Thursday, 30 June 2011

Fixing the World: Press Complaints Commission

In this, dare I say it, SERIES of writings, I will outline my proposals for fixing the world (A brief outline, clearly). Today's topic is the Press Complaints Commission, the body for ensuring British Newspapers follow the editorial code of conduct.

First off, the PCC advertises itself as an independent body. Interesting use of independent, given that 7 of the 17 (41%) members of the board are editors of the newspapers that they are independently judging. Perhaps this sort of logic will allow me to stand as a juror in my own trial, with 4 of my work colleagues standing alongside me. Of course, they only have to enforce the rules laid out in the "Editors' Code of Conduct", written by, um, editors. So I get to be on the jury at a trial of laws I decide? Brilliant.

Well, given that we've got the independent body, what punishments can they throw at editorial infractions? Ceremonially smashing a golden pen over their head? No. They have to print an apology. Usually in small font, somewhere in the middle of the paper. The power the PCC feels must be dizzying. Put simply, the PCC is so weak compared to other independent bodies, it's like a 78 year old woman accidentally walking in on the Olympic men's weightlifting and having a go.

So the independent, powerful body has total control over the press, right? Oh, it's voluntary? But, like, everyone does it, though, right? Oh. Richard Desmond's papers all pulled out, so they have no regulation at all other than themselves. So, in the court of the PCC, if the jury of me and my workmates decide I am guilty of laws I helped write too often, I can just declare myself outside of their jurisdiction? God, the PCC must be getting nosebleeds at their awesome power. They're like the Greek gods, in that they basically don't exist.

Self-Regulation they call it. This system is, of course, known to never fail. IT traditionally keeps everything under control and curbs the worst excesses of any industry. The financial industry was largely self-regulated, but that global economic disaster could hardly be blamed on that!

But what could be done to fix this demonstrably impeccable force, which we have shown is independent, feared and in total control? Well, publishers pay a levy to be a member, which makes it self-funding. Perhaps if the publishers gave the money to a government body, set up to deal with this, which would be mandatory for publishers of newspapers to sign up to (Consider it a news tax) so that it continues to not burden the taxpayer, and that government body had the ability to say, impose realistic punishments (such as fines, or actually printing an apology in the same place as the offending story) and there were no editors serving on the panel of judges, then there would be less noticeable bias and lies in the British media.

The press would surely say that this impinges on their rights to free press, but I could equally argue that the laws impinge on my right to punch them in the face. Government regulation for the good of society as a whole happens frequently. I see no valid reasons why it shouldn't also include the press. Perhaps, with the additional oversight of an external regulator for the press, they could be trusted with stories which currently receive super-injunctions, as a win-win for both parties.

Problem solved. Next time, fixing the House of Lords.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Government U-Turns

The Government cut back its plans to change the NHS, and decided to go against itself in its plans to "fix" sentencing gifts for early guilty pleas. They've started doing so many u-turns in such rapid succession they are essentially an 86 year old woman trying to find her way off a complex roundabout, and spending the time working out what path she really wants by absent mindedly spinning round the carousel repeatedly. The government, weirdly, has taken on the persona of an aggressive toddler, loudly proclaiming its love for something one day, then the next day, shouting "no, I HATE it, and I always have, and if you tell me otherwise I can't hear you nanana!". I wouldn't be overly surprised to go into Parliament to find the walls smeared with yoghurt from lunch (Always banana, you never see a child smear anything other than banana yoghurt. I reckon it's a conspiracy by yoghurt makers and wall-cleaning solution manufacturers. No-one dares check if there's elements of collusion there, but I would bet literally one pound on it) and crayon largely depicting Tony Blair, with arms at erratic angles to his body, randomly declaring war on another foreign state.

What I'm Up To This Summer

I am doing a morning jog now, which makes me incredibly aware of how horrendously unfit I am every day. It's like a cheery put-down from a spouse going "Aren't you FAT, eh?" every morning when I wake up. I've also decided to fix my handwriting, try and get to a stage where my guitar skills go from "Pitiful" to "Tolerably average", and I intend to try and remember how to draw things (I swear I used to be able to do it, and the comprehensive lack of supporting evidence is merely misfortune). I've also written another joke! You can see this dream of a pun in action.

"I saw this fish selling seats at a concert the other day, and I thought "Must be a ticket trout"."

I never said it was good, merely that it was technically a joke.

Other than those things, I'm also getting a tan in the preposterous sun (I look like a bronzed adonis, provided you think beetroot red is an acceptable colour for bronze) and plotting the downfall of capitalism (If it's good enough for Lenin and Marx, it's good enough for me).

Time for that section where I lie repeatedly after doing the truthful thing.

I am training a dolphin to do dressage with me. I am clamouring for the Queen to wear Tom Daley as a hat at the next formal function she attends. I am supporting Andy Murray in Wimbledon, but not because I like him, only because I'm a fervent supporter of scrappy beards. I'm demanding the government allocate more money to anti-ninja defences (They're coming, and we can never be too careful), and finally, I am writing a screenplay about Trevor McDonald's life called "Bong!: From Trinidad to Television".

Bus Journey

Bored with moral grandstanding about the dangers of food market speculation, I decide to turn my gun of truth on myself. For reasons which are largely irrelevant, I found myself on a coach journey of a trifling 8 hours. As I am wont to do in such scenarios, I found myself drifting into a position whereupon my legs were against the window as I sprawled out across the extra chair beside me. Scarcely had I gotten into this position, than I promptly fell asleep. I awoke, mere minutes later. As I struggled to get back into a normal seated position, I realised that the woman in front of me had, presumably with painstaking accuracy, put her chair back in the position that would be hardest to complain about, realistically ("It's only a couple of inches back!" I could envision her saying to me) but also the position that would JUST trap me. My legs didn't have space to get in the gap she had left from the position they were in. I was going to die, trapped by the user-operated chair-lean function. I had always secretly known it would be this way, but I'd rather hoped it'd be the much more glamorous "Oh, his plane went down and he was trapped by someone who didn't want to sit up straight. Such a shame, he was flying out to Africa to do charity work." sort of death than "Somewhere outside Newcastle, he starved to death, trapped by his own incompetence and that of the chair user in front of him.". Still, I was panicked. Unsettled. A bystander, were they so callous as to laugh at my misfortune rather than offer assistance, would possibly go so far as to I looked deeply perturbed. Just as I had come to grips with the fact that I would rather die than ask a stranger to move their seat, the gods of fate took pity on me, and stole her away into the night to urinate. In this moment, the chair righted itself and I gratefully swivelled into a position more normally regarded as ideal for bus travel.

I hope we've all learnt something from my mishap, whether it's to ban chairs that lean back (I've been lobbying this idea at governments worldwide for nearly a decade, with little or no real response from them), to condemn people who would willingly annoy another stranger for the benefit of ever so slightly leaning back to death, or whether the only lesson to be learnt here is that overnight bus journeys are the worst thing in the world, it's clear that we have all taken something special away from my little mishap.