Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ear, Ear

I haven't done much in the way of social commentary, lately. Okay, I admit it, I've been lazy. However, lend an ear, as the following has caused me to break my silence.
For several weeks, there has been a TV advertisement airing, here in the UK, promoting Walkers Crisps and Comic Relief. For readers in America, "crisps" are what Americans would call, "potato chips." In the ad, Gary Lineker, a former England football star who is now a TV presenter, is one of a number of celebrities who are portrayed as students in a classroom. The teacher, played by Stephen Fry, is doing the class roll call. After each student's name is called, he or she replies, "ear." All of the students are wearing fake, red ears. All, that is, except Gary Lineker. He replies, "here," and just has his natural ears. Lineker is know for having big ears. The teacher tells him to take off the fake, promotional ears and drags him, by his ear, from the class. Okay, not a fantastic punchline, but it's for charity Comic Relief. A voiceover at the end urges viewers to visit
I don't have a problem with the ad, but earlier this week, I was reading my favorite London newspaper, "Metro" (April 4, 2007), when I spotted a story reporting that Advertising Standards Authority had conducted a "thorough investigation" of the ad after receiving "a dozen" complaints that it mocked people with big ears. The last time I was in a classroom "a dozen" meant twelve. So, out of a nation of about 66 million people, twelve had nothing more going on in their lives and decided to formally complain about a charity ad sponsored by a crisps company. I would like to know how much money this useless investigation cost. The Advertising Standards Authority is an independent body set up by the advertising industry to police advertising. They are funded through "levies" (sounds like a tax) on broadcast airtime charges, display ads, and direct mail advertising. Ultimately, they can call upon government agencies, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading, to help force advertisers to comply with their dictates. Any fees charged on advertising costs will be passed on to the consumers, so it is we who are ultimately paying for this time wasting malarkey.
If that's not enough, in the same issue of "Metro," in their "Metro Digest" section, I find it reported that the Highways Agency (part of the Department of Transportation and directly funded by taxes), has spent £145,000 creating at traffic jam. The money is being spent as part of a six week long "experiment," which includes putting over 1,000 cones along a slip road (exit) at Junction 19 of the M25, to discourage drivers from exiting there in order to avoid congestion on the M25. The result will be more cars stuck in congestion on the M25 and a bigger traffic jam. Some local residents in the area consider the scheme "crazy." In response to suggestions that this project is a waste of taxpayers' money, the Highways Agency said, "£145,000 is less than a drop in the ocean...our budget is £330 million." Such is the attitude of government terrocrats as they spend YOUR money. Taxation is theft. I'm going to go have breakfast, before I drive my blood pressure up.

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