Sick And Tired Of It All (Mini-Blogging)

So, lots of things have been bugging me of late, but instead of writing full-blown blog entries for each one, I’ve decided to emulate Oh! My Goddess and create Mini-Blogs (like Mini Goddesses – sorry non-anime fans, but it makes sense to anime freaks!).  Short, sharp, sweet comments on those things that have irked me.  You may agree or disagree, comment or ignore some, all or none of them…but here they come:

PETROL PRICES

So, we are now at £1.16.9p per litre for unleaded petrol.  WHAT THE F**K IS GOING ON?!?!  Much like the energy companies who hike gas & electricity prices but rarely cut them back again, the petrol companies claim that the prices go up because of fluctuations in oil prices.  These prices are from approx. 6 months ago.  But hang on…oil prices have been consistently dropping for over 6 months now.  Put that to them and they claim it is the tax increases, the VAT, the fuel surcharge, etc…  Yeah, fine, I get that because bankers screwed up, and we all went on a massive spending spree for a decade, that we now need more tax to pay off the debts…BUT…the baseline cost for oil has DECREASED, so the per litre cost SHOULD ALSO DECREASE.  But does it?  NO!  I am resigned to spending £50 at Sainsbury just to get their poxy 5p per litre off voucher!  Listen up petrol firms….STOP PROFITEERING YOU AMORAL THIEVING SCUM!  We are almost at £1.20 per litre…a revolution will soon follow and personally, alongside MPs, BBC management and chuggers, I think the petrol bosses will be first against the wall!

BBC CUTS THE FRIDAY PLAY ON R4

So…after many years of budget cut after budget cut after spending freeze after cost squeeze after budget cut, Radio 4 now announce that they are ‘decommissioning’ the Friday Play slot.  WHAT THE F**K IS GOING ON?!?!  I realise people love to attack the BBC as being over-large, lacking in quality and spending too much on fripperies…but please, the FRIDAY PLAY?  This is a bastion of hard-edged, socially and culturally important drama.  These plays fit no-where else on the BBC radio networks.  To cut the entire slot because yet again the network is being told to cut budgets?  I am sorry but I pay my licence fee for the BBC to MAKE PROGRAMMES AND BROADCAST THEM!  The massive cost of the rebuilding of BBC Broadcasting House in London (£1.56bn!) has proven that the BBC has no idea what its purpose is.  It is NOT there to invest in buildings and rebuildings and rerebuildings…damn it, BBC BH had only just been rebuilt before they ripped it down and started again!  And it is running way over time and over budget, meaning yet more is being spent on rent at Bush House and other locations for those departments that were supposed to move in to the new BH!!  And then they waste another £5m or so commissioning artwork for the new space when they could have BORROWED art from other public institutions and become a gallery space.  That £5m could have paid for many many radio dramas and features.  The cancellation of the Friday play is CULTURAL VANDALISM by people who should be protecting the BBC’s role of INVESTING IN UK PRODUCERS, WRITERS and ACTORS.  I am sickened and disgusted by this move, and the constant budget cutting from programme making.  BBC News could easily save millions by streamlining its outside broadcasting and reporting processes.  BBC TV could save millions by holding a moratorium on dramas/series based on cops/doctors/murders for one month.  Millions more could be saved by cutting back on the spend on flashy but pointless opening credit sequences (e.g. the F1 opening – 30-60secs of meaningless faff…we know we are watching F1, and there is no competition for coverage so why the OTT animated flashy opening?!), etc…  Maybe it is time for some resignations at the BBC…possibly at Radio 4, but certainly at upper management level.  They are failing in their core purpose!

PARENTS DRIVING KIDS TO/FROM SCHOOL

Ok…just what is it about parents and their kids in cars going to and from school?!  I am not a parent, but even if I were, I WOULD NOT drive them to and from school.  A caveat – this is about people living in towns/villages/cities – I understand countryside life can require different means due to the lack of public transport or distances involved. I just had to break my rule of not being on the road at 3pm as I had to do some business across town.  Driving back through the 3pm school-run (3pm!  When did schools close so damn early?) I almost had 5 crashes because of moronic parents collecting their dear little tykes.  2 near-misses were outside a school where the idiotic parents couldn’t park or pull out properly, or using indicators, or being patient!  The other 3 were in traffic, at roundabouts and at a junction…all three involved parents not paying attention to the road, looking everywhere but where they are driving, and generally adopting the attitude that they are their darling mini-me’s were the most important and valuable people on the road.  Well…SOD YOU ALL!!  I am sick of it.  The roads are so much nicer at half-term and holidays…why…BECAUSE YOU C***S AREN’T ON THE ROAD!  If I were in charge for a day I would make it ILLEGAL for parents to drive kids to/from school within towns.  Let them walk, ride a bike or take the bus.  In return I would invest in decent school bus services and street patrols.  Enough is enough…your kids need the exercise, it is good for them to mix and mingle while walking or taking the bus, they learn good life skills, you get another hour a day away from them to be doing something more useful to society such as working or inventing or writing or, well, anything but adding yet more pollution and congestion to the world.

SINGLE LIFE

OK, so I am no longer single, but I was for more than 7 years, and as we head in to yet another farce of an election, WHY ARE SINGLE PEOPLE NOT BEING TARGETED?! According to the ONS there is approx 7 million single people (12% of the population!) but in every political speech, paper, debate and news item all we hear about are HARD WORKING FAMILIES, blah blah blah.  Child tax credits, marriage tax allowance, this tax break, that tax break…we want YOU to be married!  The world MUST BE MADE BETTER for married people and those with children!  Well…I agree, I think the world should be made better for everyone who puts in a day’s work and pays their way.  BUT why does no-one think about single people?  They have ONE INCOME, and yet are taxed more than any other group!  The ONLY tax break for singletons is the Council Tax Single Person Allowance…this gives you a 25% discount on your CTax.  Sounds good, eh?  But think about it…if you are in a couple, with two incomes, sharing all your costs, then each person is only paying 50% of the CTax.  Therefore, a single person is paying 75% where one half of a couple is paying just 50%…the singleton pays 50% more than one half of a couple!!!  And single working people use less local and national social resources, yet pay the same in tax.  No party or politician stands up during the recession and says WE MUST LOOK AFTER THE HARD WORKING SINGLE PERSON.  Why the f**k not?!  Single people pay more for holidays, more for travel and more for general services as they cannot apply for any of the FAMILY DISCOUNTS!  Well, I am sick and tired of it…come on you 7 million singletons, make your voices heard!  Either that or 3.5 million move in with the other 3.5 million and claim a few benefits!

ZYNGA

Oh Zynga, I love your games on Facebook, and I for one know that I don’t have to click on the adverts that fund the games…therefore I have no problem about your business model.  I thank you for the fun.  I disagree totally with the accusations that you produce parasitic-gaming, because I am intelligent enough NOT TO CLICK ON THE F*****G ADVERTS!  Jeez..all these morons harping on about Zynga and their ‘evil’ intentions, their ‘snooping’ practices, the ‘intrusive’ advertising which leads you astray…JUST DON’T CLICK ON THE DAMN ADVERTS YOU OUTRAGEOUSLY STUPID BASTARDS!  The games are free to use so Zynga has to make money from elsewhere…like facebook, they take the chance to target you via advertising…but they AREN’T FORCING YOU TO BUY ANYTHING.  If you click on an advert then it is your responsibility not Zynga’s. Please please please stop bitching about this…either play the games or don’t play the games…it is your choice! HOWEVER, I will take Zynga to task over one thing…why don’t you reply to the perfectly reasonable error complaints of you many millions of users?  We love Farmville and Cafeworld, but there are flaws and bugs, and we take the time to report them to you, and discuss them on the Zynga forums…BUT YOU NEVER REPLY!  This is dragging your name through the mud and is doing you no favours.  please just pay someone to be the official voice of your organisation on the boards.

SPECIAL DELIVERY

So…the website for the UK post office says its Special Delivery service stops at 5pm each evening…but the branches say it is 4pm, or 4.30pm or 5.30pm.  WHAT TIME IS IT?!?!  I rely on SD to get my audiobook masters to the BBC, but I can never tell what time the cutoff for pickup is!  So for safety I stick with 4pm, but it really can’t be that hard can it?  And if a branch has to have a time different to the website advertised time, PLEASE PUT UP A F*****G SIGN!

UPDATE – Oh, and Special Delivery is meant to GUARANTEE delivery next day…so why has my delivery that went out yesterday NOT arrived today?  Oh…I have to call you and ask?  Oh, it was delayed in transit and will be dleivered tomorrow? Oh, the business is shut tomorrow so it will be Monday? Oh, so you can’t call me and tell me these things and leave it for me to be told by the recipient that it hasn’t arrived? Oh, so the service you provide has failed EPICALLY and yet now my client won’t receive the parcel in time for their deadline?  Hmmmm…thanks a f*****g lot…FAIL!

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The Death of Common Sense

As you know, I have worked in UK radio for almost 20 years, in pretty much every capacity, from technician to presenter to producer to programmer.  Over those years I have been responsible for, and witnessed, some quite monumental cock-ups on-air (and off-air!).  Live radio has an inherent risk of cock-up.  it is what makes being on-air so exciting.  It is what is missing from 99% of TV, that elusive, electrifying near-fear of the cock-up.  When it almost happens you get shivers, you thank everyone and anyone that it was averted, you sit in the studio for hours afterwards in a state of nervous ecstasy.  When it DOES happen, then you have to get out of it.  Your brain either fries or goes in to overdrive.  9 times out of 10 you manage to get past the mistake and move on.  The listeners get a laugh but then move on with you.  and 9 times out of 10 no-one else at the radio station notices.  If the boss does hear it, or you come clean, the intelligent, experienced and clever programme controller works through the cock-up with you, you learn from the mistake and, possibly with a reprimand, you move on.  Rarely do you lose your job over it…because, and let us make this point in big capital letters…IT IS ONLY RADIO!!!  Sometimes, if the cock-up is sufficiently large, you might lose a shift, or be moved on to a less prominent programme.  And of course, if you break one of the cardinal rules of radio (swearing, blasphemy, losing advertisers’ money) you may well be fired.  But a sacking is a rare and, usually, well-considered move.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ORIGINAL NEWS STORY

By now, if you follow the radio or entertainment news, you will have heard about the BRMB (Birmingham commercial radio station) presenter who was sacked because he cut short the Queen’s speech on Xmas day.  According to reports he had cocked-up his timing and the speech was going to over-run and he decided to cut it short.  He then, as a stand-up comedian as well as a radio presenter, made a poorly tought-through gag…he referred to the Queen’s speech as ‘boring’.  This resulted in the radio station receiving a small number of complaints from ‘offended’ listeners.  The presenter was then sacked.

Right – let us look at this in some uninformed detail:

[1]  BRMB as a commercial broadcaster decides to transmit the Queen’s Speech (presumably supplied via feed from IRN).  This is a little unusual for a commercial station, but fair enough.  The programme controller and head of music will then, you will hope, have programmed the hour so that the speech, always around 5 mins long, fitted in with room to spare…possibly including a spare music track the presenter could easily drop if things got a little tight?

[2] There were actually people tuned in to BRMB to hear the Queen’s speech rather than viewing it on the BBC, or listening via national networks.  Odd, but maybe they were travelling or were such die-hard BRMB fans that the thought of going elsewhere for a whole 5 minutes freaked them out to the point of apoplexy! We shall return to these people later…

[3] On the day, the presenter was aware that he was (a) doing the shitty shift at some ridiculously low rate of pay (no doubt) and that (b) traditionally very few people are tuned in.  That said, as a professional, and I presume, wanting to please the boss and maybe get better shifts in 2010, gave the show his all.  Bear in mind that this man is also a stand-up comedian and was no doubt hired because of his comedy talent and notoriety.  Having done many a Xmas day shift I know you get one of two things from the bosses – (a) a good heads-up about all they want and expect, the special items they have programmed in and the flexibility you have to throw in things like callers, jokes, Xmas jingles, change music tracks, etc… or (b) no communication at all and you are left to turn up and figure it out for yourself.  I don’t know what the case was here.  The experience of the station boss leads me to think it would have been the former, but who knows.  For something as seemingly important as the Queen’s speech I would have to assume that the presenter was at least told how and when to take the live feed.

[4] The hour of the Queen’s speech would have been programmed with music, jingles, adverts and news.  Since the speech is approx. 5 mins long, there would have been one less song that hour.  The presenter says he messed up his timings and had to cut the speech short, in order to stay on time.  THIS is where the cock-up happens.  There is nothing in an hour schedule that HAS to be on time except the news and if you are linking in to a network.  Now, in this case, the programme was being networked across several other radio stations (another cost-cutting lazy piece of modern radio programming) which would have put some pressure on the presenter IF he was having to back-time the end of this hour to hand over to another presenter from another station.  These hand-overs need to be done to the second or networks go somewhat awry.  If this was the case then I sympathise with the presenter…network timings are sacrosanct and it is drummed in to us that we HAVE to be spot on or the computers all go out of sync and the network collapses (one of those amusing little white lies engineers use to try to ensure they don’t get called on days off by panicking presenters!)  However, I believe the Queen’s speech was AFTER the start of an hour, not up to the end of one…so I do not think that this can be the explanation.  If the presenter thought he was going to miss an ad break or not have room for all the music then he was very much in error.  Ad breaks can be played late, music tracks can be dropped or cut short.  Even in network mode these are fairly simple ways to fix an over-running hour.  I am perplexed by just what he thought was so important that he choose to cut short the speech…very odd.  But no matter what, this was a cock-up, simple and that is that!

[5] EXCEPT…after cutting the speech short he quipped that it was ‘boring’.  Let me repeat that so terribly offensive word…BORING!  Oh dear, oh deary deary dear.  Ooops.  Can you hear the edges of our society starting to crumble? Listen, you can hear the screaming of children from middle-England.  There is a wailing and a gnashing of whitened teeth from the good burghers of the West Midlands!!  It seems from the reports that the presenter’s gag at the Monarch’s expense upset/annoyed/offended a handful of listeners who had nothing better to do with their Xmas holidays than to write in and complain.  I have to say at this point that I am a card-carrying Republican (not the US sort) and believe the Royal family are a leech on our country and have no place other than as a tourist attraction that should be sold off to Disney.  However, that said, I also believe that there is no reason to ever be offensive towards anyone.  But BORING?  Is boring an insult?  Maybe if you are a poet or a lecturer or a public speaker.  But calling the Queen, in fact the Queen’s speech, boring?  That is not, cannot be, nor ever will be an insult.  I am certain Her Majesty has taken worse blows to her ego over the years – she is married to Philip after all!  So he wasn’t sacked for being offensive to the Queen then, not really.  No sane or realistic boss would consider that a sacking offense (get it?!)  So why was he sacked?  Let’s go back to those listeners:

[6] A handful of BRMB listeners are tuned in on Xmas day and hear the Queen’s Speech (which is, let’s be fair here, overwhelmingly dull and of little relevance to about 90% of the population).  The speech is cut short and the presenter refers to it as being boring and then dives in to “10 Xmas hits, back to back, with no ads – that’s a BRMB guarantee!” or some such commercial radio nonsense.  These few people are so offended by this they put pen to paper, or font to email, or chisel to stone tablet possibly, and complain to the BRMB bosses.  WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!?!  What is there to complain about?  I would understand if they complained solely about the cutting short of the speech.  Admittedly I am still confused why they have gone to BRMB to hear it, or why they can’t just use the BBC’s iPlayer, or the internet to watch the damn thing again later in the day.  But to purposefully complain about being offended by the word ‘boring’?!  I would hate to meet these people for fear of any word I use in passing offending their genteel easily damaged constitutions!  Are they all extras from Emma?!  For some reason they believe that THEIR offense is shared by the Queen but that Her Maj can’t stand up for herself, so they have to vent their upset and ire on her behalf.  Do these people use the Daily Mail to build papier-mache shrines to the Royal family and burn copies of David Icke books?  This is something of an over-reaction.  Let’s hope they never accidentally tune in to James Whale when he is calling for the abolition of the Monarchy…he’d be sacked (again) in a heartbeat!!  Now, if you think I may be over-reacting, understand this…the presenter has had death-threats because of this situation.  DEATH THREATS?  For one word?  Do we live in a free-speech democracy or should we all just give up and bow down before the vocal minority who espouse such hatred and violence?

[7] So, these ‘upstanding’ citizens complain to the BRMB bosses who, once they have removed their backbones, take immediate action and sack the presenter.  Here’s what they said:

David Lloyd, group programme and marketing director, said: “On Christmas Day, one of our presenters, Tom Binns, made some inappropriate comments surrounding the Queen’s speech. We do not condone what he said in any way; whether said in jest or not. We are making contact with the small number of listeners who were offended by Tom’s comments and have complained to us to convey our apologies, and have also apologised on air.”

OK, some questions:

  • WHAT is so inappropriate about the word ‘boring’?
  • Surely you do not need to condone his joke, but you can defend his right to make such a joke.
  • You say a SMALL number of listeners…why such an over-reaction then?
  • You have apologised on-air…Tom could have been asked to do the same and that could have been the end of it, why sack him?
  • WHO are you running scared from, it can’t be the Queen, is it the local press?

For me, this is another example of the way that broadcast media, especially radio, has been running scared and pandering to the vocal minority and the trash print media for the past 2-3 years.  Everything from Ross/Brand to guests swearing on-air…if just one person complains, or might complain, then the bosses go in to knee-jerk reaction mode.  Radio is an art form, an entertainment, a place of fun and education and information.  It is a place for comedians and broadcasters and poets and writers and performers and artists to learn, develop and master their craft.  As my first boss in radio kept telling us, RADIO IS ENTERTAINMENT.  Why will the bosses not grow a backbone and defend their talent?  If they don’t want the risk of live radio why not just programme it all into computers (as much of the overnight and weekend programming on your so-called local radio station is already)? What is the point of running a radio station if you always pander to the minority?

So…if I had been the boss, what would I have done?  First of all I would have ensured in advance that the hour in which the speech was being broadcast in was well-programmed and that I had gone through this with the presenter in fine detail, making sure he understood the importance of the speech and how to deal with it technically. (Of course, if I had been in charge we wouldn’t have been wasting the airtime on a pre-recorded speech by an anachronistic leech on society in the first place!) After the fact, had it happened, I would have required the presenter to apologise on-air AND to reply in person to each of the complainants. To his replies I would have added a note from the station apologising for the fact that the individuals had felt offended but defending the right of my talent to make jokes and be entertaining, explaining that a joke to many can sometimes be less than funny to some.  As the employer it is my responsibility to defend and protect my employees as far as possible.  And in this case, short of a demand from the Palace for his “‘ead to be chopped orf” I would defend my talent.  There was simply nothing inappropriate about the gag other than its timing and because the presenter chose to cut short the speech.  If he had built the gag into a link later in the show it would have been fine and I believe no complaints would have been made.

But he has been sacked, and once again the vocal minority win the day.  It is about time some of the old laws of the land were re-evaluated.  Blasphemy and ‘speaking out against the Queen’ have no place in a modern society.  If your monarch or religion are so fragile they can’t take a few jokes or counter-arguments then maybe you should consider the foundations on which these institutions are built.

And on a simpler note, let us try to define what is actually OFFENSIVE and what simply ANNOYS you and is counter to your point of view.  If you want to put the Royal Family up on a pedestal and bow before them, give away your freedom, your individuality and your right to be an equal, then go ahead.  But many others do not wish this.  Many are happy to have the Queen there, but do not see her as superior to themselves.  Others, like me, see the Royal family as a waste of money and resources, an elite who put themselves above the rest of us and expect us to see them as superior humans.  They are not, they are there due to history, war, politics, suspicious in-breeding and wealth (accumulated through OUR hard work, not theirs!)  Much like many politicians believe themselves to be worthy of superior status because of the  job they do, the Royals sit in a position of power only because we allow them to.  I am certain that they will continue to do so for the rest of my life…but it doesn’t mean that I have to show them any deference, protect them from any slings and arrows, and certainly not to pander to the ‘offence by proxy’ feelings of others who see them as some kind of rare and protected species.

Tom…if I were still running a radio station I would happily hire you.  As it is, if you have any ideas for radio docs, features, etc…gimme a call and let’s see what we can develop together.  Talent shouldn’t be punished for a cock-up.  But then again, it happened to James Whale, it happened to Nick Abbot, it happened to many others and they are all back on air, at other stations…stations with bosses who have backbones.  Maybe Tom should give Absolute Radio a call…

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