Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leveson, Free Press, Gandhi, London

Mohendas 'Mohatma' Gandhi, the great Indian leader, momentously visited London in 1931.
Somebody asked him: "What do you think of civilisation in Britain?"
   Gandhi replied: "I think it would be a very good idea."
I thought of Gandhi's response as I listened to Members of Parliament pompously striving to claim the moral high ground about preserving the UK's 'free press'. 
  Ruth, a character in Night and Day (Tom Stoppard, 1978), said: "I'm with you on the free press. It's the newspapers I can't stand."
    What would Gandhi have made of one man owning tens of newspaper titles when millions of people control none at all? 
  'What do you think of the free press in Britain?
- 'I think it would be a very good idea.'

MPs 'free press' pontifications were prompted by Lord Leveson's report on media ethics and practices published today (29 November). 

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, November 2012 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Media practices, Phone Hacking, Lord Leveson, NUJ, Press Complaints

Apparently, during Lord Leveson’s inquiry into media practices, culture and ethics – including ‘phone hacking’ - John Hendy QC, counsel for the National Union of Journalists, enjoyed a rare moment to quiz Rupert Murdoch, News International’s media mogul.
    Hendy asked Murdoch about testimony from a journalist working for News International newspapers who had experienced bullying.
   Murdoch replied: “Why didn’t she resign?”
   Lord Leveson himself had to point out: “I think the problem with that might be that she needs a job.”

Conscience clause
Leveson publishes his findings in London tomorrow (Thursday, 29 November). But I think it’s worth recording the NUJ’s position on a number of issues affecting the UK media and its relationship with the public, police and politicians.
   One of the most interesting calls supported by NUJ members is for a ‘conscience clause’ to safeguard journalists who object to being made to act unethically in the pursuit of a story.
   Proposals from Lords Black and Hunt apparently rule out a conscience clause.

Workplace chapel
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, also told NUJ members today (Wednesday, 28 November): “It is significant that the unfolding scandal at News International happened in a workplace where the NUJ has been effectively blocked by Rupert Murdoch, where journalists working across the titles have been denied the collective representation of an independent trade union for a generation.”
   Hence, the NUJ reminded Lord Leveson that an NUJ workplace chapel is not simply a vehicle for putting together pay claims and campaigning for better terms and conditions but is also the locus where journalists can raise concern about ethics, staff levels, bullying and editorial pressure.

NUJ members voted to scrap and replaced the current Press Complaints Commission. Lords Black and Hunt also apparently rule out the working involvement of active journalists in a PCC Mark II.
   Their Lordships apparently also suggested this new body should determine who gets a press card. “A system that could withdraw an individual journalists’ press card – and livelihood – would transfer accountability from the publisher to the journalist,” says Stanistreet.
“This would be akin to the licensing of journalists.”

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, November 2012

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hangman, National Lottery, Animated Games, Repeated and Felt Cheated a kid, I used to get really animated playing this macabre word game.
   So I got animated again tonight when I bought my  midweek Lotto ticket online from the National Lottery website. Instantly, a logo for an 'Instant Win' game titled Hangman caught my eye.
   A sucker for a bit of Hangman, I spent £1 of the £10 minimum I'm required to add to my online National Lottery account and played one game. Sure enough, the Hangman's gallows appeared.
   I clicked on little blank word tiles hoping to match them to the letters in words like 'Empathic', 'Sailing', 'Ballet' and 'Tap'. I got close but, alas, no cigar.
   Alack, there are no 'O's or 'Q's in 'Ballet' and 'Tap'. Sadly, my little animated on-screen stick person got strung up. No big money prize for me.

Second leg
Undaunted, I punted another quid for a second game. I clicked and revealed letters like 'E', 'S', 'L', 'I', 'A'. Strangely, I'd also revealed these letters in my first game.
   Puzzled, I then realised the same words were also on offer; 'Empathic', 'Sailing', 'Ballet' and 'Tap'. A fifth word, I can't recall.
   So, even though I clicked on different word tiles from game one, I knew 'O' and 'Q' would turn up. They did.
   I lost again and felt a little cheated by a game exactly repeated. I also felt a lot stupid at forking out another £1. 
  But I was miffed too. After all, the National Lottery is supposed to be a game of random chance, isn't it? Literally, a lottery?

Instant animated reply
At eight o'clock tonight I received an almost instant reply from Siobhan Murtagh at the National Lottery Customer Care Team. I'd  emailed Camelot, the company that runs the UK's national lottery, with an inquisitive complaint a couple of hours earlier.
   Siobhan Murtagh of the NLCCT, stated: "All Instant Win Games are pre-determined as stated in the Interactive Account Terms and Conditions. I understand that the game animation is there to increase your enjoyment, but this in no way affects the final outcome of the game. 
   "There are only a limited number of winning and losing scenarios for each Instant Win Game in terms of animation. With multiple people playing the same game at the same time, our systems are unaware of which animation you received on your previous purchase. 
   "We do not keep a track of all the games you have played to ensure you do not get a repeated animation, as this would not make the selection truly random."

Interactive Wallet
Siobhan also advised, "If you do not wish to load a minimum of £10 into your interactive wallet, you may want to consider setting up a Direct Debit".
   Sorry, Camelot and the National Lottery, after my Hangman experience, I no longer want you to interact with my wallet. 
  I won't be adding any more 'minimum tenners' to my account.* 
You can go hang.

As for Hangman, I'll go back to playing for free.
Y'know, the old fashioned way.
Using  p..... and p...r.

* The minimum National Lottery online load up rose from £5 to £10 with effect from 17 September.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, November 2012.



Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Louis B. Susman, United States Ambassador to UK, Ford, Dagenham, President Obama

The office of United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's used to be a very powerful post. Even Hollywood great Gregory Peck immortalised the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom in The Omen (R.Donner,1976).
   Devilish Satan chose to impregnate the wife of the aghast American Ambassador with Damien, the Antichrist spawn. Poor old Peck's Ambassador truly suffered - though, of course, not quite as much as his wife.
   You Have Been Warned, none of this tasteless yet entertaining cult horror movie nonsense filled my head tonight (Tuesday, 11 November). I scuttled along to the Telegraph Group's swish Victoria HQ along with 130 London Press Club guests. We listened to the current US Ambassador, Louis B.Susman, generously inform and surprisingly entertain us about the meaning of President Obama's re-election last week.
   I had sat down resolved to later stand up and ask Ambassador Susman (above) how he felt when a proud American corporation, Ford, announced in October it intended to permanently cut Transit van production, plant and 1,400 jobs at Southampton and at Dagenham in east London.
   I wanted some measure of Ambassador Susman's 'sway' over corporate America. Did Ford executives even courteously consult the Ambassador before they took a decision that will seriously harm the lives of many British working people and their families?
   I wasn't sure how Ambassador Susman might react. Married with two children and three grandchildren, Susman is no stranger to the cut and thrust of corporate USA. A former banker and corporate mergers and acquisitions lawyer, his boardroom CV includes Citigroup and Salomon Brothers.
   Unfortunately, sorry, but I'm not at liberty to record for you - dear reader - Ambassador Susman's possibly thoughtful and direct response to any question I may have asked. You see, the LPC ran the Q&A session under 'Chatham House rules' - a very British trait designed to encourage frank and open talk but effectively taking responses off-the-record.
   Ambassador Susman - on the record -  did say the Democrat party machine tipped the balance. "Party officials even handed out pizzas to people standing in line to vote," said Susman. 
   The Ambassador said Obama's victory was "a strong repudiation of the policies of the right wing of the Republican Party",  a party whose members will now be engulfed in "a vicious struggle" to determine its future direction.
   I can also report Susman said a second-term President Obama, free from the need for re-election, will act more decisively as he no longer needs to satisfy "powerful vested interests". The Ambassador predicted an "unshackled President Obama" will set up an investment bank to specifically fund new infrastructure.
Nevertheless, what I may have heard from the Ambassador about what I might've specifically asked him has resolved me to return soon to  the matter of Ford and Dagenham/ the impact of these lost London and Southampton jobs, many exported to Turkey, is a real life horror for these folk and their families.

With thanks to Kate O'Reilly and LPC colleagues.

Paul Coleman, London, November 2012

Sunday, 4 November 2012

London Football: Queens Park Rangers 1 Reading 1, Premier League

In the Loftus Road battle of clubs who traditionally wear blue and white hoops, Reading showed unusually disciplined defence against an instinctively attacking Queens Park Rangers, writes Paul Coleman.
  Clad in all-yellow, Leigertwood and Tabb, an influential and composed midfield duo, protected Reading's back four, restricting Rangers to mostly long-range, open play efforts. 
   Powerful shots from Rangers' gifted Taarabt and lacklustre Cissé lacked direction. On-target shots lacked power.
  Gorkss' snap-shot 17th minute goal typified Reading outfighting Rangers to loose balls and headers - and capitalised on loose marking by Rangers' defenders. 
   With both teams unchanged, the formulaic football continued in the second period - although Rangers' more instinctive attacks prompted by Taarabt and Hoilett menaced Reading with increased frequency.
   Hitherto poor, Cissé surprisingly controlled and converted Bosingwa's flat and fast cross for a well-taken Rangers' equaliser. The goal continued Reading's sad trait of conceding at least one goal every game for the season.
   Although out of the blue, Cissé's goal put a spring in Rangers' step, especially Taarabt. Reading goalkeeper McCarthy denied Taarabt an almost certain clincher with a fine save after 83 minutes.
   In a nervy finale, both teams huffed and puffed vainly for a vital winner.
  Reading fans were pleased with their team's defensive discipline. Worryingly, Rangers created few clear open-play chances against a Reading team who had scored five but conceded seven in their last match against Arsenal.
Troubling for both Rangers and Reading supporters, this 1-1 stalemate meant both teams still had not won a Premiership game in the 2012/13 season. A long, hard campaign loomed for both clubs.

Full-time: Queens Park Rangers 1 Reading 1 (Half-time: 0-1).
Man of the Match: McCarthy (Reading).

Paul Coleman, London, November 2012