Sean Spicer and that reference to Hitler

Its not just the crass stupidity of the remark but his profound ignorance that underpins it. He very revealingly and so inappropriately used the term ‘holocaust centres’ for Nazi extermination camps. Thus moral and historic outrages are brutally dulled by casual euphemism.

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No wonder the Germans fear for their language!

No wonder the Germans fear for their language! – from Schweizer Versicherung mag 1/3/2017 about Swiss Life launching an app called now@work

‘Swiss Life lanciert (modified French loanword from lancer- to launch) per (Latin/Italian loanword) 1. März 2017 mit der App (English, phonemic shortening) «now@work» ein innovatives (modified English, neuter singular accusative inflection since 1970’s) Tool (English loanword) für mehr Leistungsfähigkeit (finally a real German compound + morpholigical ‘state of’ noun suffix) bei der Arbeit (from Old Russian/Church Slavonic rabota meaning servitude/work).’

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At Last

After a mega-hack, I have the blog site up and running. It has only taken 5 months to get it back.

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Make mine a Pint not two halves.

I hate referenda. I hate the abrogation of power with consequence but no responsibility to the people – to the feeling iPhoned mob. I hate what its doing to my friends, to the aurora of bores at dinner parties. I hate the Pythonesque ‘what’s the EU ever done for us,’ the single transferable racism as if any of them are in any way adversely affected by ‘immigration’. Unless they see their wonderful Brazilian maid, the nice French couple next door, the pretty Latvian Pilates coach and the wisdom of (sometimes) brilliant foreign minds as being damaging to their pampered lives. But most of all I hate the 50/50 split. What does that mean. Are half the people in my street voting out? Half the people at the chemist, half the people on the 22 bus, half the people on the M3 yesterday, half the people I have ever met in my whole life? Are they voting to leave? Based on what? What do they know, that I don’t? We have all been hearing and seeing the same stats and spats, and yet if YouGov and Ipsos Mori are to be believed, half of everybody, dim and bright, have reached a diametrically opposite conclusion to me! Is this what is meant by the (Homer) Simpson Paradox?
It doesn’t make sense. Spin a coin a thousand times it will be mostly heads 50% and tails 50%. Occasionally it might land on its edge, a small and statistically insignificant anomaly. But we are not coins to be spun, nor is Thursday’s X a random choice we make as we enter the booth. If people truly still don’t know (how can they not know, by now), then don’t change your life and mine for the hell of it based on some Shangri-La La land. Stick with what we’ve got. Its not perfect, but its OK. And for Gawds sake let’s have a Pint of something strong, not two halves of bitterness for years to come.

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No Moral Equivalence

I was asked an interesting question today ‘whether the BBC had any right to investigate others’, after the appalling management failings unveiled in Dame Janet Smith’s Savile Report. My answer was an unequivocal yes they can, they should, and they will.
It may be tempting to say ‘put your own house in order before you criticise ours’ and indeed there is a biblical precedent (Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’ John 8.7), however the BBC and some other media organisations a) have a public interest obligation to expose crime, significant incompetence etc and b) BBC programmes are not subject to some fallacious notion of ‘collective guilt’.
I would counsel very strongly against exercising or deploying ‘moral equivalence’ arguments as a media relations tactic, any more than one might have used it against certain newspapers after the News of the Screws phone hacking was exposed.



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In Praise of Print

What a wonderful indulgent time I have had. You see its raining and its cold (not very, just a bit) so no need to go outside, ride my exer-bike, do errands and all the other stuff that are Sunday round here. A morning to myself, but not alone. My paper-based broadsheet newspaper was all the company I needed. A thick slab of flat white sheets covered in plastic wrapping to hold all the supplements and flyers together waiting on the mat. I am not sure the plastic is necessary as the deliverer stuffs my paper through the letter box un-ripped. (Thank you sir or madam. Are you a man or a woman, I have no idea?) What I do know he/she is not a lazy youth on a bike who tosses the paper halfway up the drive of American homes, to be rained on and driven over, before half a deforested hillside gets consigned to the bin unread.

No, my print-bomb, during its short life – no longer than a damson fly – explodes with infotainment gold. Somewhere, through the power of the zeitgeist meme, Editors know what I should know to make me an educated, informed, opinioned, functioning member of here, today. Among the viscid pages, that yield to my practised fingers, is oodles of stuff I didn’t know when I awoke – more importantly, if I did know it, I didn’t know what it meant or means or could mean to me or to you or to us.

Why, you scoff, is it necessary to bring me news, opinion and features so wastefully. Ignore the poor sod who got up at 3am on New Year’s Sunday ( he needs the job), but think of the trees and the ink and energy wasted at every stage to bring something so quickly, cheaply and eco-ly (E.coli?) available to all at

Well here is why. Because this lunch time, you don’t know sod all and I do. You may think you do but you don’t. You may have scanned a couple of iPad items on Huff or the Daily Mail before getting side-tracked by the side-bar of shame. You may have been fleetingly impressed by an Observer/Guardian opinion piece by someone you’ve never heard of, downloaded automatically to your (very small) iPhone screen, and now forgotten. You may be happy that Man U have finally won a game or that England beat South Africa by 241 runs. You may even have heard the BBC bulletin that J Corbyn is about to reshuffle H Benn, delivered in the in the irritating ‘we must remain impartial’ BBC style of ‘oh yes he will, oh no he won’t. But read on (as you congratulate yourself that you have saved the planet) ; I know about Brazilian drugs threat to the Olympics, how the Bolshoi is banning ‘the casting couch’, that Trump is a germophone ( I feel the same way about him), that German Robots teach Syrian kids Deutsch, that Cosby is to face his sex victims, talking of which, did you read the feature on Simon Danczug’s wives (riveting), and then there’s the EU, Gwyneth’s vegan burgers, how we can chose what gender we are, lasers, the floods and Nimr al Nimr’s beheading – how serious is that? The answer is very, but you’ll need to read a broadsheet to know why.

Admit it, compared to me you online news pickers don’t know sod all.

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Linguistic, Ethnic and Cultural Heterogeneity in South Tyrol. JS 13/1/14

“Nestled in the mountains of the Alps, it’s Italy’s richest province, and has been part of that country for almost 100 years – but some in South Tyrol just don’t feel fully Italian.” (BBC News 8/12/2012).


Summer climbers, winter skiers enjoying a holiday in the beautiful Alpine scenery of the northern Italian Province of Bolzano/Südtirol, may be surprised to encounter German everywhere; in speech, place names, even restaurant menus. Other than on official documents, road signs and in the two principle towns of Bolzano and Merano, Italian can seem largely absent. Others, acquainted with the region’s recent history may be struck by the relative lack of the once omni-present (German language) separatist graffiti demanding Freiheit für Südtirol (Freedom for South Tyrol). How a resolution to a significant European stability problem, based on ethnicity, has been achieved forms the basis for this essay.

The doxa of population heterogeneity (groups or individuals with different ethnicity, culture and speech) is conflict, and as a consequence, ‘political systems that are inherently more unstable’ (Anderson, Paskeviciute  2006:785).  In addition to the ‘utilitarian role’ of language homogeneity and national language cohesion Wright (2004:42) states ‘ to speak the language is an act of inclusion’ and failure or refusal seen as ‘schismatic and unpatriotic’. It is also widely held that linguistic minority communities suffering discrimination, can have low socio-economic status and limited prospects. I will show, however, that in this Italian province, linguistic, ethnic and cultural heterogeneity has finally succeeded through mature compromise and negotiation, despite the route to success being long and divisive.
To avoid losing focus amidst the complexities of this highly charged, but relatively unknown central European struggle, I will approach it within the framework and terminology of linguistic human rights. I propose using the Phillipson definition of linguistic imperialism (1192:47) being defined as ‘ideologies, structures, and practices which are used to legitimate, effectuate, and reproduce an unequal division of power and resources (both material and immaterial) between groups which are defined on the basis of language’. (1992:47). Also the term linguicism (defined in Gynther& Nijhoff et al, 2007 from Tove Skutnabb-Kangas 2000), as active conscious and visible deprivation of power and influence due to their language.

The South Tyrol, Ethnographic and Geopolitical information :

South Tyrol (German and Ladin: Südtirol) is also known by its Italian name Alto Adige. It is a small mountainous province, about the size of the English county of Dorset, south of the Brenner Pass to Austria. It is the more northerly of the two provinces that make up the Italian Autonomous Region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. It has a total population of 511,750 (mainly Roman Catholic) inhabitants (census 31/12/2011). The capital is the ancient city of Bolzano (German: Bozen; Ladin: Balsan ). South Tyrol has many world-class ski resorts and some of the most impressive scenery in Europe. (Steinbrech 2004) There are three identifiable ethno-linguistic groups in South Tyrol. For clarity, I propose grouping them by language, ethnicity and culture. It is a generalisation which works in this context and is used by the peoples themselves. By far the largest group is the third of a million autochthonous ‘South Tyroleans’. To this day they are German L1 speaking (Austro-Bavarian) hill farming villagers, with intimate cultural and kinship ties to the Austrian ‘Bundesland Tirol’, and its capital Innsbruck, immediately to the north. The ‘Italians’ are the Italian speaking, largely urban community of the host nation, the majority of whom arrived in the valleys after WW1. In addition there is a very small ‘Ladin’ speaking Rhaeto-Romance population (20,548 people – 2011 census,) who are considered to be the aboriginal people of the Sella region in the Dolomite mountains. Their fortunes are closely allied with their German speaking neighbours and not with the city dwelling Italians below.

Declared language group association from Census 2011
Language Groups
SPRACHGRUPPEN Sprachgruppen- zugehörigkeitserklärungen
Dichiarazioni di appartenenza Sprachgruppen- zuordnungserklärungen
Dichiarazioni di aggregazione Summe der gültigen
Totale dichiarazioni valide

Italienisch (Italian L1) 115.161 2.959 118.120 Italiano
Deutsch (German L1) 310.360 4.244 314.604 Tedesco

Ladinisch (Ladin L1) 20.126 422 20.548 Ladino
Insgesamt (Total) 445.647 7.625 453.272 Totale

1915 – 1939

The inter-ethnic bitterness and conflict between the Italian and German speech communities in South Tyrol, flared up with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy at the end of World War One. At the Treaty of St Germaine 1919 Italy acquired this hitherto Austrian Imperial (K&K ) territory. It was the prize for Italy entering the war against Germany, Austria-Hungary in 1915. On the map, this ceding of cisalpine Austria to Italy, may not appear unreasonable (Alcock 2001:3). The Brenner Pass forms a defensible barrier, fluvial watershed and ‘natural’ frontier to the north [The Fascists, were later to claim that South Tyrol was originally Italian, with the local (Italian speaking) peasantry ‘germanised’ from the 5th Century onwards. (Alcock in Dunn, Fraser: 1996:68)] However, the Austrians, north and south of the Brenner considered this a great injustice (Alcock 2001:1). The German speaking South Tyroleans, who made up 86% of the region’s population had always considered themselves Austrians. They also believed it breached the letter and spirit of Point IX in US President Woodrow Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points’, in his ‘just and lasting peace ’ speech of 8th January 1918. It states:
“IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality . A month later he was to add, with reference in particular to them (the Tyroleans believed) ‘peoples and provinces are not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty …..every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned…
Furthermore, to the Austrians (Tyroleans), the Brenner Pass had never been a border in the cultural, ethnic or linguistic sense, but a totemic cleft through the high Alps where people, animals and goods have moved north and south for millennia (Alcock in Dunn, Fraser 1996:69). They saw the ‘real’ border being the Salurn Gorge (Salurner Klause) south of Bolzano (Bozen), marking the boundary between the German sprachraum and the Italophone lands to the south. However at the Peace Conference of 1919 the Italian government eschewed the American president’s Fourteen Points. They argued that taking the Trentino and South Tyrol (Alto Adige) regions together, the populations were overwhelmingly Italian. However such legerdemain was about to become irrelevant. Three years later the Fascists under Mussolini seized power (1922) and the forced assimilation of the ‘Germans’ and linguicide  of the German language began under the Provvedimenti per l’Alto Adige overseen by the Fascist Senator and ethnographer Ettore Tolomei (d. 1952).
Monolingual German speakers, no matter how competent or qualified, who failed to meet the new mandatory fluency in Italian, were dismissed from jobs, from public office, hospitals and schools. German was banned in all official intercourse and documentation, newspapers, clubs and associations. It was no longer permitted in courts or-on road signs. One example of the vindictiveness of the Fascists towards Crucchi (slang = Krauts); Germanic christian names which ‘offended Italian sentiment’ (Alcock in Dunn, Fraser 1996:71) were forbidden. Place names were Italianised, including major and famous passes and mountains. The name Südtirol itself was outlawed.
With the ban on German enforced by the State paramilitary police Carabinieri, secret Catacomb Schools (Katakombenschulen) were established to teach children their now illegal L1 language. These were discrete, disguised gatherings in private homes, using books smuggled across the border from Austria, with the tacit support of the local Catholic church. Discovery could mean imprisonment and deportation for the teachers, the householder and parents. The only exception tolerated was religious instruction (the Roman Catholic catechism) at the insistence of the Bishop of Bolzano. At schools non Italian teachers suffered discrimination on the grounds of a new offence, didactic insufficiency  and were either dismissed or transferred out of the region altogether. Thus, within a matter of years, by 1928, over 30,000 children in 360 German schools were being taught in Italian by Italians from Kindergarten upwards. German had ceased to exist.
Still, the Fascists deemed the forced assimilation of these mountain farmers too slow. Next they created new industrial zones in the regional capital Bolzano/Bozen to which Southern Italians were encouraged to come for work. 95% of all state employment went to ethnic Italians. The South Tyroleans, three-quarters of the population, were foreigners in their own home. In 1936 Hitler and Mussolini created the Axis non-aggression pact; but a solution only came in 1939. With the Nazi Anschluss, Austria was now fully integrated into Germany, thus a plebiscite was agreed to coerce Südtiroler possessing deutsche Volkszugehörigkeit (the notion of belonging to the German race by descent, language, upbringing and culture) to agree to be repatriated elsewhere in the Third Reich. Eighty percent voted to go. Families were split apart; those remaining were deemed traitors and those leaving seen as Nazis. This diaspora ceased suddenly with the outbreak of the 2nd world war.

1944 – 1972

In 1944 the Americans and the British landed in Italy. The government in Rome fell, but South Tyrol remained under Fascist/Nazi control for another year. Hopes of reunification with Austria rose, but in 1945 the Allies refused to permit South Tyrol to return to Austria. The reason given (Alcock in Dunn, Fraser 1996:74) was the unsure future of Germany/ Austria under the Four Country occupation. This left South Tyrol in a parlous economic and administrative vacuum – A generation had been deprived of access to formal German language education. The southern Austrian oral dialekt of the South Tyrolean sprachinsel (language enclave) being markedly distinct in pronunciation, lexis and syntax from Standard [Austrian] German. With no education and no training in Hochdeutsch, there were no administrators, community leaders, politicians, teachers or lawyers able to conduct the business and safeguard the rights of the, by this time destitute, communities. To quote Karl Marx ‘Sie können sich nicht vertreten, sie müssen vertreten werden’ (they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented). This left them again, a ‘minority’ at the mercy of Italian administrators, concentrated in the larger towns of Bolzano and Merano, inflaming the old hostility yet further. Minority should be understood in the national sense rather than the provincial, given the German-speaking population is the majority in South Tyrol. In addition local Italian nationalists campaigned that those 80% of ‘Germans’ who had voted to leave in 1939, should now do so.
This threat to their existence, in a country they had farmed for over a thousand years, led to the formation of the Südtiroler Volkspartei (SVP – Peoples Party of South Tyrol) to which almost everyone flocked, no matter what their prior politics or status. Significantly, the tiny Ladin speaking communities, with little or no linguistic kinship, preferred to side with the self detirminatory (separatist) agenda of the SVP against the Italians too. In the absence of an alternative, the new SVP was recognized by the Allies as the political representative of the German-speaking population of South Tyrol. (Steinbrech 2004:4). Thus an agreement (The 1st Autonomy Treaty) was agreed between the Italian Prime Minister De Gasperi and Austrian foreign minister Gruber. (5/9/46). It meant the South Tyrol question was formalised and part of the 1947 Italian Peace Treaty. It established a limited autonomy with German mother tongue primary and secondary education, equality of rights and restitution of ‘German’ names etc., but the de Gasperi Gruber agreement, in its haste contained two particular flaws.
A) It tied the Italian province of Trento, with South Tyrol, thus concreting the ethnic imbalance the South Tyrol had been fighting against for so long, and
B) It only ‘parified’ the German language with Italian, German was not given the status of an Official Language, (Alcock in Dunn Frazer :75) As a result there was still a need for Germans speakers to learn Italian but no equivalent obligation for Italian (officials) to learn or speak German.

This was, to quote Alcock (2001)  “far from the parification promised …Much would depend upon whether the Italian Government would adopt a generous or a restrictive attitude to these questions.” As the agreement did not contain the Austrian renunciation of the South Tyrol – this ‘first’ Autonomy was met with anger on all sides, rendering it unworkable.

Elements of the German speaking Freiheit fur Südtirol (Freedom for South Tyrol) movement turned violent. Bombings and assassinations occurred both in South Tyrol and in Austria. In one event on the 12 June 1961 Notte dei fuochi (Night of Fire) thirty electricity pylons were dynamited by BAS Befreiungsausschuss Südtirol. As a result the South Tyrol Question was no longer viewed as a domestic Italian problem. The continued intransigence by the Rome Government to find a solution resulted finally it coming before the United Nations under UDHR Article 2.1. But another decade (1972) was to go by, before the Package ‘Paket/Pacchetto’ of 137 Measures in Favour of the population of South Tyrol known as the 2nd Autonomy was finally agreed by all parties including the SVP (Wolff:12) .

1972- Present

For contextual purposes it is noteworthy that Italy is home to some fourteen linguistic speech communities and over the years these minorities from Aosta, to Sardinia and Sicily have sought and been granted linguistic and legislative rights and ‘provincial autonomy’ (Wolff; 2009). Thus these measures, effectively a constitution, guaranteed the rights of the three groups in all areas of politics, language, healthcare, education etc. German and Ladin were finally recognised as Local Official Languages. This meant bilingual place names and the symbolic reinstatement of the name Südtirol under a Landeshauptmann (an ethnic German speaking Regional President) and Regional Parliament. The numerically small Ladin population, benefitted similarly. Additionally it included a bilateral agreement between Austria and Italy that disputes be adjudicated at the UN International Court of Justice in the Hague and not in the Italian supreme court. The statute also indicated a significant change in the Italian State to its German and Ladin its linguistic minorities – indeed at the last moment, an additional phrase was added that the protection of linguistic minorities was in the national interest (Alcock 2001:11). Monolingual schooling was placed under the direct primary legislative control of the region as were hygiene and healthcare. This meant, for example, that Austrian qualifications for doctors, teachers, nurses etc. were recognised once more.– however while ethnic proportionality now operates in all areas, (except to this day the police  – considered a State competence), a thirty year timespan was introduced to prevent the dismissal of Italian public employees on linguistic grounds, as the Fascists had dismissed the German speakers during the Fascist years.
South Tyrol, now known officially (in German) as the Autonomen Provinz Bozen-Südtirol,has become an exemplar of sophisticated conflict resolution, some of which was novel  as recently as 1970 (Wolff 2009). Measures include territorial self-governance, tax raising powers with 9/10ths retention and the German speaking community exercising executive and administrative power ‘independently of the (Italian) State but subject to the legal order of the State’, through complex rotational ‘consociational’ power sharing. Each language is used in the Provincial parliament, but the Italian text ‘version’ is deemed authentic in the event of disputes. All candidates for employment or promotion in public sector jobs must now take a bilingual-proficiency exam.
Since 1972, additional measures have reinforced the fortunes of the South Tyroleans. The EU Schengen area (1998) has enabled free movement within Europe. Co-operation on Tourism and Environment is achieved through the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Alp (Alpine Consortium) incorporating South Tyrol into the Deutsches Sprachgebeit (German language area) with South Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Contextual Observations

It is a recognised that the Italian host nation has overtly and variously endeavoured to destroy the German community culturally, linguistically and ethnically through forced assimilation, domination, repression and expulsion.(Alcock 2001). Seen from the other side, Sue Wright  (2004:42) states that during the ‘nationalist’ era, (by which is meant pre World War 2) political leaders ‘believed it was essential to encourage a single community of communication’. This ‘language of exchange’ is inevitably the language of the dominant group and of the capital. Furthermore Wright (2004:43) then identifies what occurs when peripheral groups are excluded. Quoting Joseph (1987) she states exclusion produces a centrifugal force that encourages separate and dissenting development.
The South Tyrol, unlike other European pluralistic regions (eg Catalonia) has not taken the ultimate next step of demanding independence nor do they now want re-unification with Austria. For the most part people are content to remain within Italy as part of the wider EU. Thus it can be argued that South Tyrol now breaks the orthodox mould of heterogeneity creating conflict. Alcock (2001:22) offers some clues as to why this might be. Primarily, he states, it was the (mostly) peaceful but energetic pursuit of reasonable demands, by the SVP who represented and still represent almost the entire ethnic South Tyrolean population. In addition, the internationalisation of the South Tyrol question followed the establishment of the Common Market (EEC) in 1957. This created a new supra-national environment in which the Italian government guaranteed the rights of its linguistic minorities, pre-dating the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages 1992  . The Common Agricultural Policy has additionally enabled this hitherto impoverished alpine corner of Europe to prosper, as the statistics  show.
Understanding the issue of functioning heterogeneity is greatly assisted by the literature on pluralist speech communities. Where it may fail is in the presumption that cultural, ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity must de facto lead to under-performance. While this may be accepted as evident in certain colonial legacy countries with imposed and ethnically inappropriate borders, in South Tyrol this is not the case.
However, a parallel can be found in Kachru (1986 in Phillipson’s 1992:81) identification of the four basic areas (linguistic, literary, attitudinal and pedagogical) in which the power (of English) manifests itself in outer circle countries. This linguicism (‘overt, conscious and action orientated’) was the situation in South Tyrol, cruelly imposed, under Italian fascist imperialism prior to WW2. The influx and forced immigration of Italian speaking workers, combined with outlawing of the German language, teaching, and literature, meant that without ‘competence and proficiency’ in Italian, the South Tyroleans became functionally, culturally and intellectually redundant, unless they renounced their Austrian-ness entirely. Forcibly cut off from what Phillipson terms a linguistic ‘fountainhead’ (1992:228) linguicide  followed. Such linguicidal policies, mostly accompanying invasion, have been pursued from classical times onwards. For example France as the international language of European ruling groups, (ibid:104) harnessed ‘linguicidal policies at home and abroad’. And for much the same reasons as Mussolini’s Fascists; namely the belief that non-romance languages, like German and English, were inferior, and lacked the elegance, clarity and natural syntactic order of languages rooted in Latin. Here too a further parallel can be drawn (with indigenous peoples further afield), whereby the Fascists, armed with ‘extrinsic material resources’ (Phillipson 1992:276) acted to destroy the South Tyrolean culture by ‘breaking  the nexus of (the) indigenous people with their land’  something which Fishman (1972) termed ‘nationalism stressing uniformation rather than unification’ (in The Language Ethnicity and Race Reader ch 9:117 Ed. Harris & Rampton)

Going Forward

“In ethnically, linguistically and/or religiously heterogeneous societies in which corresponding group identities have formed and become salient, the degree of self-governance enjoyed by the different segments of society is often seen as more or less directly proportional to the level of acceptance of an overall institutional framework within which these different segments come together” (Wolff: 2009:16)

To conclude this tortuous journey from orphaned province to a stable and mutually beneficial heterogeneity, it is my opinion that the last hundred years has seen racist discrimination by Italians towards the ethnic Austrian population. They have suffered linguistic imperialism, linguicism and linguicide throughout much of the 20th century. Why little is written now (or interest taken) outside the German/Italian speech communities may stem, in part from the stigmatisation of both parties (German and Italian), with German speakers as the responsible aggressors in two world wars. Furthermore the Italians in the valley, with notable amnesia, depict the German speaking separatists, who mainly live in mountain communities, as Nazis, to this day. However, the intense social re-engineering since the 2nd Autonomy (revised 2001), allied with a shift in the financial fortunes from subsistence farming to mass tourism has resulted in a functioning resolution to the South Tyrolean Question.
Recently, the question of heterogeneous apartheid in education as enshrined in Article 19 (see box) has become an issue. Most students attend schools with instruction in their native language, even if they are not obliged to do so. This does not promote integration. Families, retaining their unique heritage, continue to self-segregate. (Steinbrech 2004) ‘ (the) German-speaking population treats Italian basically as a school subject and makes little use of the access to Italian media’ (Baur S in Differenzierung, Integration, Inklusion 2011.) However the demographic of the region is changing once more, with the large-scale influx of Europeans and other immigrants, servicing both the light industrial sector in the valley bottoms and the massive seasonal employment needed for the summer and winter tourist trades. Monolingual schooling is of limited advantage to these people’s children, nor is English necessarily part of their repertoire. Therefore they adopt vernacular forms through natural transmission, termed ‘emergency lingua-francas’ (Blommaert 2010:1.3 onwards) either based on Italian or German depending on their work place. Seeing this as detrimental to their long-term needs, the Italian national and regional (Provincial) governments have attempted to remedy this on the basis that second and third language acquisition and competence (required in the public sector) is a transactional benefit, lowering the barriers to interaction in commerce too . A view endorsed within the German speaking academic community (trans: the declared goal of multilingualism among school-children is not just be thought of in local terms but terms of international development’ . This progressive view is not shared throughout the South Tyrolean community. As a reaction there is evidence of a new and heightened linguistic, ethnic separatism with the formation of the SSB Südtiroler Schützenbund (Riflemen of South Tyrol) promoting a right-wing pro Austrian nationalist message of Faith, Hearth and Fatherland. They are resisting what they see as the ‘backdoor’ destruction of Article 19. . These sentiments are countered, at times aggressively, by the Italian neo-fascist student movement ‘Blocco Studentesco’ (see photo Bolzano 5/3/2011) who do not concord with the more open-minded “I tedeschi che conosco io sono gente a posto” (the Germans I know are nice people)  liberality said to be found in Bolzano presently.
These hard-line positions are at odds with practical realities. Tourists will often be greeted with competent fluency in English. Social media too is no respecter of enshrined status planning, (see EuroRegion on Facebook). However the 2nd Autonomy package (2001) allows for such eventualities and disputes. A minority veto is a last line of defence (for all three language communities)  If the principle of equal rights for all language groups is perceived as being threatened by a particular language group, the provincial assembly can demand a separate vote for each language group or challenge a law in the constitutional court’. (‘This is South Tyrol’ August 2012). Nonetheless there are still those like ‘Die Freiheitlichen’ (the Freedom minority, official opposition to the ruling SVP, representing both ethnic German and Ladin speakers, viewed as Nazis by some Italians), who despite all the safeguards and proportionality achieved in recent times, are still protesting the injustice of what occurred nearly one hundred years ago to a border which now only persists in their minds.

‘Demo.  93 YEARS. THE UNJUST BORDER- Sunday 13.11.2011 at 11am Brenner Pass – Together, we demand the abolition of the Brenner border  [ inset Tyrolean Patriots are not Nazi-idiots].
Alcock A (2001) THE SOUTH TYROL AUTONOMY A Short Introduction University of Ulster
Carle U, Kunze I Bräu K, (2011). Differenzierung, Integration, Inklusion. Edition. Schneider Verlag GmbH.
Anderson C, Paskeviciute A.  How Ethnic and Linguistic Heterogeneity Influence the Prospects for Civil Society: A Comparative Study of Citizenship Behaviour The Journal of politics, Vol 68, No 4 November 2006 pp 783-802.
Dunn S, Fraser T. Europe and Ethnicity: The First World War and Contemporary Ethnic Conflict edited by (1996) (Kindle)
Harris, R. & Rampton, B, (eds. ) 2003 The Language, Ethnicity & ‘Race‘ Reader. London: Routledge
Meluzzi C   “Two groups, two worlds: Italian and German in Bozen (South Tyrol)”
(University of Pavia – Free University of Bozen
Päivi G (2007) Beyond Systemic Discrimination., Martinus Nijhoff,
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Skutnabb, Cummins (Ed)1988. Minority Education (Multilingual Matters). Edition. Clevendon UK Multilingual Matters. Ltd
SteinbrechS – South Tyrol Conflicting Ethnicity School of International Service – International Communication American University ICE Case Studies Number 128 – May, 2004
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Perspective1 (Ethnopolitics: Volume 8, Issue 1, 2009
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De Gasperi Gruber Agreement 1946. Full text.
1. German-speaking inhabitants of the Bolzano Province and of the neighbouring bilingual townships of the Trento Province will be assured a complete equality of rights with the Italian-speaking inhabitants within the framework of special provisions to safeguard the ethnical character and the cultural and economic development of the German-speaking element. In accordance with legislation already enacted or awaiting enactment the said German-speaking citizens will be granted in particular:
(a) elementary and secondary teaching in the mother-tongue;
(b) parification of the German and Italian languages in public offices and official documents, as well as in bilingual topographical naming;
(c) the right to re-establish German family names which were Italianised in recent years;
(d) equality of rights as regards the entering upon public offices with a view to reaching a more appropriate proportion of employment between the two ethnical groups.
2. The populations of the above-mentioned zones will be granted the exercise of autonomous legislative and executive regional power. The frame within which the said provisions of autonomy will apply, will be drafted in consultation also with local representative German-speaking elements. 3. The Italian Government, with the aim of establishing good neighbourhood relations between Austria and Italy, pledges itself, in consultation with the Austrian Government, and within one year from the signing of the present Treaty:
(a) to revise in a spirit of equity and broadmindedness the question of the options for citizenship resulting from the 1939 Hitler-Mussolini agreements;
(b) to find an agreement for the mutual recognition of the validity of certain degrees and university diplomas; (c) to draw up a convention for the free passengers and goods transit between Northern and Eastern Tyrol both by rail, and to the greatest possible extent by road;
(d) to reach special agreements aimed at facilitating enlarged frontier traffic and local exchanges of certain quantities of characteristic products and goods between Austria and Italy.

#The Agreement was annexed the 1947 Italian Peace Treaty.

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media law trends for 2015

Shamelessly I am reprinting this excellent summary by media law guru Gill Phillips, director of editorial legal services at the Guardian News & Media.

 2015 looks set to be another year of important developments in media law. First published on Olswang’s Changing Business Hub on, this piece highlights some of the key areas for media professionals to monitor.

12 December 2014

From net neutrality to copyright: media law trends for 2015

Copyright and piracy
With a view to making our copyright system better suited to the digital age, in November, media lawyers saw the arrival of the long-awaited final stages of the Hargreaves recommendations. They include a series of new statutory copyright exceptions [PDF] around quotation and data mining. 2015 will see whether the changes are for the better. The law has also been changed to allow people to make more use of creative content protected by copyright, for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche, without having to obtain the permission of the rights holder. Expect to see an increase in sampling and artworks, especially by musicians and cartoonists, with a consequential increase in court actions testing the boundaries of the new exceptions.

On the other side of the fence, 2015 will continue to see online piracy causing problems and the industry trying a mixture of hard and soft measures to control it. In July this year, a new industry scheme, Creative Content UK, was launched aimed at promoting legal entertainment online and establishing a system of education and warnings for internet users whose connections are being used to illegally share films and music.

In November, the high court ordered six of the UK’s leading internet service providers to block a total of 53 web sites, which brings to 93 the total of blocked sites providing access to such content since the first restrictions began in 2012.

November also saw a new EU commission take charge, with harmonising copyright reform high up on their agenda. Expect to see continued attempts to break down the national silos of telecoms regulation, copyright and data protection legislation, with a view to their greater harmonisation and the completion of an EU digital single market. Some are predicting one-stop shopping to ease consumer access to content from other EU-member states and copyright levies relating to use on the web.


Net neutrality
The battle over how best to protect and promote an open internet will continue. Deciding whether to entrust the internet to government control or the control of the telecommunications companies or internet service providers (ISPs) will continue to be a difficult call. Net neutrality or open internet rules work on the basis that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally and that consumers should be able to use the internet more or less how they please. In the US (but see this as reflecting the battleground more widely), there is an ongoing battle over how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should classify broadband internet service providers.

The FCC is considering reclassifying ISPs as “telecommunications services” as opposed to their current designation of “information services” which would give the FCC far more power to regulate ISPs. The fight for net neutrality will continue in 2015.


Edward Snowden and privacy
Talking of the internet, a global study of more than 20,000 internet users released in November by the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Ipsos revealed that 60% of internet users have heard about Edward Snowden and of those aware, 39% have taken steps to protect their online privacy and security as a result of his revelations about the Prism/Temporaprogramme. The obtaining, use and retention of personal data by state agencies and commercial companies has come under intense scrutiny since then. 2015 will see increased awareness of online privacy among consumers. In the UK, this will manifest itself in more people using subject access requests under the Data Protection Act. There will also be further legal challenges to the way the police have been using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to monitor the activities of journalists.

Following on from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling against Google Spain, there will undoubtedly be more take down requests, not only impacting Google but also other tech companies such as Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo.

The increasing influence of the European Commission and the CJEU
The Google Spain right to be forgotten case was one of the major events of 2014 and the ramifications will continue to reverberate in 2015. The CJEU will continue to flex its muscles in areas around freedom of expression that are traditionally considered to be the remit of the European court of human rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

While media lawyers are all familiar with the role and rulings of the ECHR on issues of freedom of expression, we have been less cognisant of the potential of the CJEU. In 1995, there was a surprise court ruling on where a company could be sued for damages in the libel case Shevill versus Presse Alliance SA. Then in April 2014, there was the Digital Rights Ireland ruling that the Data Retention Directive was invalid followed not long after, in May, by the CJEU’s ruling against Google Spain. In June, a court in Ireland referred the issue of US “safe harbours” to the CJEU. Conjoined with these CJEU forays, the European parliament’s attack on what it regards as the anti-competitive nature of the big US internet giants will intensify in 2015.


Although not law, the ongoing battle over media regulation is set to continue, especially with a general election due in May 2015. In November 2012, the Leveson report made recommendations for the independent self-regulation of the press.

In March 2013, the leaders of the three main political parties signed up to a new independent regulatory system, establishing a Leveson compliant process of independent verification (or “recognition”) for any new regulatory arrangements that resulted. On 30 October 2013, a royal charter [PDF] was granted which established the Recognition Panel to provide that independent verification.

In response, the print media set up the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which started operation in September 2014. Ipso so far has published only one resolution. Rival regulator, the Impress Project is waiting in the wings.The Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times have not signed up to Ipso. 2015 is undoubtedly going to see the battle lines converging, amid calls for Leveson part two into the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International and other media organisations, and into the way in which the police investigated those organisations, to take place as soon as the current criminal trials end.


Programmatic advertising
Programmatic advertising – display ads that are bought and sold using automated systems and processes such as real-time bidding – is growing at a huge rate. According to a recent study by research and strategy consultancy MTM on behalf of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB), almost £3 in every £10 spent on online display ads in 2013 were bought through programmatic technologies. The study shows that of the £1.86bn spent on display ads across the internet and mobile in 2013, 28% (about £500m) was traded programmatically.

A key issue here next year will be around how this data is used. Expect the lack of regulation around this area to feature as well.



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Silent Knights

In the blogosphere random observers quite independently latch on to a topic which quickly takes on a life of its own to become an issue. It is a common enough PR headache, but for an organisation, sticking that head in the sand is not an option. Sometimes, you need to be seen to be doing something to address it. A good and topical example is IPSO, the new independent press standards (complaints) organisation. It’s been operational as people’s champion for exactly three months TODAY. I say operational, but to the outside world there seems to be nothing happening. And so a few tweets remarking on the resounding inactivity, grow into little stream of online comment, and spontaneously IPSO gets dubbed ineffective, based on nothing but its own silence. Don’t take my word for it; glance at their website and twitter feed @IpsoNews. I count two tweets (about job vacancies) and a couple of press releases.


In his (November 9th) lecture to the SOCIETY OF EDITORS’, IPSO’s Chairman the urbane SIR ALAN MOSES, who incidentally got little coverage except in a paper which is not (as yet) signed up to IPSO,  said  “I am not frightened to speak to and argue with those who doubt the ability of IPSO to regulate. But words and expressions of intent are like beating the wind, something more, far more is needed.” Indeed, even a bit more would be an improvement. I am well aware that this wise man, with years of experience as one of our most senior judges, is not going for the showy trial, the big bang, knock media heads, fine ‘em, make ‘em bleed approach, but I do consider it time to kick the tyres and start the engine. Why give Hacked-Off and those so quick to dismiss IPSO as the lacky of Barons, more ammo they don’t deserve. I see Hacked-Off are now asking us crowdfunding folk to cough up for an anti IPSO cinema advert which I have no intention of doing and nor should you without a very clear understanding of what Hacked-Off actually stand for.

But IPSO, the fact is there is constabulary duty to be done, to be done.

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Whistle-blowing practice

The Beeb report that the Home Office has issued a document on ‘enhanced protection for Police whistle-blowers’. (BBC R4)

Reminds me that one of the pranks played on rookie policemen and women over the years, was to pin up a notice in the police station telling them to report to ‘Hackney Marshes’ on Sunday morning at 0700 for ‘whistle-blowing’ practice. Innocent fun (except for the probationers who went) and a far cry from what the term means in the Metropolitan Police now.



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Scottish Power – to the People

With the recent drama of Scotland’s near exit from the Union (mercifully not dubbed Sexit), you might think Scottish Power (SP) is a soubriquet for the nationalist movement, rather than an energy company supplying, if not exactly serving, 5.4 million homes and businesses. Nor is it really Scottish. It’s now owned by Spanish energy giant IBERDROLA SA, (share price in free-fall for two years).

I have to declare an interest, because I was, up to this week, a dual fuel client of SP, whom I had picked as the cheapest provider on one of those internet comparison sites where every company has either a nationalistic ring; Energie de France (EDF), British Gas, or an apocalyptic one. I love the sinisterly named npower and how about E.ON – for which the antonym must be F.OFF surely?

If only I knew then what I know now, I might still have my hair, because SP was at that moment undergoing ‘SAP system integration’. I am tempted to say the SAP was me and thousands of others, who for whatever reason, jingoistic or financial had signed up with SP online.

SAP (so Google tells me) is an enterprise resource planning software developed by Germans. In short SAP drives all of a company’s marketing, sales, field service, product design, development, production, inventory control, human resources, finance and accounting in one (it must be HUGE) package. To us, the SAP SAPs it meant SP inputting my account details on to their shiny new all-wheel drive platform. And, as is the case with two-clever-by-half software, it bogged it. And not just my details, but countless others. In short, I vanished from their records for a year, which was nice for them as my account was £800 in credit !

But this SAP uber-glitch was not new, and should not have come as a surprise to SP. British Gas and several other power companies have all tried to integrate their millions of clients into the SAP software with horrendous results. Furthermore, had SP bothered to read the ‘user reviews’ they might have stumbled on this telling sentence ‘ deploying SAP itself can also involve a lot of time and resources’. But no, they plunged ahead regardless, into an unmitigated disaster, from which they still, two years later have not recovered.

However, and this is the nub of it, they then compounded it by trying to keep stumm.

Instead of getting out there and telling customers there were major billing problems, they just pulled up the drawbridge and didn’t answer the phones or respond emails as people became ever more frustrated and then plain furious.

‘Authorities’ like the Energy Ombudsman seem either powerless or reluctant to mediate, by creating all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles, like arbitrary time limits, which you have no way of knowing about until you initiate the complaint. Even the Daily Mail (fgs) whinnied only last month they couldn’t get Ofgem off their fat to do something about it.

But what surprises me (doesn’t really) is that SP believed they could, and can, get away with it. Do they not comprehend even today, that we the people have at our disposal an armoury of Comms, with which to alert fellow and future SAPs; Just think of the money it must be costing them as each and every one of us sticks it to the company’s reputation. They must be haemorrhaging clients all over the shop. There is so much negative PR about SP at the moment, for which SP management are entirely to blame. see:

Just as an example, in my own battle, now resolved, I have variously, submitted my views on SP to where 807 people (a record exceeded only by npower) rank SP from bad to terrible. Georgia of Cheltenham (8/9/14) writes it was like ‘ dealing with the devil’ – and adds sadly:

“Moved into my new house, they’ve been a pain ever since I’ve moved in! Been with them about 14 months now and regret it! Making me that stressed out I don’t love my home anymore! Just revived a letter from bailiffs saying I owe Scottish power £200 from a period of 18/10/2013 – 23/10/2013 In 4 days?!?”

I have contributed to ‘We hate Scottish Power’ on Facebook which has hundreds of posts in a similar vein. Janet Peel writes

“Today I have finally moved away from Scottish Power. After months of arguing, distress, wrong bills, inaccurate meter readings, hours on the phone, pathetic customer service, and much, much more.’

I have even voted in an HM Government ePetition to have SP investigated. (it will achieve nothing)

But most effective in alerting the world to SPs customer service shambles is Twitter. Since I sat down to write this little tale no more than 45 mins ago, there have been no less than 38 tweets to their @SP_EnergyPeople account. Take a look yourself. Read the fury and frustration of normal people just trying to get on with their lives. It works out at about one tweet a minute and it’s like that every day.

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I ‘like’ it. Now on Facebook

Come and talk about Air Supremacy Ltd on Facebook and see what others are saying.


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Preparing for a Great Media Training Session

Good Advice from Galaxy 6 in the US

I’ve trained about 10 people this month and was inspired to write this post. A great media training session depends on both parties. Once you’ve decided to commit to media training, make sure you come prepared. Here’s a list of 10 tips on how to get the most out of a media training session!

  1. Match with the right trainer: Is the trainer the right person for you? Are you able to take advice from a man, a woman? Do you want to hear the truth? Do you need to have a current news reporter giving you advice? Find a trainer that fits in with your needs. Understand that many trainers have news backgrounds, and while that helps polishing up for an on-air/print interview, often these trainers don’t have the experience of working with companies and understanding their needs from an interview. On the other hand, does the trainer have PR experience? If that’s the case, ask if they have any experience serving as a spokesperson. Most trainers will allow you to pre-interview them to determine if they are the right fit. Watch on-air clips or read print articles of the trainer and ask yourself, “Is this someone that I would want to give me honest and direct feedback?”
  2. Prep yourself and your team: Prior to the session, prepare yourself – or your team — with the right messages: Do you know what you want to say about your company? How about your product or APP launch? So many clients walk into the training and don’t understand this time is about delivering the message. If you need time to develop the message, schedule a separate session and get those messages in place prior to a media training.
  3. Prepare main messages: Write down 3 main message points about your company or product. You will be asked to rehearse them – over and over again. Yes, if you are unable to deliver the messages effectively then you can work on revising them – but this is the end of the process, not the beginning (see point #2).
  4. Jammin’? Java? Jokster? Do what it takes to liven yourself up! Is it a good night’s rest? A cup of coffee? A morning workout? When you bring energy into a media training, you will put your best foot forward and then we can hone in on your skills and develop them even more. You can also figure out what works – and doesn’t – before a press interview.  Should you avoid that double espresso or make sure to stop at Starbucks on the way?
  5. Appearance does matter: Wear an outfit that you believe will appear well on camera. This is practice for the real thing. This includes hair, make-up and attire. Wear solid colors, not too much jewelry, no patterns or prints and avoid t-shirts (even if you are practicing for print interviews – appearance and professionalism is important).
  6. Turn off the noise: Try – just try – to focus on the training. Imagine you are really in a press interview. What is it like to work with a journalist? Turn off cell phones, complete your texts and get to work. This may be your first (and last?) time you ever get to work with the press.
  7. Trust the trainer: Do your best to utilize the feedback and go back and try to do it again. You will see for yourself how much that feedback can help you improve and feel more comfortable with the interview process.
  8. Best bloopers: Ask your trainer to send examples of good and bad news clips, or to show you them during the training. Watch and learn from the experts. Also, watch and read old interviews you’ve participated in. Bring the clips to the trainer of print articles you liked/did not like. What was wrong with it? What was your best/worst experience with the press? Share this with the trainer so they will be able to help avoid the situation again.
  9. D-I-Y Training! If you aren’t ready with all of the above, avoid the media training all together! Simply record yourself using your iPhone video device – ask/answer the 10 hardest questions you think media will ask you. Replay it and watch yourself! You will be your own worst critic and avoid the training all together. Don’t forget to go back and try it again with your self-feedback. [And, you know who to call if you don’t want to do it yourself!]
  10. Prepare your trainer:  Here’s a quick checklist of what we ask clients to provide so that we can do our part in preparation as well:
  • Company goals and objectives for training outlined in a document and/or via email
  • Company overview or corporate presentation
  • Company message points
  • Top media outlets that cover your company
  • Sample of past interviews by trainees
  • Trainee bios
  • FAQ in previous interviews, and or FAQ expected in future interviews
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Do You Need Media Training

(courtesy of

(Article courtesy of


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Told You So!

I knew it! I knew there was something fishy about the Andrew Mitchell Plebgate story. Back on the 23rd September I blogged “keep a pinch of salt handy and I was right. Mitchell is calling for a full enquiry. I agree. Fairness demands it.

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BBC: Snoozenight lawyers asleep at the wheel?

“Some basic journalistic checks were not completed and no one was sure who was giving the final sign-off on the story on the day, the report found (FT)”

I’ve been asked by countless people (OK, one) what I think of the latest Newsnight catastrophe – speechless, open mouthed, appalled, just about sums it up. Where were the BBC’s duty solicitors? We used to do investigations all the time when I was at the Beeb (and other Radio/TV stations). Job 1- find story. Job 2 (not necessarily in this order) Convince jaundiced bitter dyspeptic editor, it really was a story. Job 3 (by far the hardest) sneak it past the programme lawyers – who would pick it apart. I always joked it took six months to train (tame) an in-house prog lawyer. But in fairness they did expect you to have some facts (aka Truth) to back up the allegations;  corroboration helped, plus a quick zoom round motivation/reliability/background of witnesses was considered wise. And (most important question of all), “will the target sue?”.  Were they all asleep at the wheel on Snoozenight?

BBC Newshound

It seems these basic questions were not asked, either by the reporter, the producer, the editor, and the lawyer whose sole job it is to safeguard the broadcaster and up to a point the target.
Which reminds me – I seem to remember that when we made:“allegations of wrongdoing, iniquity or incompetence or (laid) out a strong and damaging critique of an individual or institution the presumption is that those criticised should be given a “right of reply”, that is, given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegations” (BBC Editorial Guideline 6.4.25.) Well if you ‘presumed’ that, you’d be wrong. And as for that cheap stunt Schofield tried on the PM over on ITV – I hope for multiple sackings and an eyewatering Ofcom fine. Didn’t young Cameron handle it brilliantly though? – text book.




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LIPA lacks PR Power

LIPA Crew at work (Photo credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan)

Ten days after the worst storm to hit Long Island NY in living memory, thousands of homes there are STILL without power. The local power company LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) has come in for considerable criticism. And while it’s far from here, their crisis PR is a lesson in how not to do it. This ‘dis-missive’ from the LIPA Hurricane Sandy Storm Center yesterday is a good example – (my bolding):

As of noon today, we have restored power to over 750,000 customers on Long Island who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Approximately 190,000 remain without power; this figure excludes many of the customers in the hardest hit areas not yet able to receive electric power. By end of day, Wednesday November 7th, we expect to restore power to 90% of all customers whose homes and businesses are safe to accept power. Additionally, those customers in and around the most severely damaged areas of Brookville, St. James and Port Jefferson should expect to be restored in up to another week or more.

“Excludes!” LIPA fails to appreciate that Newspapers and TV are interested in the people’s suffering and who’s to blame. By excluding stats about the hardest hit communities (many thousands of homes, without heat, light, cell phones or Internet since Oct 30th – some now receiving care packages) LIPA put themselves at the mercy of the media, rather than leading the story. And to write should expect to be restored in up to another week or more, is sackable. People know the magnitude of the problem, but they need to know LIPA’s commitment to relieving their misery. If LIPA cannot utilise the media to provide information, reassurance and hope, they must expect NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, to complain about them, as he did on Tuesday, again. “Simply put”, said Cuomo, “I am not satisfied with their performance.” And nor is anybody else.

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I look awful in yellow – who knew?

Looking your best is just as important as saying it right, so we are now actively promoting Style and Colour counselling with Red Leopard ( for all our Media Training clients. Red Leopard advises on colour, style, image and make-up enabling you to create your own unique look or improve on the old one. And it’s definitely not just for ladies. Give Manina, Kay or Annie a call on 0207 376 4057 and mention my name. It’s not expensive and its quite fun. Who knew that I look awful in yellow.

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Andrew Mitchell – keep a pinch of salt handy.

I went to a famous public school. I was a policeman. I was an adviser to the House of Commons Commission. I rode my bike in and out of the Palace of Westminster daily. Why are these facts relevant? The answer is Andrew Mitchell MP, still Chief Whip for the moment anyway. I’ll come to what he said in a jiffy, but I’ve little sympathy for the police he allegedly insulted. I know first hand how arrogant and boorish the Palace coppers can be. One accidentally sprung a steel car-barrier from the road-way as I was riding over it; sending me flying. Trying to get an apology and £70 to fix the back wheel took ages. Don’t forget that 99.9% of the time, policing the Palace is a cushy job. Coppers in rough neighbourhoods get abused regularly (I know!) so these two have no business being offended. In my day you could not offend a policeman. It needed a passer by (ideally an old lady) to be outraged before an arrest could take place – but that all changed with Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. It made mere insults an arrestable offence. Many people (me included) do not consider it for the courts to prevent hurt feelings when the real casualty is freedom of speech. Especially, the feelings of those empowered to carry guns, truncheons and tazers. I have no doubt Mitchell was rude, but what did the police do to provoke his outburst. We need to know that too. Still, what concerns me here, is if he really called them ‘plebs’ .  This is what the Sun reported him saying ‘Best you learn your f****** place. You don’t run this f****** Government. You’re f****** plebs,Why do I have a sinking feeling that he may have said nothing of the kind. Public school types, of my acquaintance anyway, don’t talk like that. To me it smacks of a pastiche of Cad Speak from a comic strip. Say it out loud in your best Bertie Wooster, Flashman, Alan B’Stard voice  and you will see what I mean. Nobody says “You’re fucking Plebs”, to a policeman, anymore than Londoners say ” its a fair cop guv, you got me bang to rights, me old china” or Irishmen say ‘Begosh and begorra, tis a lovely day, so it is, to be sure”. Unless they can provide CCTV or audio to corroborate the copper’s account – perhaps Mitchell’s used ‘plebs’ elsewhere – I’ll keep a pinch of salt handy.




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“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster”

Clint at the RNC

Having a famous movie star endorse you is no guarantee.

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Back to work

Yes I’m gathering a handful of experienced media trainers, to run my courses for executives, Meet in London in September. Send a CV.

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No Brainer NBC

Cannot believe NBC showed US/CZ Beach Volleyball quarter finals, when rest of world got to see 100m Finals. Fantastic Twitter storm. Serves them right.
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“London 2012” Put Out More Flags

One big difference between the Olympics and the Jubilee, is that everybody from smallest stall holder to mega-store was able to cash in on the Jubilee GB brand. I have never seen so many Union flags and so much bunting. It wasn’t just pretty, it was good for businesses. Conversely, anybody even dreaming of putting something resembling the Olympic Rings in any shop window or website, gets a heavy duty warning notice of intended prosecution from the IOC. So London will be without the explosion of spontaneous visual excitement, which is a real shame.

I am not prepared to buy into the IOC line that “The International Olympic Committee and London organizers raised more than $2.4 billion from the sale of marketing rights in the four years through the 2008 games in Beijing, providing more than 44 percent of their funding during the period. The rings are among the world’s most recognized symbols. Companies like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Samsung, which pay as much as $100 million each to be official sponsors during each Olympic cycle, expect organizers to protect their rights. British lawmakers (passed) a law that gives organizers the power to bar companies from using Olympic trademarks and even certain combinations of words — such as “London 2012” — that may infringe on the rights of sponsors.”

If my PR instincts are right (and they usually are), and there is sufficient evidence of people (particularly small retailers) objecting to this heavy handed protectionism by the IOC (the Sponsors will be very sensitive to negative PR now) then London could be decked again in Flags and bunting this July and so what if they toss in a few Rings. Better still a bit of Retailer Disobedience would not go amiss. By the time 10, 100, 1000 shops have Rings and things in the window, the IOC can go whistle. I am doing my bit by saying London 2012 at every possible occasion. “London 2012” “London 2012” “London 2012” “London 2012”

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Freelance Media Trainers Wanted

I am looking for freelance media trainers, with 5 years plus, real TV and Radio experience. Also Presentation Coaches with 5 years plus experience. Must be happy to follow my proven training methods. CV’s please to

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Air Supremacy Interactive Media Training

A new business is born: Air Supremacy Interaction – interactive media training. (I’ve nicknamed it – Remote Refutation Management) – more later.  (

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Grüezi mitenand!

@AirSupremo: Hello ZRH! Not just 1 but 2 mega Swiss media training clients nxt week.   #PR  #AirSupremacy rocks.

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Tweet tweet

gr8 Media Training 4 #Spider-PR (London). gd Job Air Supremacy!

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500+ connections

Spent the last week, soliciting LinkedIn contacts to reach this milestone achievement “500+ connections” – now I can relax, safe in the knowledge that I am umbilically invisibly eternally conjoined with strangers. The world is a safer place as of 7am today.

(thinks) I wonder if this chap Assad is on LinkedIn – I might send him a message. “Hey Assad, we are on LinkedIn – stop killing people.”

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Please Sign Now

My God-daughter Domenica Lawson has a severe permanent learning disability. I would like to help her and thousands like her by asking you to sign this e-petition.

Domenica Lawson Christening 1996

You may know somebody with a child like Domenica so please pass the message on. We have about 6000 signatures as of today. We need 100,000 to trigger a debate in  Parliament. With your help we will get there. The petition says:
Ring fence funds allocated for people with learning
disabilities and review the way in which funds are allocated to ensure cradle to grave care.
(HM Government. Department of Health)
To find out more about Domenica and the problems she and thousands face, see today’s Mail on Sunday:

Thank you.

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Nuts and Bolts: 9 Basic Questions to ask a Reporter.

With everyone obsessed with Virtual Media, it’s easy to forget the basic questions when you get a call from a live flesh-eating journalist.

1. What’s Your Name/Contact details?
2. Can You Tell Me More About The Story You’re Working On?
3. Are You Approaching This Story From Any Particular Perspective?
4. Who Else Are You Interviewing?
5. What’s the Format?
6. With Whom Would You Like to Speak?
7. Is There Anything Else I Can Help You With?
8. Who Will Be Doing the Interviewing?
9. When Are You Airing the Story?
(c) Brad Phillips 14/9/2011

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The Battle of Hatchfield Farm is won.

The Battle of Hatchfield Farm in Newmarket is over. Rachel Hood and her fellow campaigners have won. Lord (Teddy) Derby’s appeal was rejected by the Planning Inspector Ian McPherson and ratified by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

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Syria: media coverage

Just been reading some stuff on line about whether our coverage of Syria is ‘balanced’ or not. Having worked as a reporter in Beirut, albeit years ago, I wonder if I can venture a view. All our western media can do is hold up a template of our values against which to assess the hideously complex situation in Syria. I believe the search for balance as an ideal is a false one. If, by giving equal weight to all parties you must add in the propaganda of tyranny, extreme religious views, or centuries old tribal rivalries in every report, you will still not have balance; and the issues that truly matter, the ones that Marie Colvin and others are dying for, will have been drowned out in the din.

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Lovin’ it

Busy Busy since Jan 1st – working with Halfords, Barclays, B&Q and Superdrug .

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Just Common Sense?

They are debating on one of the PR Forums whether PR isn’t ‘just common sense’. The implication being that it’s not a proper profession, anybody can do it. I beg to differ. A public relations professional has a proper understanding of his/her client’s business, their stakeholder audiences and markets; an appropriate qualification, relevant practical experience, plus the speed, originality and authority to create and drive policy, in possibly difficult circumstances. I don’t call that common sense – any more than any other professional; lawyer or  engineer, would term their skill and expertise ‘common sense’. If PR’s are offering PR advice based on ‘common sense’, ‘gut feel’ or a Ouija board, than I urge them to stop, before they leave themselves and this industry open to ridicule.
I’d be interested to know what you think.


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But not YOUR opinion..

I have a TV/internet account with Optimum Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), who emailed me to take part in a customer satisfaction survey. Question 1 – Are you in PR or Advertising?  But when I clicked Yes – this is what I got:

Thank you for your participation, but your criteria does (sic) not match what we’re looking for at this time.

Why does a PR or Ad man’s opinion not meet their criteria? Why p*ss any customer off, especially the sort with lots and lots of access to media! Plain Shtoopid and they never gave me the chance to tell them that their Broadband/phone/HDTv package is twice the price and half the value of the equivalent Virgin Media package in the UK. But they know now and so do you.

This was their invitation.

Dear Optimum Customer,This is just a friendly reminder that we are randomly selecting valued Optimum customers like you to participate in a survey about computers and
devices being used in your home.We are continuously striving to improve our services and would appreciate your time to complete our survey. The survey should take about 5 minutes to complete and your feedback is very much appreciated. To take the survey, click below:
Thank you,
Your Cablevision Customer Advisory Panel TeamIf you have questions about the survey or run into technical issues with  the survey, please contact our 3rd party Survey Management vendor at: general questions about Optimum, please contact:

Systems Corp.

1111 Stewart Avenue, Bethpage, NY 11714

*To review our privacy policy please click

*To opt out of this and all future Cablevision Customer Advisory Panel surveys, click the unsubscribe link below. Unsubscribe

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Thanksgiving Message

Sat Nav

To my many American Friends. If further proof is needed of the extreme age and provenance of wireless technology; it’s a 17th Century British invention.  I am reliably informed that we sent it over on the first pilgrim ships. Mayflower is an American corruption of Wi-Flyer, a SOTOP 1620 class  (satellite optimised trans oceanic puritan) merchant vessel,  out of Plymouth. The name Speedwell refers to her on-baud rate, which was remarkably good at about 5mk (megaknots).  It’s also where the Elizabethan term “Aye Capt’n” comes from. It is actually ‘iCaptain’, as they were specially trained in the use of the new equipment. Have a lovely Thanksgiving holiday – at least we gave you something to be Thankful for. JS

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The Tatler and Bikestander

With the racing world livid about Lord (Teddy) Derby’s plan to concrete over a chunk of Newmarket, Sir Michael Stoute (the Queen’s Trainer), Sir Henry Cecil and the legendary commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan are hosting a fund-raising dinner for 250 at the Newmarket Jockey Club next Saturday November 26th. It’s a total sell out. The Organisers (Save Historic Newmarket Action Group) invited Tatler Editor Kate Reardon  to send a photographer. To their genuine surprise she snubbed them.

The Earl of Derby

A Kate Reardon gave £100 towards Teddy Derby’s Trans Jordan Lycra Jolly (see Jordan Charity Bike Ride ) on Just Giving, gushing: “Frankly you’re crazy. kxx”. (12/11/11)


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RIM Shot

from CorpComms Magazine Nov 2011 Issue 62


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Rick Perry Fluffs It.

Rick Perry fluffs it
Check out this clip of Rick Perry forgetting his key message due to classic MBS (marshmallow brain syndrome). I suspect it spells the end of his shot at the Presidency. (wouldn’t have happened if he were my client.)

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Today’s joke

“In English,” said the linguistics’ professor, “a double negative forms a positive. However, a double positive never forms a negative.”
“Yeah, right.” said a voice.

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MediaCityUK: Investigations and Secret Recording Guidance

The Beeb has revised its Editorial Policy on Investigations and on Secret Recording for programme makers planning: larger-scale investigations to reveal serious
anti-social behaviour or crime, with a significant element of undercover work,
and secret recording, central to the evidence-gathering. The revision was undertaken after the BBC Trust upheld a complaint against a section of undercover footage in Panorama: Primark on the Rack, and is based on the best practice learned by BBC investigative programmes over the years.  It emphasises the need for note taking and record keeping that will authenticate  material and to plan for the scrutiny and challenge that can often follow a successful investigation. There is also new advice on the operation of undercover journalists. In addition, extra care and checks may be necessary when an investigation is carried out by a journalist with a demonstrable commitment to a relevant cause – to ensure the methods will be able to withstand robust scrutiny. You can read and download the Investigations guidance here.  The newly revised Secret Recording guidanceis relevant to anyone looking to gather material secretly, and includes a new section on authentication of material. The Secret Recording guidance is here. (extract from BBC Editorial Policy News Letter Oct 2011)

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beyond Calais

Overheard at the Lutea investment seminar today. Two really old blokes, who didn’t know each other, got chatting during the coffee break. One said to the other: “The trouble with the Greeks,” he said, ” is they don’t know the meaning of the word work.” To which the other replied. “I know, it’s always bloody mañana mañana.”
Makes you proud to be British.

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And me

Spotted this tweet just now “Anti #NPPF lobby now includes Melanie Phillips, Morning Star, George Monbiot, WI, NT, CPRE, Mail, Telegraph. Strange bedfellows. SWP next?” @colinwile

Jonathon Porritt, has written a sarky but funny open letter to benighted Greg Clarke, Minister for the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that has united all those strange bedfellows listed above. Worth reading

and Simon Jenkins is in the Times today (p24), only I can’t give you a link because of the damned Murdoch pay-wall (to help towards the £3m they are paying Milly Dowler’s family)



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What’s this Contributor business?

Some people have asked why you need to get confirmation in writing that you are a ‘contributor’. (See Tip 2 below) You can read my blog post,
for the long version but in brief Ofcom ruled last year (to universal dismay) that despite an obligation in their Code to give targets of allegations the chance to respond to them, Kellogg’s and Nestle were not contributors to a C4 Dispatches programme. The key to this is the word ‘contributor’. Dispatches asked the manufacturers some questions (allegations to you and me), but it seems, intentionally, never asked them to contribute (by interview or statement); thus avoiding having to inform them in advance about all the allegations. Hence the very real need to establish that you are contributor before you speak. Hope this is helpful. JS

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My 22 Tips for handling unwelcome TV Crews

  1. Avoid
    a confrontation, with cameras around. It makes great TV.
  2. Get
    confirmation in writing that you are a ‘contributor’ (ask me why this is so important)
  3. They
    will not concede editorial control, but find out as much as you can.
  4. Be
    careful not to make ‘unreasonable’ demands. E.g. demanding an as-live interview, questions in advance, or previews.
  5. Mention
    legitimate no-go question areas, e.g. commercial confidence or sub judice.
  6. Negotiate
    on the phone, follow up by email.
  7. Treat
    all cameras as running, all mikes on, even when they say they are not.
  8. Don’t
    stop an interview midstream
  9. They
    are guests in your premises, so prevent opportunistic filming.
  10. Ask
    about significant changes, they must tell you.
  11. The less
    they tell you, the more suspicious you should be.
  12. The later
    they approach you, the more suspicious you should be.
  13. Always
    ask if there is anything they have not told you before both the interview and
  14. Don’t
    video them or they will film you doing it.
  15. Do
    sign the release form. It makes little difference.
  16. Do
    give them a suitable place to set up, don’t crowd them, don’t be bullied either.
  17. Don’t
    leave them alone – or if you do, mike the room so you can hear what they are saying about you.
  18. Do give them reasonable time for the interview. 30 mins would be normal. But set an overall limit.
  19. Allow
    time for re-takes (if they are favourable to you) but resist additional filming unless you are happy.
  20. Do
    record the interview yourself.
  21. Make
    a transcript and send them a marked up script of your known views.
  22. Keep
    it friendly but they are not your friends.

(c) John Stonborough. 07771 893 683


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I am definitely going


Date: Wednesday September 21st 6.00pm for 6.30pm

With Murdoch on his knees, MPs’ expenses, Wikileaks, phone hacking and Tomlinson; investigative journalism seems to be going through a purple patch. Is it really alive or is this a false dawn?

Andrew Jennings, bane of FIFA

Chair: Kevin Marsh, former editor ‘Today’ BBC Radio Four
Paul Kenyon BBC Panorama
Donal MacIntyre, investigative journalist
John Ware, BBC Panorama
The debate marks the launch of the book Investigative Journalism: Dead or Alive?  Edited by John Mair and Richard
published by Abramis on September 20th. Author priced copies will be available on the night.
Venue: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2
Entrance: £12.50, £10 for early booking, £8 students and senior citizens. Just turn up or click this link to book your places through the Frontline website.

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Is it really a fake?

Such a sad picture of Steve Jobs in the paper today. Is it a fake, the internet is abuzz? Really shocking if it is. As my wife Jane says, “the man is a genius,  just when you think you’ve got everything you want, he comes up with something else you can’t live without.” The irony is that if it is a fake, it was probably done on an Apple computer.

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Catboat: Its not a message, it’s a warning from 1880!

No Pussy Cat, The New England Catboat







I happened across this brilliantly ‘funny’ account of sailing the classic New England Catboat, in the New York Times May 25th 1880! The message comes down the years loud and clear; this pussy cat will bite you.


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Ben’s Briefs: All the Holidaying News-Junky Needs

Brogan, aid to informed skiving

Dawn is breaking over Bellport Bay, here on Long Island. Every cloud has a silvery lining, quite literally and its very beautiful. Yesterday’s rain seems to have blown through. They certainly do plenty of weather here. Another bucolic day ahead, but it is an informed choice to park myself by the pool. London burning, markets in free fall, the North Atlantic credit crisis, Osborne urging the world to ‘do it our way’. Ben Brogan’s (Daily Telegraph) News Briefing email, keeps me as au courant in current affairs in NY11713 as if I was in Fulham SW6. Thanks Ben.

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