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February 7, 2013

Same-sex marriage in the UK passes second reading in Commons

Same-sex marriage in the UK passes second reading in Commons

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Part of the promotional material the government have produced to promote the bill.
Image: Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom has passed the second reading in the House of Commons Tuesday by 400 votes to 175. Amendments to the Bill are now to be discussed and voted in the committee stage and then debated in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013, if passed, would allow same-sex couples to get married in both civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies where a particular denomination has agreed to provide such services. The government have said the Bill contains a “quadruple lock”, four separate measures to protect the religious freedom of those who do not agree with same-sex marriages on religious grounds.

Before the debate

The government’s proposals have caused “growing discord” within the Conservative Party according to a letter written by a group of Conservative local constituency chairmen. The letter, which was delivered to Downing Street on Sunday, claimed the policy would cause “significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2015 election” and “resignations from the party are beginning to multiply”.

Sir Peter Bottomley says the legislation is “not going to be a big deal”.
Image: Steve Punter.

The Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley criticised media focus on the letter sent to Downing Street, telling the BBC the importance of the letter was overblown: “There are, say, 630 associations, there’s now two active officers for each one, that’s over 1200. Twenty five past and present officers went to Downing St — 25 out of over 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 — doesn’t strike me as newsworthy.”

Bottomley said he believes the majority of people in Britain are supportive of same-sex marriage although older people tend to be against it, and said the legislation is “not going to be a big deal”.

On Monday, in response to the letter sent to Downing Street, another letter from fifty grassroots activists within the Conservative Party including constituency chairmen and the chairman of Conservative Future, a group for Conservative supporters aged under 30, argued Conservative MPs should support the Bill: “Please do not allow the impression that all Conservative Party activists are opposed to gay marriage. Many of us strongly agree with the proposal. Nor is it true that gay marriage has no mandate. David Cameron made his support for it clear in his first conference speech as party leader, and won loud applause. It was in the party’s equalities manifesto at the last election.”

The letter said opposition to same-sex marriage would “risk alienating the voters we will need in 2015” and argued the plans have broad support from the wider public.

Maria Miller MP: “if a couple love each other, then the state should not stop them getting married unless there is good reason — and being gay is not reason enough”.
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

In response to criticism from within the Conservative Party, Maria Miller, the government minister responsible for the Bill, wrote an editorial in The Times defending the proposals. Miller wrote: “The proposals for change are straightforward — if a couple love each other, then the state should not stop them getting married unless there is good reason — and being gay is not reason enough.”

Miller defended the bill from accusations it would infringe on religious freedom: “This bill is about choice. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who don’t agree.”

The Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, confirmed on Monday in a post for the blog ConservativeHome that she plans to vote against the Bill, saying the Bill fails to make heterosexual and gay couples equal because the Bill does not require gay couples “to make any commitment to faithfulness whatsoever in the way straight couples are required to” and because there is no requirement for consummation. She also argued it is politically unwise for the Conservative Party, claiming loss of support “could lose us as many as 100 seats”. Dorries said Labour’s introduction of civil partnerships was “the right thing” but the Labour Party would not have supported same-sex marriage because it would cost them support from Catholics. She argued that if Conservatives push for same-sex marriage to become law, Labour would then not have to take a political hit for passing the Bill.

The Conservative Party activist Tim Montgomerie contradicted claims that the Conservatives would face a drastic drop in support, claiming a YouGov survey shows it won’t affect voter intentions: “the effect might well be negative in the short-term but — AT WORST — it will reduce the Tory vote from about its current 34% to 33%”.

Iain Dale has suggested closeted MPs who vote against the legislation may be ‘outed’ by gay rights campaigners.
Image: Steve Punter.

Conservative blogger and radio host Iain Dale — who is also openly gay — argued on his blog that a number of the opponents in the Tory ranks are themselves in the closet and may face outing attempts by gay rights campaigners. On ITV, Dale said he had looked at a list of MPs who intend to vote against the Bill on the website of Campaign for Equal Marriage: “I note with interest the names of several MPs who most people in the Westminster Village know to be closet gays. And I note also the names of two supposedly straight MPs who I know to be conducting gay affairs at the moment. I don’t believe in ‘outing’ anyone, but because of the rank hypocrisy there will be others who will take a different view.”

Before the debate, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he will vote “proudly” for equal marriage: “I don’t think that the person you love should determine the rights you have. That’s why I’ll be voting for equal marriage, along with the rest of the shadow cabinet.”

Liberal Democrats committed to supporting the policy. A notable exception among the Liberal Democrats is John Pugh MP who said in a letter to his constituents published on Monday he will vote against the Bill because he believes “it achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family”.

In the run up to the debate, MPs claim to have received emails they characterised as “vitriolic”, “appalling”, and “unpleasant” from both supporters and opponents of the Bill. The Conservative MP Angie Bray said: “You get emails from one side saying you’re morally deficient if you vote no and emails threatening hell fire and brimstone if you vote yes. It has frankly been an ill-tempered debate on both sides.”

Some MPs have said negative emails from opponents have prompted them to support the Bill. An anonymous MP told The Independent: “Quite a few of us who were considering abstaining will vote in favour of gay marriage because of the unreasonable nature of the emails we have been receiving. Some of the emails I’ve had are simply appalling and I’m fed up with it.”

Conservative MP David Burrowes, who opposes the Bill, said unpleasant messages have also come from supporters of the Bill: “I’ve had death threats, hostility and hate mail. My children have even been told that their dad is a homophobe.”

Burrowes made his case against the Bill Tuesday on ConservativeHome: “Marriage has never been just about the happiness and fulfilment of the individuals involved. It is part of a bigger picture — human societies need stable family groupings, especially for the nurture and care of children. The man-woman union at the heart of marriage has to do with this bigger picture.”

Burrowes also argues the marriage Bill will not significantly advance gay rights, pointing instead to his support for an introduction of a new offence of homophobic hatred.

Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin wrote an article defending the legislation for ConservativeHome, arguing “the Bill respects those who feel that same-sex marriage does represent an attack on their view of marriage” and since “nobody is going to be forced to take part in a same-sex marriage who does not wish to do so, I very much hope that in turn they will respect those who feel that the present inequality of marriage is an attack their identity and freedom as individuals.”

The newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his first post-appointment public statement to reaffirm the Church of England’s opposition to the Bill: “I stand, as I have always stood over the last few months, with the statement I made at the announcement of my appointment, which is that I support the Church of England’s position on this. We have made many statements about this and I stick with that.”

The Guardian opinion writer Polly Toynbee argued the fallout within the Conservative Party has failed to show they are “a modernised party” but instead revealed them “as a nest of bigots”, warning that the party disunity threatens the Conservatives’ chances at the next election.

The debate

The Second Reading started just after 12:30pm on Tuesday. Maria Miller introduced the bill: “The depth of feeling, love and commitment between same-sex couples is no different from that depth of feeling between opposite-sex couples. The Bill enables society to recognise that commitment in the same way, too, through marriage. Parliament should value people equally in the law, and enabling same-sex couples to marry removes the current differentiation and distinction.”

Miller argued against the charge that the Bill redefines marriage by pointing to previous reforms of marriage law: “Suggestions that the Bill changes something that has remained unchanged for centuries simply do not recognise the road that marriage has travelled as an institution.”

Miller concluded her introduction of the Bill by appealing to fairness: “Despite all the discussion and debate, this Bill is about one thing — fairness. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who do not agree with same-sex marriage. Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have; it binds families and society together, and it is a building block that promotes stability. This Bill supports and cultivates marriage, and I commend it to the House.”

Yvette Cooper gave the Opposition response.
Image: Yorkshire Labour Euro team.

The Labour politician Yvette Cooper gave the Opposition response. She welcomed the Bill and argued: “Parliament should not stop people getting married just because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex, and we should not say that same-sex relationships are intrinsically worth less.”

Regarding the claim that the Bill would eventually force religious groups to perform same-sex ceremonies, Yvette Cooper stated: “It is clear that they will not have to.”

Cooper also argued against a number of objections to the Bill. She said some object that marriage is by definition between a man and a woman, but: “We cannot hide discrimination simply by calling it a definition. Marriage has changed many times over the centuries — and thank goodness for that.”

In response to the argument that marriage is for the purposes of procreation and protection of children, Cooper argued: “Many marriages are childless, and we do not prevent people who are too old or too sick to have children from getting married. We do not do fertility tests at the altar.”

Following the speeches of Miller and Cooper, MPs from all parties spoke both for and against the Bill. Opponents argued their opposition to the bill was not driven by homophobia or bigotry, the Labour MP Robert Flello stating: “the debate has been characterised as bigoted religion on the one hand versus equality on the other.”

Conservative MP Edward Leigh argued marriage exists for children: “Marriage exists to keep the parents exclusively committed to each other, because, on average, that is the best and most stable environment for children. If marriage were solely about the relationship between two people, we would not bother to enshrine it in law, and nor would every culture, society and religion for thousands of years have invested it with so much importance.”

Leigh then suggested proponents were motivated by their own interests rather than the interests of children: “Marriage is not about ‘me, me, me’, nor about legally validating ‘my rights’ and ‘my relationships’; it is about a secure environment for creating and raising children, based on lifelong commitment and exclusivity”.

The Conservative MP Nick Herbert introduced some levity into the debate when he ridiculed the idea that heterosexuals would be threatened by gay and lesbian couples getting married: “Darling, our marriage is over: Sir Elton John has just got engaged to David Furnish”.

David Lammy MP compared the campaign for gay rights to civil rights: “Separate but equal is a fraud. It’s the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.”

During the debate, a number of gay MPs spoke in support of the bill. Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams noted: “Through my teenage years being openly gay was virtually impossible as it was terrifying in terms of the abuse.”

Crispin Blunt
Image: Ministry of Justice.

Another Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, spoke of the importance of the bill to him as a gay man: “Semantics matter. Words express the values of society. This bill about marriage is part of the astonishing and wonderful change that has taken place over the last fifty years that has taken millions of us from criminalisation to legal equality and the enjoyment of self-worth and validation. That certainly wasn’t apparent to me as a young man. What I understood was that there was something wrong with me that had — had — to be mastered. And for three decades I managed that struggle. And the relief and happiness of not having to do so any longer comes from others who fought for all of the measures advancing equality over the last five decades that are the precursors to today’s Bill.”

Crispin Blunt’s speech prompted Mark Menzies to note he would change from abstaining to supporting the bill.

Hugh Robertson closed the debate, praising the House for a “lively and impassioned debate” and stated the government’s case: “This is a bill with a very straightforward proposition at its heart: whether extending marriage for same-sex couples strengthens marriage and increases equality or whether it is a threat to religion and society. The Government believes it is the former.”

According to media reports, more Conservative MPs voted against the Bill than for it in the second reading. Conservative MP Tim Loughton said: “Apparently there’s 132 Conservative MPs who voted in favour, so I think what we’re going to see is that more Conservative MPs voted against this legislation than for it.”

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the passage of the Second Reading, saying the legislation represents “an important step forward for our country”.



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January 14, 2010

An interview with Paul Campbell, founder of Amazing Radio UK

An interview with Paul Campbell, founder of Amazing Radio UK

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Paul Campbell

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Digital radio listeners in the UK may have noticed a new station on their list over the last few months with the beta launch of Amazing Radio, founded by Paul Campbell as a follow up and companion to Amazing Tunes. However, unlike the majority of the other stations on both digital and FM, Amazing Radio doesn’t play normal, mainstream music. Instead, its playlist consists solely of music from unsigned bands and artists who have signed up and uploaded their music to AmazingTunes.com. Their music can then be downloaded from the site, for which they get paid. The more downloads and interest an artist receives, the more likely they are to get played on the national radio station. Amazing markets itself as an “ethical” download website, on which artists get 70% of the download revenues. They now have more than 22,000 songs uploaded, with about 100 uploaded every day.

Cquote1.svg Blimey, I sound like some corporate twat. Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell himself has extensive experience in both radio and television production, having worked for BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4. After success with his own production company in the nineties and with support from investors, Campbell launched Amazing Tunes in 2005.

As Amazing Radio introduces a new schedule for the New Year, with presenters rather than solely pre-recorded links, Wikinews reporter Tristan Thomas interviewed Campbell to find out more.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.pngHi Paul, thanks for doing this interview.

Wikinews waves Left.pngPaul CampbellWikinews waves Right.pngMy pleasure – thanks very much for asking me. We’re really grateful that Wikinews is interested in us.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAt the end of 2009, you complained to the BBC Trust about BBC Introducing. Can you explain what this was about and the reasons for it. Has anything come of it?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngSure: in a nutshell, the complaint was about unfair competition – about the BBC not following its own rules. It’s still ongoing. It will take, ahem, a while to resolve.

The details are a bit complex, but here goes. (If you commit suicide out of the boredom at what follows, I apologise).

As British readers will know, the BBC has a guaranteed and very comfortable income derived from the Licence Fee – effectively a tax you have to pay if you want a TV. According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), this generates an income to the BBC of about stg4.5bn per annum. Nice.

Cquote1.svg BBC people live in an insulated, publicly-funded world Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

Not really. In recent years the beeb has increasingly used this gargantuan income – and its incredible audience reach online, on radio & TV – to launch new services that make life impossible for everyone who is not the BBC. These have ranged from e-learning content (that completely wrecked the market for private publishers), to a new digital radio station (that caused a private speech station to go bust), to an attempt to launch online regional news services (which caused howls of outrage from local newspapers). The BBC does it for the best of reasons – to provide a public service – but BBC people live in an insulated, publicly-funded world, one where you know with complete certainty you’ll get paid on the 15th of every month. It’s a million miles away from the real world, where entrepreneurial people take risks, and lose their jobs and their houses if it goes wrong. Here, the BBC’s actions have grave implications. And not just for private companies: the UK as a whole is very good at creative industries, which are the fastest-growing part of the economy. But it’s kinda hard to grow a global business if your domestic market has been wrecked by a rampaging, publicly-funded, bull in a china shop. So by accidentally knackering private companies, the BBC is also damaging the British economy.

BBC Trust logo.jpg

Wise people noticed this. A few years ago the Governance of the BBC was changed. A new regulator, the BBC Trust, was created. It tried to address the problem. It insists the Corporation does a ‘public value test’ when it wants to launch a new service, or to expand an existing one.

Here, it hasn’t. Although the BBC has a longstanding commitment to play new music on its local radio stations, and one of its most famous DJs John Peel had an outstanding show on BBC Radio 1 for many years which played new music (and was, incidentally, produced by one of our new presenters), it’s suddenly changed the game. It’s launched a huge expansion and automation of this formerly piecemeal and limited activity, targeted exclusively at unsigned bands. BBC Introducing is a pan-BBC brand, combining local and network radio, television, online, even a special stage at Glastonbury. There’s a very expensive online upload service which I just know would have cost ten times what we had to spend on our similar service. There’s a Head of Department, doubtless with dozens of staff. I’ll bet they have BBC Introducing pens. It’s everywhere.

BBC Introducing.PNG

This is, by any reckoning, a ‘new service’. But it’s not been subjected to a public value test. Worse, I have it on very good authority from someone inside the BBC that BBC Worldwide – its commercial arm – is planning to launch a BBC Introducing record label – i.e., an overtly commercial expansion of BBC Introducing. This would be like the BBC trying to create a new version of the music industry, all by itself.

Whether or not you think it’s a good thing for the beeb to champion new music, you may agree it should follow its own rules. It hasn’t. There was no Public Value Test; no request to the Trust to be allowed to do this.

So we complained. It was a bit hilarious. The Trust said they weren’t allowed to investigate until we’d complained to the beeb itself and the BBC had rejected our complaint. There was a long pause as I tried to understand the logic. I said ‘I’m guessing the BBC didn’t do a PVT because it didn’t think it needed to do a PVT. We think they should have done. We’re asking you to investigate, to see if you agree’. They said ‘you have to complain to them first. It’s protocol’. It’s all very British – i.e., charmingly polite … ludicrously bureaucratic … and totally useless.

So we have another hoop to jump through. We’re now preparing our formal complaint to the BBC itself – whose Director General is someone I used to work with, when we were both fresh-faced BBC trainees in 1981. It takes time: I’ll have to write it myself, and I have a business to run. The beeb will have a small army of staff whose only job is to read it … and reject it. (They always reject criticism; it’s the BBC’s default position. They usually do it with a slightly pained expression, hurt that anyone could fail to understand their brilliance and omniscience. Either that, or they try to demolish your intellect and cast doubt on your probity. Either way, they’ll reject it).

When they do, we’ll then be able to go back to the BBC Trust to say ‘guess what? The BBC rejected our complaint. Now will you investigate?’. Yawn.

Cquote1.svg All this might make me seem a BBC-hater. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. The BBC trained me. Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

All this might make me seem a BBC-hater. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. The BBC trained me. I was once, so I was told by the Head of Appointments, its youngest-ever Producer. Despite appearances, I firmly believe it’s one of the best things about the UK. I wrote to The Times of London recently in defence of it. But unfortunately it’s really, really bad at understanding the damage it does to private companies, the ones like ours that create jobs and try to create wealth, without the benefit of a guaranteed income. (Or even, any income at all).

The stakes are high. The conventional music industry is falling to bits around us. There’s an historic opportunity to re-invent music in a way that’s fair to musicians and music-lovers, and also creates jobs and wealth in the real economy. It’s vitally important the BBC, with its publicly-funded hobnailed boots, doesn’t ruin that opportunity.

So we’ll do our complaint, wait for it to be rejected, complain to the Trust, and keep battering away. Fun fun fun. (This would never happen in the States).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngYou don’t accept any PRS registered artists at all. Why not?

HAVE YOUR SAY
Wikinews commentary.svg
Do you agree with Paul? Are PRS getting it completely wrong?
Add or view comments

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngWe’d love to – after all, we have the same aim as PRS, which is to make it easier for musicians to earn a living from their talent. But we can’t. There’s two reasons.

1. PRS has a barmy standard contract for using their members’ music online. It requires us to pay them a fixed percentage of ALL revenue from that website – whether or not the revenue is derived from their members’ work. So if we had 100,000 songs from non-PRS artists on amazingtunes.com, and one song from a PRS artist, we’d have to pay them a percentage of the revenue from ALL 100,000 songs. I.e., we’d have to take money out of the pockets out of non-PRS artists to pay to PRS. That would be immoral.
2. If we played PRS artists on the radio, we’d have to pay PRS for our use of their members’ music. Sound fair enough? But PRS doesn’t know what to do with the money. They’d put it into a big bucket, then share it out among ALL their artists – not the members whose songs we played, all their artists, including rich and famous signed ones. The vast majority of PRS payments go to a tiny minority of artists (and big record labels). So it would be another case of stealing from Peter to pay Paul. Paul McCartney, that is.

I wrote to the CEO of PRS when we first launched Amazing Radio pointing out these absurdities and asking if we could do a more intelligent deal. I said that I thought we had identical aims – to make life fair for musicians. I suggested we could/should be a feeder to them, introducing new members to PRS as they grew in the music industry. But so far, the PRS head is still firmly in the sand.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAnd how would you suggest PRS could improve? If they did, would you consider allowing artists registered with them?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngPRS could improve by;

a. buying some computers (so they could handle our comprehensive data about the tracks we play, and then pay the right people);
b. accepting that we want to mix PRS and non-PRS artists, and only asking for a share of the artists they actually represent.

If they did that, we’d sign up. This would not necessarily be popular with our audience. A lot of people – especially charities and small businesses – like the fact that they can listen to Amazing Radio without a PRS licence. But we’d do it anyway, as it would be a better service for musicians.

Cquote1.svg PRS should also stop threatening to murder law-abiding people who want to listen to music at work Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

My personal view is that the PRS should also stop threatening to murder law-abiding people who want to listen to music at work. There was a recent case where they threatened someone for singing at work. They actually did that. They later apologized, but it revealed the corporate mentality. I think it’s incredibly counter-productive; it means their members make less money, not more; it’s ruining perceptions of what motivates musicians; it’s causing thousands of people to stop listening to music. When really, PRS should be encouraging that, shouldn’t it?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngWith regard to Amazing Tunes, how many downloads could your most popular artist expect to receive per month and monetary wise, how would this compare to them receiving that number from iTunes?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngSorry, but we don’t currently release detailed figures – our competitors would love it, but we’d rather be nice to our artists and our investors instead. We do say that we expect amazingtunes.com artists to make ‘anything from a few quid, to a good living, to a small fortune’. At the moment, because it’s still very early days, people are clustered towards the first two of those options. As things grow – and there’s been incredible growth even in the past few months – we hope/expect more and more artists will start to make tens of thousands of pounds each month. We’ll soon register for the official chart, and our guess is that someone will have a major hit before long. Then everything will go really crazy.

So far as the iTunes comparisons go, the facts are already public domain. An artist on iTunes can expect to make 8p from a 79p download. The same artist on amazingtunes.com will make about 52p. We only deduct the VAT and the cost of the transaction: 70% of what’s left goes to the artist. What’s more, their income will improve over time – the more downloads we sell, the less the transactions cost us, so the more cash there is to give to the artists. That’s one reason we ask people to buy eight or more songs in one transaction – it’s much more cost-effective, less of their cash goes to VISA, more to the artist. (See my Blog post on this here – [1]).

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngAmazing Radio launched in mid-2009. How has it grown since then and what are your current listening figures?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngIt’s gone mad since then. I’ve worked in broadcasting and the media since 1978 (I was very very young then, mind you). I’ve never known anything like it. The reaction has been absolutely incredible – and it’s growing faster than ever right now. The most humbling thing has been the audience feedback – masses of long emails from people we’ve never met, saying they found it by accident, and they love it.

Cquote1.svg the best guess I’ve heard in the industry is that we have something like 600,000 listeners in the UK on DAB. Cquote2.svg

—Paul Campbell

We’ve not yet paid for RAJAR audience figures because – well, because we’re a bit mean really, and I’m not convinced they would accurately measure our audience. I think RAJAR is very good at coming out with figures for radio stations that have been going for 40 years, but not very accurate when it comes to new and innovative stations which are also listened to a lot online and especially popular with young people. But the best guess I’ve heard in the industry is that we have something like 600,000 listeners in the UK on DAB. That’s an estimate, but it came from a very wise source. We have slightly more than that number on top as regular users online, and a weekly reach for amazingtunes.com of about two million users. But it’s all growing so fast, those numbers will be out of date by the time you read this.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngDAB transmission costs are well over half a million pounds a year. How is this being funded currently and how are you planning to fund it in the future?

DAB Digital Radio.jpg

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngWe’re not contractually allowed to tell you what we pay, so we can’t confirm or deny the cost. Whatever the true figure, it is undeniably expensive; but it gives our musicians a chance to be on national radio. We figure it’s worth it. I’m reminded of that wonderful teachers’ union bumper sticker: ‘if you think education’s expensive, try ignorance’. If you think creating the world’s first radio station playing 100% new music is expensive …. try being inaudible.

So far, we’ve been funded by a very small number of private investors, people of enormous wisdom and insight, natch. They understand that we have a very serious, long-term and audacious ambition to change the music industry for the better, to make radio interesting again, and to turn the word ‘amazing’ into a global challenger brand.

This year, we expect to do one final fund-raising in the UK, then to raise a lot of money on the West Coast of the USA to make this absolutely massive and global, fast. They understand this scale of ambition there.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Wikinews commentary.svg
Have you tuned into Amazing Radio? What did you think?
Add or view comments

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngWhat are your plans for Amazing Radio in 2010? Any exciting announcements to come?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.png‘Fraid so.

In 2010, we hope to make Amazing Radio the default station for everyone who has ever had that incredible experience of hearing a song for the first time, and having to stop what you’re doing to listen to it: a station for everyone who has broad musical tastes, a respect for musical talent and an open mind. We want it to be constantly surprising, fresh, original, sometimes hilarious, always unexpected.

Blimey, I sound like some corporate twat.

Now (obviously) it wouldn’t be massively unexpected if we suddenly started revealing all the unexpected things in advance – but basically, we’d like the message to spread that we’re doing something different, fresh, original and ethical – so we’ll launch more new programmes and more new services – on Amazing Radio and amazingtunes.com. Things like our virtual radio station Amazing Ambient. [2]. There’ll be some video and some TV along soon too. And other cool stuff.

It may not be ‘insanely cool’; just cool will do just fine.

We also want to do it in other places. E.g. America. We’ve already started there. We’ll be unexpected there too.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngFinally, your favourite artist on Amazing Tunes/Radio at the moment?

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngNow this will sound like a real cop-out, but I never ever say who my favourite artist is. It’s for a serious reason. I’m not some musical Einstein – I’m merely the bloke who started amazing. And I’m merely a drummer. My taste doesn’t matter. EVERYBODY’s musical taste does. One of the many problems of conventional record companies is that they think geezers in suits in big glass buildings have the right to decide what’s good music. We think the world does. I’ve found hundreds of incredible songs that I love, across loads of styles of music. You’ll find hundreds of your own. Enjoy.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngThank you very much for your time Paul. Good luck for 2010.

Wikinews waves Left.pngPCWikinews waves Right.pngThanks very much, we really appreciate it. 2010 is going to be amazing.

Sources

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January 7, 2010

Obama\’s suspension of Guantanamo repatriations criticized

Obama’s suspension of Guantanamo repatriations criticized

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

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File photo of Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, in 2005
Image: Kathleen T. Rhem.

Human rights groups have criticized United States President Barack Obama’s decision to halt the transfer of detainees to Yemen from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Obama suspended the repatriation of Yemeni detainees Tuesday because of what he called an “unsettled” security situation in Yemen. “It was always our intent to transfer detainees to other countries only under conditions that provide assurances that our security is being protected,” Obama said.

Some lawmakers had expressed concern that freed inmates could join Yemen-based al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the United States. The Times has also reported claims that former detainees have joined al-Qaeda on returning to Yemen.

Cquote1.svg The decision to halt all transfers of detainees to Yemen will prolong a shameful chapter in American history without making Americans any safer. Cquote2.svg

—Ben Wizner, ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claimed U.S. authorities had cleared the release of about 35 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo. Ben Wizner, ACLU staff attorney, said that “the decision to halt all transfers of detainees to Yemen will prolong a shameful chapter in American history without making Americans any safer.” He called the actions “unwise and unjust”.

Human Rights Watch says it appreciates that Yemen poses a “very difficult problem” for the Obama administration. But, it says continuing to hold Yemenis at Guantanamo without charge “only increases resentment against the United States and hands al-Qaida a recruiting tool.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights called the decision “unconscionable”. “We know from the military’s own records that most of the detainees at Guantanamo have no link to terrorism,” the group said.

Cquote1.svg It was always our intent to transfer detainees to other countries only under conditions that provide assurances that our security is being protected. Cquote2.svg

—Barack Obama

Mitch McConnell, Republican Party minority leader in the U.S. Senate, backed the move. “Given the determined nature of the threat from al-Qaeda, it made little sense to transfer detainees from the secure facility at Guantanamo back to Yemen, where previously transferred detainees have escaped from prison and returned to al-Qaeda,” he said.

President Obama reiterated his pledge to shut down the Guantanamo prison, saying its existence helps al-Qaeda to recruit members and damages U.S. national security interests. Obama had said one year ago that he wanted to close the prison by 22 January this year, but recently admitted that this target would not be met. Guantanamo currently holds 198 prisoners, about half of them from Yemen.



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October 29, 2009

Newcastle United\’s St. James\’ Park naming rights go up for sale

Filed under: Archived,England,Newcastle United F.C.,Sports,The Times (UK) — admin @ 5:00 am

Newcastle United’s St. James’ Park naming rights go up for sale

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

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Present St James’ Park stadium sign outside the club’s main entrance

The naming rights for St James’ Park, the home ground of English football club Newcastle United F.C., are to be put up for sale. The club stated that the club would be “welcoming offers for the stadium naming rights next season”. The move was part of a new drive to “maximise its commercial revenues”, after the announcement that owner Mike Ashley was not selling the club, which had been up for sale since May 2009.

St James’ Park is the largest and oldest football stadium in North East England. Football had been played at St James’ Park since 1880, with Newcastle United using it as their home ground since their inception, in 1892. Despite Newcastle being in the second tier of football, St James Park is the third largest club football stadium in England, behind Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium.

Naming rights is not unprecedented in English football, including the Premier League grounds the Britannia Stadium, DW Stadium, Emirates Stadium, KC Stadium and Reebok Stadium. Bookmakers Ladbrokes named sportswear company and current club sponsor Addidas favourites to secure the rights. In order to stop the move, BBC Radio Newcastle football commentator Mick Lowes suggested that the Newcastle United Supporters Trust’s used part of its reported £25m funds to pay Ashley not to sell the rights.

Ex-Newcastle striker and local sports pundit Malcolm Macdonald said of the decision:

they thought they had got on the wrong side of the people of Tyneside then just wait and see what happens if they go through with their plans to re-name St James’ Park because there will be an almighty uproar and outcry. It would upset people so much because it everyone’s second home. That is how people feel about it. It has been St James’ Park forever and a day and it should remain that way.

Lee Ryder, the Evening Chronicle’s chief sportswrite blogged:

We need to make Coors Light Park a fortress” – to even imagine a future Toon player uttering such words will make many physically sick…Renaming St James’s Park is simply bad taste in the eyes of most Geordie fans – and many will feel that even the injection of silly money to do it will do nothing to make up for another piece of heritage being ripped away from the Tyneside streets….Renaming St James’s Park to Coors Light Park, Bwin Park or even the McDonalds Arena shows that Newcastle’s top brass have again got it so seriously wrong

George Caulkin of The Times wrote of the decision:

Renaming St James’ Park is a muddle-headed, flawed and divisive notion which must not and cannot stand. In an era of recession, there may be a need for Newcastle, in their own words, to “maximise their commercial revenues,” but if it comes at the expense of goodwill (what little there is left of it), hope and a sense of community, it would also come at a bitter, prohibitive, self-defeating cost.

There has been debate over the correct spelling and pronunciation of the stadium name, with differing accounts based on its meaning and origin. In 2008, the club insisted to the BBC programme Look North that the the correct spelling of the Stadium is St James’ Park, with no following ‘s’ after James’, because the stadium is not named as “the park of St James”, rather, it is named after the nearby St James Street, which predates the ground.

The announcement came on the same day as it announced Chris Hughton as the club’s permanent manager, and that owner Mike Ashley was taking the club off the market for a second time.



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September 5, 2009

Torrential downpours cause significant flooding in northeastern Scotland

Torrential downpours cause significant flooding in northeastern Scotland

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

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A cleanup effort is underway after torrential downpours on Friday, September 4 caused significant flooding in the north-east of Scotland. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said that the weather forecast in the coming days was improving, with no large amounts of rainfall predicted.

Over 500 homes had to be evacuated in Moray after the River Spey and River Lossie started to overflow their banks. 400 homes were also evacuated in the Elgin area and 50 more in Fochabers. Other areas affected included Aberdeen, Dyce, Lossiemouth and Rothes, where 25 homes had to be evacuated. Over 600 homes were evacuated in Morayshire.

The Grampian Police and Tayside Police advised residents not to drive unless absolutely necessary. The Northern Constabulary advised residents to travel with caution.

In some places, a month’s worth of rain had fallen in just 24 hours. About 67 millimetres of rain had fallen in Aberdeen – roughly the equivalent of an average month of rainfall. In Lossiemouth, the rainfall was 76.4 millimetres – 15mm more than the average amount every month.

As cleanup efforts progressed, Chief executive of Moray Council Alistair Keddie said, “Everything possible was done to protect residents.” However, some residents of the local areas are not so certain.

Mary Campbell, 62 from Fochabers said to the Times Online that she was “calling [for help] from 8pm but no-one showed up until about midnight. All the time the river kept going up and up. They came with sandbags, but by then it was too late. The water was already in my house.”

The MSP for Moray Angus Robertson MP stated, “Water levels are higher than I have ever seen them before and communities have rallied to support people whose homes and businesses have been flooded. The objective must now be for everyone to help the victims of the worst flooding to hit Moray for many years to assist them rebuild their lives and get back to normality as quickly as possible. The hard lessons learnt from this latest devastation include the need for local agencies to redouble their efforts to get flood prevention measures into place and to recognise that climate change will only lead to more flooding in the future.”



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August 31, 2009

Reports suggest probe into Formula One race-fixing allegations

Reports suggest probe into Formula One race-fixing allegations

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Alonso tops the podium after the race

News reports are suggesting that Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, are investigating alleged race-fixing by Renault. The FIA would only confirm a probe into “alleged incidents at a previous Formula One world championship event.”

According to Brazil’s Globo TV, Renault racer Nelson Piquet Jr. was told to crash his car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, which was the sport’s first night race. By accident or design, Piquet did indeed crash during the race, which benefited teamate Fernando Alonso, who had just pitted early for fuel. Alonso went on to win the race.

Piquet’s wrecked car is removed from the track

Piquet was fired during this season by Renault and replaced with Romain Grosjean. He claims he was treated unfairly at the team. His comments about the race at the time were “We tried two extreme strategies with Fernando quite short and me quite long in the hope of getting a safety car. If I hadn’t crashed I would have been lucky with the safety car later in the race…”

However, it is now reported that new evidence has been supplied to the FIA. The source of this evidence has not been disclosed. The world motorsport council has the power to impose harsh penalties upon Renault if the allegations are proven, including large fines.

While the debris from the crash was cleared, the safety car was out on the track. Because Alonso had pitted early, he was the only one of the leading cars that did not need to stop for fuel and new tyres. According to the BBC and The Times, if there is found to be evidence of misconduct the world motorsport council will probably meet to investigate.



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April 20, 2009

British author J. G. Ballard dead at 78

British author J. G. Ballard dead at 78 – Wikinews, the free news source

British author J. G. Ballard dead at 78

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Monday, April 20, 2009

British author James Graham Ballard, known as J. G. Ballard has died at the age of 78. Ballard died on Sunday after a long battle with prostate cancer.

According to a spokesperson, Ballard had been sick “for several years” and that it was “with great sadness” to have to make the announcement of his death. He died at the home of his long-time partner.

Ballard is best known for writing the novels Crash in 1973 and Empire of the Sun in 1984 which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Both books went on to be major motion pictures.

“He was a colonial figure in some senses. He had grown up in Shanghai and had very good manners. He was very generous and polite and it took a long while before he would do anything that wasn’t very controlled,” said friend and author Iain Sinclair to The Times.

Ballard was born in Shanghai, China in the Shanghai International Settlement in 1930. When he was 12, he and his family were forced to live in a camp run by Japanese forces during World War II. Ballard says that he won’t say happy things about his experience in the camp, but also no unpleasant ones either. In an interview with BBC News, Ballard said “I remember a lot of the casual brutality and beatings-up that went on, but at the same time we children were playing a hundred and one games all the time.”

In 1946 he moved to the UK with his sister and mother where he began to write. Twenty years later, in the 1960’s, he employed himself as a full time writer. He produced his first novel in 1961 titled The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World just a year later.



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February 4, 2009

Regulator bans UK video-on-demand service

Regulator bans UK video-on-demand service

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

BBC Television Centre in London
Image: Zir.

The United Kingdom’s Competition Commission has decided not to allow a video-on-demand (VOD) service backed by the country’s major broadcasters.

Kangaroo would have provided BBC, ITV and Channel 4 (C4) television programmes for download and streaming to UK internet users from a single interface. At present, each broadcaster has its own system. The Commission said that free-to-view Kangaroo would prevent other VOD providers entering the market because the three broadcasters control the vast majority of original programming in the UK.

Commission chairman Peter Freeman said “Without this venture, BBC Worldwide [the BBC’s commercial arm], ITV and Channel 4 would be close competitors of each other. We thought that viewers would benefit from better VOD services if the parties… competed with each other”.

The Kangaroo consortium issued a statement saying that “the real losers from this decision are British consumers. This is a disproportionate remedy and a missed opportunity in the further development of British broadcasting”. Michael Grade, executive chairman at ITV plc, told The Guardian “We are surprised by this decision because we believed that the Kangaroo joint venture, competing in a crowded online world against dominant global brands, was an attractive UK consumer proposition, free at the point of use”.

The Times says that Kangaroo had been expected to gain approval, albeit with provisos including BBC and C4 programmes being made available elsewhere.

The broadcasters already have their own existing internet download or streaming services with different funding models. The BBC iPlayer is free to use and carries no advertising; C4’s 4oD charges 99p to rent a programme for 48 hours; and the ITV Player is supported by advertising.



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January 29, 2009

Sir Paul Stephenson to head London\’s police

Sir Paul Stephenson to head London’s police

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Metropolitan Police headquarters, New Scotland Yard
Image: ChrisO.

The British government has announced the appointment of Sir Paul Stephenson to head London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

Stephenson said his priorities as Commissioner would be knife crime and teenage murders. The Times quoted him as telling reporters that his agenda “is about solving crime, securing our streets, convincing all our communities that we are on their side and delivering the policing they want and being intolerant of violence in any form”.

The vacancy at the Met arose when the then-new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, expressed a lack of confidence in Sir Ian Blair. While Johnson has no direct say in who acts as Commissioner, the lack of confidence made Blair’s position untenable and he announced his resignation in October 2008 to take effect in December. The media has assumed there was a two-horse race to succeed Blair, between his deputy Stephenson and Northern Ireland’s police chief Hugh Orde. Some elements of the media had assumed that Stephenson was out of the running following the arrest of Tory MP Damien Green as part of a leak enquiry. Stephenson had authorised the arrest.

Stephenson joined Lancashire police in 1975. He rose to become assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside police, then returned to Lancashire and became Chief Constable in 2002. He joined the Met as Deputy Commissioner in 2005 and has been filling the Commissioner’s role since December of last year.



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January 28, 2009

Encyclopædia Britannica fights back against Wikipedia, soon to let users edit contents

Encyclopædia Britannica fights back against Wikipedia, soon to let users edit contents

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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Title page of the New American edition of the Encylopædia Britannica (1899)

Encyclopædia Britannica (EB), the authoritative reference book first published in 1768, is planning to let readers edit its entries, Jorge Cauz, its president said Friday, as it battles to keep pace with online Internet encyclopedia projects like Wikipedia.

Starting next week, readers, visitors and contributing experts to EB’s free, online version, Britannica.com, will be allowed to submit proposed changes and contributions to Britannica editors, who will then review the edits and make the necessary alterations. This move is meant to let readers help keep the reference work up-to-date by collaboration.

In expanding and maintaining entries online, users whose editorial suggestions are accepted and published entirely or in part will be credited by name in the section of the article that lists contributors.

The new website features will be available on the site within the next twenty-four hours. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Cauz is promising a 20-minute turnover on these edits, but that number could go up dramatically if the company cannot anticipate a large influx of edits at once.”

Britannica, however, explained that it would not allow a Wikipedia form of editing which allows a wide range of users to make contributions. EB’s novel user choice will include enrollment of experts in a reward scheme and invitation of selected readers to contribute. Several readers will also be allowed to use Britannica materials to contribute their own articles that will be featured on the site.

“We are not abdicating our responsibility as publishers or burying it under the now-fashionable ‘wisdom of the crowds’,” wrote Jorge Cauz in his blog. “We believe that the creation and documentation of knowledge is a collaborative process but not a democratic one,” Cauz noted, explaining further that “these experts would sit alongside the encyclopaedia entries and the official material would carry a ‘Britannica Checked’ stamp, to distinguish it from the user-generated content.”

Cauz also announced the unveiling by Britannica of a beta (trial) version of what will become the finished Britannica Online website, which will include a re-design and the addition of web-based tools for readers and users to upload their own reference materials. The new features that Britannica will roll out over the next six months also include an article rating system and a comprehensive list of contributors by subject area.

Articles developed by Britannica’s own editors also appear in the printed volumes, which are published every two years, though material created by what Cauz called their “community of scholars” will only appear online.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, with Britannica book of the year 2002, with white library labels.

“Wikipedia contributes to the spread of information and many people are happy with it as their only source of reference, as are many people happy to eat McDonald’s every day,” said Cauz, who discussed differences between Britannica and Wikipedia features of online editing. “That’s the last thing we want to be. We are a different type of animal, catering to a different type of crowd,” he added.

Cauz said the company will retain its staff of about 100 full-time editors and over 4,000 expert contributors. “I think the future is likely going to be that in every media segment there has to be a symbiotic relationship between editor and reader,” said Cauz, adding that each article will have a detailed history showing changes and who made them, as in Wikipedia. In 1933, Britannica became the first encyclopaedia to introduce a “continuous revision” policy, with continuous reprinting such that every article is updated on a regular schedule.

Unlike Wikipedia, which allows anonymous edits through a user’s IP address being logged, Britannica’s new features strictly require contributors or users to register, revealing their real names and addresses, prior to modifying or creating their own articles. Contributions from non-academic users will sit in a separate section.

A new or changed feature called “Suggest Edit” button will allow readers of a particular article to suggest information clarification, post questions to contributors or add to the existing text, subject to Britannica editors’ approval. “What we are trying to do is shifting … to a much more proactive role for the user and reader where the reader is not only going to learn from reading the article but by modifying the article and – importantly – by maybe creating his own content or her own content,” wrote Cauz.

Cauz faulted Google for setting Wikipedia higher in pagerank than Britannica. He explained that, in EB, new efforts to participate in online collaboration of encyclopedic content are deemed by recognizing experts as a requirement in order to achieve objectivity and high quality. During his tenure, officials from Britannica have become outspoken in their criticism of Wikipedia articles’ contents.

Cquote1.svg Britannica already has an established reputation for accurate content. Wikipedia is merely a starting point, with research to be taken with a pinch of salt. Cquote2.svg

—–David Reece, startupearth.com (Startup Earth)

In July 2006, Cauz personally entered the fray in an interview in New Yorker Magazine, in which he stated that Wikipedia had “decline(d) into a hulking, mediocre mass of uneven, unreliable, and, many times, unreadable articles” and that “Wikipedia is to Britannica as American Idol is to the Juilliard School.”

The 241-year-old publication, Encyclopædia Britannica, is a general English-language encyclopaedia published by a privately held company, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., and is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in print. The Britannica articles are directed at educated adult readers. First published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland, it quickly grew in popularity and size, with its third edition in 1801 reaching over 21 volumes.

Britannica’s latest 15th edition has a unique three-part structure: a 12-volume Micropædia of short articles (generally having fewer than 750 words), a 17-volume Macropædia of long articles (having from two to 310 pages) and a single Propædia volume created to give a hierarchical outline of human knowledge. The Micropædia is devised for quick fact-checking and as a door to the Macropædia.

At present, Britannica offers optical disc, online and mobile versions. The Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2006 DVD has over 55 million words and just over 100,000 articles, including 73,645 regular Britannica articles. The Encyclopædia Britannica Online website has more than 120,000 articles and is updated regularly. EB’s virtual space was founded in 1994 and contains articles comprised of over 46 million words.

In February 2007, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. said that it was working with AskMeNow to launch a mobile encyclopedia, to enable users to send questions via text messages. Replies would then be forwarded by AskMenow based on Britannicas’ articles.

Screen shot of Encyclopædia Britannica article on the front page of Wikipedia on August 8, 2007 at 3:20 a.m. (eastern time).

As Britannica is a business, the company needed to charge, and Web access to the archives cost $70 a year. In April 2008, “Britannica Webshare,” a version of the online Encyclopaedia Britannica has been available for free, but only for Web publishers. The simple process requires signing up, giving a site URL, a description, and approval by the company. “This program is intended for people who publish with some regularity on the Internet, be they bloggers, webmasters, or writers. We reserve the right to deny participation to anyone who in our judgment doesn’t qualify,” said TechCrunch.

In June 2008, Britannica announced an initiative to facilitate collaboration between online expert and amateur scholarly contributors for Britannica’s on-line content (in the spirit of a wiki), with editorial oversight from Britannica staff. According to its statement titled “Britannica’s New Site: More Participation, Collaboration from Experts and Readers,” approved contributions would be credited, though contributing automatically grants Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. perpetual, irrevocable license to those contributions.

PC World has, however, reported that it became clear how steep of a climb Britannica faces. “Wikipedia received a massive 97 percent share of the online encyclopedia market or visits U.S. Web surfers made to online encyclopedias last week,” Web monitoring company Hitwise said Friday. “MSN Encarta was second with 1.27 percent of visits, followed by Encyclopedia.com (0.76 percent), Fact Monster (0.72 percent) and, in fifth place, Britannica.com (0.57 percent). Britannica.com’s share of U.S. visits dropped 53 percent last month compared with December 2007,” Hitwise added.

While Britannica.com has 1.5 million visitors per day, Wikipedia attracts about six million, The Times reported. Hitwise also said that as of last week, Wikipedia ranked the 13th-most-visited site on the Web overall, while Britannica.com was 2,349th. The essential difference is Wikipedia does not charge any fee, while Britannica.com requires a paid subscription for access of some contents. Britannica, however, is issuing a “Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Edition” – the £40 2009 DVD edition of its famous print encyclopaedia.

“One of the big questions still on the table is whether Britannica will open its content or maintain its premium membership paid wall. In order to compete with Wikipedia in the Google [search results], Britannica needs to build up inbound links. If content is locked up behind the paid content walls, people will be much more likely to link to other websites with free content — such as that available on Wikipedia,” Hitwise analyst Heather Hopkins noted.

A Picture of Jimmy Donal “Jimbo” Wales (current chairman emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation) used in the 2008 Fundraiser Campaign

Wikipedia, a not-for-profit collaborative online encyclopedia, in its Wikipedia Foundation’s recent drive for public donations, had aimed to raise $US6 million over the course of six months. On January 1, “it had met the target, from more than 125,000 donors,” said Wikipedia head honcho and co-founder Jimmy Wales. He has invoked Wikipedia’s “free-culture movement”, and its mission “to bring free knowledge to the planet, free of charge and free of advertising”.

“Wikipedia is the new frontier of human knowledge,” wrote Anonymous, donating $US100. American Patrick Culligan left another comment, saying, “Accurate information is what enables society to act in the appropriate way in which we can change the world. History cannot be left for the winners to write.” Another said: “Wikipedia is one of those ‘big ideas’ which will change our world for the better.”

After Encyclopedia Britannica’s announcement that it is introducing a more open editing system, web 2.0 giant Wikipedia has considered attempts to move away from its free and open editing system. Academics, scholars and others have long criticized the writing principles fostered by Wikipedia amid vandals having often changed Wikipedia entries resulting to erroneous reports.

Now, for the first time, the online encyclopedia has considered restricting the edits that users can make. The system known internally as “Flagged Revisions,” has been sparked off by inaccurate changes after a Wikipedia user “Gfdjklsdgiojksdkf” and an anonymous editor respectively edited articles to say that both U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Carlyle Byrd had died. The errors were caught and duly corrected after about five minutes, but they were up long enough for the Washington Post, among other media outlets, to notice.

In just the latest incidents in a long and rich history of vandalism since its 2001 launch, Vernon Kay and Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs, among others, have also been falsely reported as dead on Wikipedia. Wiki means “fast” in Hawaiian and it certainly is, even amid subtle vandalism, since anyone can amend its 2.7m entries. Wikipedia has long struggled with such prankery, and has ever since worked closely with its community to overcome it without adopting harsh protections.

Cquote1.svg We want people to be able to participate, but we have a tool available now that is consistent with higher quality. Cquote2.svg

—–Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Donal “Jimbo” Wales

As Wikipedia itself acknowledges, “Allowing anyone to edit Wikipedia means that it is more easily vandalized or susceptible to unchecked information, which requires removal.” In the proposed process, only registered or reliable users could have their material or edits immediately appear to the general public visiting Wikipedia. Other contributors’ edits or changes will first be reviewed, signed off, or “flagged” by reliable users.

“This nonsense would have been 100 percent prevented by Flagged Revisions,” said Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales under the header “Why I Am Asking Flagged Revisions Be Turned On Now,” on his user page. “[Instances of misinformation] could […] have been prevented by protection or semi-protection, but [..] [many are] breaking news [stories] and we want people to be able to participate (so protection is out) and even to participate in good faith for the first time ever (so semi-protection is out),” explained Wales who calls for monitoring to prevent false entries.

Wales said that a poll revealed 60 percent of Wikipedians favored the new proposal and that it would be a “time limited test.” He noted that the delay should be less than the German Wikipedia allowed: “less than 1 week, hopefully a lot less, because we will only be using it on a subset of articles, the boundaries of which can be adjusted over time to manage the backlog.”

Wales issued a statement requesting implementation of the extension: “To the Wikimedia Foundation: per the poll of the English Wikipedia community and upon my personal recommendation, please turn on the flagged revisions feature as approved in the poll.” But the community response was further debate.

An organization chart for the Wikimedia Foundation as of 11 January 2008.

As of February 2, his request hasn’t been implemented.

Apparently the Wikipedia German edition has been using a form of the Flagged Revisions system since May as a test case. It has, however, led to a delay of up to three weeks in getting some new articles and edits published, for critics have said that the system is very labor intensive and comments can take weeks to appear. Wales, however, pointed out that the system he was proposing was only for biographies of living people. Wikipedia has provided comprehensive and up-to-minute entries on the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007 and the Mumbai terrorist attacks this past November as the events were still taking place.

While some participants in the debate have argued that the rule change is unnecessary, some have described it in terms of an ethical imperative. As one administrator wrote: “In the vast majority of cases, a Wikipedia article on an individual will be the very highest-ranking search engine result when a search is conducted on the name of that person. This affects the lives of the people we write about on a daily basis. To suggest that Wikipedia does not have profound obligations to do its best to keep these articles free of defamatory, gossipy and privacy-invading material is to suggest that we are without obligation to consider the real-world impacts of our actions and the work we are doing.”

Cquote1.svg Anything that makes Wikipedia more accurate can only be advantageous Cquote2.svg

—–Amanda Dolan, Glasgow

Others have argued that practical considerations should prevent a change that could result in a large backlog of unreviewed edits. “Flagged revisions will suffocate under its own weight,” claimed administrator DragonflySixtyseven. Still other Wikipedian editors further argue that the current system works just fine.

Wikimedia Board members (from left) Devouard, Ting Chen, Domas Mituzas, executive secretary, and current Chair Michael Snow on Opening Ceremony in WM 2008, Alexandria

Some consider the split could ultimately threaten the future of the dominant online encyclopedia. “The big issue is that while we have majority support, we don’t have consensus, and that’s the way we have always made our decisions,” Jake Wartenberg user and member of RC patrol chimed in. “A lot of editors are becoming disenchanted with the project; we are losing them all the time,” he added. By way of reply, amidst the embarrassing debacle, Mr. Wales has reached out to help and offered a compromise, inviting the opposition to submit alternative suggestions until the 29th of January.

“Implementing this functionality is really a volunteer community decision. We know the discussion about flagged revs is still taking place on English Wikipedia, but at this stage, it appears the majority of the community are behind this decision. As that discussion unfolds, we’ll have a better sense of the timing,” Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, in a rejoinder, wrote in his e-mail message, explaining the status of the proposed restriction.

“Now seems an excellent time for Wikipedia to pause and take stock. It has proved the surprising wisdom of crowds as well as their utter idiocy. Its challenge now is to harness the enthusiasm of those volunteers while becoming a more reliable, better written source. And at some point, surely, its founders might want to turn it into a commercial venture. As Samuel Johnson almost said: “No one but a blockhead ever edited, excepted for money,” said Iain Hollingshead, a British freelance journalist and novelist.

Map showing existing and planned Wikimedia local chapters through December 2007. Dark blue is existing chapters, Green is Planned chapters, Light blue is Chapters in discussion.

“The suggestion of increased moderation on Wikipedia would divide the community. The site has built its reputation on being ‘the encyclopedia that anyone can edit’. It’s less radical to be ‘the encyclopedia that anyone can edit as long as their edits are approved by a trusted Wikipedian’ but that’s what co-founder Jimmy Wales has suggested. Wikipedia’s openness is its strength,” said Shane Richmond of The Daily Telegraph, asking, “is it most valuable feature its openness or its accuracy?”

Wales’ position is that “I consider our BLP issue to be so important that I think it is actually unethical to not use a tool which holds great promise for helping with the problem, now that it has been successfully tested elsewhere. Anyone who would like to see this tool not go into practice needs to start by convincing people that either (a) it is OK for the BLP vandalism problem to continue or (b) there is a better way to solve it.”



Related news

  • “Wikipedia features Encyclopædia Britannica on its main page” — Wikinews, August 8, 2007
  • Congressional staff actions prompt Wikipedia investigation” — Wikinews, January 30, 2006
  • “Wikipedia and Britannica about as accurate in science entries, reports Nature” — Wikinews, December 14, 2005
  • “MSN Encarta introduces wiki-like enhancements” — Wikinews, April 9, 2005

Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia on Wikipedia.
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