Friday. 1/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Different points of view

What are entertainers worth compared to journalists? About £10,200 (€12,000) more per hour – or £2,600 (€3,000) per 15 minutes – if one side of a landmark equal-pay case in the UK is to be believed. Samira Ahmed, a journalist who has presented widely across the BBC on TV and radio, is taking the BBC to court claiming almost £700,000 (€812,000) in underpayment for her work on Newswatch, a programme that deals with audience complaints about news coverage. Her lawyers argue that it is similar enough to Points of View – a cosier audience-feedback show – formerly presented by UK broadcaster Jeremy Vine. Ahmed was paid £440 (€510) per programme, Vine £3,000 (€3,500). Both shows are less than 15 minutes long.

The BBC has said that the programmes vary enough in their style, content and viewing figures – not to mention the channels on which they air – for the comparison to be unrealistic. The BBC is right: Ahmed has mostly stuck to news while Vine presents a hugely popular midday music-and-chat show on BBC Radio 2. Vine, annoying as some may find him, is a talented journalist who has successfully swung to entertainment for a tidy sum.

Ahmed may be expecting the force-eight gale of the much-reported “gender pay gap” to put wind in the sails of her case but the tribunal would be wise to resist this weather. Most likely, Ahmed and Vine were paid what they were worth in a media marketplace in which news is simply worth less than entertainment. Ahmed needs a better agent. The rest of us? We’re all searching for that job that only lasts 15 minutes (stop sniggering at the back).

Geopolitics / Europe

Stepping on the gas

Denmark’s decision to approve the controversial Russian Nord Stream 2 gas project this week removes the last major obstacle to the construction of a 1,225km pipeline in the Baltic Sea. But the decision has angered some of Copenhagen’s most important allies and, critics argue, the pipeline will allow Gazprom (Russia’s largely state-owned gas company) to dominate Europe’s energy supply. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has suggested that the decision “strengthens Russia and weakens Europe”, while Donald Trump has warned that Germany could become a “hostage of Russia”. Concerns in Kiev and Washington are not without foundation but Nord Stream 2 might make the transport of gas safer and could help to slash energy bills. If Europe’s leaders are to abandon the continent’s age-old reliance on coal – and ease the economic burden on voters – they might have to put up with Gazprom’s European ambitions.

Society / Hong Kong

Throwing the book

Just when Hong Kong residents thought their freedoms couldn’t be restricted any further, the city’s High Court issued an interim injunction to “restrain” residents from posting any form of online content that could allude to, or incite, violence. A formal hearing is due to take place in two weeks’ time. The somewhat vague terms and conditions would allow the government to crack down on popular online channels and apps such as LIHKG and Telegram.

Many of the city’s activists have turned to these platforms not only to vent their frustrations but also to watch the latest movements around the city. The injunction was issued on the same day that a group of pro-democracy lawmakers tried to revoke a citywide ban on masks. Though authorities might think that these restrictions will silence demonstrators, last night’s large-scale “Halloween protests” suggest that they are simply adding more fuel to the fire.

Geopolitics / Germany

Going cold on Turkey

Turkey’s recent Syria offensive has earned the ire of one of its fellow Nato members. A survey released this week by YouGov indicates that 58 per cent of Germans want Turkey removed from the 29-member military alliance. Proposed export bans and economic sanctions against Turkey have garnered similar support. Many Germans see Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military offensive in northern Syria – launched after the announcement of a US troop withdrawal – as abhorrent and grounds for expulsion, according to the survey commissioned by the German news agency DPA. Never mind that there is no procedure for removing a Nato member, the German view has “more to do with a realigning and questions about what Nato is and what its role is”, historian and author Alex von Tunzelmann said on Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “And perhaps Germany is also trying to assert more of a role there.”

Transport / Italy

Wheels of justice

This week Turin police meted out their first fine for improper use of e-scooters in a move that’s likely to create as much chaos and confusion as the introduction of the tiresome two-wheelers themselves. Italy as a whole is trialling a scheme to let municipalities manage scooter use and in the Piedmont capital this means they must be driven on the road and bear a licence plate, while the driver needs vehicle insurance. Meanwhile, plans are afoot in Milan to banish the battery-powered bothers and keep them outside much of the city centre. The regulatory snarl-up is further complicated by the fact that the nation’s highway code hasn’t been updated for nearly 30 years. Electric scooters might be useful for solving the so-called last-mile conundrum but clearer regulation is needed in Italy and beyond.

M24 / The Urbanist

CityLab 2019

This week we’re in Washington to join civic leaders, mayors and activists at the global summit on cities. We reveal how Atlanta dealt with a massive cyberattack, discuss the difference between urban sound and noise, talk smart mobility in Detroit and hear about the importance of reclaiming our streets.

Monocle Films / Austria

Making it in the city: Vienna’s ateliers

Vienna provided the perfect backdrop for the second instalment of The Monocle Quality of Life Conference in 2016. Monocle Films paid a visit to six of our favourite ateliers and discovers that you can create jobs and wealth with downtown workshops – and the sound of the odd hammer.

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