Has Leo’s SCU seen a reduction in Govt. Press Releases?

Merrion Street publish all press releases for all government department on their website MerrionStreet.ie.

Peak press release for Ireland dot gov was in 2015 with 2340 releases or 6.4 per day. The slide from this high began in 2016 and continued into Leo’s first year 2017 with a per day average falling to 5.0. 2018 is running at 5.4 per day before the summer break. There is either a drift away from press release or SCU was a distraction. If the 2018 figure recovers as it appears to be doing (now that the SCU is disbanded) then the question needs to be asked, where did the releases go if they were not handled by Merrion Street.

Year Number of Press Releases
2011 1310
2012 1670
2013 1790
2014 2000
2015 2340
2016 1947
2017 1831
2018 690 (to May 7th)


Coding in school – are we ready?

Minister Bruton asks NCCA to consider coding in schools. And there is the first problem. When a minister asks for something he might as well have whistled the ask in morse code as nobody is going to seriously implement a strategy from an ask.

The teachers can’t code. They will need to be trained. This will take years and most of the years will be dealing with austerity cuts that hits teachers pay and conditions. The youngest teachers, the ones most likely to code are to be employed on yellow pack contracts.

Coding lesson #1 How many Croke Park hours does it take to change a light bulb moment?

Where is the expert report? Surely the Minister has prepared a dossier on this “ask”. He has consulted with CoderDojo mentors and its founder James Whelton, he has flown out to meet the Collison brothers and sourced comments from experts from science and industry to deliver the report that can’t be ignored. There is a report right?

The schools are fully equipped with up to date equipment to begin this training? While CoderDojo parents know that you must provide a laptop and that the session isn’t a baby sitting service, so too the schools know that the 6 PCs in the “computer room” that have Windows 98 installed (we think) will not be suitable for a curriculum wide roll out. While CoderDojo parents can provide PCs, a large majority of parents can’t.

While mentioning parents, they too need upskilling. If the kids are going to be coding then parents need to appreciate and understand and take some ownership for fostering this movement at home.

Mothers and Daughters. If this is to succeed then the 51% of population that are female must be on board. the scheme needs to insure that it’s mother board and daughter board and NOT mother bored and daughter bored.

The minister should be writing to the CEOs of the tax holidaying multinationals to advise them how they too can help in this endeavour. While they enjoy low to no tax status their future workforce needs education. Tax the companies accordingly and avoid gifts of hardware that will date in jig time.

Finally this will all be supported at a national level. Like the BBC Micro in 1981 and the BBC micro::bit in 2015, there needs to be a bottom up as well as a top down pincer movement to enthuse the kids and their parents that the only show NOT in town becomes the only show in town.

32bit Eire should be upgraded to 64bit Eire. Let the serious games begin.

Oh and Fine Gael you should appoint Ciaran Cannon TD to oversee this all gets done.

Oliver’s Army

lower-class unemployed white people had lived for years in appalling slums without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale”. Oliver Letwin writing to Margaret Thatcher blocking aid to black communities in 1985 after the Broadwater Farm and Tottenham riots.

A riot is the language of the unheard” Martin Luther King.

Perhaps there is some truth in what Letwin says. Perhaps it is right to riot under such conditions. Perhaps Letwin should ask himself why lower-class unemployed white people didn’t riot as much. Perhaps the welfare state was enough to pacify the lower-class unemployed. Capitalism + Welfare State over time will create a wide gap between wealthy and workers in society. The solution is not to end the Welfare State but to end Capitalism and replace it with an improved way that all society partakes equally in.

Don’t white and black communities get equal welfare? If they do, then Letwin’s argument (which he no longer supports and has apologised for) takes another twist. Morals are not the the cap on anger that prevents rioting. If you are welcome and involved in your own community, things are going to have to get really bad before you will burn it.

Coverage of the Letwin’s comments in broadcast news media mention the death of PC Keith Blakelock. Not so many mentions of the death of Cynthia Jarrett who died of a heart attack during a police search of her home which led to the riots. No stolen goods were found in the search of her home.

Oliver’s Army [the conservative party] hasn’t changed much. The same people, “Thatcherites” are still in control  of the party and in power 30 years later.

Home Broadcasting Tax

first published March 1st 2013 via the office of Clare Daly TD

The TV licence fee funds public service broadcasts and insures that private media moguls do not get to own all the viewpoints in broadcast media.

What we must avoid is allowing a home broadcasting tax become a tax that is not linked to usage or ownership, if let, this TV tax will become a tax on people for merely existing.

Supporting public service broadcasting is part of protecting media diversity. As the Minister for Communications deliberates on changing from TV licence fee to home broadcasting tax, here are some pointers to be mindful of.

1. RTE is not the only recipient of licence fee currently – independent production sector and community media sector are also funded via Sound & Vision funding via the BAI.

2. Commercial broadcasters operate for profit and their stations are not public service broadcasters. Public service broadcasting is not to be confused with public service programming much of which that appears on commercial media is already cross funded by Sound & Vision. Commercial stations will claim that talks shows and 20% news remit are public service broadcasting, they are not. The ethos of the broadcaster is key.

3. As an apparatus (TV) licence becomes less popular, switching to a tax on homes is not the solution. Only funding through central taxation is fair, equitable and progressive. Central taxation solves the collection cost and the inability to pay problems that licence fee and home broadcasting tax face.

4. As the major beneficiary of public service broadcasting funding RTE needs to be reorganised to better service its remit on reduced funding. The commercial operations of RTE must be examined, and the cost of funding public service broadcasting must be considered when seeking to rearrange what RTE does commercially. Audience participation in RTE should not be limited to Liveline call-in shows, the audience, the funder of the service need a greater say in the running of the national broadcaster. The BAI also needs to be restructured, currently there is no community media representation on the BAI board.

5. There must also be better democratic access to spectrum, too often it is licensed as a rare resource to the highest bidders and to the usual suspects. If media is this important it should be owned by more interests and access to platforms like Saorview should be open to Oireachtas TV and Community Regional TV in Ireland and community radio and local radio should be allowed affordable access to DAB.

6. Beginning and leading the debate on public service broadcasting funding with the notion that the new form of collecting the funding will be another home tax is bogus. A wide scale nationwide debate on funding public service broadcasting is required, and it must not be front loaded with preconceived ideas on sources of funding.

7. This debate must include all stakeholders and users. The half a billion euro of revenue to Sky TV from Ireland each year makes the €150 million licence fee look small in comparison. How public service broadcasting is delivered in a market full of fragmentation of services and convergence of viewing technology makes this the ideal moment to consider taxing the profits of the major players in this sector.

8. Public service broadcasting is misunderstood as media literacy is not something that government is concerned with. Through the community media sector and local and national broadcasters, from classrooms to college and the local library, media literacy is key to understand and developing an informed viewpoint on what public service broadcasting is and what it can be.

Let the honest debate begin.