The BBC Licence Fee

I have been thinking about the BBC Licence Fee. It’s currently around £150/year and you have to pay it if you use a television even if you don’t use that television to access BBC programmes.

People who sell television equipment are required to give the names and addresses of their customers to the government so they can make sure that there is no television licence evasion. And the people who go from door to door to make sure people are paying the BBC Licence Fee use fairly aggressive tactics.

But until now there has been a loophole.

The BBC Licence Fee Loophole

Until now, you only needed a television licence to watch live television. This meant that you could watch catch-up television via the BBC’s iPlayer online without paying the BBC Licence Fee.

We’re all leading incredibly busy lives now and we all have fast broadband Internet connections. The upshot of this is that we’re watching more and more catch-up television rather than live television. And as a result, the number of us that are paying the BBC Licence Fee has dropped significantly.

This was becoming a problem for the BBC as it relies on the BBC Licence Fee to survive. The loophole has now been closed with the announcement that you will now be required to have a television licence to watch catch-up television on an Internet connected device.

How Can This Be Implemented?

The problem with this is that it’s difficult to see how it can be implemented.

Currently you have to have a television licence if you use a television, even if you don’t watch any BBC channels. The government could make having a television licence a requirement for anyone who uses an Internet connected device. However, the government has made big noises about how access to the Internet is a human right. Extending the BBC Licence Fee to all internet connected devices would effectively be taxing the Internet and that would be political suicide.

A login page could be implemented that prevented anyone without a television licence from accessing the BBC’s iPlayer. But it’s likely that would be easily circumvented. And it’s also likely that BBC content would become available on other, illegal websites.

The government could put the onus on ISPs and mobile phone networks by making it illegal for them to serve BBC iPlayer content to anyone who doesn’t have a television licence. That’s already been implemented to an extent in respect of torrent sites which can no longer be accessed easily in the UK. But that wouldn’t deal with people who are accessing the Internet via a WiFi hotspot.

Basically, yet again the UK’s government has demonstrated that it doesn’t really understand how the Internet works. Otherwise it’d have realised that the television licence is no longer fit for purpose and the BBC should find an alternative source of funding so the BBC Licence Fee can be scrapped.

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The SNP’s Dilemma

Today, I have been thinking about the SNP’s dilemma.

Basically, the SNP’s main aim is to get independence for Scotland. And that means that another referendum will be needed. The SNP hopes that if there is another referendum, Scottish people will vote for independence.

The problem, though, is that having only just had a referendum the SNP will only get another if there is some sort of major event to trigger it. There are suggestions that the outcome of the EU referendum could be that trigger.

How Does The EU Referendum Change Scotland?

The SNP is hoping that the UK overall votes to leave. At that point, as long as a majority of Scottish voters voted to stay in the EU, the SNP can claim another referendum on independence is needed.

The idea is that in that scenario, even though the rest of the UK would be leaving the EU an independent Scotland could retain its membership, possibly even adopting the Euro as its currency.

What Is The SNP’s Dilemma?

The ideal position for the SNP is for the Brexit campaign to succeed because then the SNP can claim that Scotland wants to retain its EU membership so it needs a referendum on independence. However, if the SNP campaigns for Brexit, it cannot really moan if that is the outcome.

So the SNP needs to campaign for Bremain despite the fact that isn’t the outcome that the SNP wants.

This is the SNP’s dilemma, and the only possible solution is for them to campaign for Bremain but to make sure that their campaign is the worst campaign in the history of politics.

The Microsoft Brand

I have been thinking about the Microsoft brand today.

Microsoft has over 80% of the market for PC operating systems and yet if you ask most people, they hate Microsoft.

Microsoft forces stuff onto users whether they like it or not. The ribbon thing in Microsoft Office that meant that users could no longer work out how to do what they used to be able to do easily. Internet Explorer, and now, with Cortana, Bing and Edge. The constant nagging to upgrade to Windows 10 which , thankfully, should be a thing of the past.

So Why Do We All Use Microsoft?

Microsoft has, in its defence, done some really good things. Windows has genuinely changed the PC landscape over the years. Windows 95, in particular, was a revolutionary  product.

But in all honesty, the main reason we use Microsoft is because it’s what we’re used to. We use it because that’s what our favourite programs and apps work on.

Sure, we could get an Apple Mac, but then we’re tied into the Apple ecosystem. And Linux is free, but that’s an unfamiliar environment unless you’re a geek and it won’t run a lot of the software that most normal people use.

Does It Matter?

Short answer: Yes.

On the PC it probably doesn’t matter. PCs will continue to be sold with Windows 10 installed. Because that’s how it’s always been done.

But it’s a different story on mobile where Android and iOS are the dominant players. People are used to Android and iOS. There are apps for Android and iOS. If you buy a phone or a tablet, it’s likely that it’ll come with Android or iOS installed unless you go for Microsoft’s Surface tablet.

Given that we are moving away from PCs and are getting mobile devices instead, this is a problem for Microsoft. Microsoft needs to get the stores to stock Microsoft-based phones and tablets. It needs developers to develop apps for Microsoft devices and they aren’t going to want to do that for an operating system with very limited market penetration when they could be spending their time for the billions of people using Android or iOS-based systems instead.

Unless Microsoft does something about the Microsoft brand, it could well be on borrowed time.

Sadiq Khan – The Muslim Mayor

I have been thinking about last week’s elections in which Sadiq Khan became London’s first Muslim Mayor.

But Londoners didn’t didn’t elect a Muslim Mayor. They elected Sadiq Khan who just happens to be a Muslim.

It’s the same with Margaret Thatcher. She didn’t get voted in because she was a woman. She got voted in because people thought she’d make a great Prime Minister. And Barack Obama didn’t get voted in because he is black. He got voted in because the voters believed he’d be the best person to be President.

I am sure that the people who are filling my Facebook and Twitter feeds mean well when they’re congratulating Khan on becoming the first Muslim Mayor but in doing so they’re perpetuating the myth that being a Muslim is in some way a handicap. And to an extent that’s just as bad as more explicit racisim because it’s just as divisive.

The fact that Khan is a member of the Labour Party is relevant because that defines his political views. But he won’t be converting London to Sharia Law so describing him as the Muslim Mayor is pointless – he’s the London Mayor.

None Of The Above

I have been thinking about voting today and I am becoming more and more convinced that we need a “none of the above” option combined with compulsory voting.

Where I live, we weren’t voting for the London Mayor and we weren’t voting for any councillors. It was just the Police and Crime Commissioner that we were voting for. And like many people, I think that role is a complete waste of money and time, and I’d prefer it if we didn’t have one. Had there been a “none of the above” option on the ballot paper, there would have been a way of expressing this.

Similarly, in general elections you often find yourself staring at a list of idiots thinking that in fact, you wouldn’t want any of them representing you. A “none of the above” option would be a way of sending that message.

What Can We Do About This?

Spoiling your paper is an option and it’s a shame that more people don’t do that. But the vast majority of people can’t be bothered to go to the polling station to spoil their paper, so the number of spoilt papers in each election is relatively small, to the point where it doesn’t actually send any message.

Simply not bothering to vote is also an option, but that’s not usually viewed in the same way as actively spoiling your paper. A low turnout at an election is blamed on the weather, voter laziness or whatever.

If people were legally required to vote but given a “none of the above” option it could well shake up politics because the politicians would have to face the fact that even the person that wins the election isn’t actually liked by around two thirds of the voters in their constituency.

The Bremain Campaign

I have been thinking about the Bremain campaign today.

I’m not going to comment on whether we should stay in the EU or leave because I’m still undecided. But the Bremain team has a fairly fundamental problem.

The Problem With The EU

In theory, the EU is a great idea. We should be stronger together.

But there are too many countries in it. And those countries aren’t similar enough in terms of their economies, cultures and so on.

That means we can never agree on anything substantial. The poorer countries are never going to agree to a reduction in their subsidies and the richer countries are never going to agree to an increase in their contributions, for instance.

The Brexit Campaign

The Brexit argument is fairly straightforward. The EU is not working, so we’d be better off paddling our own canoe.

So the Brexit team can put forward a positive message because they can talk about how rubbish things are at the moment and how much better things will be if we leave.

The Bremain Campaign

The Bremain argument is also fairly straightforward. The EU is not working, but if we leave it will be worse.

So the Bremain team can only really put forward a negative message. If we vote to remain as they want us to, things will be bad. That’s a bit like a battered wife deciding to stay with her abusive husband because by doing so, at least she’s not homeless.

It’s not even as if the Bremain team can say that they’ll be able to improve the EU if we stay in because David Cameron’s already done all of the negotiating that he can and if we vote to stay in we can no longer threaten to leave so we’ve lost our main bargaining tool.

It’s difficult to see how you can sell the Bremain campaign message other than as Project Fear.

The Use Of Data In Marketing

I have been thinking about the use of data in marketing. It makes loads of stuff possible. But how often does it get abused?

I’ve just been sent a link to a firm that generates leads for insurance brokers. It says:

“Leads are generated exclusively by monitoring businesses who have had a credit inquiry run by a commercial insurance company within the last 24 hours.”

So basically, if you ask an insurance broker for a quote you’re going to get bombarded by loads of sales calls from other insurance brokers.

Doing It Better

When you’re in business, you have to sell things, and that can include cold calling. But the use of data in marketing could be done slightly better in my opinion.

How often have you been asked for your motor and household insurance renewal dates when you’ve filled in a warranty registration form for a vacuum cleaner or a lawn mower, for instance?

I don’t do insurance broking any more, although I still provide consultancy services to the insurance industry via my OneClickRisk business. And I make use of data in marketing that business, because every business should.

But the blunt approach to the use of data in marketing this firm is proposing isn’t good and it’s more likely to annoy your potential customers than make them want to do business with you.

The Health Benefits From Sea Air

I have been thinking about the health benefits from sea air today.

My home town – Weston-super-Mare – came into existence during the Victorian era. This was due to two factors.

First, the introduction of train travel made getting from London or other parts of the country to a seaside town for a break a reality for many people.

But more importantly, everyone realised that the health benefits from sea air meant taking a seaside holiday was good for you.

What Is In Sea Air?

Who knows. The NHS should probably investigate what it is so they could take advantage of the health benefits from sea air and save money on all those prescriptions for expensive medicines and vaccines.

What we do know is that sea air, because it lives next to the sea, almost certainly has a load of salt in it. And what we also know is that the government insists that we all have 6g of salt per day to keep us in tip top condition.

How Can We Take Advantage Of The Health Benefits From Sea Air?

There are two ways of doing this. The first is potentially expensive and could also be time consuming. That’s to take a trip to the seaside and breathe in some of it at the source.

That’s not practical for some people, though, so to help a wide range of people get access to the health benefits from sea air I am currently auctioning a bottle of the finest Weston-super-Mare air on eBay, and you can find it by following this link:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/-/331819893113

Hiring A Hitman

I have been thinking about hiring a hitman today. Not actually doing it, although sometimes I get tempted. But about why you would do it.

Any when I say “why” I’m not thinking about why you would want someone dead. There could be many reasons. It could be revenge. Taking someone out of the picture could secure a business deal for you. They might know something that you wanted to be kept secret. The list goes on.

But killing someone isn’t that difficult to achieve. You might not have easy access to a gun, but most hardware stores have the equipment you need. After all, a decent blow to the head with a hammer should do the job and if it doesn’t you can simply keep hammering until your victim has been dispatched.

So Why Are People Still Hiring A Hitman?

The point most people forget about hitmen is that they don’t just kill your enemies. A good hitman will dispose of the body for you as well. And often, the body disposal part is considerably more difficult than the killing your enemy part. It’s the body disposal part that’s the most valuable part of the package.

Given this, it has struck me that undertakers could make more money if they offered discrete undertaking services. They’re already experts at disposing of bodies so they know what to do. They’d simply have to arrange a funeral for your freshly deceased enemy without telling anyone what they were doing.

Next time you’re thinking about hiring a hitman think about doing the killing yourself and speaking to your local undertaker to get the body taken away.

Cheating In Sport

I have been thinking about the people who are alleged to have been involved in cheating in sport.

There have been high profile cheating cases in pretty much every sport, notably cricket, football and horse racing.

Why Are People Cheating?

Basically, it’s gambling that’s driving the cheating. And although we’ve always had gambling – even in the days when it was illegal – developments in the gambling industry have made it easier to place large, fairly anonymous bets on events.

Online gambing in particular has made this activity considerably easier. It has made it possible to make several hundred thousands of pounds on an event.

Cheating means that there’s not a level playing field. The odds are stacked against the bookmakers and the honest punters. But although cheating is wrong, perhap we should also have a sneaky bit of respect for it?

Why Should We Respect Cheating In Sport?

There are two ways to cheat:

  • win when you’re not expected to win
  • lose when you’re not expected to win

Winning when you’re not expected to win does happen, but it’s not as easy to do because at the end of the day, most of us only have a certain level of ability. It happens in horse and greyhound racing, though, where the owners and trainers will deliberately lose races until the odds get to a level where betting will yield a decent profit. Then, the horse or greyhound will be allowed to race properly and win.

Losing when you’re expected to win is more common though, and this is the area where we should have a bit of respect for the sportsmen involved because this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, you could go out there and totally throw it. In a football match, for instance, you could just score an own goal every time you got the ball. But if you did that, it’d be obvious and you’d get caught.

So in fact, cheating in sport at the top level is probably harder than simply winning a game or match. It takes a load of skill to get close to your opponent but lose by a whisker. Next time your favourite sportsperson loses, don’t shout at them or feel disappointed. Admire their level of technical skill instead.