Monday, 29 June 2009


Is it me or are people going a bit over the top by heavily criticising the BBC’s top executives over their expenses? Director general Mark Thompson said they were "reasonable and justified" and I think he’s right. The fact is that although there were a few strange anomalies like the £14.99 QPR history book and Jana Bennett’s handbag replacement, nobody would bat an eyelid if these claims were in the commercial media sector. Yes, the BBC have a great level of public accountability as we pay their wages, but should they not be allowed to claim £200 to take out Jeremy Paxman for lunch so he signs up to another period presenting Newsnight? I think they should. The top talent needs to be protected as much of it generates the BBC’s high audience figures. I don’t necessarily agree with the size of their wages compared to most of the BBC News team, but that’s not really the point here.

I know a few people who work for the BBC in departments such as Sport, Children’s and Magazines. They do excellent jobs and I believe they all receive modest salaries. But going the full stretch and publishing details of all BBC salaries, a suggestion by the Conservative Party, would surely discourage people from working there in any position. There is not a need to scrutinize the wages of every member of the corporation, although it is important we see how much many of the top stars are being paid, as this is often 100 to 1,000 times more than the average BBC journalist. But tracking the salaries and expenses of everyone is not on. You can do it for MPs as they have all been voted in by the public and should be scrutinized, but for the average journalist? No thanks.

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Travelling on the London Underground is not the most enjoyable experience during the summer, but it can always be livened up by something a little different on a Monday morning. This morning was a good example. People in train carriages reading the Metro newspaper’s story about 20p pieces were all getting out their wallets and having a good look. Because the Royal Mint have revealed that around 200,000 20p pieces were mistakenly minted without a year on them, and so you can claim £50 if you find one and send it back. However there’s always a possibility it could go up in value as they will become very rare, so I can’t see all the found ones being returned!

I worked on a story about fake £1 coins for Five News last summer and it was very interesting. We took out a coin expert and he found some random people on a street in London had some fake pound coins without knowing it. News stories about coins are rare, but they always excite the public when released. The thing is though, despite everyone hunting around for a 20p piece worth £50 (and I bet the arcade slot machines are going to do well out of this), if the average UK citizen owns ten 20p pieces, there are 600,000,000 in circulation. This is my best guess. Therefore the chances of you owning one are around 1 in 3,000. So not great then, but definitely worth a look. And a good story to make my Tube journey slightly different to the normal “westbound service to Richmond calling all stations except Blackfriars”...

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It’s well known to regular blog readers that I support four football clubs, and in the past most of them have played each other at some point. I’m talking about Southend United, Newcastle United, Sheffield United and Barcelona (in descending order of my support)! Last season I spent £590.65 on tickets and travel going to watch 38 games over 10 months, so there’s no point saying that I’m an armchair fan who likes to hedge my bets. But this season there is going to be a momentous event, when for the first time, two of the teams I support come together in the same game.

Sheffield United v Newcastle United will take place at Bramall Lane on Saturday 31 October 2009. Where do I sit? I’ve got a Blades and Magpies football shirt (SUFC from last season, NUFC for this season) so could fit in anywhere. It’s not as if my Essex accent will give anything away in either stand. Well, my decision will be to go in the Geordie end if I can get a ticket, and it’s not too hard to say that, because I have supported the Toon Army for many more years than the Blades - and can get to loads of games at Bramall Lane over the season anyway. But it’ll certainly be weird in the away end!