Sunday, 11 July 2010

Alastair Campbell, the BBC and a FOI request

In June Alastair Campbell published his latest book, 'Prelude to Power'; it was obvious to me that in the lead-up to, and just after, the publication, Campbell was appearing extensively across all BBC channels - radio, TV, national and local. Given the fact that the BBC is tasked with impartiality and, supposedly, stands apart from commercial activity, I wondered just how Campbell was being given so much exposure to promote his book. Then on 3rd June, Campbell tweeted:

I pondered on how many non-BBC employees may be left alone in this way, then read his blogpost - at this point I realised that his exposure on the BBC was far beyond what I had been aware of; in fact it was Campbell saturation of the BBC.

At this point I decided to put a Freedom of Information request in to the BBC, which I wrote as follows:

Could you please supply me with information on the number of appearances Alastair Campbell has made, and is scheduled to make, on all BBC TV and radio channels from 18th May 2010 up to, and including, the 6th June 2010.
Thank you and kind regards,
Pam Nash
I received an acknowledgement and 3 weeks later the following, as a .pdf attachment:
So the BBC are saying the information is excluded from the Act, which is no doubt factually true; but they go on to say that they're not obliged to provide this information, so won't be doing so. But why not? By paying my licence fee I am, in effect, a shareholder in the BBC - so am I not entitled to the information? I cannot imagine that collating it would take a BBC employee so long, a couple of hours, maybe?

But perhaps I am remiss in not also asking the BBC another question, in light of this Campbell tweet, which I hadn't seen when I submitted the FOI request:

'Sky not bid'? Bidding usually involves money - so did the BBC pay Campbell? Even if they didn't, can anyone remember another author having so much BBC airtime to promote their book?


Mr Campbell seems a tad upset. Oh dear!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Fantasy BBC Question Time panel

After watching BBC Question Time last night, I thought that I probably won't waste time watching it again - the good editions are few and far between. Which got me thinking about who I would like to see on the panel; I decided that my prerequisites would be experience, wit and wisdom. My final choice, based on that premise: Tony Benn, Ken Clarke, Paddy Ashdown, Ken Livingstone and Betty Boothroyd.

So, who would be on YOUR fantasy BBC Question Time panel?

Monday, 25 January 2010

Sport and the Media............

Am I alone in becoming deeply frustrated by the media's coverage of sport, particularly football? Never a day goes by without another sensational story, 'Gary Neville launches attack on Tevez', 'Ruud van Nistelrooy is definite for Spurs, 'Hiddink on the move to Liverpool'. Let's look at the reality of those: Neville was asked by The Times of Malta whether he thought Ferguson should have ensured that Tevez stayed at Man Utd - was Neville really going to say "The gaffer screwed up'? Of course not, but boost it up, omit the fact that his comment was in answer to a specific question and 'Bingo!', big story. Except that it was a story manufactured by the for Ruud, he was so definite for Spurs that he's signed for Hamburg. Hiddink? His agent says there have been no talks with Liverpool, in fact with anyone, as Hiddink is determined to stay with Russia until after the World Cup.

An unfortunate effect of the media fanning the Tevez/Neville flames is that GMP are now anticipating major trouble, at Wednesday's Carling Cup match between Man Utd and Man City, so are hugely increasing the number of officers covering the match. Which will, in itself, encourage certain mindless morons to see it as a challenge. A few short years ago, Neville wouldn't have been in contact with The Times of Malta and we wouldn't have had a clue what Tevez had said to some radio station in Brazil, even assuming that he would have been interviewed by them about events in the English league.

As for the totally untrue stories, do the papers publish apologies when it's clear that they were wrong? Of course not, they're too busy writing the next speculative story. In some cases, the original (and wrong) story has been deleted from their website, leaving you to wonder if you imagined it.

So has the era of the web encouraged irresponsible journalism? Has the pressure to supply endless copy 24 hours a day, to keep ahead of the specialist sports websites and bloggers, caused the escalation of disposable, and quickly disposed of, stories?

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Random thoughts on the England/SA Test series

So the 3rd Test starts at Newlands tomorrow, huzzah! England are 1-0 up, the 1st Test culminating in a draw. I've been pondering on a couple of things related to the Tests, today...........

The Makhaya Ntini selection problem rumbles on, the answer as to whether or not he will be picked for the 3rd Test will only be known just before play starts. Ntini is an iconic figure for black South Africans - he has been a World class bowler and has obviously been in the South African team purely on merit; but surely no-one could argue against the fact that he is a shadow of his former, devastating self and that Friedel de Wet is the right person to be chosen ahead of Ntini in the 3rd Test? Various commentators are muttering about 'political pressures', that the South African government want at least one black player in the team - but surely that devalues Ntini as a person of whatever colour? Would he really, having been one of the best fast bowlers in the world, want to retain his place purely as a token? I don't believe he would - it would be patronising, undignified and a sad way to end his career. Surely apartheid will only truly be dead when people, black or white, are chosen solely on ability?

Collingwood's injury, although it looks as though he may now be fit, raised some interesting issues. Why was Michael Carberry rushed into the squad? Luke Wright is already with the squad and is an all-rounder; he is also familiar with the England dressing room. Strange............

Update: Ntini has been replaced by Friedel de Wet for the 3rd Test. According to the Daily Telegraph, Ntini is going to play for Middlesex as a Kolpak player

Two names you don't often see together

Whilst I was meandering through my iTunes, last night, I came across some Amy Winehouse tracks. Winehouse has a great voice - Back to Black and You Know I'm No Good deserve classic status; but her mental fragility led to her disintegrating into a destructive vortex of alcohol, drugs and crazy behaviour.  Now there are rumours of a new album, whilst, at the same time, a reported reconciliation with her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil. If the stories of her getting back with Fielder-Civil are true, then it can, in the long term, only be bad news, as he admitted to introducing her to crack and other substances. I find it hard to envisage a happy ending to the Winehouse story.

The name you wouldn't often see alongside Winehouse's is that of Susan Boyle. Catapulted into the world's consciousness last April, many feared for her - she had led a very simple, sheltered life and seemed unprepared for life in the media spotlight. The day after the BGT final, the implosion appeared to have happened, as she was taken into the Priory for rest - how many times have we read those words? But we reckoned without the steel in Boyle's backbone, the grit and determination honed by years of caring for her mother, during which Boyle sacrificed her musical ambitions for what she considered her duty. Since the end of BGT Susan Boyle has travelled worldwide, including a visit to Japan over New Year, been feted and praised by all manner of luminaries and has released an album which has been top of the charts in the UK, USA, Australia and God knows where else, for weeks. Boyle is relishing her second chance at life.

So, Amy Winehouse and Susan Boyle. Both massively talented, both apparently mentally fragile - one grabs her chance with both hands, survives and thrives, the second crashes and burns, throwing tantrums along the way. Who would ever have predicted that the survivor would be Susan Boyle?

Friday, 1 January 2010

My music............themes from my life

I've got what some might term an eclectic taste in music - others might call it a total mish mash. Anyway, here are the Top 10 'Most played' from my iTunes:

10. Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) - Frank Wilson.............If you weren't a Northern Soul afficionado, and didn't go to Wigan Casino in the early 70's, you never lived!

9. She's a Rainbow - Rolling Stones..........I loved it the first time around,  then rediscovered it through the Bravia ad.

8. Messa da Requiem: VII. Libera me: 3. Requiem aeternam - Sutherland and Solti...........I did say my taste is eclectic ;)

7. Layla - Derek and The Dominos...........the instrumental part is stunning

6. La Paloma - Julio Iglesias...........yes, I know, it's cheesy!

5. Trouble in Mind - Nina Simone OR Humph version...............memories. What more can I say?

4. The Whole of the Moon - Waterboys..........I just really like it

3. Eugene Onegin, Op. 24: (Scene 1) Polonaise - Orchestra of ROH, Solti......for some reason, it inspires me to get on and do things. Which is good, apparently.

2. Don't Go to Strangers - Etta Jones...........a jazz classic

1. Rhythm is a Dancer - Snap!.............I spent hours running round the lakes at Roundhay Park in 2008, training for the Great Yorkshire Run. This was the track on my iPod that I flicked to if I was flagging, and it always worked! So, I love it....