Monthly Archives: August 2003

Ugliness

Isabel Hilton in The Guardian (I do read some other newspapers, it’s just that none of them let me link to their stuff properly!) reminds us how much the current White House looks like the eminently unlovable Reagan White House (and shockingly unlike the one in The West Wing).

This ugly continuity across the decades – which looks like an irrepressibly corrupt strand of American democratic life – ought to contrast starkly with the freshness, openness and… well… morality of the Blair administration (the one I voted for, the one I still give £10 a month to).

That it doesn’t much any more – that Blair, Straw, Hoon et al apparently want to close the gap with their American colleagues ? is more depressing than I can say.

British politics is largely free of free range snakes like Poindexter and Abrams and Negroponte and this is a substantive good thing but the Kelly case, the dossiers (dodgy and otherwise), the out-of-control spin, the manufacture of politically contingent ‘narratives’ and the sloppy abuse of the government’s huge parliamentary majority contribute to a real and visible decay of British democracy that’s really getting me down…

Carter, got

He’s in post, seems to know roughly what’s going on (260 duties on his to do list), writes nicely (or at least his press office does) and he has a fair wind (few new regulators can have been so well received and Ofcom’s parliamentary birth could hardly have been easier). Stephen Carter, first Chief Executive of Ofcom, marks the end of the beginning for the new regulator in The Guardian.

I’ll be at Damian Tambini’s symposium on the Communications Act in Oxford later today. I’ll let you know if my optimism about the new regulator survives the day.

What was that about a free lunch?

The bad news about hydrogen is coming in. Alex Farrell at UC Berkeley and David Keith at Carnegie Mellon University conclude that the switch to hydrogen will quite likely just displace the production of carbon dioxide, creating as many problems as it solves. Meanwhile, researchers at Caltech reckon the hydrogen itself could produce global warming effects if routinely leaked into the atmosphere from cars and homes.

Still, I reckon that Hydrogen has passed its tipping point – the switch is now inevitable. Industry and government support is building and the political and ideological dividend from scaling down dependence on Middle Eastern oil will continue to be irresistible to US leaders. The rest of us will certainly fall into line nicely.

From the World Future Society‘s newsletter The Futurist.

Is it just because I’m a boy?

Yesterday, somewhere in Kent, a train reached 200 miles per hour. When I was a kid – long before the tunnel – I used to find it exciting to stand on the concourse at Victoria Station and see the exotic destinations on the big board – Moscow, Paris, Vienna, sometimes Istanbul (I had a sheltered upbringing).

The thought of actually boarding one of those trains took my breath away. Likewise the Eurostar at its proper speed on British soil! (and, incidentally, much more important than the cock-eyed European constitution and Gordon Brown’s pointless tests).

Spoiler shame? Not really.

David Liddiment knows his stuff (and his column is one of the several very good reasons to buy Media Guardian Mondays) but he’s reading the BBC’s mission through the distorting lens of a career in commercial TV. Liddiment says that the BBC shouldn’t run spoilers to obviously commercial programmes on ITV (his example is Fame Academy against Pop Idol on Saturday night).

It’s obviously not the BBC’s job to rob the commercial channels of ad revenue by trashing their big shows but the alternative is too ugly to think about. A BBC that politely shrinks from primetime competition to leave the field open for the harried ad-funded outfits will quickly lose audience, currency and relevance.

The Beeb’s programmers know that, far from being incompatible with the charter, fierce competition in the mainstream is the only meaningful defense for a licence fee increasingly under fire.

Stop press: Liddiment just made a spectacular comeback to TV – he and two other old ITV execs just bought Chrysalis TV.