Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Hemming-Way

May 26th, 2011

The Right Honorable John Hemming is nothing if not selfless. The less charitable might have seen his decision to expose Ryan Giggs to the harsh glare of publicity as a desperate attempt at self promotion. The story in the Birmingham Post indicates that  his motives were entirely altruistic.  His actions might have prevented more than 75,000 people being sent to prison. I do wonder what would happen to our prison system if it were entirely made up of people that had outed Ryan Giggs on Twitter. I don’t think overall prison literacy levels would go up, but there would be many more pictures of cats.

John is no stranger to publicity, the story about the kitten goes without saying, his disastrous interventions in the family court are well documented and his partial success in visiting space might make you think of him as a comedy politician. Now we can see that his jokey persona actually hides  a deep concern for the welfare of Giles Coren.

I’m a bit agnostic about the recent media feeding frenzy around injunctions. Obviously not so agnostic that I just ignored it all, no, I’ve made it all the way upstairs to write this. I think that if Ryan Giggs asked for an injunction and a court decided that, according to the law, he is entitled to one then fair enough. If we have a legal function, that is sanctioned by Parliament, then we shouldn’t just ignore it. The issue around the Trafigura case seemed a little different as a company dumping toxic waste is of a whole different scale to Giggs playing away from home (I do mean having an affair there rather than the conventional application). I realise that the principle is pretty well exactly the same but there is an underlying level of hypocrisy in most things I write.

I am puzzled by one contradiction in the Post story; John Hemming told the Post that he made his Parliamentary revelation in order to protect the innocent. He added that he doesn’t think other people should make such public pronouncements but should leave it to MPs. This either implies that he can do this due to Parliamentary privilege or that he has another more secret MP power. The rush of mainstream news sources to report Giggs’ name, after Hemming said it in Parliament, indicates that most people  seem to believe that it was still subject to an injunction.

John goes on to say that he wasn’t actually covered by Parliamentary privilege as the terms of the injunction had been so damaged by widespread usage that he couldn’t have been prosecuted. I’m not sure you can have it both ways, you’ve either made a constitutionally shakey swipe at the establishment or a very successful bit of grandstanding.

As said before, John’s grasp of legal matters isn’t great, if I can quote  Mr Justice Wall :-

‘My judgment is that his self-imposed role as a critic of the family justice system is gravely damaged…. Speaking for myself I will not be persuaded to take seriously any criticism made by him in the future unless it is corroborated by reliable, independent evidence.’

The important thing about this is that the courts are performing the will of Parliament through the law that has been handed down to them. If people are concerned about injunctions being used unfairly, or even to repress free speech, then we need MPs to pass laws to stop this happening. An MP simply flouting the law is basically a waste of time that could be used more productively to change the law.

There have been deep constitutional implications of John’s actions. You can still get an injunction to protect your privacy, if you can persuade a court it meets the basic legal rules as exist in our constitution. The difference now is that it is only enforceable if John Hemming MP agrees with it. Charitably John has reduced the economic burden of this change in the law as he doesn’t need to know any detail of the case, no,  he will base his decision to expose you in public based on………  nobody knows what the criteria are.

Exciting isn’t it?




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Let’s see who salutes

May 15th, 2011

I, like most people, gave a little patriotic cheer when Eric Pickles announced that the pointlessly bureaucratic rules on flag flying are going to be relaxed. Pickles has always been a man that is willing to confront the issues  that others shy away from.

I think the benefits of doing this are manifestly obvious. We all accept that flying flags is a fantastic catalyst for community cohesion; there’s something about flags flapping away that brings a community together. As he rightly points out “misplaced political correctness” can prevent the unification that comes from flying national and local flags.

Though we all know this is true I’m pleased that Pickles  must have at last found an objective evidence base to prove this is true. After all, it is unlikely that a Government that has  put such store in the lack public funds would waste valuable time and effort  on something like this without clear  evidence.

I think I’d always known that there must be some Kafkaesque bureaucracy surrounding the flying of flags, though as I don’t have  a flag  pole it isn’t something that I’ve ever been confronted with. Fortunately the press release from Communities and Local Government highlight the ridiculous hoops these jobsworths make us jump through.

Apparently you do not need permission to fly the flag of:-

There are a number of flags that can be flown with deemed consent, these are:-

When you look at both the lists above  you do begin to wonder which  community it is that is being disadvantaged by the current rules. Clearly communities can quite happily already fly national and local flags without seeking permission so what is this all about?

The only people I can think of that currently need to ask permission to fly flags are pirates. Pirates are frequently maligned in the press and it is good to see Pickles doing his best  to redress this. Worth every penny.


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Love it or Hate it

February 11th, 2011
Do you know what Health Inequalities are? Do you care?

If you’ve answered no to both of those questions then I think I can safely say that you don’t work in a health related sector and you don’t have a long term health condition. Ok, that’s a generalisation but it’s probably a reasonable one.

The problem with health, and health related matters, is that, generally, people don’t give a toss unless they’re paid to, or they have no choice. People care about the NHS but they care about it is a structure rather than the concepts that underlie it. Most of the activism around health, by the healthy population, purely relates to the opening and closure of hospitals. That’s fair enough, the visible structures are by their very nature visible.

Of the two categories I am firmly in the former. My knee has started hurting a bit recently but overall I care about conceptual health because I’m paid to.

The lack of a wider understanding of the impact of health is a shame. The health of a nation is relatively easy to measure and is a very good proxy for the wider conditions people live in. We can understand a lot about a population from how long they live.

Unfortunately it isn’t a subject that instantly grabs people. There aren’t many laughs in health inequalities. A constant diet of dead babies, fags and chips has a habit of putting people off.

Earlier this week the NHS in Birmingham (and Solihull) organised a  consultation event relating to the recent Government White Paper on Public Health, I gave my somewhat flippant views on that a few weeks ago. I won’t bother again.

Part of this event involved a talk by Sir Michael Marmot. Yes, I know, Sir Michael Marmot.

I know who he is because I’m paid to know. All you need to know is that within the context of Public Health he is somewhat like 50 Cent. Never has a worse analogy been committed.

My problem with Michael Marmot is his name. I seem to fluctuate between thinking his surname is either marmoset or Marmite. It’s neither.

A few years ago he produced a report on Health Inequalities called the Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England post 2010. Also known as the Marmot Review.

I instinctively think this should be a systematic test of whether marmosets like Marmite or not. I reckon they probably don’t.

There is a rich heritage of writing reports on social inequity, health inequalities and the determinants of health. Sir Douglas Black did it in 1980 with the ominously titled Black Report. The Government didn’t like it and it got swept away.

Our current Government seem to be going with the Marmot Review, which is no bad thing.

Through the wonders of the Internet Sir Michael Marmot’s talk got captured for the world to see. This is where I finally get round to the point.

You should watch this video. I know I’m asking you to watch a half hour video of a man in a suit talking about death. The difference is that this is fairly entertaining, it will certainly give you an insight into how health impacts on the wider population. There is at least one laugh in there and he does get very angry (though only for a second).

Putting Local Communities at the Heart of Public Health – Professor Sir Michael Marmot from Solihull NHS Care Trust on Vimeo.

One of the things I can’t quite work out is why I instinctively fixate on marmosets. After all, the marmot is an animal in its own right. I think they also wouldn’t like Marmite.


Posted in Misc, Politics | Comments (1)

To Clap or not to Clap

February 6th, 2011
I started writing this for Eye on Moseley but after planning it in my mind (yes, there is some planning, it isn’t just a stream of consciousness) I realised it isn’t really relevant to Moseley as such.

Mostly this week I’ve been surprised by the indignation directed towards Cllr Salma Yaqoob after the most recent meeting of the City Council. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point going into the detail of what happened as it’s quite clear in the press but a quick summary is that a winner of the George Cross attended the meeting and Cllr Yaqoob and Cllr Ishtiaq decided not to give the man a standing ovation.

This decision has resulted in Cllr Yaqoob being branded a supporter of terrorism and, according to press reports Cllr Ishtiaq being cuffed round the head by another Councillor.

Both Councillors represent the Respect party which was born from the Stop the War Coalition. As such you might not be surprised to hear that they didn’t burst into spontaneous applause.  Since this happened I’ve been trying to figure out what I would have done in the same situation. I’m deeply sceptical of the colonialist military adventures that Tony Blair sent us on but I like to think I can separate the individual from the policy.

I’m also quite aware, from the War Logs made available through Wikileaks, that heinous acts have been perpetrated in our names in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Though it would appear that the George Cross is only given for more altruistic bravery. I only found that out when I just looked it up.

In the case of Birmingham it was a man called Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher who carried out an act of supreme bravery in throwing himself onto a hand grenade and consequently saving the lives of those round him. Based on what I’ve read it sounds like he is a man that deserves both a standing ovation and a medal. The thing with this is that I can say this because I’ve got the benefit of hindsight and Google. I’ve had the time to put this into context and make my decision.

Both Councillors involved were given no prior notification of his arrival and, I assume, no in depth outline of either his career or the specifics that lead to his act of outstanding bravery.

It is reasonable that both Councillors would be extremely circumspect in what they publically support. The reality of life in Birmingham is that we have communities in Birmingham that are absolutely entwined in the war in Pakistan/Afghanistan. People who live here have relatives that have been victims of both sides of the conflict. As such, their elected representatives need to be excessively cautious in what they say and do, however well intentioned it might be.

The wider issue in this is how we have come to the point where a mob can dictate our reaction in any given situation. A persons decision to not clap is surely one of the freedoms that we purport to be protecting in our attempt to impose a model of western democracy on Afghanistan.

To add a little more context to this story we should realise that the chief cheerleader in this debacle is Cllr Martin Mullaney.  As Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture you might expect a degree of responsibility in comments launched into the public arena. The following quote dispels that myth.

“I can only assume that if one of the failed 21/7 London suicide bombers had been in the council chamber, Cllr Yaqoob would have been demanding the council applaud the failed suicide bomber for their past heroic actions.”

Yes, that’s the level of debate we are dealing with.

Mullaney has a long history of sniping at Cllr Yaqoob. One of the most notable incidents being when he accused her of negligently endangering life by organising a public march in protest at the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Ironically some months later he organised a public event to switch on our Christmas lights and due to negligence in planning people did end up in hospital.

There is a history there.

Whilst you might laugh at his infantile logic please give some consideration to those of us represented by him. Whilst he can find the time to go on the radio flirting with libel and outlandish accusations he doesn’t seem to be able to find the time to reply to my concern about the  imminent closure of the Citizens Advice Bureaux in Birmingham.

The crux of this issue seems to be that we have a reached a point where reasoned dissent from a set point of view is not tolerated. Not clapping an individual is seen as a snub to him and consequently a lack of support to all that we have put in harms way.

The reality is that if Birmingham City Council really wants to dabble in national policy around the safety of serving personnel they could start with the travesty of how cuts will result in many lives being lost. In this week the coalition announced it could be cutting its order for Chinook helicopters. You remember the exact same helicopters that Gordon Brown forgot to buy us and as a result was pilloried by the Conservatives? A decision has been taken to cancel an order for helicopters in order to maintain our fleet of Tornado jets. Tornado jets that have had no practical military value since their vulnerability was exposed in the first Gulf War twenty years ago.

These helicopters keep people alive through keeping troops off roads and getting medical support to where it is needed. Unfortunately they’ve now been sacrificed, like the troops they would carry, to Dave’s great economic experiment. Though it does add credence to the claim we’re all in it together. We are all quite literally not in helicopters even though some of us need to be.

Closer to home the Council could give consideration to how budget cuts are withdrawing access to mental health and substance misuse services. Both of these are used disproportionately by returning military personnel. As a direct result of the things that we make them do on our behalf.

I hope we can do everything to avoid the situation that developed in the US where people returning from Vietnam were blamed for the failure of the state. Equally I hope we can get to a point where those who purport to represent us can take the welfare of those that fight wars for us more seriously than just whether or not someone clapped or not.

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Command and Control

January 21st, 2011
It was interesting that Michael Gove made his impassioned criticism of the current national curriculum in the same week that the new national health bill was released. Gove’s traditionalist rant seemed to be based on his perception that young people do not get taught enough facts, they don’t know enough about history.

On the same day  the Government released the Bill which will fundamentally change the way that the NHS works, possibly forever.

Since the Government made their plans public in July of last year I have seen a wide variety of theories on why this is happening. I work in the NHS so this isn’t overly surprising, we all have a theory. They range from the attempt to privatise the NHS through to an ideological experiment to create an untested model of health services.

I don’t really subscribe to the former. The NHS is and has always been reliant on the private sector to deliver services. GPs are independent contractors and whilst we rely on their philanthropic motives, they are not that different from BUPA or any of the other players we imagine will enter the market.

Anyone who watched GPs take the Government to the cleaners in contract negotiations a few years ago will be fully aware of their keen sense of market forces.

There will be a greater involvement of the private sector in providing health care but I think that is more as a result of the  Labour initiative of independent treatment centres rather than proposed legislation.

I do have some sympathy with the ideological experiment theory, but in thinking about history I realised this is far from untested. Michael Gove wants us to learn lessons from history and I think there is a very important one that the NHS needs to consider as it goes into rapid change.

Far from being aligned with a rampant free market the Conservative Bill actually is replication of the Soviet model of collectivisation. The theory of collectivisation came from Stalin who perceived there was a benefit in taking small free holders and combining them, often by force into larger collectives.

In Primary Care, in the UK, we are taking independent traders, GPs, combining them, through legislation, into larger arms length Government bodies. In some cases against their will but thankfully without the genocide involved in collectivisation.

One of the consequences of collectivisation in the Soviet Union was the removal of the local flexibility to grow food that was needed. In a similar manner the decisions to commission local health services will now be dictated by a central Government body called the NHS Commissioning Board. GPs will be free to implement commissioning any way they want as long as it is consistent with the central dictat.

This move to command and control is further emphasised by the move to remove regional representation of things like the Health Protection Agency and replace them with a monolithic single Public Health Department.

The history of the NHS has always had GPs sitting outside and passing comment on the Government of the day. In many cases this was useful because they could champion the cause of patients over the frivolity of policy. These changes will see GPs, for the first time since the creation of the NHS forced to follow the party line.

I’m intrigued that the Conservatives would seek to implement something modelled on the very worst excesses of Communism but am all the more impressed that they seem to have convinced people it is just the will of the market.

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Tuition Fees

December 10th, 2010

Watching the news last night I realised that I wasn’t completely sure what I thought about tuition fees as a concept, let alone the various proposals that seem to have got people fairly wound up. The majority of the story in relation to this proposal has been, rightly, pulling the Liberal Democrats up on their rank hypocrisy. I hadn’t really seen any of the other political parties proposing to do anything radically different, so didn’t give it much thought.

The Liberal Democrats really should learn that if you are going to renege on a promise then don’t do it on one where you have been filmed making it or where it affects lots of people with both free time and energy.

Watching the TV last night I realised that the attention brought to this issue through constant demonstrations and… yes, violence, has made me really think about what tuition fees mean for the first time. I don’t have any kids and my University days are a long way behind me, so far in fact that I went to a Polytechnic. I did have a small student loan and it took me ages to pay it off and caused me no end of credit problems. In the end it was help from my parents that stopped it resulting in debt collectors. Though as I say that was a long time ago and not really relevant to the situation now.

I suppose I should have started this by saying that I in no way support violent scenes blah blah blah don’t throw an egg at a Prince blah blah think about the children.

Actually I don’t agree with any of that. If kids want to go to London and have a ding dong with the police then fair play to them. Both sides are consenting adults (mostly) and I believe both sides get a lot out of it. I am, in many ways, grateful that young people have the motivation to protest about something which I can’t be arsed to do myself. I’m too old, too lazy and too scared of the cold to do anything like that.

Since the coalition have come to power they have defined everything under the imperative to decrease spending and the need to reduce the deficit. Deficit reduction in itself is obviously something that needs to be done but it is a moot point on whether the most expedient way of achieving this is purely reducing spending or also maximising tax revenue.

The question about tuition fees appears to be fundamental to this overarching theme. The story says that money paid to University’s is unsustainable, graduates need to pay us back for their education and don’t worry about them, they earn a fortune anyway.

One of the central pieces of evidence to support the increase of fees to a maximum of £9k pa is the claim that over their lifetime a graduate will earn, on average, £100k more than they would if they did not have a degree.

I find this interesting in that it appears to contradict the need for tuition fees at all. If someone, on average, will earn £100k more than they would without a degree then, on average, they will repay the cost of their education through income tax. We do not incur debt through people going to University, we actually profit. We actually profit substantially.

Our economy clearly needs people to earn these greater amounts in order to maintain tax revenue. It is strange that rather than look for the most appropriate way to maximise this revenue we have tried to find a solution whereby people graduate but we don’t have to pay for it.

In times of decreasing tax revenue the Government can only really fund higher education through borrowing the money itself or making someone else borrow it. It is a simple fact that Government can borrow money much more cheaply than a collection of individuals.

So we have a a situation where we have chosen the least efficient solution for the nominal position of “saying” we have reduced public sector borrowing. We have really only moved the debt burden from wider society to the individual. It should also be noted that the loan to students isn’t really from the Government. It is from the private company/QUANGO the Student Loan Company. A company required to make a profit, albeit minimal. This means that the total cost of borrowing for students as a collective is still greater than the Government just allocating funds to Universities.

All of this is really premised on ideology. There is an all encompassing view in the statutory provision of services that choice must govern all decisions. Thus through students choosing their University and taking their money with them the system will begin responding as a market and become more efficient.

This ignores one fundamental fact about higher education. We already have a long established system of choice that uses the currency of educational achievement to distribute people around the system. This is a far from perfect system but it does work.

Besides the issue of choice there is a ridiculous preoccupation with the idea that we are paying for pointless courses. This is the annual newspaper story about someone getting a surfing degree and now won’t be able to get a job and we have to foot the bill. Ignoring the fact that this is probably, in reality, a qualification in marine engineering that makes someone eminently employable this belief defines media attitude to courses.

I understand that extensive research has demonstrated that tuition fees will not reduce the number of people that go to University. Maybe that is true, it seems counter intuitive to me but if this has been proven then fair enough. I do believe that fees will shape the nature of courses that people now enroll on. Resultant earning capacity will be a much greater influence on choice.

In practical terms this is good because it drives up tax revenue but for wider society this is a very bad thing. We need people that do jobs like physiotherapy, research scientists and even planning officers. All jobs you need to be well qualified for but not very rewarding. Under the coalition plans it might be true that those graduates that earn the least pay the least but if we deter people from entering these essential professions then we lose out.

One of the good things about supporting eduction through central taxation is that we as a society have an investment in it. If someone chooses to become a teacher then we don’t just benefit through the tax they pay, we also benefit through their ability to give society more knowledge.

If we have paid for this then we have some control of the structure of their higher education and the way it is applied. If higher eduction is merely a contractual relationship between the individual and the institution then society loses the capacity to plan for the future.

I think I’ve written considerably more than I intended to on this and probably much more than I should have done. Much of this boils down to my concern that the first act of Government should not be to pass the responsibility of Government to the individual or the state. When I go to work my first act is not to find someone else to do my job for me.

Well I should say thanks to all of those young people that made me really think about something that I thought had nothing to do with me. So, violence does work.


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Benefit Fraud

August 10th, 2010

I’m not really that bothered about benefit fraud.

I can see that it is something that probably shouldn’t be encouraged but I don’t see it as something that we really need to get that hung up about. Most people that phoned a radio station this morning probably don’t agree with me.

I used to work for the Benefits Agency. The fraud team seemed fixated that they were some sort of special agents, they had radios.

They would spend months on surveillance, building a case to stop someone nicking  £30. It didn’t seem very cost effective.

This morning, or possibly last night, David Cameron announced a new “policy” to unleash bounty hunters on benefits “cheats”. This sounded quite exciting. The prospect of unleashing Dogg the Bounty Hunter on someone “doing a foreigner” (not a literal use of the term, but I rarely get to use it), seemed a bit over the top.

The reality is that it is just an excuse to bung more cash at credit reference agencies and give them access to more data to flog to companies. This is nice because credit reference agencies always have a hard time in a recession.

The way this has been represented seems to be the most interesting thing about it. The figure of £5.2 billion in fraud a year has been plastered over everything. This surprised me as I thought that fraud levels in previous years were much lower. I know we’ve had a recession but this would have been a massive increase in such a short time.

As you look at the story you notice that this figure is in fact fraud AND error. So it includes money paid to people by mistake. Though there doesn’t seem to be much interest in the press in the error part of it.

Finding Dave’s figures proved to be quite tricky. I couldn’t find anything that matched £5.2 billion but I did find the Department of Works and Pensions 2008/09 figures. They tell quite a different story. They say fraud and error account for £3.1 billion. So we have a discrepancy of over £2bn.

They also state that fraud accounts for one third of this total.

Over a billion quid in fraud is something that we should be interested in but it isn’t really the £5.2bn that started all this.

Listening to Five Live this morning you might have thought that most of the country were signing on whilst working. The DWPs own report estimates that Job Seekers Allowance fraud accounts for £240 million.

The report also highlights the £0.5bn that is underpaid to people each year. This again hasn’t been mentioned by the press.

Whilst looking for the figures I came across a press release from the Citizens Advice Bureau highlighting the £16 billion that is unclaimed each year. This is the real issue that should be of concern to us. This is a vast amount of money that should be paid to the most vulnerable in society but isn’t. These are winter fuel payments that play a vital role in keeping people alive.

Overall our current benefit bill is much lower than it should be.

That’s something to think about next time we make excuses to not chase the £40 billion that is avoided in tax each year.


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Living in a city

March 10th, 2009

barcelonaI went to Barcelona the other day. It’s very nice. I know it is ridiculous to compare one of the premier cities of Europe with Birmingham but I have a feeling I’m going to do it anyway.

The most immediate difference I noticed is the fantastic use of public space. This is public space in the true sense of the word. Areas that have been put aside for people to congregate in and do things together. This is most obviously emphasised by the large amount of Children’s play areas. They are everywhere and seem to be really well used.

These play areas seem to be complemented by similar areas for table tennis and that crazy European version of bowls obviously aimed at adults. The odd thing about these areas is that people were using them. People of all ages were coming together outside and doing things.

This community activity is something that I couldn’t really conceive of happening in Birmingham. When we create a public space we seem to have some strange fear of putting stuff in it that people might find useful.

The vast majority of development is entirely focussed on retail rather than improving the quality of life. In Birmingham, we have had a debate about a park in the City Centre but that has rambled on for many years now with little evidence of anything tangible appearing.

My theory on why there is a different attitude to space comes down to the British obsession with houses. The status attached to owning your house and having a garden is different to other countries. In the UK there has previously been a perception of living in a flat as being associated with poverty. The stigma of tower blocks has seemingly removed the voice of flat dwellers from urban planning.

In countries where living in an apartment (posh flat) is the norm the expectation is that public space will fulfil the absence of a garden. This attitude is possibly changing with the development of city centre living but such change seems slow. City Centre developments in the UK are solely focussed on the ideal of young professionals rather than fostering community.

Another striking difference about Barcelona is the massive amount of graffiti. It is absolutely everywhere. The odd thing about it is that it doesn’t seem to have brought about the breakdown of society or even really made the place look untidy. Though I’m sure that if you ask people who live there about it they probably get quite pissed off about it.

I think it underlines that small minded politics of urban decay that we are fed in this country. Rather than politicians focussing on the more macro drivers of change that affect all of a community they obsess on the micro affects. If a phone box has a graffiti tag on it makes very little difference to people if they have little in the way of recreation facilities or all their local shops are shutting down.

I’d say my criticisms of Birmingham are not specific to this city. I’m sure they are applicable to all urban environments in the UK. That turned into more of rant than the description of what I did on my holiday that I’d planned.


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Play Away

February 7th, 2009

I’ve been bothered by the recent decision by the Competition Commission to stop the so called Project Kangaroo. My irritation with the decision is odd as I don’t generally use the existing video on demand services provided by BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Though I do like marsupial based technological developments.

BBC iPlayer seems to work fine and Channel 4 OD  requires too much software  running in the background. I spend a fair mount of my time trying to avoid ITV so the prospect of watching it on the Internet fills me with a bit of dread.

I think the thing that has annoyed me about the decision is the element of condescension within it. They believe the public (us) will benefit from having to visit three different sites to watch UK TV. The market will, apparently, provide us with a better service through making the whole process more difficult.

An analogy would be to say that manufacturers are restricting competition through allowing us to watch more than one channel on our TVs. The decision appears to fly in the face of all moves towards convergence.

I think there is an interesting parallel with the decision to restrict the BBC from developing local news services. The decision was apparently taken in order to prevent local news providers being subject to unfair competition from a state funded organisation. This ignores the fact that the majority of local news providers are a little bit crap. Maybe the injection of competition would force them to raise their game.

We frequently forget that the BBC is ours. We pay for it. We should use it to provide services that improve the quality of our lives. It should not be considered a publicly funded private organisation. We can use it to make developments that raise the bar for other organisations.

The iPlayer itself has set a standard that other organisations are trying to meet. This standard has been set both nationally and internationally and I think we should be proud of that.

In the judgement the Competition Commission seem to have ignored one vital factor to the video on demand market (well they did in the press release, I didn’t read the whole report). The current market is made up of more than the established media providers. Both Sky and Virgin prompted this investigation and to be honest you’d expect them to moan about it.

The competition for providing media services is really coming from the likes of Bittorrent. It is a simple process to find TV you’ve missed for free and download it. Usually with the adverts removed.

It is this problem that mainstream media providers need to address rather than their own protectionism. Kangaroo would have provided a platform with a revenue stream whilst giving us something that we want.

It’s a short sighted decision and one I’m convinced will be overturned.


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