Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Fearless John Humphrys

When Today's John Humphrys asks a politician a question and it's not answered it, he usually asks it again. And again. And points out the lack of an answer.

Not so if you're Simon Calder, 'a travel writer for the Independent', and you're spinning the Air Traffic Control story as a tale of woe and national embarrassment.

Humphrys asked Calder a reasonable question on how our record of ATC computer failures compared with those of other countries. After all, computer systems crash - it's only if we're worse than other people that we've got a bad news story. It was soon obvious that Calder didn't know, but preferred to waffle rather than admit it. Humphrys asked the question again, Calder repeated his disaster story.

One rule for our media mates and one for our elected representatives ?

Simon Calder " .. yet another sad incident of the sellotape and string which seems to hold together the air traffic control system in this country ..."

John Humphrys " .. I thought we had a fancy new computer system .."

SC "We have ... it was going for about five or six months ... it does seem to be a national embarrassment ..."

JH "Doesn't every other country have similar problems ? There has been a huge increase in air traffic"

SC "Oh sure, for goodness sake, air traffic control normally works brilliantly ... but when it goes wrong, my goodness it goes very badly wrong"

JH "Yes, but does it go wrong more often than it should, is really what I'm asking ?"

SC "Well certainly the cost of this to the airlines is in the tens of millions, there's no way they can recover that cash, that is lost money, people cancelling business trips, cancelling holidays, having to be put up in hotels for possibly several nights, it's happened at a very very bad time, and I'm afraid it's again a national embarrassment in this crucial industry for the UK, in which we punch well above our weight .. "

JH "Hmm"

SC "... it's terrible when things like this just grind to a halt".

JH "Well thanks very much for that Simon"

Next guest - Transport Secretary Alistair Darling. 'Are you going to raise fuel prices in September ?' asks Humphrys. Darling waffles, Humphrys worries the point like a terrier with a rat.

Listen to the whole thing (Realplayer needed) and marvel at the contrast.

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