Archive for the ‘Media Madness’ Category

Taken aback by the beach

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015



When I first saw the ad, waiting for a tube in Kennington, I was confused. Surely this must be a parody? I felt really stupid for not getting the joke. It was a joke right? It was so *wrong* in so many ways that it had to be one of those clever, reverse-psychological campaigns to make you think… Then my tube arrived.

Apparently not. I saw the ad again (still confused), and then the online murmurings of objection. Holy crap, the ad was for real!

So I took my partner and my 3 year old daughter to a beach party in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon – we met some wonderful people, we were interviewed and photographed by numerous other people, and we rolled around on the grass and giggled. A lot.

And we discussed the whole issue all day and all evening and whilst we both knew why it was important to have been there, it was still difficult to condense what it was about Protein World’s campaign that was so offensive into a binary right/wrong argument.

A nerve seems to have been struck and the media were quick to pick up The Story. In Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s article in the Guardian, one comment stood out: “I wish my wife wasn’t so body conscious, it always makes we wonder who she is trying to impress as I’m happy with her the way she is. Maybe female obsession with their bodies is biological, more likely it is social pressure from other women. Doesn’t seem to be the influence of men who mostly don’t like the stick thin models that are seen as aspirational by many women.”

No, it’s not biological, nor does it come from “other women”. It comes from centuries of male dominance, aka the patriarchy in which women are viewed pretty much as property. Not many people remember the suffragette movement, but its impact was profound if not absolute. We’ve evolved our society to accept that it’s probably ok for women to vote, become a CEO, prime minister etc. So that’s it? Job done? Tick in the equality box? No. This evolution is not complete we still have a long way to go. Mathematically, the progress is inversely exponential – it takes bloody ages to achieve the last few percent. And for me that’s the essence of why Protein World’s campaign is so problematic. The marketeers are still perpetuating the myth of the “correct” body shape in order to feed the message of insecurity just so that they can sell more stuff. What the patriarchy started, the marketing executives are sustaining. Still.

There has been the predictable reaction against Take Back The Beach. People don’t like being told what to do and many see the campaign as some harmless fun that’s only trying to get people to lose weight and and get fit. Bollocks. We need to be honest, it’s trying to sell stuff by playing on an outdated, regressive message – it’s insidious and it needs to stop. We need to break the cycle and expose all forms of inequality, in all its guises.

Unfortunately these issues will probably still be around when my daughter hits the teens and all I can do as a parent is give her as much armour as possible to protect her against the machines that wish to exploit the minefield that is “growing up” for profit. If she grows up and creates her own Take Back The Beach protest then job-done for us.

To Tara Costello, Fiona Longmuir and Juliette Burton, I salute you all. What you have done is brave and important. Please do not stop.

Why can’t I buy decent music?

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

First, a qualification: good as in audio quality, not musical content. The latter is subjective, the former is absolute.

I’m stuck in the middle of everything.

I’m not a parasitic downloader/filesharer who amasses stuff for free just because I can. I’m not an iTunes/Apple slave. I don’t have a Spotify account. I am familiar with The Pirate Bay. I appreciate excellent audio quality. DRM offends me. I don’t buy CDs anymore (I’d just rip ’em and sling ’em). I do have a high-end hard-disk music system (squeezebox) with all my old CDs rippled to FLAC format. I do not listen to compressed crap, mp3 AAC et al. I want to download top quality music on my terms.


I want to support musicians.

So here’s the deal: I want a lossless audio format that I can download.  And I want to pay for it. I better repeat that, I WANT TO PAY FOR IT! But I can’t because the only option available to me is to download crappy mp3 format or give my first born to Apple. No thanks.

Here’s how it works: I often have Radio Paradise playing around my house through 3 squeezebox players, and whenever I hear a tune that I really like I jump on the artist’s website and check to see if I can buy their offerings in FLAC format. 99.99% of the time the answer is no. The 0.01% was today when I checkout out Blackstratblues. Clicked on Download, selected FLAC format – followed a link sent via email – downloaded their entire album (which is excellent) in 10 mins, then followed up their invitation to make a contribution to the band and fired off £5. Now that’s how it should work – the artists being rewarded directly for making great music. Nice.

I’d do this far more often if only it were possible. But it’s not. Apple have a lossless format for iTunes calles ALAC. Why have you done this Apple, why? You’ve done it again – tried to castrate an existing technology for your own market greed (just as Microsoft did with all those internet standards and protocols – note to Mr S. Jobs: Microsoft lost those battles and so shall you). Why not just use FLAC and not reinvent something that’s not quite as good just to include evil DRM?

My money is ready to be spent but nobody’s listening.

The real crime behind MP’s expenses

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

My Sunday ritual often includes a trip to the gym. This usually permits me to enjoy the rest of the weekend relatively guilt free. On my way back, I pop into the local shop to pick up a drink and a newspaper. For some inexplicable reason I picked up The Sunday Telegraph – something I haven’t done in ages. The man in the shop I’ve known for many years, but whose name I’ve never bothered to find out. He keeps a very tidy shop and is always happy to exchange a few words with me. He is a good man.

I slap my scandal ridden paper on the counter and offer some trite comment about the latest headline. But I’m greeted with an impassive face, staring at me for just a moment too long.

“I’m sorry”, he offered, “my thoughts are elsewhere. At home, in Sri Lanka”.

His kind face belied his apparent agony and explained, “It’s genocide in my home town. I am so worried – the government are killing my people.”

I stood there not knowing what to say, so said nothing.

“They killed my father in front of me. That is why I am here. Soon they will kill them all and there will be no Tamils left”.

My thoughts turned to the current protests in parliament square and the contemptible apathy shown by the stack of pages in front of me.

“If you asked me many years ago, I would say I was Sri Lankan. But I am not. I am Tamil”. For a moment, so was I.

The queue behind me stirred with impatience, arms laden with trivialities. So I quickly paid, offered my sympathies and left, thoroughly ashamed that I had just contributed to – and help sustain – this media freak-show that was depriving us from important news.

The MP’s scandal has been going on for too long now, the media basking in sanctimonious hypocrisy, and fuelling public anger to sell yet more papers. Yes, they’ve been caught with their snouts in the trough – sack the offenders and lets move on. Quickly. Please.

There’s real news out there, but none I expect to find in the newspaper that lies unread on the kitchen table.

Reality TV (Totally Vile)

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

Channel 4's has found itself in trouble over the behaviour of one of its participants in the reality TV program 'Big Brother'. Now, for those of you who don't know what Big Brother is, then let me explain. It started in 2000 with 14 or so public contestants sharing a house that had no contact with the outside world. A situation not exactly reciprocated as the outside world was able to pry into every aspect of their daily lives via a gazillion hidden cameras and microphones spewing onto various media formats, 24 excruciating hours a day. The subjects of this sociological experiment are then made to perform a series of spurious tasks in exchange for either basic necessities or to dodge humiliating forfeits. Still, it provided moderately amusing viewing as one was able to witness the bonds of genuine human relationships being constructed and dismantled with the passing of each tedious day and capricious task.

The viewing public then get to vote each week for someone to evict, at premium phone rates (cher-ching!), until there's one person left; the last looser. Or "winner". This person is then wilfully exploited in the tabloid press for, oh, days until the hacks realise that there's only so much drivel you can write about a nobody whose 15 mins are up – so back to the daily job of sensationalising other non-news for the non-news-hungry masses, of which there's a depressing number.

With each series, the producers (Endemol) devise ever more extreme scenarios and tasks, selecting ever more antagonistic contestants on the way. Eventually, what we're left with is a pile of utter fools whose only aspiration is brazen tabloid exposure.

Then Channel 4 introduced a new flavour of Big Brother where celebrities replace the civis. Not real celebrities, mind you, just a bunch of washed-up, penniless stars of old attempting to resurrect their defunct careers. For the current show these include Jermaine Jackson (of Jackson 5), "Miss UK" (bloody hell, are people still really doing that?), Ken Russell (film director), Shilpa Shetty (an Indian Bollywood star and probably the only one currently with a modicum of talent), Leo Sayer (pint-sized 70's singing icon with big hair), Donny Tourette (lead singer of punk band Towers of London and, by some disgusting coincidence, is known to have had an affair with Leo Sayer's wife. "Disgusting" is aimed at the producers for this blatant transgression).

Last week, the proceedings were spiced up with the introduction of one "Jade Goodie" who's ignominious claim to fame is that she was runner-up to the civi version of BB 3 years ago, after which she managed to scratch a TV career for herself using her greatest asset: the fact that she is astonishingly stupid. Not retarded or mentally ill in any kind of way, just unbelievably, ignorantly and shamelessly stupid. She arrives on the BB set with, of all people, her mother.

The subsequent task roles thrust upon the celebs required them to become humiliatingly subservient to the Goodies. Naturally, a number of contestants had had enough of this ridicule and promptly walked out of the house and out of the program.

Back in the house, Jade and her mum form a clique and target Shilpa with repeated and sustained playground-style jibes, innuendoes, sneers and insults, riddled with venomous, bigoted, stereotypical, racial overtones. A tirade of racial bullying of the lowest order that just kept coming and coming. I've seen a montage of this behaviour and it's pretty toe-curling. Gallingly for the Goodies, Shilpa maintains utmost dignity in the face such wanton derision.

Bingo. Well done Endemol! You've finally hit rock bottom. They've dragged public broadcast into the gutter to look straight in the eye of the lowest-common-denominator. They'll be rubbing their hands in the bucket of viewing figures – their backs will be red raw from hearty slaps – they'll be wined and dined at The Ivy by the advertisers elated at the pretty sales chart peaks and the chance of a Porche in a different colour. Won't they?

Apparently not.

30,000 members of the public are so appalled that they complain to Ofcom, the broadcaster's regulatory body.
The issue is debated on all news channels, on Question Time, Newsnight, in the tabloids and in the broadsheets.
The Indian press are similarly shocked and the issue is debated with incredulity and sadness.
Gordon Brown (on a trip to India, conveniently) discusses the issue with the diplomats and dignitaries.
It is even discussed in parliament during PMQs.

And most significantly, the program's chief sponsors, Carphone Warehouse, pull out. Ouch.

Now this is a company not normally troubled with ethical trivialities, by the way. In fact, they're a ruthless bunch of greedy, aggressive bastards who screw small supplier companies out of existence (gripe), which is probably why they have amassed an astonishing amount of cash for their empire. But this time they appear to have done the right thing. It's encouraging that commercialism has shown its ability exercise morality, but its also deeply saddening that this is such an unusual occurrence. But I tip my hat to Carphone Warehouse and hope they have pure motives.

The fact that it has been up to a commercial company to provide this judgement is nothing but absurd. No, the buck stops with the commissioners, Channel 4, an organisation that is publicly owned, privately financed, and claims to target the more intellectual/adult audience. They can make stunningly good programs. This is a public service and as such one might expect a certain obligation towards public good. It's also called responsibility. 'Bout time they acted more responsibly and took this shit off our TV sets. This type of car-crash viewing should be voted off our screens using our OFF buttons, but it seems that too many people feed off this diet of depravity.

Hopefully this debacle will stem the cancerous trend in these vacuous reality TV programs, and make the makers realise that viewing figures are not always indicative of good broadcasting.

Channel 4 should read this book. Actually, everyone should.