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The licence fee is a bugbear for many and again, it is coming under attack, this time with the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee saying that, as it stands, the current subscription system isn’t really justifiable.
As you’ll know, it is mandatory for anyone who has a TV to have a TV licence if you’re going watch live broadcasts, and it costs you £145.50 every year. You’ll also know that loads of people don’t pay it on principal, for a whole host of reasons.
The MPs have knocked their heads together and said that the way we pay for the BBC is likely to change in the next 15 years.
“In the short term, there appears to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee, but that model is becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain,” said committee chairman John Whittingdale.
It looks like this notion has come about thanks to the change in attitudes to the way people watch things, with more people utilising subscription services like Netflix and Amazon TV. With catch-up TV services, you don’t really need a TV licence to watch them. That means we could see the BBC having shows behind paywalls.
The report also suggested that it might be an idea to change legislation so that it is no longer a criminal offence if you don’t have a TV licence. ”We recommend that as a minimum the licence fee must be amended to cover catch-up television as soon as possible,” added the report. Maybe the BBC could move toward a HBO model, as seen in the States? Either way, it looks like things are getting shaken up with licence fee.
RBS have gone and reported a £3.5bn loss for 2014. Seeing as we own them, they’ll probably make out like it is our fault. There’s small good news for the state-owned bank, as this loss is down from £9bn the previous year.
Chief exec Ross McEwan has said, ever so graciously, that he won’t be getting a bonus this year. Not that anyone will mind at the company, as they handed out £421m in bonuses in 2014, so they’ll manage for a year. McEwan himself is on a wage of £2.7m, so he won’t be buying rolling tobacco and scadging pints off his mate just yet.
McEwan has said that these bonuses are fair and talking on the Today programme, he said that they’re ‘fair pay’ and it is necessary to pay out these bonuses if they want to get the right people in the business to carry out “fairly technical jobs.”
Chancellor George Osborne has written a letter to the new chairman of the bank, Howard Davies, pointing out that he didn’t expect the bank to give bonuses to senior executives: ”I would also expect that, as in the past, no executive directors or members of the executive committee will receive bonuses, despite improved profitability.”
“Given the extraordinary support it has enjoyed in the past from taxpayers, I know you recognise that RBS must remain a backmarker on pay and continue to show responsibility and restraint.”
McEwan responded to all this by saying: “What’s really important is that given the success of the last year we want to go further and faster in reforming this bank.”
We’ll see, eh?
One of the first things Watts is looking at is Morrison’s £216m deal with Ocado. It looks like the supermarket might be ditching them.
You may or may not know that Morrisons and Ocado struck a deal in 2013, where basically, Ocado delivered groceries for Morrison’s. The deal is 25 years long. However, the whole thing is a bit of a mess. For some reason, orders are taken by Morrison’s, which is then delivered to Ocado warehouses, who then ship it out themselves.
You’d think it’d be easier for the supermarket to just deliver the bloody things themselves. However, that was a deal done by Dalton Philips, the old boss who got ousted last month. Ocado have been saying that this deal is break-free and safe as houses. Recently, Ocado’s finance direction Duncan Tatton-Brown, said that, even if a new regime tried to get out of the deal, they weren’t worried: “It’s not something we would necessarily expect and we’re protected by the contract anyway.”
So things look like they’re about to start changing at the supermarket. They shouldn’t get too cocky though; David Potts and his new chairman – Andrew Higginson – are both formerly of Tesco. And what shape are Tesco in currently? Exactly.
Either way, they’ve got their work cut out for them because Morrison’s revealed that they’d had the worst sales of any of the major supermarkets over Christmas, and total sales have fallen. The company are cutting prices again, but does anyone care?
Pebble have announced their new smartwatch, which is called Time. This new device was shown off on their Kickstarter page for it, and at the time of writing, has already raised in advance of $7 million (in pounds, that’s ‘shed loads’).
This new watch does look rather smart and comes with a colour screen. Previously, Pebble watches had greyscale screens, which is a bit drab.
To say people are excited about this is something of an understatement – the company were hoping to generate half a million dollars for Time, however, after a matter of hours, they’d gone way past that.
So what’s the deal with it? Well, the Kickstarter page says that Time is a [sic] “color e-paper smartwatch with up to 7 days of battery and a new timeline interface that highlights what’s important in your day.”
They add: “Time’s new microphone lets you send voice replies to incoming notifications or take short voice notes. We used the latest technology to maintain water resistance so you can swim or surf with Pebble Time (we do not, however, recommend talking underwater).” In addition to that, “Pebble Time is 20% thinner than the original Pebble at just 9.5mm” and you’re able to personalise it as they’ve “included a soft silicone band with each Pebble Time, but all standard 22mm watch bands will fit.”
You’ll be able to access messages and emails and the like (obviously) as well as keep tabs on your physical activity and find out about the weather, as is par for the course with smartwatches. There’s over 6,000 Pebble-specific apps that you can get at too. The phone will run on Android.
If you like the look of the thing, there’s a load of images, gifs and videos on the Kickstarter page. When it hits British shelves, it should cost around £130.
Do you believe businesses have your best interests as a consumer at heart? If you don’t, you’re not alone, as a new CBI poll has found than more than seven in ten of us believe businesses abuse our trust and sacrifice loyalty for a quick return. ‘Profit’ is, apparently, being used “like a dirty word” by the majority of consumers.
The YouGov poll of more than 2,000 UK adults for the CBI’s trust-in-business campaign found that 72% of respondents believed businesses put profit before the needs of consumers, and 66% said that “businesses put profit before the wellbeing of their workforces”.
But are most of us living in some kind of cloud cuckoo land? Far from being a dirty word, profits are essential to the successful and continued running of a business. Interestingly, 70% of those surveyed also said profits were a “good thing”. It seems businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place of making profits while also taking excellent care of consumers, even if this would adversely affect profits. But perhaps this is not an impossible dream- some of the most successful UK brands at the moment are those, like John Lewis, who are recognised as ‘consumer-friendly’ brands. However, it seems much of the issue surrounds trust- we don’t mind businesses making profits so long as they do it in the right way (with boycott favourites Starbucks and Amazon clearly not doing things the ‘right’ way), with more than three quarters of survey respondents saying they want businesses to “be more transparent” about how they earn their profits.
Katja Hall, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “Despite support for profits as a ‘good thing’, they continue to be demonised widely. We need to recalibrate this debate.”
Which!!! executive director, Richard Lloyd, said, insightfully: “Successful businesses know that by giving people the products and service they want, at a fair price, they’ll have happy customers who are more likely to stay loyal. But firms harm their own reputation and damage trust in their industry when they neglect the basics and fail to put the customer first.”
There’s been complaints that emoji aren’t exactly inclusive, but that’s all about to change. This, no doubt, will prompt a load of tutting from people who a) Never see what the fuss is about because they’re fine or b) People who swear at the mere mention of emoji.
There’s another set of people who shudder because they didn’t realise that their Samsung phone was making them have a large phone bill for sending texts with emoji in them.
Anyway, 300 more are being added to the iOS 8.3 keyboard and include a whole host of differently coloured faces and whatnot. Good news for those that have been wishing for it and taking absolutely nothing away from those that didn’t.
There’s more too. There will be more options for relationships and gadgets. That means there’s going to be some same-sex emoji available for use and, because this is Apple, they’ve created an iPhone 6 and an Apple Watch icons. There’s going to be a load of new flags added too, which is nice for vexillologists.
“Apple supports and cares deeply about diversity, and is working with The Unicode Consortium to update the standard so that it better represents diversity for all of us,” said an Apple spokesperson.
And here, we have some of the more more diverse emoji, c/o Apple.
If you’re wondering about the skin tones, they’re apparently based on something called the Fitzpatrick Classification scale, which was founded by dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick at Harvard Medical School in 1975. The yellow emoji is supposed to be the standard, just-like-the-old-emoji-and-therefore-aren’t-meant-to-be-human-coloured, just in case you were wondering.
According to figures, that’s a rise of more than 100,000 compared to last year, which of course, is going to kick off arguments over the use of these contracts and workers being done over on benefits like holiday pay, knowing how much you’ll actually be working in a month and more.
The Office for National Statistics say the actual figure is 697,000. It seems there’s been a spike in the numbers, not because there’s more companies giving them to employees, but rather, an increased recognition of what these contracts actually are. So, previous statistics would’ve been higher, but people didn’t have the phrase ‘zero hour contract’.
Some of the businesses that are using them are big-guns too, such as Burger King, the Wetherspoon pubs, Sports Direct, McDonald’s and Domino’s. Even Buckingham Palace is offering them to staff, which seems preposterous. Other institutions that are using a lot of zero-hour contracts are colleges and universities and there’s a lot of care-workers being signed-up to these contracts too.
MPs are also utilising zero-hour contracts, which is worth knowing in the build-up to the May election, should they all start complaining about how desperately unfair they are.
The ONS added that roughly a third of people on these, wished they had more working hours.
The Unite union leader, Len McCluskey, spat: “Increasing numbers of workers face a year of working harder and getting poorer thanks to the explosion of insecure working and exploitative zero-hours contracts.”
New York! The city that apparently never sleeps! A place with loads of famous things and yellow taxis and a dating scene that involves asking complete strangers to go for a meal at a restaurant with you, even though that sounds like absolute hell.
Well, if you’ve ever fancied some of that, you can get flights to the Big Apple for £498.50 (per person) and a hotel for £498.50, which works out at £997 per couple. You’ll be gawping at tall buildings in no time at all.
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Those irritating gits who run companies that mither everyone with nuisance calls and texts are looking at some new regulations that will slap them with huge fines. We’re talking penalties of (up to, of course) £500,000.
The current laws don’t do much to discourage these spam merchants, but that’s apparently going to change, as new rules will make it much easier to penalise them.
They come into play from April 6th and they mean that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) won’t have to prove that unwanted messages are causing a “substantial damage or substantial distress” any more.
In addition to that, the Government are also looking at bringing in new rules which will see that executives on the board of these businesses will also be held responsible for these calls and messages.
“For far too long companies have bombarded people with unwanted marketing calls and texts, and escaped punishment because they did not cause enough harm,” said digital economy minister Ed Vaizey. “This change will make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office to take action against offenders and send a clear message to others that harassing consumers with nuisance calls or texts is just not on.”
We all know how slippery these cold-callers are, so it would be wise to avoid holding your breath until we actually see someone getting a massive fine. Still, this is, initially, very good news for everyone.
Travelling on a bus can be a miserable affair at the best of times and, as we know, there’s too many buses that are in a bit of a state when you get on them.
One bus in Yorkshire had a problem with the buttons that you press, which ring the bell to signal to the bus driver that you want to get off at the next stop. Well, Barnsley folk won’t let a little thing like that get in the way of anything. Forget getting maintenance teams out and all that faff – just write a note like this.
As you can see, the sign says “Bells not working. If you want bus to stop, shout ‘Ding Ding’.” It is impossible to read that without doing it in a Yorkshire accent.
Of course, this sign is bad news for those who too shy to shout or, indeed, can’t read. Either way, we like this system of fixing menial problems. More of it please!
Google are revamping their Google Wallet service, upping their game to take on Samsung and Apple to make the battle for your money a three-way dogfight. Well, if you don’t include all the other companies that is.
Anyway, Wallet is getting improved and incorporating Softcard (which used to be called Isis Mobile Wallet, which would’ve been interesting if it were still called that in today’s climate) and in the States, will be a joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Similar deals are being worked on in a number of other markets and Wallet, of course, is already installed on loads of Android handsets, so look out for updates.
Google clearly want to take-on Apple Pay and the search giant’s announcement makes particular reference to the “tap and pay functionality” of Wallet, meaning that this is a move to make Android fans take their NFC app seriously, after years of indifference.
Seeing as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile had previously blocked Wallet on their phones, this teaming-up means that the new platform is going to be more robust than previous efforts.
Of course, only last week, Samsung bought into LoopPay, which means there could be a scrap between the mobile maker and Google, which is a problem that Apple don’t have.
However, with the UK being rather slow to embrace NFC payments, Google might hold out to see what Apple do first. With contactless payments being increased, things could get going sooner, rather than later.
Banks, accountants and businesses that help people evade tax are looking at giganto fines, according to George Osborne. The Chancellor is clearly responding to the HSBC scandal where their Swiss wing helped a load of bad sorts sidestep that pesky business of taxation.
Apparently, Gideon will be using the platform of a policy statement before the election to say that companies and organisations who are enabling tax-dodging will face the same penalties as those who benefit from dodging. Words being thrown around are “corporate failure” and the severe sounding “economic crime.”
People who fund political parties across the board will be hoping that he’s bluffing, eh?
Of course, this is a headache for Osborne, as he batted away questions about whether or not he’d talked about the HSBC scandal with Lord Green who just so happens to be a former HSBC chairman and was given the role of Trade Minister by the Government in 2011. Speaking about that, Osborne said: “Some very serious allegations have been made about HSBC Swiss and its role in knowingly advising people on tax evasion. Of course this is a matter that our criminal authorities, prosecuting authorities will want to look into.”
“We are currently in active discussion which I think will come to a fruitful end to get the French to allow us to pass some of this information to the Serious Fraud Office and other prosecuting authorities to address the concern… about the potential or alleged role of banks in this affair.”
There’s a lot of hand-wringing going on about the UK’s farmers this week. Research by the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) have warned that around half of the nation’s food will come from abroad by 2040. The fact it isn’t already at that level might be news to some.
At the moment, around 60% of the food we consume in the UK is produced in Britain. In 25 years, it is thought that this will fall to 53% and that, but 2080, it’ll be as low as 50%.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Today’s report highlights the causes of the decline in self-sufficiency, including shifting and conflicting direction on European and UK farm policy. The stark choice for the next government is whether to trust the nation’s food security to volatile world markets or to Back British Farming and reverse the worrying trend in food production.”
“I know what I want to happen. I want to see a robust plan for increasing the productive potential of farming, stimulating investment and ensuring that the drive to increase British food production is at the heart of every government department.”
NFU vice president Guy Smith added: “Currently, farming grows most of the raw ingredients for Britain’s food and drink industry – worth £97bn – which provides jobs for 3.5 million people across the country. With that in mind, the prospect of the UK becoming less than 50% self-sufficient should ring alarm bells across all political parties.”
“Our burgeoning trade deficit in food and drink isn’t just worrying in terms of food security, it also has important implications for jobs and general economic health.”
There’s a lot of support for British-produced goods, however, the biggest factor when it comes to consumer choices is, as it always was, price. That all said, the authorities aren’t too worried about it.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: “From farm to fork, our food industry is in good health – it generated a record £103bn for our economy last year, more than cars and aerospace combined.”
“We are helping the industry become more competitive, at home and abroad, by opening up record numbers of international food markets to export our produce, making it easier for our schools and hospitals to buy local, helping consumers choose UK products through improved country-of-origin labelling, and investing in cutting-edge technology like GPS-guided tractors.”
It must be difficult enough to have to go around in life being called Fanny, without having to cry over all the Nectar points you aren’t collecting because Sainsburys won’t give you a card. It’s like kicking a girl when she’s down.
That is exactly what happened to 19 year old Fanny Carlsson, whose name was deemed such a joke that it wasn’t even rejected on quality control- the computer would not accept her first name was, in fact, her first name. Even though it is.
Fanny, originally from Sweden, helpfully screenshotted her attempt to use her ‘invalid’ first name, but may have had to explain to her fellow countrymen (and women) what Fanny means, both in the UK (front bottom of a lady) and in the US (bottom bottom), and why, to save schoolboy sniggers, she often uses her middle name whilst here in the UK.
Ms Carlsson did eventually have to resort to her middle name in order to be able to rack up her points, but Sainsbury’s and Nectar have had their boob pointed out to them. Nectar said, in a statement: “Like many companies we block a number of words on the Nectar website. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to this particular customer and are reviewing this going forward.”
Next week, find out what happened when Randy, Dick and Willy applied for a Clubcard…