Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Appointed to the board of UK's new press regulator

I have been appointed to the board of the Independent Press Standards Organisation - the new press regulator that has been set up following the Leveson inquiry.

I am honoured, if a little daunted, to be appointed at such a crucially important time for the future of press regulation.

In a press release today, the chair of the independent panel set up to find the first board for IPSO, Sir Hayden Phillips, said: "I am confident the new Directors have the stature and experience to bring into being a tough and independent regulator that will stand the test of time."

The majority of the new 12-strong board are people independent of the newspaper industry, with the other five having knowledge of different sectors of the press.  

According to the press release: "The Board includes people from business, diplomacy, consumer rights, the pensions sector, academia, the voluntary sector and the publishing and newspaper industries. 

"Experience is drawn from across the United Kingdom."

Obviously, my main experience is within the regional press.

Sir Alan Moses, the chair of IPSO, said: “I am delighted to have the chance to work with such a talented group of independent-minded people, committed to provide rigorous and strong  regulation. 

"Now we must start our work of preparation. We plan to use the coming period to listen and engage with the public, experts and the industry before IPSO’s formal launch in September. 

"This will be a new era of self regulation of our newspapers, ready to provide the independent regulation to which the public is entitled.”

Sir Alan, an Appeal Court judge, was appointed to the post of chair of IPSO last month.  At the time, he said there was a difficult balance to be struck between protecting the public and defending a free and fearless press.

"The public and the press are entitled to a successful system of independent regulation. I recognise it is a big responsibility to achieve this. 

"I believe that such a system should be designed to protect the public against a repetition of the  breakdown in standards in some parts of the newspaper industry in recent times.  

"At the same time it should affirm and encourage the vital role of a free and fearless press. 

"I shall do my best to guide the development of  clear, simple but fair rules in an area where there are difficult questions and there are no easy answers.  

"But I am determined that there should be no hesitation in dealing with bad practice by newspapers and providing support and vindication for those who suffer as a result of any future  breakdown.  

"This new organisation will have to listen to and learn from  the Press and their critics in the period ahead.   

"To those who have voiced doubts as to the ability of IPSO to meet the demands of independent regulation, I say that I have spent over forty years pursuing the profession of barrister and judge whose hallmarks are independent action and independent judgment. I do not intend to do away with that independence now."

Those who know me, will know that I share Sir Alan's views on independence.  I have written about it before here on this blog and one of the main reasons I left my previous role as editor was because I believed my independence was being undermined.  Like Sir Alan, I have no intention of doing away with that independence now.

You can see IPSO's press release here, including short biographies of all 12 members of the board.

You can also see the response of HackedOff to the announcement here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When live help on a website leaves you none the wiser

Live help on a website is a great idea: getting immediate answers is exactly what I want when I'm wondering about buying a new service or product.

But when it's done poorly, it is worse than useless.

Take this conversation I had with 'Andy' on the EE website today when considering switching my mobile from 'three' because I get such poor coverage where I live to EE's 'superfast' 4G service

I ask Andy if he can check EE's coverage at my postcode.  Here's what happened:

Andy: at 16:17:24
I'd be happy to help you on that
Andy: at 16:17:30
May i know your post code
keith: at 16:13:13
my postcode is DE...
Andy: at 16:18:39
you do have finer coverage of 4g but great 3 g
keith: at 16:14:34
Sorry, what does that mean?
Andy: at 16:19:39
you do have fine coverage for 4g only 3 bars and 3 g is great

Ok, that's not exactly clear, so I press on:

keith: at 16:15:37
What difference will 3 bars for 4g make?
Andy: at 16:20:35
It sis fine not great

Oh, now I understand.  Actually, I don't.

keith: at 16:16:53
I don't understand that. What is the difference between fine and great?
Andy: at 16:22:00
I will explain
Andy: at 16:22:21
you will get 4g but the network will not be storng
Andy: at 16:22:31
It may fall some time
Andy: at 16:22:48
And 3g it will be great

Right.  Go on:

keith: at 16:19:17
Will I always be able to browse on the internet?
Andy: at 16:23:55
yes you can\
keith: at 16:19:57
But it might be slow?
Andy: at 16:25:01
yes slow

Now I get technical.  I have no idea what it means, but I ask:

keith: at 16:20:58
can you tell me what speed I should expect for upload and download?
Andy: at 16:26:00
it will be 17 to 19 mpbs speed
keith: at 16:21:52
What would it be if it was great?
Andy: at 16:26:38
21 to 23 mpbs

Sounds impressive and there doesn't seem to be much difference between fine and great.  But Andy has got another idea:

Andy: at 16:30:31
you can go for 3 g plans
Andy: at 16:30:38
You have great fine
keith: at 16:27:02
what speed would 3g plans give
Andy: at 16:31:50
7.2 mpbs

I don't really know what I'm talking about, but that doesn't sound anywhere near as good! So I ask:

keith: at 16:28:02
And on my postcode I would definitely get 17 on 4g?
Andy: at 16:32:52
I cannot comment on  that

Eh?  Wait a minute - he just told me that I would get 17-19 on 4g.

keith: at 16:28:42
but that is what you said earlier?
Andy: at 16:33:32
yes but indoors it may be till 17 mpbs
keith: at 16:29:31
sorry, what does that mean? It may be till?
Andy: at 16:34:11
17 mpbs
keith: at 16:29:57
but what does may be till mean?
Andy: at 16:35:01
I will explain
Andy: at 16:35:10
As looking at your coverage
Andy: at 16:35:27
you may get till 17 mpbs speed
Andy: at 16:35:38
It may go higher and lower to

Now, I'm really confused.  And it's not just because 'Andy's' first language is obviously not English:

keith: at 16:31:24
I am sorry, I don't understand 'may be till' - it is not an English phrase
Andy: at 16:36:26
I will explain
Andy: at 16:36:36
As looking at your covarage
Andy: at 16:36:51
You may get speed till 17 mpbs speed

Oh, right.  Silly me.  Then nothing for 50 seconds until this:

Andy: at 16:37:04
May io know which plan you have selected

I press on:

keith: at 16:33:19
Earlier you said I would get 17-19 mbs
keith: at 16:33:30
Are you saying that is not true?
Andy: at 16:38:17
yes as looking at your covrage
Andy: at 16:38:33
Please click here
Andy: at 16:39:01
you can see
Andy: at 16:39:06
If you had fill bars
Andy: at 16:39:15
The speed will be 21 to 23 mpbs

And so it goes on for another 10 minutes until Andy asks me:

Andy: at 16:50:38
Did you selected any plan

The truth is that I am really unsure what he has told me.  He kept saying I would get 17-19mbs, which seems really fast, given that I can't even receive texts on 'Three's' network here.  But when I asked him if I would definitely get 17mbs he said: 'I can't comment on that!'