Glass 1% empty: mobile phone costs

Glass 1% empty Glass 1% empty is what I’m going to brand posts which look at the media’s habit of taking what to my mind is clearly a good-news story, then somehow finding the grain of bad news in it and focusing on that. This happens rather often, so I won’t be covering them all.

Friday’s Guardian reported that the EU is soon to enforce a reduction in mobile phone call charges across Europe. Brilliant, I hear millions of mobile phone users cry.

But wait, cry the newspaper editors. It can’t be good news, it has to be bad somehow. Oh yes, here we go, this’ll do for the headline:

Forced price cuts would end free handsets, phone firms tell Brussels

So the story proceeds with the principle established that the call cost-cutting is OK but the “end” of free handsets is very bad news.

But just think about this for a minute. In the environmentally conscious world in which we sometimes like to imagine we now live, shouldn’t cost be related to consumption and waste? How does the mobile phone industry’s current business model shape up then?
 

Activity Consumption and wastefulness Cost to consumer
Making calls Negligible High
Replacing your phone at least once a year to stay fashionable and cutting-edge High Negligible

It’s not a great match, is it?

I don’t think I need to redraw my table to represent the model to be “forced” upon us by the EU, do I?

I suppose this comes back to the same principle as my thoughts on car running costs last week. In a capitalist system, to tackle environmental problems, the costs of polluting/ wasting/ damaging the environment need to be incurred in proportion to the pollution emitted/ waste generated/ damage inflicted.

What’s more, the table above is a completely artificial construct of the mobile phone industry. If we change the heading of the right-hand column to “Cost to mobile phone company”, “High” and “Negligible” swap places. It costs the companies little to connect and sustain calls, but of course phones are worth far more than they’re ever sold for.

If we’re to stand a chance of tackling global warming, companies simply can’t continue to be allowed to subsidise – often heavily – environmental damage and waste, getting consumers to pay through the nose for relatively non-damaging activities instead.

And that’s why, unlike the mainstream media, I think this story is, let’s say, 99% good news.

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Daily Express descends into self-parody

Did anyone responsible for any part of this front page actually seriously mean anything they wrote?

It looks like one of those mocked-up spoofs you find used as the group picture on anti-Mail/anti-Express Facebook groups.

I particularly like their proud trumpeting that they are “10p CHEAPER THAN THE DAILY MAIL”. I think it says something about also being “better” underneath that, though it’s hard to make it out. I think drawing a comparison between the Mail and the Express is like comparing having all your teeth ripped out without anaesthetic by a dentist for £50 with having them ripped out by a drunk friend with pliers for £40.

Do people buying the Express actually feel like by reading it they are becoming more informed about the world around them? How disturbing.

Blog Nation

BenSix, me and the Tory Troll

On Wednesday night, as evidenced in the photo above (thanks Sunny), I attended the Liberal Conspiracy/Comment is Free (CiF) Blog Nation event for bloggers of the liberal-left persuasion, at the Guardian Newsroom.

I’ve been to the Newsroom for a number of its exhibitions over the past few years, including a great tribute to their sadly missed cartoonist Austin, and more bizarrely the world’s first chance to gaze at the entire skeleton of the whale that swam up the Thames a couple of summers ago.

It turned out that the part of the venue which had back then been the whale’s temporary showcase more ordinarily doubles as a lecture theatre-type room, and it was in here that I began putting faces to bloggers’ names as they introduced themselves throughout the discussions, which covered topics from campaigning to coping with the likelihood of a Conservative government in 2010, and from feminism in the blogosphere to the signal-to-noise ratio in comments, particularly on CiF.

[I’m going to use a “Read more” link now. Personally I don’t like these when I’m reading a blog but they seem popular in long posts elsewhere so I’ll give it a go. Feedback warmly welcomed about whether these are good or not.]

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