Anti-Social Media (1)

I’m sure I can’t be the only one who is pig sick of continually seeing reports across the media about people being “trolled” on “social media”, not to mention all those people who are offended on behalf of someone else, by something someone has posted somewhere on “social media”.

There’s an old Tommy Cooper joke where he goes to the doctor and says his shoulder hurts when he lifts his arm above his head. The doctor’s excellent advice? “Stop doing it!”.

So, it you don’t like what you read on “social media”, stop using it and all the “pain” and “problems” will go away! Simples!

As the (1) implies, I have further thoughts on this topic and will comment further on another occasion.

Muppet Milliband & TV Debates

Has Ed Milliband finally lost the plot [or did that happen long ago?]?

The latest nonsense he’s come up with is that the ‘TV Debates’ should be enshrined in law! I have an alternative proposal: Let’s have a law that BANS such debates at any time!!!

It is said that politics in the UK is confrontational by nature because of the two party system. [Note to Lib Dem lovers: don’t try to argue that it is now a three-party system; if the voters have any sense after your dire, destructive performance in the current coalition, your party will be wiped out from parliament on May 7th.]

Prime Minister’s Questions is a bear-baiting farce which does nothing for the reputation, and even less for the good governance, of this country. TV Debates would just be an extension of  PMQs, with even more confrontation and an embarrassing, d**k-swinging contest that will have little or nothing to do with the real issues that face us all.

What we want from our potential government is clear commitments to improving our lives, with clear explanations of how they would go about it. That could be achieved by truly unbiased representatives [thus ruling out the BBC] putting the same questions to each party in turn. Party representatives would have a limited time in which to answer, would not be allowed to talk down their opponents plans or even tell us what they think their opponents plans would produce. I realise that this would take quite an effort, as I would want all the plans costed out in macro terms [by the OBR?]. However, if the party leaders were kept busy doing that, it would at least keep them from spouting their nonsense at every ‘media opportunity’.

I would love to see viewing figures for Party Political Broadcasts but suspect they may be too low to measure.

Viewing figures for the last round of ‘TV Debates’ may have been somewhat better than PPBs. However, I suspect many of the viewers watched only  in anticipation of a ‘car crash’. I personally didn’t watch any of them and don’t plan to do so this time either.


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

If I had any money, I know where I’d put it – in the mouth of Stephen Taylor Woodrow, who is surely the most annoying voice on TV!

The voice alone is annoying, but the combination of it and the puerile, hyperbole-filled script makes it almost unbearable. It’s reminiscent of the trailers for Saturday-morning cinema films and serials from my long ago youth.

As a final insult, the activities are dramatised to the point of absurdity, making the whole programme a farcical mess in the ‘reality’ genre rather than a factual one.

Grow up, BBC!

Identity Crisis

This is not a case of me being ‘unable to find myself’ or ‘not knowing who I really am’, it’s a case of many problems created by the lack of proof of identity costing everyone in the UK money that we can ill afford to spend.

I have a number of forms of identity, including my passport, photo driving licence, bank cards, etc. I also have an EHIC card, which I have had to use abroad to gain access to medical treatment.

I keep hearing that non-UK citizens use [abuse] our health service and don’t pay anything, partly because we don’t do enough identity checks and partly because we are lax in chasing up reimbursements from fellow EU countries.

Many years ago, I had private medical insurance and was once booked into a private hospital for a procedure. When I arrived at the hospital, the receptionist welcomed me and then immediately asked me how I was going to pay for the procedure. Some may think this harsh and ‘unfeeling’, but is it really any different than when I went to hospital in Spain and had to produce my EHIC card as proof of identity before I could be seen?

I am a signatory on a number of bank/building society accounts for various organisations of which I am a member. Whenever we want a change of signatory, or of ‘nominated account holder’, all the signatories have to sign documents and even on occasion go into the branch with proof of identity [again!]. If we have to go through that for a few hundred pounds, how do criminals manage to set up multiple accounts in multiple names to help manage their activities?

Of course, not everyone has a passport or EHIC card, so what do they do? I believe a utility bill is often used as proof of identity/residence; how pathetic!

Why don’t we have a photo identity card for all UK citizens? The main objections to having a ‘smart’ national identity card seem to be cost and privacy.

I don’t recall what the last estimate of the cost of such a scheme was, but am certain it is a cost worth paying. There would also be savings in other areas, since the smart identity card could replace other forms of identity, from driving licence to EHIC, and including benefits entitlement and possibly even bank cards. The scheme would probably require additional people to administer it. Good! We could train unemployed people and get them doing something productive and worthwhile.

As to privacy, I think every one of us already has a great deal of information recorded about us, and I don’t see how an identity card increases the likelihood of identity theft or of the ‘government’ snooping and finding out more about us. If you are an honest citizen, what difference does it make? If you are honest, you should have nothing to hide.

Personally, I’d be happy for the government to listen in to all my calls. Perhaps they would then do something about all those nuisance ‘cold calls’!

Shame on you Michael Parkinson!

I used to enjoy the work of Michael Parkinson as a journalist and TV chat-show host. I almost admired him for his down-to-earth approach. However, any admiration started to fade some years ago, when he started to appear in the ‘Axa Sun Life Over 50 Plan’ advertisements. I thought these had stopped, but saw the advert again recently, hence this post.

Parkinson is undoubtedly well off and I believe his wife earned well also, so why on earth did/does he need money from adverts for such unscrupulous schemes as the ‘Over 50’ insurance plans?

In general terms, this type of plan guarantees a modest amount of money when the insured person dies. The adverts play on the conscience of older people who don’t want to leave the ‘burden of funeral expenses’ on the shoulders of their family. What, to me, is not made plain enough is that, typically: a) the maximum level of pay-out is reached after two years (so the sum payable on death doesn’t increase after that, even if the insured person lives for years and years afterwards) and b) if the payment of premiums is stopped, then the policy is invalidated and nothing will get paid out. I reckon that the majority of people will get out of the plan far less than they paid into it and many will get nothing because they eventually cotton on and cease payment of the premiums. Even at today’s very low level of interest, they would be far better putting the money into a savings account, or even into a sock under the bed!

As they are openly advertised, such plans are obviously legal, but they are immoral as far as I’m concerned and if I was in power, I’d make them illegal. The fact that they are advertised by such trusted personalities as Michael Parkinson (who may no longer be in the public eye, but will be known to and probably respected by the target audience) just makes them even more immoral.

Overseas Aid/Julian Assinge

It really staggers me that, with all the shortfalls at home in the budgets of essential services, our politicians still insist on spending billions on overseas aid, including to countries who demonstrably don’t need it, others where it seems the money only lines the pockets of corrupt officials, and yet more where the beneficiary projects are so far removed from normal life that I sometimes wonder if they are factual or made up as a joke.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I now read that the Metropolitan Police say that it has cost an extra £10 million to “police” the Ecuadorian Embassy since Julian Assinge took up residence there. I see no reason whatsoever for us having to spend anything to protect Mr Assinge. As far as I know, he is Australian and has no connection with Ecuador. However, if the additional expense is deemed essential, given that both Ecuador and Mr Assinge’s home country are “overseas”, why don’t we take the £10 million (and any further necessary expenditure) out of the Overseas Aid budget, especially as I now read they are “struggling” to spend this year’s budget?

And Mark Carney agrees with me!

One of the many things that gets my goat about our ‘United  Kingdom’ is the Barnett Formula, whereby residents of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get considerably more public money spent on them per person that we do in England. I believe the current advantage to the Scots (versus English) is some £1,700 per person per annum. I think this is totally outrageous, especially since the measure was introduced as a short-term adjustment back in the 70s.

As if that wasn’t enough, the ludicrous bribes offered to the Scottish parliament and people around the time of the independence vote just make the disparity in ‘benefits’ even worse. It seems to me that, for a united country, there are a number of things which have to be common for all citizens of that country. I won’t list them all now, but certainly one of the key things that should be common nationwide is tax in all its forms. I just can’t see how it can be considered fair for tax to differ in different parts of the country.

It seems that I am not alone in this thinking, as the Governor of the Bank of England seemed to agree with me when he said recently (albeit about the EU): “Sharing a currency without also sharing decisions on spending does not work”.

If it won’t work for the EU, why on earth would it work for the UK?

BBC Bias in Sport – again!

Having been on holiday, I haven’t had the chance to add a new post for a while, and it wasn’t my intention to return to this subject again so soon. However, the BBC can’t help itself it seems, so I have had to make another complaint.

I have posted the following, and will post here whatever ‘response’ I receive:

As I complained on a previous occasion, there is a distinct pro-Welsh bias in Rugby news on Ceefax. The problem continues …

During the last seven days, there has been a lot of rugby news. On the day it was announced, the top story [i.e. top of the ‘Headlines’ page] was that Halfpenny was replacing Williams in the Welsh team. It remained as the top story for at least two days, even when the announcement of the England team followed some 24 hours later. The England story was put in second place, even though it was more recent than the Halfpenny/Williams story.

The bias continued on Saturday. The ‘Welsh hearts broken by All Blacks’ appeared shortly after that match was completed. When the England/Samoa match was played later in the day, it was not put at the top [which it should have been as the latest news, as is done on other pages], but again put second to the Welsh story.

Furthermore, the Welsh story was the top item in the ‘Sports Headlines’ on page 301 for more than a day, whereas the England story only made the second page on 301.

When I complained previously, the non-response was that my complaint had been shown to the appropriate people. That is not an answer! I would like to hear an EXPLANATION of why this bias happens and still continues to happen.

BBC Bias in Sport

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I love sport and watch a lot of it on TV. I also use the BBC’s Ceefax service every day, both for news and sport. We no longer take a printed newspaper. We do currently subscribe to the electronic Daily Mail, but as my wife often hogs the Kindle first thing, I catch up with the world via Ceefax.

I don’t think that any rational, even-handed person can argue that the BBC is not biased in a great deal of its output. You only have to watch/listen to the headlines in news bulletins for a few days to spot the bias, which they of course deny! Political bias might be expected in any organisation, but the BBC’s bias in sport is almost incredible.

The BBC has lost the TV rights to many sports over recent years, and apart from a small number of ‘crown jewel’ events, they are largely restricted to highlights or minor sports. You might think that they would improve their coverage in other media as a result of their losses, but that certainly doesn’t apply to Ceefax.

Why do I use Ceefax rather than the BBC website? There are two main reasons: firstly, the last time I used the website, it was unreliable (e.g. watching a ‘live’ text commentary on a football match, the headline score and the text flipped back and forth on successive updates, i.e. the score went from 2-1, back to 1-1, then to 2-1, etc.); secondly, ease of use – the website on a tablet is too small to read easily, so I have to go to my PC, whereas the remote control allows me to read Ceefax whilst continuing to watch a program. There is also a question of access: most people have a TV capable of accessing Ceefax; many do not have ready access to a PC.

The Rugby Union page on Ceefax used to be 370. Some time ago, for no apparent reason, it was changed to 368 and page 370 was given to Rugby League. I am also interested in Rugby League, but this change was just tinkering for tinkering’s sake, IMHO.

I can’t remember exactly when, but Ceefax was restructured recently, to “simplify finding information” or some such balderdash. It didn’t! I knew the numbers of the pages I wanted to read and could go to them directly. The multi-tiered structure now limits this, as page numbers are not displayed for all pages, so I’m forced to go laboriously up and down one layer at a time.

Back to the bias … in Rugby Union. Exaggerating to illustrate: if a Welsh prop forward breaks a finger nail, it makes the headlines; if England wins a tournament, there is no news.

There are tournaments that do not exist according to Ceefax. These include the excellent IRB Sevens series, the Junior World Cup and the Women’s World Cup. Perhaps this is because they are broadcast on Sky Sports?

I don’t think I have ever seen any information about the Sevens series, not even results. Could this be because Wales hasn’t historically done very well in these tournaments? (They are improving, so maybe we will start to get information soon.)

During the Junior World Cup (June 2014), England had been doing rather well, Wales not so well. I cannot recall seeing anything about the tournament on Ceefax, until 15th June when what did appear annoyed me so much that I decided to register a complaint.

I was a bit surprised to find that the BBC Complaints website was in English and Welsh – no Cornish or Klingon – and I wondered how many people actually use Welsh in their everyday lives … but that’s another story.

My complaint was worded as follows:

“Although it continually issues denials, there can be little doubt in the minds of fair-minded people that the BBC is extremely biased towards the ‘left wing’ in politics. There are too many examples of the bias for it not to be true. However, on this occasion, my complaint is about sport, and rugby in particular, on Ceefax. I look at Ceefax every day for up to 30 mins, for sport and more general news. I have noticed on previous occasions that Welsh rugby gets more coverage than rugby elsewhere in the UK or elsewhere. The Junior World Championship [for Under 20s], being staged in New Zealand, started two weeks ago. Until today, I have not seen a single report or even result list on Ceefax. However, thanks to Sky Sport, I’ve been able to watch most matches and the standard of rugby has been exceptional at times. This morning, I watched the two semi-finals. In the first, defending champions England had a fairly easy win against Ireland, who were outclassed at times. The second semi-final, between favourites and 2012 winners South Africa and four-times winners New Zealand. The match was excellent and the result was in doubt until the penultimate minute. What, then do I find about JWC 2014 on Ceefax? I expected the usual ‘no mention’, but I was wrong! There is a report that Wales lost a “semi-final play-off” to France and will now contest seventh place. It was not a semi-final playoff and in terms of the overall competition, was of very minor interest for most. Totally biased!!!”

I got an email response the same day, which included the following:

“We aim normally to reply within 10 working days (around 2 weeks) depending on the nature of your complaint.”

Eight days later (23rd June), I received a further email, which included the following:

“This is to let you know that we have referred your complaint to the relevant staff but that it may take longer than 10 working days to reply.”

Some five weeks later (31st July), I received a final response, the full text of which was:

Reference CAS-2756838-FNDF36

Thank you for your contact regarding BBC output.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your complaint.

Be assured that our colleagues in BBC Sport were made aware of this issue at the time.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.

The word “responding” implies that this is a response; not in my book it isn’t!

What does “were made aware” of mean? Did someone say to “the colleagues” WTTET “We’ve had an email from a nutter.”, or did they inform “the colleagues” of the nature and wording of my complaint, or did it go straight into the electronic WPB? More importantly, what was the response of “the colleagues” when they were “made aware” of it? Did they say “He’s right, but why care, we know what’s best.”, or was it “Leave it a month to piss him off, then send him a ‘content-free’ response.”?

I use the phrase ‘content-free’ because in terms of a response to my complaint, it is exactly that; it says nothing.

Although it was just one thing that I complained about, the pro-Welsh bias on Ceefax is not new, and it is still going on. Check it yourself for a few days and I’m sure you’ll see examples of it.

I believe that we in the UK don’t complain enough about poor products and services, which is why we get so many poor products and services foisted upon us. It is difficult when faced with this sort of service. I was going to leave it alone, but think I might now submit a complaint about the complaints procedure, and see where that gets me.

I realise that my complaint is not of great importance in the overall world. However, it is so blatant and easily identifiable, that getting this point over might make it easier to demonstrate some of the less obvious biases.

That’s all in that – until I complain about the complaints procedure – and it’s longer than I expected, but I won’t edit it as I want to get on to other issues, such as the Customer (Dis)service provided in the UK by Procter & Gamble for Braun products.

What makes me grumpy?

I’ll tell you what makes me grumpy: lots and lots of things!

David Renwick’s character Victor Meldrew, created for the BBC’s “One Foot in the Grave” and played by Richard Wilson, is an absolute pussy cat compared to me at times.

The problem is, with so many things getting on my man boobs, it’s impossible to prioritise effectively, so my posts won’t necessarily be “most important first”, especially as I have a backlog of things that annoyed me whilst largely confined to a chair for months on end whilst waiting for a back operation. During that period, I watched an awful lot of TV that I wouldn’t necessarily have watched had I been able to get “out and about” more. Lots of my comments are therefore going to be about TV programmes, even though TV isn’t that important in our everyday lives.

Ordinarily, the thing I would most watch on TV would be sport. Rugby Union is my first love, but I enjoy most sports. As a follower of England Rugby since the 60s, I’ve had my share of ups and downs. Speaking of “ups and downs”, I’ve been a fan of Man City since just before the “Revie Plan” of the early 50s (when as a pre-teen, I chose teams to follow in the sports I most liked), so I’m really used to disappointment, although the successes in recent years (thanks to all the money invested by the Abu Dhabi United Group and Sheikh Mansour) are starting to make up for that, although the historical tendency to inconsistency seems to be back in recent (Oct-Nov 2014) times.

Having wandered somewhat off topic (what makes me grumpy), I’ll close this entry, having pretty much decided that my next post will be about BBC bias … in sport.