Saturday, 14 March 2015

Highlights (2)

One of the surprises of writing this blog has been the number of contacts I've made.  There was a steady trickle of journalists and researchers from the start.  Most were planning a TV or radio programme and wanted either information or, most often, contacts.  Most of these programmes didn't happen.  One independent TV producer wanted employees of A4e, who he would film in silhouette, preserving their anonymity.  I tried to explain that people working in the sector wanted above all to keep their jobs, and such whistle-blowers were not likely to be forthcoming.  He was adamant that he could do it.  He didn't.  Another, who travelled quite a distance to talk to me, was well on the way to producing an item for a news programme, but it got overtaken by events.
A researcher talked to me at length, asking almost immediately if I would take part in the programme.  I saw this as a test of my confidence in what I was telling her, and said yes.  Later, when the programme had been put together, she asked me again to take part.  I said I would if it was really necessary but didn't want to.  She said that was okay, they had a whistle-blower.  The programme was scheduled.  But just 3 days before it was due to go out it was pulled.  All I could gather was that the whistle-blower had been threatened with legal action and the channel's lawyers had decided it was too risky.  Chalk that one up as a victory for A4e.
Another journalist I talked to was looking for information on outsourcing and welfare-to-work in general.  I felt like saying that she was getting paid for her work and I wasn't (but I didn't).  However, two of the journalist contacts I made were to prove very useful.  I remember reading a rant by Andrew Marr, the BBC's favourite Tory interviewer; he hates bloggers because they think they are real journalists but just post spiteful rubbish.  What an irony.  If Marr was a real journalist he would know how much they've come to depend on bloggers.
There were other contacts too.  One was an academic psychologist, working in a university in Wales (that much was true, I checked him out).  He was inviting bloggers like me to go and be interviewed by him on why we picked on Emma Harrison when A4e was no different to any other company.  He admitted he had no worked up proposal for a study yet.  I answered him rather tersely.  It puzzled me that an academic would start out with his conclusion already formed and seek to prove it.  His reply was odd and I tried hard to explain why A4e was different.  He then became quite abusive and I told him that I would ignore any further communications from him.  It turned out that he had done some work for A4e.  He went onto the Indus Delta site (it was obviously him) to ask for the same information and to complain about me.  Gratifyingly, he was ignored.
Then there was the young man, a student I think, who wanted my opinion on a series of short films he and his friends were making - to be shown on the London underground! - loosely based on A4e.  I watched half of one film and was completely turned off by the obscenity-filled conversation.  He was a bit embarrassed when I told him so; they were improvised, he said.  I didn't watch any more, after pointing out a couple of factual errors.  But I wish him well.
I should add that I have made some interesting email contacts among my regular readers as well.

1 comment:

  1. As I and others have said, it'll be sad times if this blog does go completely. Of course we have to appreciate the effort Historian goes to keep it ticking over. So the end of an era for Watching A4e? Possibly. Certainly the end of an error where A4e is concerned.

    Whatever happens, the rise of the W2W sector and outsourcing in general has to be watched. In particular their lucrative contracts and dodgy practices.

    Former Tory PM Ted Heath in a nationwide TV address once famously asked ''Who governs Britain?'' This was in response to the mining and power unions who he and many felt were holding Britain to ransom leading to power outages and the famed three day week.

    This very question is just as relevant today, if not more so. However, not with regards to trade unions but more the outsourcing sector. So many public sector services are performed by these firms such as G4s, Capita, Carillion, Serco, Reed, Interserve, Deloitte, and of course A4e. Little wonder some refer to them as the 'privatised state'. They are so ingrained within the public sector provision that it is increasingly difficult to meaningfully punish them for poor performance or even blatant fraud.

    The outsourcing giants along with the banking sector have certainly had successive governments over a barrel. I don't see this changing any time soon I'm afraid.


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