Under Press- ure

July 19, 2009

In the past week it has been reported that the big banks are starting once again to award big bonuses to its employees. The world is bitter about this and rightfully so. The press it seems are particularly outraged about this and if the press is outraged then so are the rest of us. I don’t want this to be yet another blog post vilifying the banks and their bonus culture. The discussion of the rights and wrongs of this is for another post I think. What I want to focus on here is the role of the media in this and more importantly, their reasons for doing this.

When the front pages of the newspapers, especially the red topped tabloids, scream out at us about the exuberant wages or bonuses bankers receive we should really consider why they are telling us this. We should also give careful consideration as to whether or not it is right for them to tell us this.

A favourite saying in a lot of articles of this nature is “the public has a right to know”. But do we really have the right to know about someone’s personal income. Bankers are private individuals just like the rest of us. They are not politicians or celebrities who’s lives are open for public scrutiny by the fact of their career choice or for the safety of the public’s interests. How happy would we be if our earnings were splashed across the front of the newspapers for the world to see? How happy would the journalist who wrote the article be if it was made public how much he had been paid for the article?

The current banking system requires a massive overhaul. That much is plainly obvious. This overhaul needs to be carried out with great care by people with great integrity and vast amount of experience within the financial markets and banking sector. The banks cannot be allowed to regulate themselves but the regulators must understand how the banks have to work. Banks are not like any other business. It is not just the share holders who lose if the bank goes bust. It is everyone and everything. As we have seen, the economy controls and influences everything.

These decisions and changes need to be made with great care and at the right time. They cannot be made under the pressure applied by sensationalised headlines. Sensationalism causes politicians to get involved in issues and politicians have a nasty habit of turning things political. The measure they apply are, or at least try to be instantaneous so the public can see that they are doing something and hopefully see that it is working while the issue is still fresh in everyone’s minds. These problems don’t need three to five year plans but twenty five to fifty year plans.

The media moguls will understand that these decisions cannot be rushed but just like the politicians they see things in the short term. They know that sensational headlines sell papers. Paper sales in turn generate advertising revenue and this is where the great media hypocrisy lies. They will run stories lambasting the banks for the fat cat attitudes and the way that they rip off customers. On the next page will be an advertisement for the same bank.

So the moral of this story is that while the media is most definitely against the banks taking our money, it doesn’t mind them spending it with them. Just as long as it all sells papers.


T.V Choice

July 14, 2009

After a hard day there’s nothing like relaxing in a big comfy chair watching television. Nowadays we are no longer simply restricted to the five terrestrial channels, but have hundreds of different channels to choose from. Surely this must mean that no matter what your tastes you will always be able to find something to watch. Not so. Instead of been more original programs to watch there are simply more reruns.

When I was a child, we here in the UK had only four TV channels to choose from. Later on there were five but the fifth one was always a bit on the dodgy side. You could only receive it if the wind was blowing in the right direction and the tide was in. Then came the revolution. Satellite dishes started appearing on the side of houses and people started getting TV from all sorts of countries in all sorts of languages. Next along was the installation of cable TV with its promise of four trillion channels all with new and unique content.

This is where reality has come to bite us. We do have hundreds of channels but the content is far from unique and in no way can it be called original. New TV programs are expensive to make, therefore it seems like less and less people are willing to invest in the making of them. Instead we are inundated with repeats of programs we have all seen a hundred times or fly on the wall documentaries that document subjects that normally we would have absolutely no interest in. The state of things wouldn’t be so bad but really, do we need to see what the life of a dinner lady is really like? Can this really be called entertainment?

Constantly more channels are added but the programs always seem to remain the same. All of these new channels that appear have a common theme; they all make their money from advertisements. What this means is that the channels are not so much concerned about the content that they show, really they are just platforms for advertisements. The programs that split up the commercial breaks seem like an unfortunate evil for most of the channels and if they could do without them then they would.

We have got to and streaked past the point where we need more channels. What we need now is better programs. There are only so many times that you can watch the same episode of a sitcom or a repeat from a topical quiz show first broadcast five years ago.