Monthly Archive for September, 2005

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A new political quiz

There seems to be a new political quiz on the web…

I am apparently a centrist (quelle surprise!) with slight rehabilitation/internationalist leanings and failry pro free-market/pro-war and . A more detailed analysis of my results is available, if you are interested.

It only takes five minutes to fill in and I have to say that I think it is actualy the most accurate one I’ve found yet. The analysts of the resutls are also very interesting, more so as they analysis is periodically revised as more data is input into the system. Why not take the quiz now?

Galloway vs Hitchens – bedtime delayed

I was going to go to bed but have been delayed by a link sent over MSN Messenger (inevitably).

“A debate on the Iraq war” between George Galloway MP and Christopher Hitchens. Watch/listen to it live now on Democracy Now, live from New York.

Gripping stuff.

I don’t have much truck for some of what Galloway says, yet also find much to agree with. (The same is incidentally true of Hitchens, who I always found entertaining on Question Time.) Love him or loate him, however, there is no denying that he is a charasmatic and entertaining political orator. It is a shame that most politicians these days seem to have had their rough edges smooted out and pampered to make their image fit for a television-led society.

US, Iran, Nuclear power and Al Jazeera

Scott Ritter, the former UN Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, wrote an interesting analysis of US policy toward Iran and it’s nuclear aspirations, for Al-Jazeera.

This was just going to be a simple blog entry recommending Scott’s piece as good piece of reading on the political dynamic between the US, EU, Iran and international agencies. However, it’s going to turn into a bit of rant…

I sent a link to the article over MSN Messenger to someone I was chatting too online just now. They got upset with me saying (I paraphrase), “Why did you send me a link to Al-Jazeera? I don’t want the police knocking on my door thinking I’m a terrorist.” I reacted a little badly to this.

Quite frankly, reading a web site is not a crime. I read Al Jazeera, occasionally, just as a I sometimes read CNN, the Jerusalem Post, Pravda and several other internal international news sites to complement my BBC World and Slashdot staples. I sometimes look at sites whose content I find dispicable (such as the BNP) not because I’m performing some act of worship towards whatever idelogy they purport but because I want to gather infromation on what they are up to and understand their perspective (however warped) on things.

Incidentally, the people who get most upset by Al Jazeera television (generally oppresive Arab regimes as well as their alies in the US administration) complain that the channel shows too much. They effectively argue that the channel does not engage in ‘self-censorship’ like most other news outlets to cut out the more grizzly images and sounds of fundamentally grizzly activities like war, terrorism and genocide.

Whenever people evoke this argument it always takes my mind back to a talk that Martin Bell gave to my school sixth form in 1997, just after having left the BBC, but before he stood for election to parliament. He argued then that he felt western news organisations ‘cut out too much’ and, in doing so, ‘sanitised war’ into relatively comfy armchair viewing that failed to open the public’s eye to the reality of what was going on, and hence left politicians off the hook. ( Just in case you’re wondering, the comments were not made from a pacifist perspective. Martin Bell felt a great sense of injustice when he was covering the Bosnian civil war and felt that the west should have intervened much earlier to prevent the genocide that was being committed by the Serbs.)

I am not got being terrorised by the ignorance of others. If I get arrested for reading Al Jazeera’s web site once a week, so be it.

Television test cricket rights

Yesterday lunchtime, the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, was one of the interviewees on BBC Radio 4′s The World at One last week. The subject? What else other than the impending loss of live cricket coverage on terrestrial television in the light of England’s tremendous Ashes achievement.

Channel 4 has held partial broadcast rights to broadcast cricket matches for the last four years. The remaining rights being shared with BSkyB. From next year, under the England & Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) new contract, BSkyB will hold all the live rights (including the county championships as well as international matches) whilst the highlights will be shown on five. This is obviously not good for me, as an occasional cricket viewer, in that I guess I shalln’t be watching another cricket match live for the next four years, although the prospect of actually having something to watch on Channel 5 is certainly intriguing (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a programme worth watching on five).

This all became possible because in 1998 the government, at the request of the ECB, agreed to remove test cricket from the designated list of ‘crown jewels’ in the national sporting calendar which must be shown on free-to-air terrestrial tv. The ECB wanted to allow subscription and satellite/cable broadcasters to bid in order to extract more income to develop the sport. Apparently when the decision was made, the then Chairman of the ECB, Lord MacClaurin gave Tessa Jowel’s predecessor Chris Smith an assurance that at least the main home test series every summer would remain on free-to-air terrestrial tv. That ‘gentleman’s agreement’ has now been broken.

Tessa Jowel said the government would not intervene to prevent live test cricket from going to subscription TV but did offer the ‘concession’ that the government would review the situation in 2008-2009 as a good tiem to look at the list of designated sporting events with the planed swtich-off of analogue terrestrial television. I do sympathise with the position that she is in but I get the feeling she isn’t quite with it.

Of course it’s difficult for the government to intervene now, the deal was signed last year – and that would have been the time to do something about it. I certainly agree that the whole issue does need to be reviewed when analogue switch-off happens, but waiting until then could be too late. The next four year contract may already have been signed by then. The government should act in the interim to codify the 1998 agreement with Lord MacClaurin so that at least some cricket (such as the main home test series each year) is guaranteed for those of us who are not prepared to pay £40 per month for a Sky Sports subscription. If that can be applied to this contract, with BSkyB fairly compensated by whichever terrestrial broadcaster picks up the rights, all well and good. If not, then at least the designation would prevent future rights from being lost until a more thorough review of the post-analogue switch-off situation can be completed.

I shall be looking forward to John Morgan‘s promised Early Day Motion.