BBC Switch? It’s all a load of shit

BBC Switch is the brand for BBC content aimed at UK teenagers. The brand launched on Saturday 20 October 2007 on BBC Two. It includes a block of television programmes on BBC Two, an online portal, and programming on the BBC’s youth radio station, BBC Radio 1

It has come to my attention that the BBC Switch Guest List has twice sent out emails in the last few weeks, both emails include this message:

– Do you love music?
– Do you like annoying your mum and dad?
– Do you want to get on TV?

Then get involved in our brand new Grimshaw Files challenge – ‘songs to annoy your parents with’.

Here’s what we want you to do…

All you need is a video camera, a bedroom, a banging track, and a parent (or guardian):

1: Shut your bedroom door
2: Turn on your video camera
3: Say the name of the song and artist into the camera
4: Stick that track on really really loud
5: Wait for your mum or dad
[6: And video the ensuing argument between you and your parents]*

Please apply now to take part or for more information.

Get sending them in now for your chance to win a prize.

* I added number six because although the action is implied it isn’t clearly stated, even though the intent is implicit. So let me ask you folks a couple of quick questions.

1. Is the BBC being a responsible family broadcaster in inciting domestic disputes between parents and their offspring?

2. Or have the BBC ‘Youf’ programmers/editors/managers completely and utterly lost the plot?

The remains of the day

I am on the way home. It is 21.17, I’ll be home about 22.40. I’ve been up since 04.45. That, my friend, is a loooong day.

So I’m tired. And hungry. And hungry. And tired. And a little bit grumpy but that might be related to the tiredness. And the grumpiness.

[inserts random question: I’m going to record podcast episode 53 tomorrow afternoon. So what’s the worst job you’ve ever had? It could be a part-time or school holiday job. Comment here or email with your answer]

The journey is going v.quickly but not quickly enough; I just want to be home.

Listening to a recording of Edith Murray interview Duffy at The Brits, it sounds like a mentally defective person talking to a mentally defective person. How on earth do these people manage to survive the rigours of day-to-day life in the 21st century? I’m asking because surely they’re not allowed out by themselves? I find that idea far too frightening.

Did Edith Murray go to the Fearne Cotton school of brain training? I’m not expecting a discourse on Wittgenstein’s philosophy of mathematics or even a synoptical statement on disambiguation… I would just like to hear a Q/A session between two people who might sound as if their combined IQ was marginally higher than 42.

Am I asking too much?

Excitement, balance and Karma

which kind of sounds as though I’m pissed but I’m so completely not!

And so the snow spreads beyond London village.

Snowploughs out on the A40 at 05.40.  Three cars at crazy angles in hedges.

The season of the twat driver is upon us.

Even now, we’re gently meandering down the M40 at… umm… about 45… Even now the twats are still upon us.

Overtaking in their snow-covered cars. It’s easy to imagine the drivers peering through the snow-cleared slits of their windscreens like some kind of First World War artilleryman in the trenches.

Revise my speed downwards. The speed limit signs are illuminated at 40mph.

And that white van has just cruised past us at maybe 55mph.

Anyway, arseholes aside, it’s an interesting view of the world.

I find myself very excited by this unexpected whiteness.

It’s the schoolboy in me.

Why, mummy, is that car all covered in snow? And why is it on the motorway mummy? Does the driver think that if she or he clears all the snow off the car *before* they start the journey, it won’t go as well as if it is covered in snow? Huh huh huh?

Sorry, I’ll put the schoolboy down for a couple of minutes.

This morning my first meeting is in Victoria. My second is in Southwark. My third is in Greenwich. My fourth is in a different building in Westminster and afterwards I am to spend the rest of the day incarcerated in my office in a different building in Westminster.

The joys of a typical working day made significantly brighter by a simple coating of white.

Except disappointment looms.

The closer we get to London the less deep, crisp and even is the whiteness. This firmly implies that by the time we get in to Central London Village the snow will be all gone.

This might explain why the rest of the country heard sweet Felicity Arkwright from the BBC about snow this morning. Because as we all know, if something doesn’t happen in London then it doesn’t happen; it vanishes in to some kind of Orwellian Room 101, a non-place where non-things erm non-happen.

No bitterness there. As you can tell.

I’ll sing my heart out tonight
To a black sky under a street light
You’ll cry your eyes out tonight
Over something that was never really anything at all

Whoa!!! Slow down Leigh. I can’t transcribe as quickly as you can get the lyrics out!

We’ll make our beds lying down…

Soddit. I can’t keep up with his vocal.

Ladies and gentlemen… I give you one of the two new tracks by The Razorbax.

And I challenge you to not tap your feet while you listen to Tonight or the other new song Shooting Stars

There really is no justice in the world. The Razorbax; four immensely talented, capable, hard-rockin’ young lads who write their own material and get out and gig… get no media recognition whilst manufactured, talentless, semi-conscious, plastic, anodyne, personality-transplanted bimbo-esque karaoke acts like Rhianna get acres of column inches (fnarr!) and more television and radio exposure than all of the starving millions in the third world.

Justice sadly lacking.


I’ve been sent an album to review for an Eastern-European guitarist.


He’s a kind of Ukrainian Mark Knopfler with a multi-track fetish and a taste for flourish where basics might be more appropriate.

So you want me to say he’s absolutely rubbish?


He’s the best solo musician I think I’ve *ever* listened to, and I’ve been listening to musicians of all numbers for too many decades to be entirely comfortable with.

The trouble is, no matter how favourably I review his album and no matter where the review gets published (hello NME!), the sad fact is this guy, this Ukrainian wunderkind of the plank-spanking world… he is so completely unlikely to cut it in this country.

Maybe Germany. And a handful of Eastern states. But make it in the UK – the home of the largest music-spending public in Europe?


Because we can’t even pronounce his name.

So the mainstream media will continue to throw Rhianna at us and the boys and girls who know no better will continue to lap it up like cats from saucers of just-about-going-off cream.

No justice.

Anyway, Leigh, Louis (who is the hardest working drummer I’ve seen live since…. Muse at the NEC 18 months ago), Jack and James are done.

And the next track up on iTunes is…

Holy Moly! It’s Muse (Time is Running Out).

Karma, my friends.

It – unlike justice – exists.

Put down the calculator and step back from the edge

It takes quite a lot to get me wound up. Well that’s what I think. So there.

But a story on BBC’s website slipped, very easily, straight beneath my skin and pushed my ‘React’ button.

And here’s why. And this might surprise you.

The Taxpayers Alliance are getting their knickers in a knot about local authorities and their spending on ‘publicity’.

The Taxpayers Alliance have got a little information from just a few local authorities and have extrapolated that across every local authority in the country, in a ‘mean average’ kind of way.

So it’s not exactly accurate data and that’s an important point to make.

The second, far more important point is the definition of ‘publicity’, and we need to examine this – we really do, it’s bloody important!

Under local authority accounting regulations as laid down by the Audit Commission (prop: Her Majesty’s Government), financial outlay on ‘publicity’ is defined as, and I quote from the Local Government Handbook (1993 – it’s the only copy I could get hold of at such short notice – thank goodness the library had a copy!):

“any communication, in whatever form (that is) addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public”.

So that’s mail-outs to tell people about changes in service whether upwards or downwards, or communicating variations in office hours or venues or letters to school pupils or youth centre newsletters and – wait for it – all public-facing web-developments.

The Taxpayers Alliance doesn’t come right out and say that they don’t want local authorities to communicate to the public, but they are ‘… incredibly disappointed…’ at the figures.


The third, and most important fact to give anyone who picks up the story is that in a list of spending on anything it is very likely that Birmingham City Council will always come top.

This is because Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the United Kingdom.

Yeah, it really is.

The housing department of Birmingham City Council deals with more people than the entire number of people that the London Borough of Camden has on their books.

So when you’re talking about Birmingham, get used to reading really big numbers. And, at the same time take some comfort in economies of scale.

I hate bad journalism. This piece from the BBC is just a faithful hashup of the Taxpayers Alliance press release, and contains the most half-hearted attempt at explanation of ‘spend by category’ and absolutely no attempt to explain size of spend.

Lazy journalists = lazy journalism.


Fearne Cotton – is there any hope for mankind?

In today’s Metro ‘newspaper’ (yeah, sorry about that), is an article that runs like this:

Why sex is a real must for Fearne
Fearne Cotton can’t operate without a good dose of sex after a long day with the cameras.

The presenter says a good mix of bedtime action and booze usually cures any problem. ‘It’s the adrenaline thing. You need to have that release,’ the 27-year-old reveals. ‘If you’ve been working really hard and you’re pent-up and tense, sex, getting really drunk or going to the gym will cure it.’


Oh. My. God.

Let’s leave aside whether or not this piece of (and I use the word very loosely) ‘journalism’ should have made it in to print.

The bigger question is what sort of a role model is the brain-dead radio and TV presenter to younger, more easily impressed females?

Good grief.


Vicky on Fridays early breakfast, BBC Radio 1

The BBC ‘powers that be’ have given us this talentless, bland, vapid, uninspiring, boring, tedious, mind-numbing, airhead who is only capable of talking in soundbites and street phrases – and isn’t capable of understanding what she’s attempting to say whilst she’s attempting to say it.

Clearly her head hasn’t been troubled by an original thought for many a long year.

Well done BBC Radio 1.

At last we have a categorical statement that dumbing down is not an accidental occurrence, it’s actually being planned.


Improving with age

My funny bone is on active rather than passive mode today.

BBC Radio 2’s daily competition to find the network’s most narrow-minded listener (the Jeremy Kyle Vine show) yielded some comedy gold.

I’d link to the segment concerned but the sound file will vanish in 24 hours, so I’ll just have to try and recapture the moment.

The topic of the phone-in was ‘middle lane hoggers’.

Nothing to do with a genus of politically-centrist porcines.

This was all about that rare all-too-common breed of motorist that refuses to move to the left-hand lane.

When the phone-in started I expected the segment to be a one-sided tirade against (and I’m generalising and using my overactive imagination here) ‘doddery old fools who shouldn’t be in charge of a pencil let alone controlling a machine capable of killing people at speeds approaching 100mph’.

That’s what I expected.


Jeremy Kyle Vine received a call from a self-confessed middle lane hogger.

No, really!

Stop tittering at the back.

The driver in question was, he admitted, in his 60s.

He also said that in his opinion he’s a safer driver now than he was in his 20s.

What does that say for how he drove forty years ago was my first thought.

My second was, what does that say for the driving test of forty years ago.

But our hero, the middle lane hogger, was robust in his defence of middle lane hogdom.

He quoted a section from the Highway Code stating that the left-hand lane is for slow traffic, the middle lane is for normal traffic and the right-hand lane is for overtaking.

The trouble is that the Highway Code has been extensively rewritten since the early 1970s.

It now states that the middle and the right-hand lane are both overtaking lanes.

The Highway Code also adds that traffic should use the left-hand lane when not overtaking.

But our middle lane hogger refused to accept this updated piece of wisdom.

Refused to take it on board even when told that the Highways Agency is going to target middle lane hoggers.

Anyway, the segment made me laugh.

Back to the point.

Earlier I listened (via BBC Radio 7s ‘Listen Again’ facility) to a very young episode of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.

I’ve been listening to ISIHAC for three decades (off and on).

I used to listen as a schoolboy.

Paul (Ethel) Harrington and I used to spend hours trying to fathom the rules to Mornington Crescent.

We admired the wit of the teams and Humph’s deft comedy touch at the radiophonic tiller.

It was pure entertainment for one’s sense of humour.

It was also a memory best left undisturbed.

The 1974 episode I listened to was, by comparison with today’s fayre, staid.




It made me realise just how much tighter the modern version is.

The timing is sharper.

Yet the teams are more relaxed.



And in the case of Humph’s stewardship – dirtier.

I believe that the late Willie Rushton, founding member of ISIHAC would be proud of the way the show has developed.

Speaking as a loyal listener, I know I am.

Anyway, some more comedy.

Tired Dad brings an amusing view of what went through the mind of a delegate attending a branding meeting.

(I particularly like the credit/loan advert being transposed over the facilitator’s dialogue)


Misunderstanding statistics the BBC way

We’re screwed.

The battle between the continual advance of technology and mankind’s equally continual ability to misunderstand data continues.

But the latter edges ahead in the domination table.

We fail to appreciate the complexity of questions we ask.

We fail to comprehend the responses.

Yet we continue to construct flawed questionnaires.

And misrepresent the findings.

This story on the BBC website emphasises just how doomed to a world of misunderstanding we are.

The headline is:
Many Asians do not feel British.

Straight away my brain wants to know whether these Asians were born in Britain or not (i.e. it is possible to come from another country and live in the UK without giving up one’s nationality).

So that’s a black mark to the BBC straight away – for a badly constructed tabloid headline.

As we read the story we are told ‘38% of UK residents of south Asian origin felt only slightly or not at all British.’

So now the story has narrowed, has transformed to become ‘UK residents of south Asian origin’ and not the wider meaning of the description: ‘Asians’?

Surely this a different meaning entirely?

A second black mark to the BBC then – this time for misrepresenting their poll.

But as I ponder this misrepresentation I can’t help wondering how many ‘UK residents of English origin’ would term themselves British?

Or Welsh origin?

Or Scottish origin?

Or Irish?

But the BBC survey doesn’t give us any comparative data.

So that’s another (third) black mark to the BBC – failing to provide comparative data.

Beginning to feel wary of the BBC’s reporting of what is, after all, their own survey (and against my better judgement) I click on the link and download the survey results.

The survey questioned 500 people of (south) Asian background (but the survey authors don’t tell us what the specific criteria is that determines being ‘of (south) Asian background’).

Or ‘of Asian background’ in general.

That’s another (fourth) black mark to the BBC – lack of transparency of the sampling criteria.


The survey.

Don’t click on the link in the news item.

Don’t do a statistical analysis of the BBC’s own survey data.

No really.


Because you’ll find that the BBC’s own survey data is wrong.

I could give you examples (I was nerdy enough to break down the percentage of responses and number of respondents to Table 7 then sum the returns to try to get back to the quoted sample of 500. I bet you a large Pimms that if you did that you wouldn’t get back to the 500 that you should!).

No, seriously.


Because it proves the survey is wrong.

And while you’re not recompiling the survey responses please don’t ask yourself what about the other British subjects of other Asian nationalities (e.g. there are more British subjects of Chinese extraction than of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi combined.  And what about our cousins from Malaysia?).

So then a quick flick forward to Table 8:
Q.8 Generally speaking, to what extent do you think that white British people treat you as British?


But the BBC news item reported the wording to this question as:
‘… nearly half believed white people do not treat them as British.’

So whereas the question asked ‘white British’, the BBC have reported it as ‘white’.

So some distortion there.

Another black mark to the BBC.

How many is that?

I can’t remember.

I’m starting to lose the will to live.

Crack on.

Getting tired of the BBC’s manipulation I fast forward to Table 11:

Table 11
Q.11 Do you think, as an Asian, that you have more opportunities, the same number of opportunities, or fewer opportunities in the UK compared to the opportunities you would have in South Asia?

What does ‘opportunities’ mean?

Opportunities to do what?

Own a BMW?

Get divorced?

Stand for election?

Opportunities for women to become a member of the clergy?

Is this a cultural question?

A financial question?

A political question?

Or – best of all – an equal opportunities question?

For surely, these questions and their responses must be weighted to males, females, gays, lesbians, able-bodied and disabled to have a tangible value?



Look, I know that the BBC is our national broadcaster but there’s something very wrong here.

That the BBC commissioned this survey is one thing.

Laudable perhaps, but flawed because the parameters can not have been adequately set at the point of specification.

That the survey output is so badly flawed it is risible, this is another thing entirely.

That no-one in the BBC has comprehended the magnitude of the wrongness of the survey is inexcusable.

That the BBC news department has published this survey is just plain stupidly wrong.

Yes, I know I’m probably the man who put ‘anal’ into ‘analytical’ but come on.

As a piece of statistical work this really isn’t good enough.

Is it?


I’ve found someone else who feels similarly.

Chloé says:

I’d like these kids to realize that maths and statistics (and science in general) are not only about calculations, but also about properly asking the right question, cleanly checking that conditions are verified before applying formulas, and drawing conclusions from the numerical results they obtain.

Which is the reason why they are asked about analysis, interpretations and other horrible things that require to actually write this highly suspicious things called, oh, yes, I remember now, words.

And by that I don’t mean tossing words together in a grammatically dubious sentence, hoping that nobody will notice that the beginning contradicts the end – and both of them contradict the middle -, nor that they don’t have the faintest idea what the difference between hypothesis, condition, proof, example and conclusion is.


It’s not just me!