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Is the BBC using licence fee payer’s money correctly?

Posted by willd2 on November 6, 2008

Russell Brand resigns from Radio 2 and apologises for leaving abusive messages on Andrew Sachs’ answerphone:


In recent weeks the BBC has suffered something of a public relations disaster.

Following ‘Sachsgate’, Russell Brand and Lesley Douglas both resigned from their jobs at Radio 2 and Jonathan Ross has been suspended.

Complaints made to Ofcom, after Brand and Ross left abusive messages on former Fawlty Towers actor, Andrew Sachs’ phone, have now risen above the 30,000 mark.

The incident has sparked a debate around the BBC’s rules regarding self-regulation and the organisation’s use of licence fee payers’ money.

Plan for local websites comes under fire

Criticism has also been aimed at the corporation after lawyers representing the local UK press organisation, the Newspaper Society, wrote to the BBC Trust and Ofcom to ask for the review into a new website scheme to be suspended.

The BBC’s proposals to develop 60 local news websites, at an estimated cost of £68 million, are considered to pose a serious threat to local newspapers.

Neil Benson, editorial director for Trinity Mirror’s regional titles, told the journalism industry website, ‘It’s going to seriously distort the market place the fact the BBC are ploughing extra millions upon millions of pounds of licence fee payers’ money into an area that we feel is already well served.’

The journalism industry website, Press Gazette reports that the Head of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons responded to criticism by saying that whilst the ‘rising noise and anxiety’ from the BBC’s commercial rivals was understandable, ‘there’s nobody who can be satisfied with the quality of local news in most parts of the United Kingdom.’

Lyons also dismissed the idea of the BBC sharing its licence fee with other public service news provider, such as ITV and Channel 4, and urged commercial rivals to come up with their own proposals about how to save the future of journalism.

Is Ross worth ‘1000 BBC journalists’?

Much of the debate about the BBC’s use of the licence fee has focused on Jonathan Ross’ three-year, £18 million contract.

Last year, whilst hosting an annual comedy awards ceremony, Ross joked, ‘I’m worth 1,000 BBC journalists’.

As reported in The Independent, this comment angered many in the industry, and provoked a response from Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), ‘Jonathan Ross’s comments were obscene at a time when thousands of his fellow BBC colleagues are facing losing their jobs.’

It also brings into question the BBC’s priorities, which should be about quality news and journalists, first and foremost, but is not really reflected in salaries. They seem to think that having one light entertainment presenter is better than having 600 broadcast journalists.’

The fallout

The video journalist, Michael Rosenblum wrote in his blog, ‘is it right to oppose any investment in local journalism? Should we stand back and watch papers down-size and yet deny the rights of an alternative news-provider to step into the vacuum?’

Much has been made of The Daily Mail running the Brand and Ross story on the paper’s front page for four consecutive days, adding a new strand to the private versus public sector broadcaster debate.

In an article in The Guardian, Peter Wilby wrote, not for the first time, the Mail showed that, in this country at least, newspapers can still lead the news agenda and alter the national mood.’

Wilby also said, ‘if they are to survive, British papers need to preserve and develop their individuality. The Mail, in the past week, has shown them how.’

Indeed, this debate appears to be turning into one about identity and how best to preserve it.  The financial crisis is having an obvious impact on proceedings and the future remains very much unclear, not just for smaller newspapers, but also for the BBC.


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Will BBC websites spell the end for local newspapers?

Posted by willd2 on November 6, 2008


Will local papers soon be a thing of the past?

Will local papers soon be a thing of the past?

After scrapping plans for an ‘ultra-local’ TV service in October 2007, the BBC has announced that it intends to develop a network of local, news-on-demand websites.

The proposals, to develop 60 websites at an estimated cost of £68 million, are currently being reviewed by Ofcom and the BBC Trust.

Should the plans be approved, local newspaper reporting as we know it, could come to an end.

A spokesperson from the BBC told the journalism industry website,, ‘If approved, our proposal to put new video onto our existing local BBC websites will directly contribute to the public purpose of the BBC by better reflecting the nations, regions and communities of the UK.’

The video journalist, Michael Rosenblum, explains, ‘At present, the BBC websites each have staffs of four people. The proposal is to increase staffing by five per site over a five-year period. These new employees will be video journalists (VJs) whose task, rather obviously, will be to increase the video content.’

‘Struggle to compete’

As reported in, ‘representatives of several major regional newspaper publishers said the plans showed a disregard for their industry and its achievements online.’

A Bournemouth blogger and Daily Echo journalist wrote, ‘I have no idea what the BBC Trust will decide. But with ITV cutting back, there is obviously an argument that local news needs a boost.’

The blogger explains: ‘The sad truth is that the BBC is so far ahead of most local newspaper’s websites that we’ll struggle to compete.’

Unclear future

In the latest twist to the story, lawyers representing the local UK press organisation, the Newspaper Society (NS), have written to the BBC Trust and Ofcom asking for the review to be suspended.

The BBC Trust’s involvement with the review into the websites, raises questions about the BBC’s self-regulation policies.

David Newell, NS director, told ‘The BBC Trust cannot be the chief cheerleader for the BBC, encouraging it to extend local services out of more and more taxpayers’ money, at the same time as being the independent regulator determining the public value of those services and their impact on local media.’

The future of local newspapers and the BBC’s ability to regulate itself, especially in light of ‘Sachsgate’remain unclear.

The results of the review by the BBC Trust and Ofcom into the website proposals are due on the 27th November.


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Thousands of runners stranded by floods

Posted by willd2 on October 28, 2008

Thousands of people had to be rescued in the Lake District by emergency services after torrential rain caused floods, which left them stranded overnight.

Competitors taking part in the annual Original Mountain Marathon (OMM), near Keswick in Cumbria on Friday, had to take shelter in farms, schools and even a former mine.

The BBC reported that over 1700 people were unaccounted for overnight after the race was abandoned by its organisers at around midday.

Race organiser, Jen Longbottom told the BBC‘People are thinking we are a bunch of amateurs who were taking school kids out on the hills’.

Longbottom went on to explain: ‘These are not school kids. A lot of them are in their 40s and 50s who are responsible people such as doctors and lawyers.’

‘Race should never have gone ahead’

All of the competitors were said to be experienced mountaineers and were carrying food and suitable equipment, which meant they could deal with the severe weather conditions.

However, organisers found it incredibly difficult to inform all of the entrants, who were scattered all over the course, that the race had been abandoned as many could not be contacted.

Honister Slate Mines manager, Mark Weir, who provided shelter for over 300 runners, told Radio 4, that the race should never have gone ahead.

‘Now we’ve got several hundred, into the thousands, stranded, cold, tired, some hypothermic.  We’ve overwhelmed the emergency services, there’s two mountain rescue out trying to find people on the side of the mountain in the dark. It’s just a bizarre day.’ – Mark Weir

A major rescue effort involving Cumbria Police and the RAF was mounted and all of the 2,500 participants were accounted for.

Thirteen competitors suffering from problems including hypothermia and head injuries were treated in local hospitals.

Race organisers have confirmed that the event will take place again next year.

A competitor’s video diary of events as they unfolded:


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Rescued runners story ‘provoked by member of public who was completely unknowledgeable’

Posted by willd2 on October 28, 2008

Mike Parsons, event organiser, responds to the cancellation of OMM 2008:

Last Friday, the Original Mountain Marathon (OMM) near Keswick, Cumbria, had to be abandoned after torrential downpours caused floods, leaving thousands of competitors stranded.

Over 1700 competitors were unaccounted for overnight and a costly rescue operation, involving the local police, mountain rescue teams and the RAF had to be implemented.

According to the BBC, the rescue mission cost local authorities ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds.’

This led John Ashton, Cumbria’s director of public health, to call for a change in the legal responsibilities for organisers of similar events.

If implemented, this would mean that organisers would have to cover the costs of any avoidable emergencies, which would otherwise fall to the taxpayer.

‘Complete bollocks’

Mike Parsons, innovation director and general manager of OMM, dismissed Ashton’s words as ‘complete bollocks’.

Parsons claims that upon realising he was ‘cornered’ on the subject of insurance, Ashton proceeded to criticise the event organisers’ ‘naivety’.

OMM have rejected claims that they endangered competitor’s lives by not cancelling the event sooner, despite having received severe weather warnings.

Asked if the event would be handled differently in the future, Parsons said, ‘No two sets of circumstances are ever the same.  We had a bad storm in 1998, which we learned from and we’ll learn from this one.’

‘Last week the world of event reporting changed’

‘The story was provoked by a member of the public who was completely unknowledgeable’, said Parsons, ‘they also refused to collaborate before, during or after the event.’

He stated that, ‘last week, the world of event reporting changed’, after information and videos were passed to the media by competitors and members of the public.

Parsons stated that in future events the OMM ‘will ensure that correct information is transmitted to the press’.

The day after the event, Mark Weir, owner of Honister Slate Mines, who provided shelter for over 300 runners, told the BBC: ‘We have come within inches of turning the Lake District mountains into a morgue.’

The BBC reported that OMM have already raised £3000, which will be donated to the local mountain rescue teams who helped the competitors. 

Parsons, could not confirm how much money had been raised but said that an announcement would be made on the website very soon.

What is the Original Mountain Marathon?

The website describes OMM as the ‘premier UK event to test teamwork, self-reliance, endurance, outdoor and navigational skills. The reputation of the event is worldwide and every year we have entrants from between 12-14 countries.

 …Which in laymen’s terms means:


  •  A two-day mountain marathon (currently being held in the Lake District)
  • The course is 49.6 miles long
  • Competitors work in teams of two
  • They must carry all of their own equipment and food
  • They must navigate their way across the course and camp overnight
  • The event started in 1968


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A Fetish for Human Flesh

Posted by willd2 on October 26, 2008

Throughout the trial of Anthony Morley, former Mr Gay UK, who murdered, then cooked and eat flesh from his lover’s body, comparisons were always going to be made with Armin Meiwes.

In 2006, Meiwes, 46 from Rotenburg, Germany, was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty of murdering Bernd Juergen Brandes, a 43 year old computer engineer.

Meiwes met Mr Brandes in March 2001 after advertising on the Internet for a ‘well-built male prepared to be slaughtered and then consumed.’

The victim is said to have visited Meiwe’s flat where the two men had sex before Brandes agreed to have his penis cut off and cooked, which the two attempted to eat.

Meiwes then repeatedly stabbed the victim in the neck and dissected the corpse.  Some of the body’s flesh was stored in a freezer and consumed at a later date.

Fantasies of devouring flesh

As reported by the BBC, it was revealed that Meiwes admitted to ‘having fantasies about devouring the flesh of attractive young people’. 

The incident was filmed and a copy of the video was played in court. Prosecutors argued that the video ‘proved that Meiwes killed his victim for his own sexual pleasure’.

During proceedings, Meiwes said, ‘I had the fantasy, and in the end I fulfilled it’.  The fantasy was said to have resulted from Meiwes’ poor relationship with his father and that he wanted another human he could ‘bind to himself forever by consuming’.

Meiwes received a life sentence after a re-trial.  During the initial court proceedings, he was only found guilty of manslaughter as it was argued that Brandes was a willing victim.

A tradition which has spanned both cultures and centuries’

The issue of cannibalism is an uncomfortable one to broach.  It is the ultimate taboo, considered by many to inhabit the darkest corner of the human psyche.

As Clare Murphy of the BBC reports, ‘cannibalism has frequently been used as a means to demonise others’.

The term is said to derive from the West Indian Carib tribe, who according to Christopher Columbus, ate human flesh.

Indeed, cannibalism has featured throughout history, all over the world from The Aztecs, to the Democratic Republic of Congo, in more recent years.

Whilst there is an element of understanding in cases involving cannibalism as a means of survival, it is still regarded as an abomination of human nature.

Sexual satisfaction

In the cases of both Morley and Meiwes, the act of cannibalism was closely linked to sexual frustration or fantasy.

In her essay ‘Cannibalism: The Ancient Taboo in Modern Times’, Rachel Bell describes cannibalism as ‘the ultimate expression of dominance over another person.’

What is shocking is the reality of these cases.  Both Morley and Meiwes realised their sexual desires with gruesome consequences.

Horror films

During a psychological exam, Meiwes, ‘claimed that watching horror films is what initiated the fantasies that he had as a child about eating people.’

Indeed, cannibalism has been immortalised on the silver screen by films such as ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’.

In another recent story, the Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards claimed to have snorted his father’s ashes mixed with cocaine.   

Although not as shocking as the cannibalism cases, this story serves as a reminder that cannibalism remains a part of our society and interestingly it is still not illegal in many countries.


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Chef who killed, then ate victim receives life sentence

Posted by willd2 on October 23, 2008

A 36-year-old chef who murdered his lover before cutting flesh off his thigh and cooking and eating it was sentenced to life in prison on Friday.

At Leeds Crown Court, Anthony Morley of Bexley Avenue, Leeds was told that he would serve a minimum of 30 years in prison after he was convicted of murdering Damian Oldfield, 33.

The court learned that Morley cut the victim’s throat before stabbing him several times after he claimed he awoke to find Oldfield performing a sexual act on him at his home on the 23rd of April.

Morley then sliced flesh off the body’s thigh, which he cooked and tried to eat.

‘Killing borne out of hatred’

Prosecutor, Andrew Stubbs QC is quoted by the BBC as saying: ‘It was a killing borne out of hatred for what he felt and what had happened to him, hatred for his own sexuality and now for the homosexual who was in his bed.’

As reported in the BBC, Judge James Stuart QC compared the case with ‘eras long gone’ and upon sentencing the defendant, told him: ‘You have plumbed depths rarely encountered in our court.’

There was applause from the public gallery as the sentence was announced and a cry of ‘murderer’ could be heard.

History of violence

During the trial, the court heard of Morley’s violent past, known alcohol problems and the apparent confusion over his sexuality which may have played a part in the ‘cold-blooded, savagely executed murder’.

Morley was said to have had relationships with both men and women and claimed to have been in a relationship with a woman when he won the first Mr Gay UK competition in 1993.

After the killing, Morley entered a nearby takeaway restaurant and told staff that he had killed someone.  The dressing gown he was wearing was stained with blood.

Mr Morley had denied murdering Damian Oldfield on the grounds of provocation and diminished responsibility after he claimed Oldfield had tried to rape him.


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Taxpayers liable for £19,000 each after bank bailout

Posted by therealquickie on October 14, 2008

This week’s £500 billion rescue package for high street banks, designed to bring confidence back to the credit market, could cost every taxpayer up to £19,000.

On Wednesday, Gordon Brown and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, oversaw the largest rescue of the British banking system ever seen.

Banks including Abbey, Barclays, HSBC, Nationwide Building Society, Lloyds TSB, the Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS could all be part-nationalised as a result of this unprecedented action.

Brown explained the reasons behind the move in a televised press conference, ‘Good, strong banks are essential for every family and for every business in the country.’

As the scale of this bailout began to sink in, Brown explained that, ‘extraordinary times call for the bold and far-reaching solutions that the treasury has announced today.’

£500 billion may not be enough 

Even combined with interest rate cuts, from 5% to 4.5%, the Evening Standard reported that the Chancellor was prepared to do more.

‘I believe it will go a long way, but as I have said on many, many occasions, I’m not ruling anything out.’

The opposition parties promised constructive support and welcomed the actions taken.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg said: ‘When a ship is sinking you send out the lifeboats. You don’t argue about who steered it into an iceberg.’

Taxpayers picking up the bill

This money has to come from somewhere and the bill will inevitably fall to taxpayers.

The knock-on effect of this bailout could lead to an increase in taxes and cuts in public spending, although we would not feel the full effect of this until the next budget report.

Many argue that it is not right for taxpayers to bear the financial burden as a result of the risks taken by bankers during the times of a de-regulated banking system.

Two things are certain.  Firstly, how history remembers the Brown-Darling legacy will be depend on the success or failure of this drastic, but necessary action.  Secondly, we will all be feeling the effect of this financial crisis and radical bailout for some time to come.

What else could you get for £19,000?


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Money Money Money

Posted by therealquickie on October 14, 2008

With a recession looming, Brown and Darling have had to take drastic measures to get credit flowing through the veins of the British economy once again.

In a move, which mirrors the US governments unprecedented bank bailout on Friday 3rd OctoberBrown has insisted that injecting such a huge sum of money into the British economy is ‘the right thing to do’.

As the bailout package was announced, Brown informed listeners that this move was necessary, in order to ‘get the economy moving again’.

Fierce reactions

This drastic action has led to The Daily Telegraph’s Simon Heffer suggesting that ‘we are all socialists now.’

‘The intervention, or rather interference, of the state in financial and economic matters can only lead to sclerosis, the suppression of enterprise, the raising of taxes, starvation of investment, lack of innovation, technological retardation and the rise of the power of organised labour.’

Heffer’s comments provoked a response from The Guardian’s Peter Walker who calls on a reader’s comment to illustrate his point:

Simon, I missed the part where you pointed out what should have been done, and how a true capitalist approach would have ensured we never got into this mess in the first place.’

Seumas Milne’s article in The Guardian offers a  more optimistic view on the state’s intervention, explaining how nationalised banks, ‘could then become the core of a newly accountable and publicly controlled banking sector able to channel investment where it’s needed’.

However, even Milne warns that the financial situation is far from safe and explains that things could get much worse:

‘Even if yesterday’s package eases the domestic credit squeeze in the short term, all the signs suggest we are heading into something that goes well beyond a normal business cycle downturn… The threat is now of depression, not simply recession.’

BBC business editor blamed for crash in confidence

The BBCs business editor, Robert Peston, has been personally blamed for adding to the lack of confidence which has contributed to the financial crisis.

Michael Seamark’s article in the Daily Mail on the 8th October explained that, ‘viewers and listeners awoke to hear the Corporation’s business editor reveal that three of Britain’s biggest banks  –  Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB  –  had asked Alistair Darling for billions of pounds in funding.’

Seamark suggests that by breaking news of this meeting, combined with the commentary in his blog, Peston’s actions led to shares in all three banks falling, costing them millions of pounds.

The BBC did not take the allegations lightly, responding with an article defending their point of view, the prosecution seems to be that our reporting is irresponsible, scaremongering and is inflaming the situation by causing volatile share price movements’

‘Allow me to make the case for the defence. We have one primary responsibility and that is to you, our audience. Our decision to run a story is based on simple criteria. Is it accurate and would it be of significant interest and relevance to our audience? If the answer is yes then our presumption is to be publish unless there is a huge overriding interest not to.’ [sic]

With many of the general public struggling to understand the technicalities and implications of the bank bailout, surely this is the time, more than ever, for clear and concise commentary.


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