09 May 2006

Murdoch ventures underground

According to a report in today's Media Week, News International may launch a free London paper even if it fails to secure the afternoon distribution contract for the tube. The move would see the paper distributed outside underground stations by hand and in dumpbins. The plan is apparently just awaiting approval from chief executive Rupert Murdoch.

This may come as a surprise to many Americans but Murdoch is actually the lesser of two evils when it comes to freesheets in London. Associated Newspapers, which publishes the morning Metro, the Evening Standard and is favourite to win the evening freesheet on the underground, is anything but liberal in stance.

As Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, recently said of the group: "In reality, it is Associated Newspapers that has a long record of anti-Semitism and support for fascism. It welcomed the Black shirts in the 1930s. It has admitted that, as recently as the retirement party of the last editor of the Daily Mail, two of its staff dressed in Nazi uniforms and were not asked to leave. Associated Newspapers has never apologised for this or its record of support for fascism. "

The Guardian on 1 March 2006 also wrote: “Associated Newspapers have always led the charge against the policies that confront racism and anti-semitism. It praised the Blackshirts in the 1930’s, and admits that as recently as the retirement party of the last editor of the Daily Mail, two of its staff dressed in Nazi uniforms and were not asked to leave.”

And while we shouldn't be judged on the actions of our forefathers, here is what Lord Rothermere (aka Harold Sidney Harmsworth, great-grandfather of the current Lord Rothermere, who owns Associated Newspaper - pictured with his 'hero' above) wrote in a telegram to Adolf Hitler a year before World War II broke out: "My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your Excellency’s star, which rises higher and higher. "

Rothermere also wrote an article entitled ‘Hurrah For The Blackshirts’ in January 1934. Suddenly Murdoch doesn't quite seem so bad anymore.

Pollard quits Sky News

BSkyB have announced that Nick Pollard, head of Sky News for more than 10 years, is quitting, after a multimillion pound relaunch which failed to increase viewing figures. Pollard is credited with resisting any attempts by Rupert Murdoch to make Sky News as 'partisan' as sister network Fox News in the US. Admittedly, he has been helped by regulatory laws in Britain, under which broadcast news must be impartial - although anyone who can successfully keep Murdoch at bay for a decade deserves some credit.

24 April 2006

Clarke attacks UK media

He argued it was fair that breaches of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) should be punishable by up to five years' jail. And he claimed the ability to impose Asbos on individuals without trial did not contravene the principle that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.

(Source: BBC)

Charles Clarke today accused the UK media of perpetuating "myths" that his law and order agenda is an attack on human rights and civil liberties. Aside from all the other dubious contentions Home Secretary Charles Clarke makes (including his attack on the three liberal newspapers - the Guardian, Independent and Observer - for showing "general intellectual laziness"), this would appear to contradict everything he states. I wonder if Clarke could explain how the ability to place an anti-social behavioural order on an individual, which could lead to five years' imprisonment, without trial is not "destroying the rule of law"?

England's finest newspapers raise their prices

The Daily Mail and Daily Express have both increased their cover price by 5p.

In today's page two announcement of the increase from 40p to 45p, the Mail says it had put its price up "reluctantly" and reminded readers it was the first increase in five years.

(Source: The Guardian)

Whether this will put readers of The Daily Hate, er, Mail off purchasing England's most patriotic of newspapers only time will tell. Rumours that it is an attempt to price immigrants out of purchasing the "thick, grey tombstone of a tabloid" are strongly denied.

Give Murdoch some credit

Pan-stick palaver

The make-up people at Sky have had, er, a makeover to help them cope with the particular challenges of high definition TV. Traditional make-up, you see, isn't enough to cover the spots and blemishes for presenters on HDTV. So thick is the new stuff that it has to be applied with an extravagant device nicknamed the "blow-job gun" by Sky insiders. Delightful.

(Source: Media Guardian)

While the intention here is to poke fun at the people at Sky News with Monkey's (see the Guardian site) inside 'scope', I think the people at Sky have done a very clever job of conveying the improved quality of picture with HDTV. This is something they failed to demonstrate (for obvious reasons) in the adverts on regular television screens but appear to be more successful at with this 'leak' - which I wouldn't be surprised to see in The Sun or The Times (for similarly obvious reasons).

20 April 2006

Welcome back to the free-world Buzz

I wonder if "Buzz" Patterson could explain exactly how Seymour Hersh has potentially placed the lives of US pilots in danger? He hasn't revealed any military secrets or uncovered any hidden government plans. Hersh was merely speculating about what he believes the US government plan to do next and stating his opinion.

Patterson clearly longs to return to the immediate aftermath of September 11 2001, when the American media was terrified of being labelled unpatriotic if it dared question its wise and noble leader George W. Bush. The former Air Force pilot implies that anyone who questions any of President Bush’s military decisions is endangering US troops and abetting the ‘enemy’. Clearly it would seem illogical to Patterson that the man who continues to set tens of thousands of men and women onto the war-path is the one who is risking American lives. Patterson was no doubt taught to never question and always obey those in power and it must be hard for him to ‘return’ to live in a society where people are allowed to form opinions of their own.

I think George W. Bush sums it up best with his now immortal line: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Global crackdowns on democracy continue

Today brings news of continued silencing of the free media in Morocco, brutal crackdowns on demonstrations in Nepal, plans to increase fines for Iranians with satellite dishes (which allow them to receive foreign news) from £60 to more than £3,000 and also to jail women who are deemed to flout the regime's definition of Islamic morals, and, finally, news from China that Yahoo! helped convict a pro-democracy campaigner.

In the case of Iran it is important to remember that 65% of the population are under 25 and, as a result, are probably not irreversibly anti-West. However, if George W. Bush continues to make such inflammatory statements ("We are ready to consider all options, including military operations in order to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon," Bush said yesterday. "All means are acceptable in order to prevent the danger represented by Iran.") then Timothy Garton Ash's terrifying, but utterly plausible, vision (which I would urge everyone to read) could become a reality.

Bloggers beware

A tale of caution for any blogger that posts scandalous rumours or lies on the internet in the belief that it does no harm, and for any newspapers or TV station that report information found on the internet as the truth without a thorough fact check:

It later transpired he (Ilyas Kuncak, 47, a grandfather who ploughed his bomb-laden truck into the front of an 18-storey HSBC building) was driven to murder by Turkish press reports about American soldiers raping 4,000 Iraqi women. The reports, entirely erroneous, had been based upon a misreading of a blog posted by a Californian "sex therapist".

(Source: The Guardian)

19 April 2006

Bloggers aren't breaking news stories just yet

MAINSTREAM media is increasingly monitoring blogs for story leads, according to a journalist-turned-blogger at a forum on free expression and cyberspace in Manila.

With a common goal to expose the truth, the mainstream media have now embracing blogging as means to engage readers in a "conversation," said Rebecca Mackinnon, co-founder of Global Voices, an aggregator of blogs around the world.

(Source: INQ7)

While it would be nice to see a situation in which bloggers are the one's breaking the news, in the vast majority of cases they are simply adding their two cents. Most bloggers lack the money and the resources to lead with new (newsworthy) stories and most are content to comment on what is reported by the mainstream media. That is not to say that it is not possible for a blogger to bring a story to the attention of the press. At a local level, where some newspapers may lack the resources required to send a journalist to cover a local council meeting or another seemingly unimportant event, a blogger may find he or she has an exclusive story on his or her hands. In this case, newspapers and TV stations may turn to the blog to discover what transpired. In the majority of cases though, it will be the mainstream press that breaks the news. However, it is important that media organisations still turn to blogs to see what news matters to its readers and how they react to it. Newspapers or TV stations that may have under-reported or ignored a particular news item may find that it is important to many people and be required or persuaded to report it as a result. The conversation must remain the two-way process that it is slowly becoming and the mainstream media outlets that ignore the voices of their readers, viewers and listeners do so at their own peril.

18 April 2006

Kent State bans athletes from Facebook

Kent State University athletic department has joined Loyola University Chicago in banning its student-athletes from using the website Facebook. Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy claimed that the move was purely intended to keep students safe from "weirdoes".

"In this day and age, there's enough weirdoes out there that we thought we should take a good hard look at it," Kennedy told WKYC.

Kennedy told the Daily Kent Stater that the athletic department's "interest is to protect our students".

"What really got our attention was that we had one student athlete that was contacted inappropriately," Kennedy told the university newspaper. "In checking that out, we discovered that there was personal information by a number of our student athletes on Facebook."

However, anyone accessing the university website can bring up the same information on students, including their home address and permanent phone number. While this information can be removed should a student wish, many probably remain unaware of just how much personal information is available at www.kent.edu. In contrast any information on Facebook is placed there by the user themselves and can be quickly removed. Additionally, unlike the university site, which is open to literally anyone with internet access, Facebook users must log in and can only view details of those who attend the same university or who are their 'friends'. Should we therefore presume that the university is only interested in the welfare of student-athletes?

If this was merely an issue of protecting the interests of the student-athletes the university would be better off educating them about potential dangers, which is exactly what the University of Colorado decided to do (even in light of offensive tackler Clint O'Neal and his girlfriend, cross country runner Jackie Zeigle, being accused of sending a racially threatening Facebook message to Hispanic cross country runner Greg Castro in December 2005).

"We're not going to get into the censorship business," sports information director David Plati told the USA Today in response to the potentially damaging situation. "We're just giving them smart advice."

Kennedy would be better advised to be honest and admit he is protecting his, and his department's, own interests. This is a case of an athletic department censoring its students and removing their First Amendment rights to prevent any potentially bad publicity that may be generated through Facebook. Instead they may just find that future athletes think twice before electing to compete at a school with such seemingly totalitarian policies.

Although in no way comparable, it seems rather ironical that this has taken place at a university which has a history of impinging on the rights of its students.

WKYC article
Daily Kent Stater article
USA Today article

Bloggers increasingly exerting disproportionate influence over society

According to a report by technology research company Jupiter Research, bloggers and internet pundits are exerting a “disproportionately large influence” on businesses and opinion. The study suggests that although ‘active’ web users make up only a small proportion of Europe’s online population, they are increasingly dominating public conversations and creating business trends. Companies like McDonald's and computer firm Dell have both fallen foul of internet buzz in recent years.

“It’s always been the case that vocal minorities are listened to by media organisations, brands, advertisers and marketers - normally because they’re thought to represent a wider swath of opinion,” said Tom Coates, a technologist with Yahoo! and prominent blogger. “TV and radio programmes are censored or pulled on the green-inked letters of a few hundred people, products removed from shelves because of less than 100 complaints. On that basis, these figures start to sound like a pretty large number of people, and probably a much more representative sample than perhaps before.”

(Source: The Guardian)

While it has always been the case that a relatively small number of people exert a disproportionately large influence on society, the advent of blogs and the Internet has given anyone with access to the net the opportunity to be part of that select group. Whereas in the past money and one's position in society determined whether the individual even had a chance to really influence anyone outside of one's immediate group, the creation of the worldwide web has led to an army of potential 'leaders'.

Russians protest against media clampdown by state

A thousand people protested in Moscow on Sunday against the government’s clampdown on independent media, five years after the Kremlin effectively took control of private channel NTV. The protestors, who included well-known television reporters who have lost their jobs, brandished placards reading “Today censorship, tomorrow dictatorship” and “Down with Kremlin-TV”.

The Daily Times reports on the backlash against the government clampdown on independent media in Russia. While this signals a dangerous intent to return to the communist days of total state control, at least it appears as though the Putin-led government is allowing some form of protest to take place. Perhaps the same thing should be happening in Italy now too.

14 April 2006

China battles free-flow of information

China's government has told local TV stations not to use video from foreign sources to produce news bulletins. New rules ban the use of footage acquired from foreign satellite TV and other channels that are not state-run. Stations have been told they should only use news reports provided by the state-run China Central Television and China Radio International.

(Source: BBC)

Following the reports of crackdowns on the media in Iran and Belarus, comes the news that the Chinese government has banned local broadcasters from using foreign sources. The Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has reportedly called on the media to show greater "political and propaganda discipline".

Reporters Without Borders have called on members of the World Trade Organization to oppose the media restrictions just adopted in China. President Hu Jintao is visiting the US later this month and the group hopes that President George Bush will raise the issue with his counterpart.

"This reinforcement of protectionism by China is clearly aimed at increasing control of media content and is a new violation of press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

After Google's submission to the Chinese authorities, this news appears to be another step back in China's international relations. The government in China knows that the internet and the media represent the biggest threat to their power and are doing everything they can to prevent a free-flow of information. Informed citizens are the biggest danger to an autocratic government and the officials in charge of China will fight any knowledge that seeps through with all the propaganda they have at their disposal.

Bloomberg misleads public over Iran's nuclear capabilities

Bloomberg yesterday ran the headline 'Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, US Says' with the following reported underneath:

Iran, defying United Nations Security Council demands to halt its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days, a U.S. State Department official said.

Iran will move to "industrial scale'' uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.

"Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days,'' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.

However, later in the report Raedmaker reports that the Iranians currently only have 164 centrifuges in operation today and his '16 days' response was to how soon Iran could produce a nuclear weapon once it reached the "industrial scale" capacity. Seven paragraphs into the article, Raedmaker predicts that it would take at least 13 years for them to reach this stage. So why did Bloomberg choose to use such a misleading headline and spend the majority of the article pressing home this sensational statement? While this is something we have come to expect of British tabloids, it is disappointing to see an organisation that calls itself the "leading global provider of data, news and analytics" following the same path.

13 April 2006

Iran brutally cracks down on media

"Freedom of press and speech is not absolute and subject to the rules of Sharia and the law," General and Revolutionary Prosecutor, Saied Mortazavi, who was reportedly involved in the murder of Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, told a group of reporters who cover the regime's Majlis (Parliament) yesterday.

(Source: The National Council of Resistance of Iran)

Whilst Mortazavi's comments are hardly likely to shock anyone around the world they do highlight the desperate situation in that country right now. Two journalists have been found dead and another severely beaten in recent weeks as part of a crackdown on reporters and press in Iran under the rule of the mullahs. While the imprisonment of journalists and closure of newspapers has been commonplace in Iran in recent years, events have taken a sinister turn for the worse. In April 2001, the National Union of Journalists called on trade-unionists - both in the press and other unions - to " isolate those who are hoping to silence the Iranian people into submission" by boycotting the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting network. In addition, it is important that these cases receive coverage in the mainstream media, alongside the current nuclear weapons' story, and that Iranians who are able to get online can find out what might otherwise be censored.

12 April 2006

Berlusconi must give up power

Despite Silvio Berlusconi's narrow loss in the recent Italian election it will be extremely difficult for Romano Prodi to shift Italy's richest man from power. Berlusconi, directly or indirectly, currently holds sway over 90% of the country's broadcast media. With a reported one million spoilt ballots, a lead of just 25,000 and the Italian broadcast media against him, Prodi faces an uphill battle to shift the man who declares himself to be the "Jesus Christ of politics". If he secures his rightful place as prime minister of Italy, Prodi must immediately push for a new conflict-of-interest law that will force Berlusconi to relinquish ownership of his family holding group Fininvest SpA or leave politics. It is a disgrace that a democratic nation ever allowed the situation to develop whereby the head of state controlled such an overwhelming majority of the broadcast media and, should he emerge victorious, Prodi must rectify this as quickly as possible.

Rumsfeld turns on racist American media

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has rightly criticised the American press over its handling of the sale of national ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates.

"The UAE has been a staunch supporter in the war on terror and you people were on their backs like they were a bunch of criminals," Rumsfeld said to a gathering of the nation's press yesterday. "Norway hasn't sent a troupe to Iraq but they get to do anything they want. Look here on page D-27 of the San Francisco Chronicle. There's a fascinating little pictorial on this hairy little Norwegian fellow who goes by the name Hagar the Horrible, who's apparently launching an invasion against some unnamed country. Where's that Viking ship going? I'd sure like to know, wouldn't you? Talk about threats to national security. Yet, because the Norwegians are fancy Europeans, all we get from the media is three panels of lousy pen-and-ink drawings. Is this serious journalism?"

DP World was immediately condemned as a group of terrorists just because they are based in the Middle East. This was despite the fact the UAE was one of America's allies and the US would still control all port security. The American media was quick to jump on the bandwagon and join the xenophobic banter that did little for the credibility of many newspapers and broadcast stations. While the US expects to Americanise the rest of the world through incessant expansion and take-overs of foreign companies, heaven help any group from outside America who dares come to their shores with similar ideas.

The media's reaction may be expected of small-minded individuals unaware of the facts but for the press to join in the ranting and raving was incredibly disappointing. The US is lucky their allies in the UAE did not react with more anger and DP World can at least withdraw from the US with their dignity in tact - something which cannot be said of much of the American media.

Premiership wages leap 65% since 2000

According to a study conducted by the Independent and the Professional Footballers' Association, the salaries of players in the Premiership have risen by 65% since 2000. The average player in the English top flight now earns £676,000 in basic pay, in comparison to £410,000 just six years ago. (Source: The Irish Times)

There is one person behind this astronomical wage rise: Roman Abramovich. The Russian billionaire's financial clout has led to an inflated transfer market in which clubs and players are demanding obscene fees safe in the knowledge that at least Chelsea can, and are probably prepared, to pay them. A salary cap may be the only way to keep the Premiership competitive.

Only £600,000 to go then ...

The Sun and News of the World today agreed to pay £100,000 in damages to Wayne Rooney over allegations that he assaulted his fiancee in a nightclub.

(Source: The Guardian)

Immigrants are invading America, claims Hollywood director

"The result is the south-west (of USA) will fall away. At some point, ethnically, demographically, those people will say, 'This belongs to Mexico. We're the northern province of Mexico. They're already saying it'... I think that 20, 30 years from now, we will be looking back at this period. This will be the watershed. And we have to decide now, this , I don't, this is not immigration. This is an invasion. This is a future annexation, a satellite state north of the Rio Grande. "

Ron Maxwell, director of the movie Gods and Generals, speaking on Fox News on 10 April 2006 (Courtesy of Media Matters).

In case you thought Mexicans were crossing the border into the US to find better job opportunities and an improved way of life, Ron Maxwell will set you straight. According to Maxwell, the reason those pesky immigrants are crossing the border is an attempt to turn the south-west part of America into Mexico and, presumably, return to the poverty they led us to believe they were escaping. No doubt this all makes perfect sense to regular Fox News viewers.

11 April 2006

Blair hints at less Iraqi coverage

Which brings up the role of the media. Blair said that the Western media too often serves as a mouthpiece for terrorists in Iraq. He said reporters tend to view every killing "as an indication of the coalition's responsibility for disorder, rather than of the 'wickedness that causes it.'"

Full story at AIM

Although editors make decisions on a daily basis about what to report and what not to, I do not think the government should be offering advice on what appears in the news. This should be an entirely independent process from the state. While Blair is careful just to offer his opinion on what is reported here, there appears to be an underlying suggestion that perhaps the western media should ignore some of the atrocities - which comes perilously close to crossing the dangerous line of inappropriate government interference.

Blogs burst into mainstream press

A syndication service that delivers commentary from 600 bloggers for use by newspaper publishers is set to launch on Tuesday, further blurring the lines that divide blogs and mainstream media.

Full story at Reuters.

BlogBurst has the potential to bring niche topics, that may otherwise have been ignored, to the attention of the mainstream media. It may also bring a bigger audience to insightful bloggers who aren't employed by any particular media outlet. However, as in any case of citizen journalism, the onus remains strongly on the editors to thoroughly fact check everything before it is published.

10 April 2006

Adidas accused of racism

Chinese-American groups have reacted with fury over Adidas' marketing of a HUF trainer with an image they claim perpetuates a negative image. The $250 shoe features an image of a Chinese man with bowl-cut hair, slanted eyes, pig nose and buckteeth.

"It's very sad and disturbing that in this day and age, this stereotype is coming from a global company like Adidas," said Vincent Pan, of Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco.

HUF owner Keith Hufnagel dismissed the accusations of racism as "Internet garbage."

"They should do their studying before they say anything," Hufnagel said.

Adidas seems to have scored a spectacular own-goal with this move and it is hard to believe that no-one in the company even considered the negative publicity this might generate. In 2004, the Chinese government banned a "blasphemous" Nike advert in which a US basketball star defeats a cartoon kung-fu master, saying it offended national dignity. Don't be surprised to see a big Reebok (who, perhaps unbeknownst to many Chinese, are now owned by adidas) advertising campaign featuring basketball star Yao Ming in the near future.

(Source: BBC and Shanghai Daily)

New deal brings citizen journalism to the fore

Mobile phone network 3 is in talks with ITN and Sky News about feeding clips, produced by its customers, on to television news bulletins. A deal would create a direct channel for anyone caught up in a big news event. 3's UK chief executive said he wants to harness customers' potential as reporters. The onus will still remain on the TV companies publishing the content to check whether it is a bona fide source however.

"Clips from the public definitely add to the story," said a spokeswoman for Sky News. "The best you can get is TV footage that tells the story. The next best thing is citizen journalism where the cameras have not yet arrived or have not been. Some images are very, very powerful. Some of the images from inside the tunnels in the July 7 bombings, for instance, were very powerful."

This deal doesn't appear to really bring anything new to the table, except some exposure for 3. Citizens can already send their images into the news networks should they wish and this perhaps offers a slightly more effective channel. With the rolling 24-hour news channels there is an increasing danger that fake video footage makes it on to network television news and editors need to be even more vigilant than ever to avoid being conned like Piers Morgan.

(Source: The Guardian)

Manchester United look to mobile venture

Manchester United its considering a move into mobile telephony by selling branded handsets to its millions of fans around the world, and then running the service itself.

"It's a real possibility and is something we have been actively considering," said Andy Anson, the club's commercial director.

The model United are most likely to follow would probably be Virgin Mobile, which rents capacity from established operators, rather than spend billions of pounds buying a network. Should this deal become a reality it has the potential to be a very lucrative venture which could catapult United back to the fore as the world's richest club, ahead of Real Madrid. With millions of fans around the world and many people now owning more than one mobile phone United should this turn this into a very profitable venture.

Ageist, ageist Arsenal

Richard Linskell, employment law partner at Dawson's solicitors, has warned football clubs that they could be liable if they only give short contracts to players aged over 30. His comments come after Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he would not change the club's stance to provide Robert Pires, 32, with anything longer than a one-year deal.

"I think challenges will be able to be made; whether players will bring it is another matter altogether," said Linskell. "There are a lot ofplayers like Teddy Sheringham who carry on playing well beyond the age of 30, and Bolton recently signed an Israeli (Idan Tal) who is 31-years-old. Playing over 30 doesn't mean you're past it, a policy based on age can be actionable. It's quite rare that the employer will have such a blatant attitude."

While I don't like the idea that age discrimination legislation can apply to professional sports, neither do I agree with Arsenal's policy of not offering players over 30 anything longer than a one-year contract. Many players have had years of success past the age of 30. In fact numerous sporting stars only began to start tasting success when they hit 30 - Dave Moorcroft breaking the world 5000m record, for example. Ian Wright, who was, until recently, Arsenal's all-time leading scorer, only joined the club a couple of months before his 28th birthday and was still scoring on a regular basis at 33 (when Arsene Wenger first arrived to the club). I doubt Wenger would have even considered signing a player who was only two years away from 30.

07 April 2006

End of the line for 'fake sheikh'

The News of the World has lost its battle to prevent pictures of investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood, aka the ‘fake sheikh’, being published. The paper’s barrister argued that publication would prevent Mahmood from carrying out future investigations and breached his privacy and was therefore unlawful under the Data Protection Act. The News of the World claims Mahmood was responsible for the conviction of more than 130 criminals. However, Justice Mitting said the intention was not to protect Mahmood “but the protection of his earnings capability and publication of his investigative journalism and his utility to his employers in that respect”.

The fact that the News of World defended its reporter on the principle of privacy would be laughable even if it wasn't true. For a newspaper that prides itself on invading and exposing every aspect of celebrities lives it is quite astonishing that their arguement was based on this skewed logic.

To see a picture of Mahmood you can visit George Galloway's site here.

Swedish ministers furious at Ryanair

Sweden’s prime minister Goran Persson and foreign minister Leila Freivalds have filed a lawsuit against Ryanair, complaining that the airline used their images without consent in an advertisement for cheap flights. The budget airline used the politician’s photos above a caption asking, “Time to flee the country?” at a time when Sweden’s Social Democratic government was facing heavy criticism on several issues. They have filed court papers demanding SKr75,000 (£5,600) each in damages.

Whilst Ryanair will no doubt defend itself on the principles of free speech, I would be intrigued as to whether George and Condoleezza would have demanded less than $10,000 in similar circumstances.

06 April 2006

Iraqi blogger needs help to attend US university

As someone who attended graduate school in the United States, on an athletic scholarship to study journalism, I would encourage anyone who is able to support the more worthy cause of Zeyad A. in his ambition to attend City University of New York (to which he has already been accepted). Zeyad publishes the insightful blog Healing Iraq and there is a story from the Wall Street Journal here.

BuzzMachine.com now offers details of how to help Zeyad.

05 April 2006

EU parliament pays journalists for coverage

The International Herald Tribune has reported that the European Parliament is subsidising journalists to cover its parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg. Legislators say the move aims to ensure that the EU’s only democratically elected body is not ignored. Whilst this is likely to generate outrage from many media pundits it cannot be compared to the Pentagon’s contract with the Lincoln Group. In the latter case the Bush administration was paying Iraqi news outlets to print positive articles while hiding their sources. There have been no reports of the EU parliament attempting to influence coverage in this case. As the European Parliament begins to hold greater power over the countries it encompasses it is important that the less-wealthy nations have equal access to the decision-making process. It is clear that the media can influence decisions made by governments, not least by raising awareness amongst its readers. If certain countries are denying their citizens coverage of a body that can have a major influence on their lives then they are equally taking away their opportunity and right to question any decisions being made.

However, in the case of the journalist quoted below, I would suggest they are in the wrong profession:

"The parliamentary sessions are stultifyingly dull, so the Parliament does whatever it can to make it easier for us to work here, including paying for our journeys and providing plush facilities" said a broadcaster who has benefited from the program.

04 April 2006

Media banned from Niger

Niger has withdrawn permission for a BBC team which found evidence of hunger in the country to continue to report on the humanitarian situation there. Officials said international and local media would not be allowed to do stories about the food situation as they did not want that subject touched.

It is difficult to analyse the underlying motivations behind this decision but for the sake of the people in Niger this sitaution cannot go unreported. Despite being the poorest country in the world it rarely receives any press in the western media. French President Jacques Chirac was reportedly the only head of state to bring up Niger at the G8 summit last year, despite the fact that 3.5 million people are malnourished and 1.2 million face starvation. A culture of denial still appears to exist in the African nation and cannot be allowed to continue.

Wal-Mart in Brokeback storm

The American Family Association has urged members to call Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville or to stop in and speak to their local store managers in regards to the retailer's promotion of 'Brokeback Mountain' on DVD.

Would someone please:

(a) Explain to these people that watching a movie starring homosexual characters that are verbally and physically abused, before being beaten to death will not make your children want to 'turn gay' unless they are already.

(b) Find them a new hobby (quickly).

How to trick a blogger

"Bloggers have started a war against some companies, and it could happen in travel. The trick is to get into their psyche and become a blogger too."

Graham Donoghue, TUI UK's head of new media.

When will executives realise that bloggers are just people with access to the internet, not a new human race bred to destroy multinational corporations. At least Donoghue understands that discourse is the way forward though.

03 April 2006

The Jack and Condi show rolls on

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Baghdad said any sleeping arrangements between the two politicians was "a private matter, which I can't imagine we would comment on".

I'll lead you to infer what you will from this suggestive comment.

31 March 2006

Prayer doesn't work

In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that having people pray for heart bypass surgery patients had no effect on their recovery.

Associated Press

I doubt this will send shockwaves around the UK but get ready for the Christian right-wing backlash in the States.

Savage words

1903: Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!!

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colussus"

2006: Twenty-nine percent of all inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens. No, Mr. Bush, they do not all come here to work, they do not all come here to work. They come here to work the system, sell drugs, rape, and kill on contract. Don't lie to us.

Michael Savage, Talk Radio Network (Courtesy of Media Matters)

Wow. If you thought that newspapers such as the Daily Mail in Britain were hostile to immigrants then you need to listen to some of the views of the right-wing media in America, who make no attempt to convey any sense of being unbiased. The blatant hostility towards anyone or anything that may challenge their power will only serve to create bigger divisions in society.

ITV owns a little too much of Arsenal

Further to the Arsenal/ITV story, in ITV's recently released annual report the broadcaster lists its"interest in ordinary share capital" in Arsenal as being 10.05%. This figure contravenes the upper limit of 9.9% that media companies may invest in football clubs. This rule was brought about following the attempted takeover ofManchester United by BSkyB. Arsenal are reported to have been advised to inform ITV of the conflict (although, as far as I'm aware, ITV have not been reported of the need to inform their viewers of the conflict of interests when broadcasting Champions League football).

Source: The Guardian

29 March 2006

Selective media keeps gatekeepers in control

On Good Morning America, correspondent Dan Harris reported that "[t]he latest national poll says 31 percent of Americans believe the media make things in Iraq sound worse than they are." But Harris failed to inform viewers that in the same poll he cited, a majority of Americans -- 59 percent -- said that the media describe "things in Iraq" either "accurately" or "better than they are."

Media Matters (full story here)

The audacity of the media to be selective in what they choose to report is staggering at times and just shows the extent of their power that they can continually get away with it. Luckily Media Matters will always be keeping a close eye on things should the rest of us miss it.

George Mason reaps rewards of basketball success

An interesting anecdote for anyone who derides athletic scholarships and claims they don't give anything back to the university: George Mason University has earned $4 million worth of media exposure just for making the 'Final Four' of the NCAA basketball. The potential earnings that would come as a result of winning the tournament must be staggering.

28 March 2006

But what is a blog?

If you don't know this by now .... here you go.

Brokeback Mountain wins surprise award

I bet nobody saw this coming.

ITV love you Arsenal, they do

If you are watching the Arsenal v Juventus game tonight on ITV and wonder why the coverage is always so favourable to the north London team, despite their lack of British players, please bear in mind the network has a 10 percent stake in the club.

27 March 2006

Stopping the media moguls down under

Murdoch and Packer won't be happy.

Old keep buying up the new

The old media's acquisition of internet sites continued today with the news that media group Independent News & Media has puchased internet property site PropertyNews.com, which covers Northern Ireland and theborder counties in the Republic. The website is the most popular in Northern Ireland with 10 million page impressions in February 2006.

24 March 2006

Let them blog

I’ve been reading some of the mass media’s attacks on blogs recently and the thing that struck me was a sense of superiority and also fear on their part. It’s as though they have had enough of people (who usually happen to be bloggers themselves) claiming that blogs will replace the mainstream media. Their critiques of blogs generally tend attack the quality of writing, spelling mistakes and dismal content. If the latter is all true, why are they acting as if they are in fear of their livelihood? Numerous (well at least a few) journalists probably play Sunday football and may have once had dreams of playing it professionally. However, you don’t see Wayne Rooney showing up to watch them and laughing at the standard of play. He knows he is better and doesn’t worry about them replacing him at Manchester United. I doubt he loses much sleep over the handful of fans that choose to watch these matches over his own either. If a player is good enough to play at a higher level he will probably end up moving up to a better standard. The same applies to quality blogs - although, like sport, it doesn’t always happen. They will be read by more people and become more mainstream as a result. But will they replace newspapers? No, they will just be another addition to the ever-increasing amount of information out there. So if someone wants to blog, let them enjoy it and, if you don’t like what they have to say, don’t read it. The only newspapers that should feel threatened by an individual blogger will be of an extremely poor standard and probably don’t deserve to survive anyway.

The beginning of the end

Could this case spell the end of free speech on the internet? Caroline Keane, a partner at media law firm Wiggin LLP, doesn't think it will open the floodgates, but I believe that it will make people more afraid to put forth their opinions. As Mark Stephens highlights the libel laws we have at present cannot be applied to the internet in the same way that they do to the mass media. The power of the internet lies in it being (relatively) unchecked by government and this case has the potential to strike fear in users everywhere.

Belarus media highlight the power of the gatekeeper

Evey night since the recent election results were announced, thousands of Belarussians have been gathering in Minsk to protest the "rigged" election. However, by the morning the thousands of oppositionists have dwindled to a few dozen defenders at a makeshift camp braving the cold. While the former scene might be familiar to any westerners watching the coverage on TV, those watching the events unfolding from their living rooms in Belarus will only be aware of the latter. The country’s opposition is now worried that the encampment has been used to discredit their whole movement. A reminder to us all that, although the internet has changed things, the power still remains in the hands of the gatekeepers.

23 March 2006

Future of blogging

Original article.

Reuters chief Tom Glocer seems to agree. He told the recent Online Publishers Association conference: "I believe the world will always need editing... the role of old media companies in the new-media age is that of content facilitator, tools provider and editor."

I've made this point before but I think the future role of the old media will always be as the main source of content (Glocer downplays it slightly by saying they are just facilitators). However, I'm not sure if their role as editors will be as necessary or even relevant with so many new sites popping up. These websites use numerous news outlets as sources and make their own editing decisions in the process - in regards to what to write about and what to leave out.

Belarus media ignore demonstrations

Not surprisingly the state-controlled media in Belarus has given very little coverage to the recent demonstrations.

Sun uses TV soap-stars to explain budget

Today’s Sun uses TV characters from soaps such as Eastenders and Coronation Street to put the budget into perspective for its readers. Fair enough you might say. However, I have two questions. How do they know Dot Cotton (pictured) earns £4,000 a year at the laundrette, Little Mo makes £3,100 as a cleaner, Ian Beale earns £38,000 from the cafĂ© and chip-shop, and Les Battersby makes £10,000 as a cabbie? Which leads me to my second question – how do Dot and Little Mo live in London on those salaries?

The Sun uncovers more than it realises

"American college halls of residence - called sororities for girls, fraternities for boys"

Today's Sun looks into the world of initiations, highlighting the "boozy rites and sex orgy ceremonies" in "US college halls". I don't think the Sun realised what they have uncovered here - that the dorms are in fact fraternity and sorority houses secretly run by the university. Most parents will be shocked to learn where their tuition fees are going.

22 March 2006

Oyster-cards to drive newspaper sales?

There is speculation that Transport for London may enable Oyster customers to purchase newspapers with their cards. The convenience factor, particularly during rush-hour, could drive sales across the board if this measure is introduced. It may also have a negative knock-on effect on Metro's distribution figures.

Family blames Scientology for daughter's death

The family of a woman who was stabbed to death by her schizophrenic Scientologist son, who had been told by the cult that vitamins and not drugs or psychiatric treatment were the best way to treat the disease, have taken out an ad in LA Weekly.

"Thanks, Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology for your expert health advice on mental health (which led to Elli being killed by the schizophrenic son she was told to treat with vitamins instead of psychiatric care)," the ad read.

Scientologists believe that psychiatry is an ancient alien civilisation’s plot to drug and enslave humanity (which may go some way to explaining Cruise's recent antics).

Bush passes on the buck

George Bush has said that it would be for "future presidents and future governments of Iraq" to deicde whether US troops should withdraw from Iraq.

"Every (war) plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy," Bush said.

Racism rife in France

Disturbing findings from a report commissioned by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, which found that 30 percent of French people consider themselves to be somewhat racist. This was up from 25 percent a year ago.

Sun offers readers chance to be a Lord

It’s always paid to be close to Rupert Murdoch (pictured) but now it appears you just have to buy his newspaper and you can join the upper reaches of society. The Sun is today offering two readers the chance to be transformed into a Lord and Lady. The paper has obtained a Lordship and Ladyship of the Manor dating back to the Middle Ages. Hurry though - you only have until Saturday to tell the Sun, in no more than 20 words, why you’d be the perfect Lord or Lady.

Guardian named Newspaper of the Year 2006

The British Press Awards have named the Guardian as the Newspaper of the Year 2006. The award comes on the back of other awards such as World’s best-designed newspaper (Society for News Design) and Best newspaper on the internet (Webby awards). During the period January to December 2005 the Guardian gained 154,000 readers – a rise of 14.4%. However, the Times, the Telegraph and the Indpendent all still carry 'Newspaper of the Year' banners across their front pages.

21 March 2006

Defending the blog

Not everyone wants to attack blogs and The Napa ValleyRegister argues that, despite reports to the contrary, blogging is still in its infancy.

Once again the point needs to be made that you can't lump all bloggers into the same category when it comes to heaping criticism on them. New York Time reporter Judith Miller has said that bloggers aren't "real" journalists and are unable "to distinguish between the straight and the slanderous". I'm sorry Judith have you met every blogger in the world and read every single one of the 30 million blogs out there? Her arguments are as credible as claiming that every Muslim is a terrorist or every American is obese (both of which I've heard).

Challenging autocracy in the Middle East

The Middle East apparently fails to grasp the power of the media.

With most media power concentrated in the west we need Arab networks and newspapers to stand up and show that the Muslim world does not condone recent acts of violence in the name of Allah. Al-Jazeera has mistakenly become strongly associated with Al-Qaeda in many westerners' eyes (not least President Bush). It is widely believed internationally that inhabitants of the Arab world are given limited information by their governments and media, but Al-Jazeera has been one of the few channels that is a trustworthy source. Along with the rest of the Arab media it needs to continue presenting fair, unbiased news and we need more channels to emerge to challenge the autocratic governments that still prevail.

Media count the cost of reporting on Iraq

Reporters without borders have announced that more journalists and media staff have been killed during the Iraq war than during any conflict since the Second World War. A total of 84 reporters and media staffers have been killed in the Iraq war, including eight this year, according to the media advocacy group. That is already 21 more than the 63 journalists killed during 22 years of conflict in Vietnam.

South American media face daily threats

"Although the news media continue to carry out their public-service missions robustly in other countries, individual newspapers and journalists have faced a variety of direct and indirect efforts by governments, politicians and powerful interests to constrain them," the Inter American Press Association said.

Disturbing news from South America where some of the media are avoiding any reference to drug activities out of fears for reporters’ safety.

20 March 2006

It's all gone quiet down under

If you don’t like a news story one way of avoiding the issue is to not print it. This seems to be the decision the Australian press have taken to the ‘national tragedy’ of not having won any gold medals in the men’s swimming (which is taken very seriously down-under) at the Commonwealth Games. Neither The Age or the Herald Sun, the daily newspapers in Melbourne, made any mention of the men’s events on Sunday. Even Australia’s loss of the 4 x 200m freestyle relay for the first time since 1950 was deemed unworthy of a by-line. All of a sudden the Aussie newspaper industry's favourite pastime of Pommie-bashing has temporarily disappeared.

Piers Morgan launches kids newspaper

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan (pictured) is launching First News, a national weekly newspaper written by adults for children, in May 2006. Morgan is the terrifyingly-titled “editorial overlord” in a joint venture with Nicky Cox, who set up the children’s magazine division at BBC Worldwide.

“They needed somebody they thought would send a message that it was a serious newspaper,” said Morgan.

Just as long as he's careful what he prints.

The media can all get along

Finally some common sense about the differing, not competing, roles of bloggers and the mainstream media.

Lukashenko wins by a landslide

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) is on his way to claiming a landslide victory in elections according to government-approved exit polls, which indicated he had collected more than 84% of the vote. Oppositionists claim the results were rigged and 5,000 people defied government warnings and gathered in a main central square in Minsk. The Wall Street Journal Europe reports that oppositionists had their websites blocked yesterday and police were also hindering travel to the capital, in a bid to keep the protests from gathering strength.

It is important now that the West issues a quick and widespread condemnation of the voting process. As I discussed yesterday we have a part to play and the Guardian has today taken up the cause.

19 March 2006

Blogs come under sustained attack

I have discussed this before but I think Marie Cocco makes a legitimate point when she says that blogs are the least trusted source of news. Of course one man or woman's opinion does not always carry as much weight as one that has been fact-checked by a legitimate media outlet. However, this does not necessarily make it any less valid. Many blogs are full of strong opinions, often based on rumours and innuendoes (an argument that could often be levelled at the mainstream media too - particularly the tabloids), but there are good sites out there that offer legitimate alternative viewpoints that you might not always find within newspapers, whose owners have outside business interests. There seems to be a growing campaign at the moment to hit back at blogs, amidst a fear that some newspapers may collapse under the weight of choice. However, as I said before I believe blogs have a different roll to play to the mainstream media in that they are almost entirely opinion and based on reaction to the news (almost like an advanced form of the letters page - except, perhaps terrifyingly for the media, they cannot be edited). The mainstream media will always be needed to report the news and only those that fail to provide content of a high quality will disappear. Too many newspapers have relied on Associated Press or Reuters' stories and that is why sites like Google News are viewed as such a threat. They need to look to newspapers like the Guardian that, as well as adapting to the internet age, are also excellent at breaking the news too.

18 March 2006

Belarus tightens media control

The increasing state control of the media in Belarus doesn't receive the same coverage bigger nations like China or potential Middle Eastern enemies' control of media outlets gets - but it is probably as bad as anywhere right now. In the past 12 years the Belarussian president (Alexander Lukashenko - pictured) has all but eliminated the independent media and it is important that this story receives as much coverage on the web as possible to keep the repressed citizens of Belarus informed. The US and EU should be commended for their efforts to provide Belarussians with alternative news and individual bloggers also have an opportunity to increase the pressure on the Belarussian government.

Aussie journalist cites 'friend's e-mail' to criticise media

I think you need to do a bit better than cite one anonyomus soldier's (who is also a "friend") opinion as evidence that the media's reporting of the situation in Iraq is grossly exaggerated. I am not a big fan of using anonymous sources in power to beign with, but to base a criticism of the media coverage's in Iraq on a friend's e-mail strikes me as a little unprofessional.

Dunleavy compares gays to nazis

"If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade? If African-Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?" said John Dunleavy, head of the St. Patrick's Day Parade, in an interview with The Irish Times. "People have rights. If we let the [Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization] in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next?"

And you thought Pat Robertson's comments were provacative.

Times Gazette calls for media censorship

"I’ve never liked the pack mentality. There’s no fun in every dog chasing the same rabbit."

Rory Ryan, Times Gazette

But its is fun when the rabbits turn round and start chasing the dog Mr Ryan.

Mr Ryan seems to have conveniently forgotten the time when the post-9/11 Bush administration censured the media by throwing "unpatriotic" McCarthyism's at anyone who dared question them. Surely the Republicans had to know it would come back to bite them at some point.

Malaysia doesn't want business mixed with media

So the Malysian information minister, Datuk Zainuddin Maidin (pictured), believes that people with business interests should not get involved in the media field because it can erode the ethics of journalism.

Mr Maidin I'm afraid even in Malaysia it's already happened.

Dawn of a new media age

Everyone is predicting the dawn of a new age for the media and down in Australia the government is attempting to find the next big thing. I like the "radical" idea that perhaps this new media policy should serve the public, instead of the big players like Murdoch. I don't recall hearing the Catholic Church being descibed as cutting edge in recent times but the Pope seems to agree with the report's radical idea.

17 March 2006

Moss, Jordan battle over 'Mum of the Year' award

Among the nominees for this year's 'Celebrity Mum of the Year' are Katie Price, aka Jordan, and Kate Moss (pictured). I guess they could have always gone for this mum .

Mirror exposes 'vulture' hospital porter

The Daily Mirror today condemned a hospital porter (Ayman Shalash - pictured) as a "vulture" for offering pictures of one of the the drug trial victims in return for £2,000. While this is certainly a reprehensible move I wonder whether the story would be different had the Mirror got hold of the pictures. Some of the tabloids the previous day used movie stills of the Elephant Man and it would be surprising if any red-tops could really resist an exclusive first picture.

'I'm no blogger' cries Clooney

"George Clooney does not make statements," said Clooney's (pictured) publicist Stan Rosenfield. "He answers questions."

Aside from the fact the site should never have claimed it was his blog unless he specifically wrote it, Clooney's main gripe seems to be that he doesn't want people to think that he posts his opinions on the internet. Heaven forbid a major movie star could be associated with such a geeky activity as blogging.

By your own words you condemn yourself

I was interested to read Oliver Kamm's comments in The Times today that "even the best blogs are parasitic on what their practioners contempuously call the 'mainstream media'" (which is exactly their point - to deliver opinion). Kamm goes on to say that "almost by definition, they are the preserve of those with time on their hands". Then at the end of the article: "The author's blog is at oliverkamm.typepad.com" These comments may yet come back to haunt him.

Glazer plays a dangerous game with United's youth

Malcolm Glazer’s (pictured) costcutting at Manchester United has extended to the club’s squad after it emerged that some fringe players in the squad had to pay £72 each for tickets to watch the Carling Cup final. The Football League said that it gave each club 100 free tickets but United subsequently allocated 70 complimentary tickets to sponsors and other guests. Players such as Richie Jones, who played in three matches in earlier rounds, are understood to have been forced to purchase their own tickets along with several directors, scouts, coaches and senior staff. The order is understood to have come directly from the Glazers.

I don’t know how things are done in the NFL but if the dressing room is not happy then you cannot hope to have a successful club. The youth policy has always been the driving force behind United’s success and by treating the younger players this way Glazer is playing a very dangerous game. Sir Alex Ferguson might be wise to explain to his boss that creating a disillusioned squad with low morale will cost a lot more in the long run than the few thousand pounds he saved.

16 March 2006

Non-PC quote of the week

Steve Auckland (pictured), Metro's managing director, showed he wasn't afraid of alienating a cross-section of his audience this week:

"We clearly pick where we're going - we don't want grandmas picking Metro up."

In the brutal world of free newspapers its all about pleasing the advertisers.

How to get a balanced version of the news

Jeffrey Milyo (pictured), an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia, has found the perfect solution for those who want to get a balanced version of the news. Based on the results of a UCLA-led study which attempted to objectively quantify bias in a range of media outlets and then rank them accordingly Milyo concludes:
"If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox's 'Special Report' as ABC's 'World News' and NBC's 'Nightly News,' then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news."

Best set aside a little extra time in the evenings then, you may have a long night of watching the news ahead.

Murdoch creates 'MySun'

The Sun is planning to tie in its website with the recently acquired MySpace.com community and networking site to create a ‘MySun’ online readers’ network. The plan is to allow readers to go to a MySun portal and create their own web pages, blogs, as well as share pictures and video clips with friends using MySpace.com software. News International considered linking MySpace.com with the TimesOnline but thought that the Sun provided a better audience.

Rupert Murdoch (pictured) is attempting to show that at 75 he is still one step ahead of his competitors with this latest move. Not only does the deal have the potential to bring a younger generation back to newspapers, albeit online, but it allows them to increase their interaction with the site. There is too much choice on the web to keep people on the same website unless they can do things beyond reading information. MySpace.com and Facebook.com have proved to be so immensely popular because people can interact with the website and network with others. However, the move could always backfire with younger users resenting the newspaper trying to take over 'their' site and force-feeding them advertising. In the past successful websites have often lost their appeal once big corporations take them over.

The deal will certainly be met with a lot of scepticism but then when hasn't a move made by Murdoch been met with opposition and criticism? Time and again he has proved the critics wrong so don't be surprised if Murdoch’s latest gamble once again leads the way forward for the media.

15 March 2006

How much is an Iraqi life worth?

Eleven members of an Iraqi family were killed in a US raid on Wednesday, police and witnesses said. The US military said two women and a child died during the bid to seize an al Qaeda militant from a house. Major Ali Ahmed of the Ishaqi police said US forces had landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including the five children.

How can stories (which seem to be reported on an almost daily basis) like this not lead the news? Can you imagine the outcry if the American police killed just one innocent person in the process of trying to arrest a fugitive? Is an Iraqi life worth less than an American? Clearly to the military it is, but why aren't the media up in arms over these stories? How the US can justify taking even one innocent child's life to arrest (or kill) an al Qaeda militant is beyond me.

Robertson rages against 'demonic' muslims

Once again Christian evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson has sparked outrage by claiming that "the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen whether you like it or not, is world domination" and that it was "not a religion of peace". Robertson, the founder of CBN, recently suggested that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez , and said the stroke that left Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a coma was God's punishment for Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Robertson said the pictures of Muslims protesting over the publishing of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammed "just shows the kind of people we're dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with".

Of course Christianity has never attempted to conquer and convert unbelievers. Which religion was it again that Eric Rudolph said inspired him to bomb Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta on 27 July 1996? Perhaps Robertson should look more closely at his own religion before he makes sweeping conclusions about other ones.

14 March 2006

News International looks to blame anyone but themselves

The gay news website, PinkNews.co.uk, that suggested the footballer Ashley Cole (pictured) was the alleged subject of News of the World story has been warned it could face legal action from the paper. PinkNews.co.uk discussed the News of the World story and internet rumours speculating on the identity of the individuals concerned. It also reproduced a pixelated version of a photograph used by the News of the World that claimed to be of a Premiership footballer and a well-known music industry figure, comparing it with a photograph showing Cole and DJ Masterstepz at a party. Lawyers acting for the News of the World told PinkNews.co.uk that the paper and its stablemate the Sun were reserving their rights to issue proceedings against the website under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978. This could potentially involve the website in the libel action brought by Cole against the papers.

This seems to be a straightforward case of News International sulking over the fact that they are being sued for printing a scandalous story even though they didn’t publish any names and are now looking for someone else to blame. Much of the newspaper’s content is based on innuendos and rumours and if they lose this case it could have major ramifications for the tabloid newspaper industry as a whole. The PinkNews.co.uk was guilty of nothing except exploring the story that the News of the World printed and unless Cole’s lawyers want to bring them into the proceedings News International should face up to the consequences of their actions alone.

'Molly's' abortion blog debated

This blog will only create a 'back-alley' culture of abortion ...

The news that a feminist blogger has posted explicit directions online for a surgical abortion is disturbing on so many levels. The 21-year old said she had set up the site in reaction to the new South Dakota law (Gov. Mike Rounds is pictured signing the legislation) which all but bans the procedure. Using the pseudonym "Molly Blythe" she admitted that she has had no medical background but has been compiling instructions for several years (at 21?). Whatever your opinion on abortion or indeed freedom of speech this blog represents the ultimate in irresponsible blogging. Even if she were medically trained it would be ludicrous to attempt to instruct women how to perform potentially dangerous surgery. While "Molly" claims that it provides a solution to a "worst-case scenario" where a women has a job that doesn’t "let her leave the state" (surely Americans aren’t so suppressed that they need permission to leave a state now?) it could lead to women opting for self-surgery in order to save money. As long as there are still states that provide abortions legally this website merely has the potential to create a "back-alley" abortion culture.

It was South Dakota that created the underground abortion culture ...

This website acts an important piece of publicity in bringing worldwide attention to the plight of women in South Dakota. Abortion should always be the choice of the individual and, while people are entitled to try and sway people towards the pro-life stance, they do not have the right to take away from women the choice of opting for an abortion. While people may say "Molly" is potentially creating a "back-alley" culture of abortion it is the state that has done that by rewinding the clock to the dark days when women had no choice. While, even Laura Kaplan, who wrote the 1996 book The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service, states that you cannot "learn to do abortions in a correspondence course" this blog has highlighted the illogical decision by South Dakota that can only serve to re-create a dangerous, underground culture of abortions.

Murdoch says power shift is inevitable

Rupert Murdoch (pictured) yesterday sounded the end of the era of the media baron, stating that the power is moving into the hands of the digital consumer. Murdoch said that those launching a blog every second, sharing photos and music online and downloading television programmes on demand are gaining control. The Fox News owner declared that "we are at the dawn of a golden age of information - an empire of new knowledge".

"Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry - the editors, the chief executives and, let's face it, the proprietors," said Murdoch, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday. "A new generation of media consumers has risen demanding content delivered when they want it, how they want it, and very much as they want it. It is difficult, indeed dangerous, to underestimate the huge changes this revolution will bring or the power of developing technologies to build and destroy - not just companies but whole countries."

Murdoch admitted he underestimated the power of the web originally but has been converted by the vast array of social networking. The media mogul was not alone in underestimating the power of the internet and the sudden surge in the number of journalists setting up blogs within their newspaper websites is a sign that the mainstream media has caught on en masse. There appears to be an attempt to play catch-up now as the media realises that the internet no longer presents a threat, but an opportunity to reach a wider audience and even increase advertising revenue. The internet revolution will not spell the end of the mainstream media but it could have a filtering effect, in that the sites offering the highest quality content will survive, while those that have the least will disappear.

13 March 2006

Blogs are an addition, not threat to media

The third annual review of the state of American journalism, by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, has found that there are more media outlets than ever. However, despite this, the institute found that they were covering less news. The study found that only 1% of blogs involved a blogger interviewing someone else and only 5% involved some other original work, such as examining documents.

"More coverage, in other words, does not always mean greater diversity of voices," the study said. "Consuming the news continuously does not mean being better informed."

While this study laments the amplification of the same stories it is fails to recognise in many ways the importance of the blogosphere. Traditionally American journalism has worked hard to present their media outlet as fair and unbiased, in contrast to British newspapers which openly side with political parties. However, people want to hear other people’s opinions and how they interpret news stories – even if it is the same story that they have watched or read about. Increasingly it is also becoming obvious that networks like Fox News were presenting a very one-sided analysis of the news and traditionally liberal news stations were failing to question any government decisions. As a result liberal blogs became an important outlet for people to vent their anger and form their own opinion of the news. Rather then look at the wide variety of news sources as ‘overkill’ the media must realise that it provides an opportunity for people to form a true opinion of the news bases on numerous sources.

Additionally, I'm rather surprised that as many 5% of the seemingly endless number of blogs contained original content. Blogs were never meant to be about breaking news and, contrary to some opinion, should not be seen as a threat to the mainstream media. The role of the blog is to provide further analysis and debtate on the day's news and issues. The mainstream media is always going to be about breaking the news. Instead of seeing them as a challenge to conventional media, newspapers should revel in the number of people reading them and wanting to debate their content. Blogs are a new addition to the mainstream media and will never be a replacement.

War, what is it good for? Lots and lots of money

Anyone who suggested that the war in Iraq has not benefited anybody may be interested to know that the first comprehensive investigation into UK corporate investment in the country has discovered that British businesses have profited by at least £1.1 billion since coalition forces ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003. The report highlights how much is at stake for British companies if the UK withdraws its military protection.

British and, of course, more importantly American company involvement at the top of Iraq’s new political and economic structures means Iraq will be forced to rely on UK and US businesses for many years to come. Even before the lucrative oil contracts are handed out it is clear to see who the real winners have been in the ‘War on Terror’.

12 March 2006

Bush becomes Republican scapegoat

US President George W. Bush (pictured) has has told a conference of the National Newspaper Association that the US needs allies like the UAE.

"They are a key partner for our military in a critical region, and outside of our own country, Dubai services more of our military, military ships, than any country in the world," Bush said.
"In order to win the war on terror we have got to strengthen our friendships and relationships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East."

Unfortunately the one time Bush is right the rest of his party has turned against him. With his time in office running out it appears as though the Republican party has chosen the ports debate as the issue with which to distance themselves from him. Fellow Republicans have seen their President's ratings plummeting to all-time low and are jumping on the Islamophobic public bandwagon while their leader is down. This is almost certainly a calculated move which would not have happened before the last Presidential elections. Bush has been used as a puppet throughout his reign and is now the scapegoat through which the Republicans can kick-start their next election campaign. Unfortunately, US politicians have succeeded in alienating the Arab world as a result of their desire to appeal to the masses in America.

11 March 2006

Murdoch leading the internet charge

Rupert Murdoch (pictured) has been at the fore of leading the media into new areas ever since he took over his father's business in Australia in late 1952. From purchasing major movie studios, to introducing satellite television into Britain, to completely changing the way newspapers were printed in the UK, Murdoch has adopted an aggressive policy of acquistitions on the back of heavy loans and huge debts. However, if you thought that the media mogul might be content with his vast empire then Ross Levinsohn's, president of Fox Interactive Media, address to a tech conference near San Jose, California, will have set you straight.

"Look, we're buying everything," Levinsohn said, before informing the room that he would probably acquire five companies in attendance, despite admitting he was unaware who was there.

It wasn't too long ago that the old media was denying the possibility of the internet ever challenging mainstream media as an effective form of news but it appears that it has changed its tune once again. However, companies should still remain aware of the consequences the last time an internet boom took place.

10 March 2006

Free DVDs fail to halt tabloid market free-fall

Despite the barrage of free DVDs and a world Iraq abuse exclusive, the lastest ABCs reveal that the Sunday tabloid newspaper market in the UK suffered a terrible month en masse. Overall sales in February 2006 were down 4.06% year-on-year, while the mid-market fell 6.91%. How soon will it be before editors realise that giving away free CDs or DVDs are not a long-term solution to declining newspaper sales?

Travel bosses tell Americans to behave abroad

With their reputation plummeting worldwide, US travel bosses are seeking to reverse the perceptions of Americans with a new campaign to advise them how to behave abroad. Roger Dow, chief executive of the Travel Industry Association of America, said advice would initially be given to business travellers in an attempt to save America’s "sinking" global image. The Apis system, which includes other initiatives such as training customs officers in America in how to treat customers, has raised fears of a backlash against US bookings among travel operators.

The US image was suffering as a result of the behaviour of Americans abroad, as well as foreign policy decisions, Dow said.

"It’s an attitude thing – do they find ways of always saying they have something better?" said Dow.

Personally, while I have found it to be true that Americans can appear loud and brash when visiting other countries, Europeans are no less guilty when visiting the US. While Americans often seem to want all their home comforts when abroad, many Europeans adopt a patronising attitude when in the States. Liberal-minded Europeans at the university in which I studied in America were often lamenting the lack of tolerance States-side in comparison to their apparently liberal-paradise back home - while simultaneously constantly mocking their American counterparts for any ignorance concerning global issues. In both cases no one likes to constantly be told that "back home is better because…" by a foreigner in their homeland. While I welcome the initiative (in particular the "customer-service" training for the highly hostile customs officers) I would suggest that before any Europeans laugh at the arrogant behaviour of their American cousins they look at their own intellectual superiority complexes.