Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No sleep till Croydon...

I went to Cambridge University - ok, not to study (I went to Coventry Polytechnic, now Lanchester University!) - but to speak at a meeting on media bias on Monday evening. It was a lively discusion on topics ranging from The Sun's influence on elections, to coverage of asylum seekers and Hugo Chavez, to media regulation and much more besides. It was good to face such an inquisitive and lively audience but also interesting to note their sources of news are much broader than even people of my generation. They don't reject traditional media but seek out more sources to get more perspectives on issues, which has to be a good thing.

Cambridge is just part of my glamorous whistle stop tour of the highways (railways actually) of southern England I seem to be on this week. Last night I spoke in St Albans about media coverage of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan on the very day it was revealed the death toll in the conflict in Afghanistan was at its highest level and that the cost of the occupation of Iraq had doubled - no wonder the Government say they can't afford to index-link pensions, put more money in to schools, reverse civil service job cuts, provide additional funds for digital switchover or stop post office closures. Thursday I head for Croydon where I'm speaking to the Trades Council.

Back in London I attended the TUC Executive where we discussed an important campaign around tax evasion and a fairer tax regime (media companies beware, we're doing some research) and the increasingly hot topic of pension fund buyouts. There are potentially some positives and potentially lots of negatives surrounding the issue. In some cases it has led at least to the short term protection of benefits but there may well be a long term price to pay - the companies who buy them up have to make money somehow. In the media sector EMAP are one of the companies who have taken this route.

I've also had more talks about the staff pension scheme(surprise, surprise) and chaired the TUC's Trades Council's committee meeting. Letters have gone to David Milliband on behalf of the Somali Journalists Organisation about the increasing attacks on media there and to Ofcom on training in broadcasting.

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