Archive for ‘media’

January 4, 2011

>Glee and Brothers and Sisters return this month

>The whole of VN Towers may stilll be in mourning and the cruel slashing of the Daily Show, but January will see the return of both the Glee show choir and the Walker Family on E4 and More4 respectively.

We left the Glee show choir after their regional sing off, having just received a reprieve to continue for another year (obviously.) We expect more top end one liners from Sue Sylvester, and can’t wait to find out who the guest starts are. Hard to imagine them beating Wicked ladies Idina Menzel and Kristin Cheneworth though…. Warm up your vocal chords for next Monday, 10th Jan!

We left the Walker family of Brothers and Sisters in less happy circumstances, caught up in massive car crash. Is outgoing Senator Robert Macallister (gorgeous Rob Lowe, ) dead or alive? We think we know now…) Who else is hurt? How will the family cope with Saul being HIV positive? The 4th season was a little disappointing, but the ending, and the continuing presence of VN fave Calista Flockhart,  means the 5th will still be must see. Brothers and Sisters resumes on January 20th.

January 3, 2011

>2 different parties, 2 beds, 1 proper coalition


There have been a lot of mutterings, particularly from the Conservative Party’s powerful backbench 1922 Committee, about a Lib Dem/Conservative merger or electoral pact. The issue has been bought to a head due to the parties that make up the current coalition government having separate candidates in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, and some accusing PM David Cameron of holding back the Tories attempts to replace Phil Woolas.

The idea of an electoral pact misses the point of a coalition entirely. The Oxford Mini Dictionary defines coalition as: “n. a temporary union of political parties”. Temporary. Super Shirley Williams, when asked by the Guardianista what is was like being in bed with the Tories, famously replied Not one bed. Two beds.” Coalitions involve separate entities coming together, and normally coming up with a better collection of policies than either generated on their own. That certainly seems to be the case in the current coalition.

The Tory barmy right, the Lib Dem looney left, and the whole Labour party, seem to have missed the point entirely, and are undermining what is in fact a highly effective  coalition government. Coalition government doesn’t mean a merger, it means finding out what is in the middle circle of the relevant parties’ policy venn-diagram. By definition it must be made up of multiple parties, different parties, that work together, not join together ’til death do us part.

It may make sense for the Lib Dems and Conservatives not to compete in Westminster by elections until 2015, but the government and democracy now or in 2015 would not be strengthened by an electoral pact. Furthermore, why on Earth are backbench MPs worrying about 2015 when they should be worrying about their constituents? The media are to blame to an extent for creating a misleading narrative obsessed with division not compromise, despite calling for a more grown up politics post expenses, and Labour are lapping it up.

MPs and the media should have a new years resolution to get on with either being in government or scrutinising it, instead of obsessing over what this government is.

December 20, 2010

>A cut too far


Jon Stewart is one of VN’s favourite satirist, political pundits, and comedians. With that in mind, you can imagine how disappointed we are to learn that More4 will be cutting our Daily dose from the beginning of next year. For the first time since 2005 there will be no more Jon Stewart five nights a week. Us Brits will now have to make do with the shows weekly “Global Addition”.
November 28, 2010

>Peter Sissons is not fan of Anne Robinson’s work

>In future, newsreader Peter Sissons would probably do well to check whether or not the cameras and microphones are still on before commenting on fellow BBC talent….

November 12, 2010

>Stripping the Week 7-12 November 2010

>This week London turned into Paris. Led by Comrade Porter, 50,000 students and lecturers descended onto Westminster to show their opposition to proposed rises in tuition fees, and cuts to education. While it would be deeply unfair to not point out that most of the march passed peacefully, what will remain in everyones memory are the scenes of violence at Millbank Tower, where Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) is housed. There were also smaller scenes of disruption outside Liberal Democrat HQ in Cowley Street, and no severe damage reported. VN fears that the legitimate case surrounding higher fears just got tossed away, like the fire extinguisher off the top of Millbank.

Picture via Guido Fawkes

Dramatic domestic events rather overshadowed the Prime Minister’s trip to China. He led his delegation on a business mission, and a controversially defiant decision to wear poppies. This stoked memories of the opium wars for the Chinese, but should be praised by the British as working with, not bowing down to Beijing’s every whim. 

This week has also brought the new that three former Labour MPs will face court over their expenses. At the same time Phil Woolas continues in vain to get a judicial review into the decision to void his election.

Hero of the week: Whoever swung it so there was no Lib Dem on Question Time this week!
Villain of the week: The idiots on the top of Millbank Tower

Listening to this week: Florence and the Machine – Lungs
Reading this week:  DJ Mag top 100 issue
Watching this week: An awfully dull Manchester derby

November 8, 2010


>The civility and conduct of our political discourse is in a parlous state. We live in a society where accusing another person of treachery does not bat an eyelid. Where accusing the Government of seeking social cleansing does not raise an eyebrow. Where an MP admitting that 70% of her online writings are fiction rankles the political and media classes only slightly. Hatred of those we disagree with is the order of the day. No longer do we have anything approaching civility, politeness, or liberality of opinion.

We see it in our wider media culture too. We see a respected television personality, often hailed as a national treasure, hounded off Twitter and facing the mob of the mind because he was misquoted in a magazine interview. We see a musician mocked for her miscarriage because she happened to criticise another musician. The media are too quick to jump to conclusions. Instant response, instant gratification, reduced to 140 characters or a stolen sentence from a government minister, are now the bedrock of our media and political discourse, and it is ruining our society. It drives hatred of one another. It drives the anger which is now such a present part of our society. It drives the ideologues and the iconoclasts who rely so much on a personality-driven media. It gets in the way of the truth, and the voices of the vast majority of people throughout Britain.

It could be worse. The United States suffers much worse from this than we do, as demonstrated by the Glenn Becks and Alan Graysons who reside throughout the US. (Indeed, I am not the first to speak publicly on this subject, far from it. Jon Stewart did a much better job at the ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ than I could ever do).

Yet it is pretty bad here.

The current state of our discourse is ruining government. We are willing to say anything about the other side, to call them extremists, to claim they hate the poor or that they hate Britain and wish to sell out to Europe, or to downright insult them. Yet, by doing this, we are increasing dissatisfaction with, and distrust of, politicians. We, for the first time in generations, have the chance to change this. The coalition government should be a chance for us to show that, actually, despite our differences, we can come together. We can work together, despite those things that set us apart, for the good of society. And yet, that doesn’t happen. Politicos – and I would single out the Labour Party here, although they are by no means alone – still operate under the assumption that we must always seek conflict.

Politics, democracy, and debate require we disagree. However those involved in politics generally can’t handle people disagreeing with them if they are of the same party. (This has a more serious repercussion which I shall attend to shortly). Conversely, politics also requires we agree. It requires compromise. It always has and always will. Even within parties, politics is compromise. So the coalition government is just an extension of that. We won’t always like what it delivers. I don’t. I disagree strongly with policy on tuition fees, and I would have preferred to raise income tax rather than VAT. Yet that does not mean we must reject the politics of consensus altogether. This is what we have been advised to do, by those who cannot comprehend of a different way. Labour has suddenly proved allergic to any sort of consensus government, after building its foundations for so many years.

Yet the allergy is prevalent in our party and the Conservatives too.  We are not used to government. I am still astounded and disbelieving that the Lib Dems are now in government. Many other people in the party feel that too. Yet we must remember that now we are in government, we must be responsible. We can’t expect, any longer, to sit on the sidelines. I happen to believe that the Lib Dems, at the parliamentary level and in the policy sense, were largely prepared for government. Claims that we promised the Earth knowing that we would never have to implement it are false. And yet, many members still subscribe to a utopian idea that we can implement all of our policies.

We are in coalition, and this means we have to select priorities. It also means that what we promised in the election will not always be delivered. I absolutely support the abolition of fees. Students have it hard enough without having to worry about an unanswerable burden of debt. I’m prepared to have that argument, and fight my utmost for their abolition. But compromise, a key component of any government, requires also that we seek common ground. Yet purists demand that we continue to pursue a complete abolition of tuition fees. Unfortunately, the electorate rejected us, the system has only given us 57 seats and therefore we must compromise. I utterly reject any rise in tuition fees but, at the same time, I understand this need to compromise. That is the price of coalition, but one that I feel is ultimately worthwhile. But many people disagree, including those who are often at the forefront of promoting pluralism.

But the tuition fees debate has taken on a nastier tone, one which is indicative of our wider political culture. It focuses unduly on personalities. It accuses them of being ‘traitors’ or having ‘betrayed’ us. Yet that is not true. Of course the party went in to the election campaign promising to scrap tuition fees, and Nick Clegg was a clear advocate for this position. But coalition means we can’t have everything we want. Manifestos aren’t iron-cast lists of policies that will be implemented, instead they are a statement of aspiration, otherwise every government in history would be illegitimate and untruthful. This does not mean we should not trust manifestos. We should because politicians want to implement the policies they believe in.

It is not helpful to say that Clegg has betrayed us, or that he is a Conservative lapdog. It’s not right to claim that the Government favours ‘social cleansing’. Nor, more importantly, is it true. And this leads on to the wider point about civility. Politics won’t work if it is based on insults, rudeness, and contempt. I am not, for a moment, suggesting that politicians must seek false friendships. (Although numerous outgoing US Senators attest to the role that friendships played in passing legislation in that body, so friendship is not a terrible idea). But at the same time, we must treat our opponents with respect, dignity, and civility. Personal insults have no place in the halls of our nation’s legislative bodies. We treat most people whom we know with politeness and, in some cases, kindness. Yet because our politicians disagree with each other, our culture of politics dictates that we don’t treat our opponents with respect. That ruins our politics. Politics can do without calling the other side evil, or feckless, or stupid, or criminal, or venal, or cruel. Indeed, it can only operate if the name-calling is forgotten.

Beyond politics, the Twitter trial of Stephen Fry is a sad indictment of our media, who seized a misquote in a low-circulation magazine and used it to bash a respected – and in some quarters loved – television personality, as well as the Twitterati and the commentariat, who decided to attack Fry, rather than engage him in rational debate. Put aside that Mr Fry did not say these things, and the errors are on the part of the interviewer, why must our first instinct be to attack, and not debate? Mr Fry could have had a perfectly reasoned argument for his ‘claims’. Instead, he was not allowed to do that, not even allowed to defend himself, and was metaphorically hanged, drawn and quartered by Twitter. Many other, less high-profile people have been driven off Twitter by the sheer nastiness of it. It can be a good place, a forum for ideas and pleasantries. Yet it can also be a nasty, venal, rude place. Observe the comment of one Justin Bieber fan after hearing of Lily Allen’s miscarriage:

“LMFAAAAAO. Hahaha.”

They then went on to comment that that they had no respect for Allen because she once “dissed Justin Bieber”. Bieber, it should be noted, sent his sympathy. That one person can treat another like this is beneath contempt. What happened to Lily Allen is one of the worst thing that can ever happen to someone, and Allen deserves much more respect than this. The requirement to respond with only 140 characters forces this. But this is not mandatory, and it need not be a permanent state.

We can do better. We can treat those we disagree with with respect. That doesn’t mean we have to be best friends with them. But it does mean we have to treat them with the civility and respect that we would expect from them. It does mean that we have to concede and compromise sometimes. It does mean that we shouldn’t hound people for having different opinions from ours. It doesn’t mean we’ll always succeed, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

As he does so often, Jon Stewart summed it up perfectly in is speech to the Rally to Restore Sanity. It’s about America, but many of the declarations in the speech are quite applicable to Britain too:

by Thomas Hemsley

September 10, 2010

>End of an era as Big Brother leaves Channel 4.


The last hour of Big Brother on Channel 4 will commence tonight at 10.30pm. Love it or loathe it, there is not doubt the programme has become a cultural icon over the last 11 years, helping to introduce the world to the genre of television misleadingly called reality tv. It will always be associate with the generation of people now aged 20-30, for whom it did define adolescence. The theme tune meant summer was here, and if the below video doesn’t make you tingle just slightly, you were probably born in the 1970s or earlier!

As was written on this very site at the beginning of the series, the original concept of Big Brother was exciting and innovative. Sadly the programme descended into a contrived farce when ‘nobodies’ armed with little more than an ego realised they could briefly be ‘somebody’ overnight. Except by series 11 nobody was that interested. There is talk that Richard Desmond and Endemol will agree a deal to bring the concept to Channel 5 but that remains to be seen, but perhaps its time for the diary room to be locked for good, and Big Brother to say goodbye with some dignity in tact.

September 7, 2010

>Bobby Dean: Journalists make stuff up

>Making his VN debut today is Bobby Dean. He runs his own blog as well as being a Lib Dem activist in London. 

..Everyone knows that, its common knowledge. Of course we quite like to pretend that we don’t really know that, it comforts us to live in a facade of idealism rather than accept that all those horrible cynics are right. Except this rule doesn’t apply in August. No, no – in this month we openly accept that journalists make stuff up and affectionately dub it ‘silly season’, so we can all have an endearing chuckle at those funny-old hacks who sell us porkies just to fill the column inches.

This season’s roundup includes an outright lie about Charles Kennedy joining the Labour Party, a wholly unnecessary resurrection of David Kelly conspiracy theology (did you forget about that one already?) and the frankly ludicrous rumour about Ed Balls’ sexuality.

Some revel in the lunacy but I prefer to switch off. I have an instinctive scepticism towards the print media as it is, so the idea that they can openly celebrate their deceit for an entire month is like watching Luis Suarez in the 120th minute against Ghana – discomforting, painful and infuriating.

Something that has always troubled me is that very discomfort I feel every time I see a deliberately deceptive headline or a manipulative use of statistics in the papers. I think to myself ‘something should be done about this’, but I know that my overriding belief in liberalism means that I have to remain tolerant.

This belief is becoming tested of late; I wonder to myself if it’s contradictory to expect better regulation of a lawless media whilst maintaining a steadfast belief in a free press. Where is the line between sensible regulation and the erosion of that very right?

I wouldn’t dare hazard a guess while I’m still in a flux about the dilemma but I will advise one thing: don’t bother google searching the Ed Balls thing – I made it up.

August 10, 2010

>Does Rupert Murdoch own the sky too?

>In a display of  staggering arrogance, Rupert Murdoch has today claimed that his BSkyB empire owns the ‘Sky’ in ‘Skype’. This emerged as Skype announced it is to float on the Nasdaq stock market. Skype points out that it has won the right to use its name in Switzerland, Turkey, and Brazil, but needs to fight Murdoch’s claims in the EU.

Now VN claims no legal expertise, but this seems entirely mad. Skype have a company name that also includes another word, which happens to be a another company’s name. And? There are plenty of other companies where this could be the case. To pretend that Skype’s name has any bearing on BSkyB is frankly ridiculous, and seems to be Murdoch throwing his weight around just because he can. 

Is he going to start suing the makers of ‘The Sky at Night’?  Does Rupert Murdoch now actually own the sky? Something worth thinking about for anyone wearing ‘sky blue’ clothing today, i’m sure you’ll agree…

August 5, 2010

>Wogan’s shadow still cast over Radio 2 breakfast show

>Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans is attracting less listeners than his predecessor Sir Terry Wogan. While Evans had 8.5 million listeners a week in his 7 until 9.30 slot between April and June, in the 7.30 to 9.30 slot that Wogan previously occupied he only got 8.08 million. This is 18,000 less than Wake Up to Wogan. Now VN is a big Evans fan, but this downturn will worry Beeb executives.

In other radio news, stats released by Rajar show another peak for BBC 6 Music. After surviving being chopped they got up to 1.19 million listeners, making 6music the most popular digital only station.

News stations 5live and Radio 4 benefited from an exciting General Election, getting their highest listening figures, including 10.4 weekly listeners for Radio 4.

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