Tag Archives: Rupert Murdoch

#oneaday 31: A Free Press?

Last weekend we had a trip to the wonderful town of Southwold on the Suffolk coast. I actually intend to blog about the wonders of this beautiful place later in the #oneaday series, but after dinner at The Swan on Sunday night, we retired to the sitting room to have a nightcap and read the newspapers in front of a roaring fire.  It was a chance to read the physical papers, something I am doing less and less nowadays given the presence of my iPhone and the Apps that help me keep up to date with the news, whether it is via the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph or indeed The Onion. All these Apps offer a free daily service(although The Guardian did cost a one off £2.49 – incredible value all things considered), but the prospect of actually reading old fashioned newsprint was mildly exciting. I almost felt wistful.

Thumbing through a copy of The Daily Mail is always fun, provided someone else has paid for it. I always liked The Sunday Times even if I did pay for it, and part 1 of their ‘Top 500 Apps in the World’ immediately caught my eye. I always love these advertising slogans that claim to be ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’ or ‘The Greatest Place in the World’. British Airways used that approach for years, I am not sure if they still do us it, but after pissing off their customers and staff with a series of strikes, I assume that they have quietly buried that slogan along the way.

Back to The Sunday Times,  it turns out that this headline ‘Top 500 Apps in the World’ referred to the fact that The Sunday Times has according to their copy ‘ found the 500 apps (sic) that will make your life easier, better and much more fun’. The guide broke Apps down into a number of categories – social networking, news, business, sport, cars, games, fashion & beauty, shopping & weddings, food, drink, reference, personal finance and babies & families. It also points out for readers to look out for Sunday Times ‘star’ Apps, presumably the star indicating  the better ones, in the opinion of the writer.

It has to be said many of the Apps I love are in the 1st part of the guide. I presume many more will be in part 2, due out today, which I will not bother with having seen part 1.  Facebok, Instagram, Skype, Tweetdeck, BBC News (although very buggy is great for content), LinkedIN, Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Redlaser, Wikipedia, World Factbook are all there. No Guardian, or Telegraph and Daily Mail for that matter  though (not that I am a Mail fan). Which is a shame. But we do have The Sunday Times, unsurprisingly and deservedly as the content is amazing, and The Times both starred and wait for it, wait for it…..

The Sun and The News of the World. Yep, they are in there – amongst 12 other peers in the NEWS section.  Here’s the write up:-

iPad – The Sun – free for he 1st month or trial edition for NoW

‘The iPad edition of The Sun is a brisk read that serves up the best of the print and digital worlds; a faithful reproduction of the paper, neatly navigated by scrolling thumbnails of pages, with a iEdition that breaks stories into categories and displays them as plain text, like a website. Innovations include a 360-degree pictures of Page 3 girls every Monday. The NoW plays to its strengths: agenda- setting exclusives and glamorous photography. The primary draw is likely to be video clips of celebs and politicians doing things they shouldn’t. Subsequent editions are £1.19 each.’

The writer at least has a sense of humour and I assume that he or she is under company orders. Given that News of the World, The Sun, The Times & The Sunday Times (as well as The Wall Street Journal) are all owned by the same group, headed by Rupert Murdoch, he or she probably did not have any choice as to whether these Apps should or should not be included. No one ever said the press is free,  until the internet came along that is. Many media Apps are free, but for some companies and publishers, Apps will be paid for. Time will judge if all of us readers have a free press or not.

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#oneaday 19: Has the iPhone made the world even more politically correct?

As an update to my previous post from this morning, the news has now broken that Sky Sports presenter and former footballer, Andy Gray has been sacked, because of new evidence of further  unacceptable behaviour. This feels a little harsh and it will be interesting to see what will happen to his co-miscreant. Richard Keys, who by all accounts has made an apology to the referee’s assistant, Sian Massey. His fate is not yet declared as far as I can see.

There are 2 main issues here as far as I am concerned:-

1) When is a conversation private and when is it in the public domain?

2) Have Sky Sports acted against Mr Gray for any other reason than his outburst at the weekend?

The answer to 1) is pretty straight forward. In this world where news is 24/7 and there is a positive need to fill the channels, demand for ‘news’ has  never been higher. Therefore even tittle tattle becomes news, not that Gray and Keys’s outburst is tittle tattle, far from it. They should not have said what they said, but no more is there such a thing as ‘privacy’. With mobile recording devices, telephones, cameras and cables into newsrooms, all vital tools to the journalist, now all packed into an iPhone or a Blackberry, everything you say or do can be recorded and transmitted almost in real time. Thus people in the public eye or positions of responsibility, and there are many of them, will either have to ‘clip’ everything they say, or simply become bland and opinionless.  Do we really want people in the public eye to be briefed so tightly that nothing of any interest ever comes out of their mouths? Don’t answer that, plenty of the output from people in the public eye is utter nonsense and of no material interest, but you get where I am coming from.  Or we enter a new and arguably more exciting time, one where no one cares what they say, political correctness goes out of the window and we become a society of the median and the extreme.  Think Boris Johnson, who, whether you like him or not, really does not care what he says, or more accurately what his brief tells him. Boris tells it as it is, right or wrong and maybe, just maybe that will be a way forward, provided of course it is not too extreme, profane or offensive. Try defining that.   

Question 2) is more difficult to answer. Indeed, we will never know if Andy Gray’s legal case against News International, the owner of The News of the World and the 39% owner of Sky Sports, over the phone hacking scandal has influenced the decision. But Rupert Murdoch has flown into town to have top level meetings with his senior lieutenants over the troubled bid to buy the remaining shares at BSkyB and deal with the phone hacking meltdown.   You do have to wonder if Mr Murdoch has taken a personal interest in the small chinks that have been exposed in his empire, and Mr Gray is a ‘meaningful gesture’? We really will never know.

You could argue that a fully connected mobile devices, such as an iPhone and Blackberries, have done more to accelerate political correctness than any government enforced initiative or law ever has. There’s a thought and an unintended consequence, if ever I saw one.

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#oneaday 6: Viking, Forties, Dogger Bank

What do the numers 00.48, 05.20, 17.54 have in common? No they are not the runs scored by an out of form Michael Clarke in the last 3 Tests, but the times that the BBC broadcasts the shipping forecasts on Radio 4 Long Wave. These times are relied on by mariners around the UK waters and are broadcast like clockwork, literally. So at 00.48 on Thursday night, the BBC broke off Test Match Special just as the 91st and last Australian wicket in the Ashes series fell and England duly won the series and therefore The Ashes,  3-1.  Typically British, typically BBC. Cricket is only a game afterall and the shipping forecast is a matter of life and death.

Not that you would know this if you were a citizen of Australia, where clearly any sport, national or otherwise is a matter of life and death. Often famed for their ‘winning’ attitude, it is obvious that the post Warne/McGrath/Gilchrist team are having to get used to losing, indeed this concepts seems to be spreading like a pandemic through the nation’s psyche. But losing is good for the soul. It brings balance, perspective, hurt, disappointment  and crucially ensures that arrogance is reigned in. No one likes losing in general, as a race we are all hard wired to like to win, whatever that actually means. Sport is a crude and effective way of defining the black and white, win or lose, mentality that most people want or in some cases need to experience. It is both primeval and compelling, and in the case of the great game of Test Match cricket, brilliantly complex, subtle, exaggerated and of course tough. In short, Test Match cricket  is like a  ‘core’ computer game. Not easy to pick up and play or understand, requiring patience, practice, knowledge, experience and an ability to appreciate the finest nuances that may leave the less experienced player or viewer cold. It has a language and symbolism of its own and does not pander to modernity.  It is certainly not a casual snacking experience, that was the realm of the one day game, although that is now deeemed to be just too long for a game to last. In recent years we have seen unprecedented  growth of the vulgar and indecently short Twenty Twenty cricket, the Nintendo Wii or Kinect of cricket if you will. Bright colours, guaranteed results, club nicknames,  loads of gamification style stats pervade and for those of us who prefer the tradition of the Test Match game, this really is cricket lite.

Aussie fans going retro

Thus for England, for so many years the losers in all forms of cricket, to have won the Ashes series in Australia for the first time since 1986-87 (ie actually 1987) is a wonderful achievement. Given that it is a 2 horse race, some will say that it is not as significant as winning the World Cup in rugby or football, and that would be absolutely correct. But we have seen 23 days (out of a possible 25) of a sporting contest that will test the finest and hardest of cricketers all the way and the key is that there is no guarantee of a winner. On this occasion England were so superior to Australia, bar one aberation at the WACA in Perth, that the series win was convincing and comprehensive. Funnily enough, and perhaps this is where Australia and Australians could do with some tips from us, given the win was not really acknowledged by the Australian media as a great performance by a very good England team. Rather it was lost ‘the worst team Australia had ever fielded’. That is a tad disappointing. When we were getting stuffed on a regular basis by Australia and the West Indies before them, the cricket press around the world acknowledged and actively recognised that both Australia and West Indies put out teams packed with class players, just too good for England. It would be good for Australia if they acknowledged that they were beaten by the better team, led by a captain, Andrew Strauss (lovely Christian name incidentally)  who, aside from his own ability with the bat and in the field, was both modest, cool, steady and able, with a coaching team led by Andy (that name again) Flower who demanded professionalism, togetherness and resilience, backed up with impeccable preparation.  In order to make progress in life, you need to indentify weaknesses and resolve ways to overcome those whilst retaining dignity and confidence. I for one, hope Australia can grasp this nettle and ensure that the competitiveness of the last 5 years between our 2 great nations carries on and on and produces excellent cricket along the way. 

 As an aside, an Australian media owner, well known for taking a personal interest in his TV stations and newspapers was responsible for one of the worst teams that Australia ever put out, namely the 1977 Ashes team who visited England and lost 3-0. Australia had been split by the launch of the infamous World Series Cricket and divisions existed between players who had signed up to the Australian media mogul’s idea of the game and those who had stayed loyal to the traditional game, with rules copyright of the M.C.C. That Australian media mogul was a not Rupert Murdoch owner of Sky and exclusive broadcaster of The Ashes, but a certain Kerry Packer who was a great rival. I digress.

Other than the England team, I think the big winners have been the fans, the wonderful Barmy Army. For those of you who have experienced The Barmy Army, led by Vic Flowers (or Jimmy Saville if you prefer), you will know that their support is certainly full on. The Barmy Army  have set an example that has at long last been followed by the supporters of the England football team. Actively supporting England’s cricket team on overseas tours, often when there is zero chance of winning anything, they have showed that it is not about the winning, it is about the taking part. This approach is a very English thing, indeed it is a very ‘cricket’ thing. Rather ironically, it was the Australian media who coined the name ‘Barmy Army’ back in the nineties, when they were totally bemused by the endless chanting and support from English cricket fans who had travelled across the globe at great expense, even though England were on the end of yet another Aussie hiding. As Oscar Wilde famously said, ‘if you want to tell the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they will almost certainly kill you’, and  ‘always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much’. Never a truer set of words and words which go right to the core DNA withoin our wonderful players and supporters.

What a magnificent  series, that once again showed that we English, or British (more on this confusion soon, I promise) can laugh at ourselves, often with good reason, and can win now and again. Hats off to the England cricket team and their wonderful supporters. Hats off also to the BBC for sticking to the rules and ensuring the sailors in our national waters could remain safe. Above all hats off to the game of cricket and all its foibles and beauty. We love you.

PS  did I mention that England are the current holders of the 20:20 World Cup, ssshhhh don’t carp too loudly, we must not be arrogant and boorish as that approach just isn’t cricket.

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