About Me

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I'm a journalist, ex-national papers, now working in what we call "new" media.
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When I was growing up the words 'spastic' and 'spaz' (more commonly pronounced 'spa' with a kind of glottal stop at the end) were part of our rich palette of insults. Even back then they were mildly frowned upon.

Slightly surprising, then, to hear Tiger Woods liken himself to a 'spaz' the other day, not least because I'd thought this was a uniquely British pejorative and because it seems to breach some of the notions of political correctness that Americans hold very dear.

In the Guardian meanwhile, John Harris is complaining about the current vogue for sneering at chavs. His complaint is not so much about the word itself but of the contempt it implies for working-class people generally. Others argue that 'chav' isn't a class insult at all but really describes a particular type of vulgar, threatening, selfish behaviour that the 'decent' working classes find as abhorrent as the rest of us.

I think Harris is right. Chav has replaced terms like nouveau riche and counter-jumper as ways of putting down members of the working class who get their hands on a bit of cash (or act as if they have). They may have money, is the message (spoken or unspoken) but that can't buy taste...

Being poor in Britain these days is viewed as a moral failing but getting ideas above your station is far, far worse.

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Interesting item on BBC2's about the limited availability of Tamiflu, the anti-bird flu drug. Rich countries are likely to buy up the bulk of the stocks, leaving little for the Third World, the programme pointed out, suggesting that the developed world had a duty to behave altruistically in this matter.

Fair enough but Newsnight could also have pointed out that in the UK Tamiflu will go first not to the sick and elderly but to 'key workers' who include BBC employees. No doubt the Newsnight team can be relied on to hand their supplies to more deserving cases.
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Props, maximum respect, a big shout out etc to Guido Fawkes who devised an innovative way of gaining support when he wanted to break an injunction taken out by Rupert Murdoch. Guido used pledgebank to promise publicly that he would publish a picture of the News of the World's Fake Sheikh provided ten other bloggers did the same.

There is safety (of a sort) in numbers and we can expect to see this mechanism used in future cases to subvert injunctions, D-notices and so on - and possibly not always in support of causes as self-evidently correct as Guido's.
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The BBC's trial of its Integrated Media Player (iMP) has been a success, apparently. Families with the player watched an average of two programmes a week on their computers, rather than on TV.

No launch date yet as the iMP has to be analysed by Ofcom to see what effect it will have on the internet market. At a time when a lot of companies (including the one I work for) are looking at ways of making money out of video, either by charging or by advertising, the BBC's plans to offer its programmes free of charge will have a big impact.

The BBC is hoping to have its entire broadcast output on the player - including feature films (and think what that is likely to mean for the nascent businesses offering films on download to your PC for a fee).

The BBC has had to negotiate hard with rights holders and the current agreement is that programmes will be available for a week after broadcast. But this is likely to frustrate viewers used to the video/Tivo environment in which you can record shows and watch them whenever you want. How frustrating to find that the key episode of your favourite show that you thought you had saved has vanished from your computer because you were a bit tardy in watching it. What use is a mere week's grace when you are on holiday for a fortnight?

Long term it's hard to imagine that the seven-day stipulation will survive. On the other hand, what would a world look like in which valuable TV programmes and films were available to anybody, at any time, free of charge?

Some web idealists claim this would be a paradise, a new golden age of artistic and intellectual freedom. They may be right to argue that digital technology will soon make copyright meaningless. But what then? People and businesses that make TV programmes, films and music - including the BBC - need to make money out of their labour. Otherwise they won't bother.
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David Cameron is doing his best to make the Conservative Party hip, cool and metropolitan. This description of the birthday party of a senior Tory figure shows just how much he still has to do:

"Jasper Carrott compered the whole evening, one highlight of which was an hilarious tour de force by William Hague. We were also treated to John Culshaw from Dead Ringers, Lulu (who I've never really liked, but she was superb!), the Band of the Scots Guards and to round it off Tom Jones performed seven or eight of his hits - not a dry seat in the house"

[Explanatory note: The party was in honour of Michael Ashcroft, a rich businessman who has kept the Tories solvent, more or les single-handedly. The grateful guest is a former Tory parliamentary candidate]
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