Friday, November 13, 2009

The ECB Leading The ECB

For Giles Clarke, the chairman of the ECB who's been whingeing all day that not being able to sell TV rights to the Ashes to Rupert Murdoch would destroy grassroots cricket, a parable.

Younger readers may not be aware that back in 2003 the England rugby team won the World Cup (that's right kids, there was a time when the England team was vaguely selected on merit and not entirely on the basis of who sounds cool right now and happens to play for Wasps, Quins, Bath or Leicester...) The team came back to enormous celebrations and two weeks later many of the squad were back in action in the first round of pool matches in that year's Heineken Cup.

Except that some genius had decided that, after a number of years on the BBC, that year the Heineken Cup would move to Sky. Just at the moment that live coverage of club rugby at the highest level could have paid real dividends, brought more youngsters into the game, it wasn't there. It may be the worst mistake rugby union has ever made in the professional era (and given that both the RFU and WRU exist, that's saying something...)

So Giles, when you pontificate about the dangers of grassroots cricket losing money, remember that the purpose of grassroots cricket is people. Remember that cricket, glorious and wonderful game though it is, has no God-given right to cultural recognition (and if you need proof of that, compare the celebrations in 2005 when everyone saw the matches to the celebrations in 2009 when no-one did)

And ultimately, remember how many young people might never see good quality cricket if it isn't on TV and free-to-air. Yes, the money's tempting and yes, you'll never have any trouble thinking of ways to spend it. But if the people aren't there and if you by your actions have helped that to happen, you're guilty of gross incompetence and should be dealt with accordingly.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Hasn't Got No Platform To Stand On

One of the more eclectic entries in my blogroll is that of Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip. His analysis is always original and thought-provoking, but even I was surprised to find a piece from him that was relevant to the Question Time British National Party Controversy (or as Alice might have put it, "until Wikipedia has a name for it, like the Question Time British National Party Controversy, it isn't really happening...")

Scott's point is about privacy and how a world where the proliferation of electronic data makes it increasingly impossible to conceal things might actually lead to profound social change as people are liberated by the sharing of their foibles and proclivities. To a great extent, however, this has already happened as practitioners of every imaginable hobby and fetish have found each other through the various iterations of internet social networking, from bulletin boards and newsgroups through Tripod and Geocities to Facebook, Twitter and the rest. Heck, a couple of months ago The Not Quite Late Enough Show had Kevin Smith and Jeanette Winterson discussing the mainstream emergence of geek culture and how the internet had proven the size of the market involved (and if you'd said ten years ago that Kevin Smith would ever be on there...)

But this effect also extends to politics and, as is often the way with extremists, the anti-fascist hard left have managed to miss the boat while sitting on it. No Platform was of course their baby and their proudest (i.e. only actual) achievement. If no platform ever worked, it was on the basis that if fascist ideas could not be heard in any mainstream setting, people would only hear the view that such ideas were fundamentally beneath contempt and that any individual who might hold them had better well keep quiet about it because they are clearly inhuman scum.

Now that works when there are only three channels and even the Daily Mail is willing to not be openly fascist. In an internet age where any bunch of deluded extremists can find adherents and claim respectability with a half-decent website and a controversy-seeking media strategy, it's utterly ridiculous. We can't shut the door on the BNP's views anymore, we have to put them front and centre and demolish them.

The one thing I would say in that respect is that we must make sure such exposure does not fall into the trap the BNP want it to, namely that of making Nick Griffin its sole and messianic leader. Question Time itself is already guilty of that, inasmuch as I can only ever recall Caroline Lucas appearing for the Greens. If Question Time really want to perform a public service, then next time let them invite Andrew Brons onto the show and let us see if the rest of the BNP are as resilient in the face of a smackdown as their leader.