Category Archives: Pointless

Business As Usual

Westminster and Whitehall kick-off another week of work on that critically important task – deckchair rearrangement. A skill that they have struggled with before – but which now should be much improved by some dedicated training classes.

The multi-million pound contract for these classes has been awarded to Harland & Wolff – despite strong competition from the Delorean Consultancy Group and British Leyland. And a spokesman for H&W said our long involvement in deckchair management is unequaled throughout Europe – and indeed the world. Sadly our linked iceberg avoidance system was overlooked by the Treasury; but we will try again.

During the week teams of primary school children will also be visiting parliament. Their visits will provide a chance for them to vote on some trivial Government issues including leaving the EU, an early general election and selling Scotland to an Indian business conglomerate …

Pointless Predictions

Express Weather PredictionAt the end of September newspaper headlines gave us the news that in six weeks time we would start a four month period of heavy snow and a big freeze. Much the same story as the one printed last February and before that in October 2015.

Now those six weeks have passed without any sign of the predicted white-out. In fact the mild 14 degrees we had yesterday prompted our rose bush to open one last bloom before winter starts. If it ever does start, that is, since for years the Daily Express has been printing incredible stories about the weather that turn out to be wildly inaccurate. Undeterred the Express has further hyped the weather predictions with the latest headline – BRITAIN will be colder than Antarctica this week when temperatures plummet to -11C. Let’s see how near the truth that one turns out to be …

So why does the Express keeping printing them? Who knows – or cares? One day they may be right – but no one will have taken any notice. Such a pity to see what was once a reputable newspaper become little more than a comic. A comic that undermines the credibility of causes that it claims to be supporting.

Looking Back

The end of the year so time for a quick review of some earlier stories that kept on running ..

Blatter Splattered – Just days after our article FIFA announced an eight year ban for president Sepp Blatter and vice-president Michel Platini. Blatter claimed afterwards that he was still FIFA president until February 2016 but that must mean very little when he is banned from anything to do with football. And with so many suspect transfers of funds yet to be invested, some reaching back for decades, Mr Blatter may be best advised to head for somewhere safe and far, far away.

Donkeys-270Look At Me – a robotic weather presenter, powered by Microsoft’s Xiaoice, is now appearing live on Dragon TV in China; a channel that is part of the Shanghai Media Group. For its part Microsoft have been quoted as saying – As Xiaoice is gradually penetrating into human life, engaging herself in more jobs and playing more social roles, Microsoft expects her to bring more bliss to human beings. But perhaps that quote sounds less sinister in the original Chinese?

Unarmed Invasion – Frau Merkel’s open door policy on migration has backfired so badly that even she has had to backtrack to a more realistic position. But not before she was awarded the accolade Person of the Year by Time magazine – the sort of ironic gesture normally reserved for the Nobel Peace Prize. At least her actions gave the migration issue a boost up the eurocrat’s agendas – and lead to some EU countries taking a clearer stand on the practicalities of moving millions into unsuitable locations.

According to Save The Children2.1 million Syrian children are now refugees with 7.5 million affected by the conflict. More than 10 million people have been forced from their homes and 13.5 million need humanitarian aid. So there is still a long way to go if Europe is going to feed, clothe, house, educate and employ a significant number of them. But it could be a social and economic disaster for many smaller countries even if migration was limited to just Syrians. But many more from Africa and the Middle East also want to migrate to western democracies so the one million reaching Germany this year are just a drop in a human ocean.

Powerless UK – someone has pointed out to the UK politicians that closing Eggborough Power Station and losing its 4% contribution to the UK’s electricity capacity could be a step too far. To save a little face Eggborough will now be kept on standby instead.

Missed Gear? – back in June Grandad suggested that the BBC would have been better served by selling the Top Gear franchise while it was still highly rated. Instead the Beeb opted to spend £3 million (more by now?) on a high-risk, new format show with Chris Evans as both its presenter and producer. There is still over four months until the first episode is due to air but already the press has plenty of bad news. The relaunch of ‘Top Gear’ is in disarray after the executive producer, personally brought in by Chris Evans, quits the BBC motoring show … Losing the knowledgeable production team behind the show has also caused teething troublesThey’ve brought in a production team that doesn’t know anything about cars. Writers from Top Gear magazine have had to be called on for .. ideas and advice. If the BBC was stock market listed then its shares would be falling rapidly.

History Repeats Itself – last Christmas Grandad moaned about the quality of the festive TV schedules. This year we could re-hash the same story as even Chas & Dave’s Christmas Special from 1982 is wheeled out again. But you know the story by now so no point in adding to the repeats count ourselves. No wonder sales of DVDs, Blu-rays and download subscriptions are so popular.

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Replacement Windows – All of the Windows 8 devices at Grandad Towers have survived enough daily use under Windows 10 to start clearing out the backups of the old versions. Even the tiny Linx tablet came through OK despite a short stage in the upgrade process where the video was totally scrambled.

Greeks Without Gifts – The last of the Eurozone countries agreed to the latest Greek bailout loan late yesterday. So it looks like the 3,400 million of loan repayments that are due by Greece today can go ahead on time. But any scheme that involves borrowing more to pay back earlier loans is bound to fail unless there is either some right-off of the debts or a dramatic increase in government revenue.

DAB Radio Drags On and On – It is over two years since it became obvious that the push to switch to DAB radio would never reach its target market share in time and so trigger the switch-off of FM radio transmissions.

But the UK Government (where Ed Vaizey is still the Minister responsible) continues to be encouraged by the BBC / commercial operators to invest more on our obsolete DAB radio. A process that has been on going for five years or more in the form of the Digital Radio Action Plan. But more importantly was started with BBC trials in 1990 and launched publicly twenty years ago. Clearly technology has moved on – a lot – since then. Today the standard is DAB+ for radio transmissions with wi-fi / bluetooth / 4G being preferred for tablets and smartphones.

AMFM-DAB1_400Despite these years of DAB radio promotion the latest survey from RAJAR shows that the slow decline in AM/FM listening mirrors a similarly slow growth in DAB listening. Current trends indicate that DAB will not reach the 50% of listening mark until 2026. And Ed Vaizey has even resorted to asking UK manufacturers to stop producing FM radios to try to force the issue. A strategy that fails to address the fact that Mark 1 DAB radio, as implemented in the UK, is so technically inferior to the alternatives. And each year that goes by makes the UK’s official position that much more untenable and out-dated. Despite this the second national DAB channel (the D2 multiplex / ensemble) licence was awarded in March with the objective of being on-air in 2016.

This Year Will Be Different

EuroVis2015After complaining about the BBC’s poor choice of songs in previous Eurovision Song Contest Grandad has tried really hard this time to be positive and hopeful for British success in Vienna on 23rd May.

Despite last year’s dismal choice Grandad is hoping that BBC Executive Producer, Guy Freeman, can live up to his six-figure salary this time around. Certainly his quote on the official Eurovision web site shows conviction; “I am thrilled that Alex and Bianca will be representing the UK in this year’s competition. Our song for this special anniversary year has an up-tempo beat and an irresistibly catchy hook that is sure to get the party started in Vienna”. This view of impending success is supported by the even higher ranking BBC UK Controller of Entertainment Production who adds “I am certain Electro Velvet will dazzle in Vienna for Eurovision’s Diamond Anniversary and do the UK proud”.

Sadly Grandad’s new positive approach is not shared by many in the British media. “Pop duo Electro Velvet will represent Britain at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, once again demonstrating the BBC’s commitment to never again hosting Eurovision“ and “Do we have to send another bunch of no hopers to ritual slaughter? Is anyone actually enjoying this annual parade of national embarrassment?” are just a couple of quotes from today’s papers.

The fact that the Beeb has selected a group created just for this competition does not build confidence. And with the two group members being a primary school music teacher and a struggling 26 year old reject from The Voice the critics do have a point. But with the ESC still attracting millions of UK viewers- and a predicted 190 million worldwide – it remains the best opportunity there is for BBC executives to show the world their deep understanding of contemporary popular music.

The only slight concern is that this year membership of the European TV network has been expanded, for one year only (?), to include Australia’s SBS. With a direct pass into the final their entrant, the multi-talented singer and ARIA Award winner Guy Sebastian, could prove to be the ultimate insult to injury. Not just for the British viewers but for the BBC itself. It will not look good if the self-styled world’s largest broadcaster is outshone by a much smaller public service broadcaster operating without any licence fee income.

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Go Fast .. Go Slow We’ve had plans to make our motorways to go faster, then to go slower and now to go neither faster nor slower. Today press reports lead with – Controversial ‘green’ plans to lower motorway speed limits to 96km/h [our conversion from mph] in a bid to cut pollution levels from cars are to be scrapped by ministers. Grandad’s previous comment that our civil servants and politicians don’t know what they are doing almost all of the time still applies.

Juncker To Lead The Euroreich No Matter What? Grandad was wrong. The EU does not have two presidents – it has three. We missed out the lower-profile President of the European Parliament. A post that was held by Germany’s Martin Schulz up to last month. But as a result of the recent EU protest vote the newly appointed president for the next term is .. Martin Schulz. And it almost goes without saying that J-C Junker did get the top job after a nominal vote.

Smart Meters It is now a year since British Gas launched its advertising campaign to convince customers that their new smart meters were a big consumer benefit. And today the BBC were giving air time to the MD of the organisation promoting their national rollout. Another We know what’s best for you scheme that is due to be pushed out by the government this week. This time the cost is quoted as being £200 per household – rather than the estimated £390 before. But somehow the national total is still around £11,000 million.

Looking beyond the headlines you find that the meters will be at least £200 per household. For anyone with both gas and electricity and with existing meters in separate cabinets then they will clearly need two smart meters – even if one is only a slave to the main unit. So then the cost may well double up. Also the new meters need electrical power to operate, unlike current gas meters, so will need a water-proofed mains supply to be installed.

A former electricity company director was quoted today as saying: the smart meter rollout bears all the hallmarks of the next great government IT crash. But the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change [snappy job title] gave the view that smart meters will give consumers control over their energy use and help them reduce their bills. Which is the key justification for this mad scheme to go ahead.

Civil servants claim that there will be £17,100 million in benefits for consumers and suppliers. Clearly there are savings for the suppliers when they make their meter reading staff redundant. But the soft savings from getting consumers to use less energy are totally wishful thinking. And so far out of the 19 countries that have done gas meter trials 12 have failed to make any overall savings. So shooting are rather large hole in the scheme’s economic case.

However smart meters could become more acceptable now that Sir Bob Give-Us-Your-Money Geldof has been hired to push the scheme. And his fee should certainly pay all his energy bills for years to come – so that’s at least one satisfied customer. Only another 30 million households to go …

BBC Still Spending On DAB

Today the Radio Festival opened at the Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays. And one of the first announcements was from the BBC’s Director of Distribution [Dr Alix Pryde] with the Corporation’s plan to add 162 new DAB radio transmitters to the UK network by the end of 2015. These transmitters will be added at a rate of more than three every two weeks up to Christmas 2015 – with Basingstoke being the first to launch sometime during December.

LogoFM1Back in July the Goverment’s decision on the future of DAB radio was pushed back – and is also scheduled for December. So perhaps the BBC already knows the result or is trying make the DAB project too important to be stopped by the politicians. Then again the cost of 162 DAB transmitters may be just small change if the Minister does decide against it – and the transmitters are scrapped. Not a big BBC write-off considering how much TV tax is wasted in other ways.

But there is that nagging feeling that Grandad’s Pointless Award Winner for February will actually get the go ahead – if only because the Minister concerned does not really understand the issues involved. Then the key question for the average listener is – why buy a radio receiver that works only in the UK when worldwide radio is freely available on-line.

Pointless Award for February … DAB Radio

Pointless3A bit of a sleeper this one – since at first glance DAB seems to be a logical radio development and technical progress. But you only have to dig at little bit deeper to see just how much of a pointless exercise the building of a DAB transmitter network has become. Not only are the technical standards already superseded but the negative effects of phasing out FM have been vastly under estimated.

Almost everyone with a radio can currently get FM – so stopping DAB would render next-to-nothing obsolete. However stopping FM in favour of DAB would end radio reception on a huge volume of equipment – everything from car radios through home stereos to smartphones. It has been argued that the buying of FM replacements would be a boost to the economy – but that’s only true if the average person suddenly receives enough extra income to pay for all the new kit required. The alternative case that kit will be bought over time, as and when it needs replacement, removes any benefit of a FM to DAB switch-over. It also ignores the fact that the kit bought as and when could be just as easily be new but FM based.

The recent Grandad survey found 12 FM receivers in just one household. Replacing all of that kit would be unacceptable financially – and the electronic waste generated considerable. For what? Fans of DAB stations, like 6 Music for example, would still be able to receive them via other digital methods – even if the plug was pulled on the existing DAB transmitters. And why not simply switch any popular DAB-only stations to FM – if it was felt that they really had to be broadcast.

LogoDAB1The more you look the more you find – FM is the national emergency band, excessive DAB compression gives poor quality sound, other countries are scrapping DAB schemes, sales of dedicated radios are continuing to fall, other digital transmission methods are cheaper to set-up and receive, Internet radio is a free service for existing broadband users, etc, etc.

So a truly worthy Pointless winner this month …