Thursday, March 15, 2007

First, build your lead balloon. Then see if it flies.

Watchdog tells BBC to drop learning website

Joined. Up. Government.


Links! Rechts?

A visit from the BBC

Without meaning to suck up too much, I tend to have slightly more faith with those who operate the online 'arm' of a medium. Maybe because there is less chance of establishing a side career simply by being recognisable, those who create online as opposed to onscreen seem, IMHO, to be a bit more concerned with doing their jobs, doing them professionally... and ethically.

However, I must disagree with this: "What we call moderation, readers call censorship."

As with all things, the devil is in the definitions. Trying to be as brief in analysing a pretty complex issue, I'd have to say that if the rules are clearly stated, the moderation should be accepted, if applied... as stated.

The problems arise where you have subjective interpretation. Most blog rules allow you to simply have an opinion and post it up there on screen, so long as it is not 'bad' or 'nasty'. And I think the vast majority can handle that.

Censorship is when a poster follows the rules, but has their post either deleted or edited, it seems, often to suit an agenda held by the guys holding the ball and owning the pitch. And if your remit is to be balanced and objective, if you do that once to often for no good reason, and without explanation, then you deserve to reap the harvest you have sown.

With all the talk of citizen journalism and the financial attraction of free reader vox pops, it is hard to feel too sympathetic to read this: 'The more successful you are at attracting reader responses... the bigger the problem gets', when such responses are being solicited sixteen to the dozen via every outlet.

Especially when the ethics go out the window and the trust is blown.

On BBC Breakfast TV this morning, my opinion was read out, having been sent as requested by the presenters.

Thing is, they took only one phrase out of 3 sentences that as read was the total opposite of what I said.

So in setting out 'some principles for working on the web', I'd recommend not following their broadcast brothers and sisters.

And if they are trying to encourage user participation and comments on their sites, the BBC questioning the need to host those conversations sounds interesting, but almost as if they like the benefits of the content streams, but don't want to worry about the consequences of carrying them.

Which is a total abrogation of accountability and responsibility, and not what 'we' would wish from our public, and publicly-funded broadcaster, surely?

Train, train, go away.. come right back another day

Millions to pay more for train tickets

I have a possible jaunt to York, solo, this Saturday.

Even with 'gear', I decided the train was a worthy option.

Checked the timings. Not even. Checked the price. Not ever.

I am not sure bumping prices up is quite the way to convert me.

Telegrpah - How to keep the costs down - Ah, theory... don't you just love it.

To boldly go.. up in smoke

Adventures can be had closer to home

There seems to be a fine line between an 'adventure' and a 'jolly'.

And a vast gulf between those who enjoy them and those who bear the consequences.

Looking at the banner ad on the right, I can only hope all protagonists are at least saving their 20%.

Is it reality? Or is it Memorex?

I was idly penning a comment on the latest addition to the TV phone fraud scandals on last night's Newsnight blog whilst watching, even more idly, Breakfast TV. Here's what took place a wee while ago:

'As my website has often been called 'Blue Peter on steroids' (I was in my twenties before I knew what 'sticky back plastic' actually was, which is an interesting historical aspect to note as the BBC drifts ever further into commercial, and rocky, waters) this 'episode' caught my attention.

I find the shameless scramble to insincerely express 'regret' for a 'mistake' all too predictable and hollow. Only matched in cringe by what I'm now watching on BBC Breakfast TV as to how 'they' regain 'our' trust.

I just love the way the producer responsible was not yet known a few minutes earlier, but Biddy Baxter is now saying she knows exactly who did it. I await with amused dread how Newswatch will weasel this one.

And nothing like giving the £300 back as it has has now come to light since November, and all is OK again.

Too little, too late, maties.

I think the era of the 0900 (for charity or not, the money I am sure gets divided up first for various admin and handlers, so not actually worrying whether or not the sincere commitment of funds against a chance of winning is being treated honestly is rather typically worrying) number is surely up. It should never have been on the public broadcaster in the first place.

Oh... wait, they have just read out my emailed comment on air. It was:


'This has been 'out' how long and 'we don't know which producer was responsible'.

No real foul, no real harm. It's only TV, and was only an 'honest'... 'mistake'.

Yeah, right. That's the way to rebuild trust.


Well, actually, they only read out one line of the three.

Bearing in mind I have several complaints into the BBC about selective editing and dismissive explanations, guess which one they read out? (Hint: it wasn't the first and it wasn't the last:

Peter Martin of Ross on Wye says:
No real foul, no real harm. It's only TV, and was only an honest mistake.

That 's a total 180 degree reversal of what I was saying, by selective editting and a different tonal reading!!!! They work in media. They know the difference. They are playing the same game as they were reporting upon piously.

I guess that will teach me to assume they can identify sarcasm and appreciate my point... or was it just a cute way to get a positive out of a total negative?

I repeat: 'That's the way to rebuild trust.' Not.

Good job I have decided to record programmes I comment on. It's amazing the number of technical hitches can happen in edit suites these day.

Makes things a lot easier when you bring it to the attention of those who may be interested in broadcast standards.'

What's the word I'm looking for. Oh, yes...'Gotcha!'.

And here was me thinking that the presenters actually read those emails. Seems like all things these days, there is truth, and then there is what you see on TV.

The irony is, of course, that this was inspired by a piece on production issues taking precedence over professional and ethical practice. Sweet.

Telegraph - Blue Peter says sorry for fake phone-in winner - Can I say sorry and make it all go away if I get a speeding ticket? Or can a 12 year old say sorry and be pardoned if she doesn't put the right paper in the recycling bin? Or... is there an expanding level of double standards at play these day?

Times - Blue Peter admits phone-in fake
Express - Blue Peter says sorry for faking TV winner
Guardian - Blue Peter legend Biddy Baxter 'appalled' by phone-in scandal
Guardian - The phone-in scandal is hardly the first time Blue Peter has
let viewers down
Guardian - Blue Peter is the latest victim of the phone-in witch-hunt

'Witch-hunt' is one of those interesting terms whose origins and subsequent evolution into a descriptive phrase has left me unsure quite what it means.

I'm guessing that it implies that as there were/are no witches, hunting them was/is pointless and unnecessary. Fast forward to the present day.

So because all other aspects of the show are, and have been noble in the extreme, it is therefore quite OK to ignore and let pass taking money under false pretences? Hmmn.

Next thing you will be telling me is that because most BBC news output is of the highest journalistic standards, one shouldn't be concerned that they can edit contributions submitted to turn what has been provided into the complete reverse of what was actually intended, to suit some internal agenda.

Sadly, that is precisely what happened to me yesterday when I made comment on the Blue Peter show. What I wrote and what got read out and aired as from me were totally the opposite.

No wonder no one trusts anything, especially the media, any more.

Guardian - Biddy Baxter 'appalled' by Blue Peter phone-in row
Telegraph - Blue Peter says sorry for fixing competition
Indy - Blue Peter says sorry for fixing phone-in competition
Mail - Blue Peter fixed phone-in competition
Express - Blue Peter apologises over phone-in
SUN - Phone scandal hits Blue Peter
Guardian - Phone-in trouble for Blue Peter


Though it is undoubted that the nudge-nudge, wide-eyed boys 'n girls will snigger and seek to cite my unfortunate turn of phrase for not making my intentions 'clear' (begging the question what planet they live on if they can't grasp meanings and tonality and punctuation - has none of them ever read a script?), I have decided to see what the munchkins from BBC Complaints can come up with this time:

Feedback was sought with regard to the segment on the Blue Peter issue.

In light of the hundreds of expressions of support for the way it was handled, I would appreciate an explanation as to how my comment, which was not so impressed with the evolving explanations, which was as follows...

'This has been 'out' how long and 'we don't know which producer was responsible'.
No real foul, no real harm. It's only TV, and was only an 'honest'... 'mistake'.
Yeah, right. That's the way to rebuild trust.'

...came to be edited and read out twice, at 7.48am and 8.43am, thus...

'No real foul, no real harm. It's only TV, and was only an honest mistake.. '

...which totally reversed what was being conveyed.

If a more positive criticism was sought as balance to the more overtly negative ones that were shared (because I do sympathise with the notion it was weak to be responding only now, and when challenged. And by way of mitigation to simply re-run the competition, this time one hopes ethically, on the 'miraculous discovery' - Ms. Baxter's words - only the other day of data lost way back in November), why doctor and use mine in this way? Was it to buy time for kids to 'forget about it', as Mr. Curry seemed to feel was appropriate?

Is it now the BBC's practice to selectively edit and quote out of context words and/or phrases to suit internal editorial demands, from those submitted in response to requests soliciting feedback?

If that is the case, you may as well make them up and cut out the viewer/listener/reader and save a whole lot of trouble.

It would be awful to learn that the pressurised demands of getting a programme on air would lead to such unethical compromises, wouldn't it?

Observer - BBC faces huge fine in phones scandal - And who, exactly, ends up paying?
Observer - Phone fiasco gives BBC a wake-up call - Having just watched it, I'm not sure Andrew Marr 'interrogated' 'his boss' quite as diligently as one might have hoped, if not expected.

Guardian - Sky is the limit - Indeed
Guardian - Vodafone admits phone-in error
Times - Jowell fury over TV phone-in fiasco
..regulators Ofcom and Icstis, which are investigating six programmes.

Six? Oh no, as Yoda once said...'there is another'. At least.

Mail - Tough new laws to crackdown on TV phone-ins

Telegraph - Jowell floats tougher laws on TV phone-ins

'Floating' like a lead balloon.

Too little (...tougher laws 'could' be brought in??!).

Too late ('Now Miss Jowell has suggested.. ' after how long?).

When does anyone say anything tangible any more?

Telegraph - Let me tell you about the real phone-in scandal

As someone who believes themselves to have been defrauded by such a show as a contestant, and whose supporters have been as voters (OFCOM & ICSTIS on the case as we speak), I have to suggest the author and even the first few posters may be being a tad smug, if not dismissive of the sanctity of business relationships.

But it does make for a nice, snide article to offset all those awful, boring, tacky ones from journalists who have caught publicly funded (in the case of the BBC) and publicly trus.. (well, let's not accord independent companies more than they deserve) and, in theory, tightly controlled and/or monitored (see bodies above, who do have a bit of explaining of their own to do) TV production outfits cheating their audiences for profit.

So the next time you find anyone takes your money and does not do what they said, and you reasonably believed they would do for it, please bear this in mind.

If it bores you, there is always the remote. Me, I'd prefer those who care, and are tasked to deal with such matters, stuck with breaches of professional conduct and the law until they are resolved, not to the limit of luvvies' attention spans.

Guardian - Ayre to lead Ofcom phone-in inquiry

Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Breakfast' broadcast on 15 March 2007.
Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in replying. I know our
correspondents appreciate a quick response and I am sorry you have had to
wait on this occasion.

I understand you are unhappy that your e-mail to the programme was read out
incorrectly, thereby inferring the opposite meaning to that which you
intended. I have since been in contact with Deputy Editor, who was in
charge of this particular episode and she has replied as follows:

"This was a genuine mistake resulting from the producer misreading Mr
Martin's e-mail and not a deliberate attempt to doctor our viewers'
opinions. The mistake was made in the initial e-mail summary compiled by
the producer and sent to the presenters and hence was repeated twice during
the programme. Of course we should have read the e-mail more carefully but
I can see how the mistake was made as Mr Martin says the exact opposite of
what he really thinks - which is only revealed by the line "yeah right"
right at the end - so while not excusing it - I can see how the error was

I trust this proves satisfactory. Please be assured that your comments have
been registered and are available to the 'Breakfast' production staff.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC with your e-mail.

Now, do I accept this? They don't read information thoroughly. Are incapable of assessing tone of voice from the written word and print only what they want to see, regardless of what it may convey. Watch this space.

BBC - TV phone services 'fail viewers' - 'Lapses' they call 'em. Sweet.