation of UK ISPs with requests to monitor their users’ browsing habits.  Proof, as they say, is in the pudding…

BBC Weather Site Viewed from a US IP

BBC Weather Site Viewed from a US IP

 

BBC Weather Site Viewed from a UK IP

BBC Weather Site Viewed from a UK IP

 

There is actually reference to this in the BBC’s Advertising Policy:

BBC Advertising Policy

BBC Advertising Policy

The first paragraph states,

“The BBC is not permitted to carry advertising or sponsorship on its public services. This keeps them independent of commercial interests and ensures that they can be run instead to serve the general public interest.”

Which outlines the basic rationale behind why the BBC is not commercially funded, saying so explicitly,

“If the BBC sold airtime either wholly or partially, advertisers and other commercial pressures would dictate its programme and schedule priorities.

However, the last paragraph says these conditions do not apply for BBC’s services outside the UK,

The BBC runs additional commercial services around the world. These are not financed by the licence fee but are kept quite separate from the BBC’s public services. Profits are used to help keep the licence fee low so that UK licence fee payers can benefit commercially from their investment in programmes.”

If the BBC’s independence and impartiality would potentially be hindered by advertising in the UK then it is surely because of potential influence the advertiser gains by virtue of payment.  That same logic does not cease to apply based on geographic location: advertising is advertising and money is money, no matter where on earth you are.

Call be daft but does the BBC’s policy not appear slightly self-contradictory?

 

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Adding insult to injury; Boris’s transport cheif, Daniel Moylan, describes Ken Livingstone as “schizophrenic”.

Normally, I am fairly thick-skinned when it comes to people making comedic comments surrounding mental illness.  For example, I will occasionally make jokes about my own problems – perhaps it’s the Scottish trait of self-deprecation, or merely another copying strategy.  In any event, I usually take humour surrounding mental health issues in good spirit.  Where I draw the line however is when definitions of mental illness are used as an insult: it is a bad habit to get into and perpetuates the assumption that those with mental health problems are somehow of diminished worth compared to the general population.

That leads us to the subject for this blog entry, viz. the article that appeared in the London Evening Standard on Tuesday 6th December concerning Daniel Moylan’s opinion of Ken Livingstone’s transport proposals[1].  In the article, Daniel Moylan is quoted as having said,

“He [Mr Livingstone] is schizophrenic. I’m not calling him a liar but he is misleading the public and he is kind of misleading himself.

Using the term for a serious psychiatric condition as an insult is in my view pretty bad form, so I wrote Mr Moylans a letter and copied in auld Boris too for good measure.  You can download it here if you want to read it (pdf).

[1] – Boris slams Ken Livingstone over £1bn fare cuts ‘black hole’

 

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