Archive for June 6th, 2011


Digital TV doesn’t need more smut regulation

Last week’s report from the Mothers’ Union into the ‘sexualisation of children’ proposed a raft of measures to stop the horror of children finding out that people have sex.

Some of these, perhaps, might have some merit, but as I mentioned here before in regards to internet censorship, the vast majority of households in the UK do not have children.

While overly sexual images on billboards might well be worth addressing – though I think far more so in terms of the attitude to women that they represent, rather than their effect upon children – do we really want to end up in a situation where everything has to be sanitised in case a child might see it? Wouldn’t it be better if parents exercised more control and people didn’t grow up told that sex is dirty and awful?

As far as TV goes, seldom does a week pass without some storm being whipped up by a tabloid newspaper, over raunchy dance moves, or people alluding to a rude word rather than saying it; I’ll leave aside for now the mind-boggling hypocrisy of the Daily Mail, often at the core of such moral panics, and home to a web site full of images designed to do little more then titillate and sexualise.

One of the proposals is that Ofcom should be stricter with what’s shown on TV, particularly pre-watershed, and there have been suggestions in the past that this could even mean things like the famous Brookside lesbian kiss might not be deemed acceptable.

Here’s a thought: the TV is not an electric child minder.

More relevant to this blog, though, is the fact that in not much more than a year from now – which is less time than it would take to introduce any legislation – television in the UK will be completely digital.

And, as far as I’m concerned, digital TV does not need smut regulation. It does not need to have regulators meddling with programme content to please a bunch of latter-day Mary Whitehouse figures.

That’s because digital TV already has parental guidance, and programmes are flagged according to their content. Many set top boxes can be programmed to ensure that people can’t see certain channels, or types of material. And I’m sure with a little thought, someone could make a nice extra profit out of honing the interface on a TV or set top box to make it extremely simple to use – it’s not always as straightforward as it should be.

By the end of next year, everyone who’s watching TV in the UK will be doing so via a platform that supports parental controls and guidance. Wouldn’t it be far cheaper – and far more in keeping with ‘light touch regulation’ if people like Ofcom and Mumsnet left our TV programmes alone, and instead explained to people how to use parental controls, and take responsibility for what’s viewed in their own homes?


Belgium, you sap my strength

Antwerp Central Station

Antwerp - beautiful city; shame about the mobile coverage

Before anyone gets too irate, I have nothing against Belgium itself. But on trips to the continent I have noticed that it’s not just their roads that could do with patching up in places. I have problems with their mobile networks – and with Mobistar in particular.

I use Orange for my mobile, largely down to inertia, and the availability of their Travel Data Daily bundle (which has, miraculously, been correctly billed on my recent trips).

I normally leave my phone set to automatic when travelling, so it should just switch to a local network, and the preferred one of those is set by your home operator. It would appear that the preferred operator for Orange users must be Mobistar, as that’s what my phone switches to every time I get to Belgium.

It’s a horrible experience; if travelling by Eurostar, the problems start around Lille, and continue until I leave Belgium, either returning home or moving on to somewhere else – much as when driving through Belgium, you know you’ve reached a German motorway because there’s a small bump and a sudden quietening of the road noise. (And when travelling in Germany, incidentally, my mobile data experience is far, far better than at home.)

Mobistar’s data coverage – at least as experienced on my Nokia E72 – is beyond execrable. For large parts of the trip – and being on a Eurostar, you’re not exactly breaking a pioneering route through uninhabited areas – there’s either no service, or no data service, with the connection arrows on the phone cross out.

In fact, it’s slightly worse than that, because it comes and goes with such annoying frequency that the phone doesn’t give up in disgust and try another network. It bravely struggles to maintain a connection, switching between GPRS, EDGE and 3G, or no signal.

You can sometimes start looking at a web site, or reading your email, but it’s pot luck as to whether or not the connection will still be there when you hit send, or try to follow another link.

And the net result of all this is that, while my phone can normally manage a couple of days on a full battery, if I’m travelling on a train through Belgium, and attempting to use mobile data, the battery will be flat by lunchtime.

Aside from the niggles about Orange and Mobistar this throws up, it’s also an interesting point about battery life, and one of the reasons you’re always going to have to find out for yourself how long something really lasts; intermittent coverage hammers the battery (a day popping in and out of the London Underground can have a similar, if less marked, effect).

The ‘Belgium effect’ is probably the worst I’ve come across, sapping between two thirds and three quarters of my phone’s power, but it’s a handy reminder that sometimes, the best way to extend the battery life of our phones is to turn them off, or choose another network.

June 2011
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