a week in wireless

Moans 4u

It is a hazard of the journalistic trade to be persistently lied to. Most of these are pretty benign lies, or not even that – merely half-truths, exaggerations or hyperbole – but the selective dissemination of information by those with an overt agenda is big business.

When it takes on the form of advertising and other such marketing activities everyone knows where they stand. With the exception of the young, the naïve and the drunk, everyone understands that when a TV ad says something’s great, it’s not a statement of empirical, scientifically verified fact. Rather we’re getting the opinion of a group of people whose living depends on selling the thing they’re advertising. Consequently we take the assertion with a pinch of salt and rarely rush out to buy the lauded product without some degree of further due diligence.

When we hear something on the news however, or read it in the papers, or on the Internet, published by a trusted third party, we tend to take it a lot more literally. This message is being conveyed to us by a neutral with no vested interest in swaying our opinion. The job of the journalist, we assume, is to bring us the facts, the word on the street, the TRUTH.

Imagine, then, how appealing the prospect of conveying an advertising message through this trusted, independent channel must be to marketing professionals. So appealing, in fact, that they devote a significant chunk of their time and resources to doing just that and have even given this discipline its own name: public relations.

The relationship between journalist and PR professional is an intriguing one. As the gateway to a sympathetic audience the hack is all important to the flack. Consequently a significant perk of the profession is the almost surreal desire of complete strangers to take you out to lunch, on exotic trips and to subsidise the copious drinking on which all truly great journalistic careers are based.

On the flip side, journalists also rely heavily on PRs to help them do their job. Not just for the unceasing torrent of press releases that dominate the typical journalistic inbox, but for access to sources, background briefings supporting collateral and many other things that enable them to do their thing. In other words it’s a symbiotic relationship which, when it works well, is based on mutual respect.

Not everyone sees it that way though. Some journalists abuse their exalted status with diva-like behaviour and accommodating them is one of the less attractive aspects of the PR profession. Conversely some individuals and companies seem to consider hacks to be merely tools for the pursuit of their own agenda and brief them accordingly.

This is clearly what has been happening during the whole sorry Phones 4u saga that played out this week. To paraphrase Churchill, never in the field of public relations was so much of an agenda conveyed to so many by so few. There almost certainly have been even greater examples of people trying to appropriate the media for their own ends, but this is nonetheless a prime example.

Aside from that, the spectacle of hardened capitalists publicly moaning about how unfair it all is that a business arrangement has gone sour on them is frankly embarrassing, and it happens all the time. Remember when Facebook had its IPO and the shares initially went down in value? The wailing and gnashing of teeth from pin-striped Wall Street types was deafening amid their claims that the initial price of Facebook shares had been too high. If that was the case then why did they buy them?

Operators themselves are far from immune from this kind of self-serving indignation. There was a time when barely a day went by without some telco exec or other publicly moaning about how much their company was having to spend on subsidising handsets. Again, why do it then? The answer is that subsidised handsets are a significant way of attracting subscribers. End of.

An additional moan was brought to the attention of the Informer today in the form of a press release issued by one Athanasios Papistas, the founder of the Mobile Trade Stores retail chain in Greece. He sees echoes of the demise of his own business in Phones 4u and is touchingly concerned that others should not share his fate. Oh yes, and for the Phones 4u employees of course, mustn’t forget them.

“I am saddened that many people in the UK are facing a very uncertain future because of the decision by the Vodafone board to cancel its agreements with Phones 4u,” said Papistas. “My business in Greece experienced exactly the same scenario when we operated Vodafone franchises in Greece. It’s time the consumers across Europe stopped buying Vodafone products and learnt how this corporation has no regard for its partners or customers.” Definitely no agenda there, then. And he somehow forgot to mention that he sued Vodafone for over a billion quid earlier this year.

On a complete tangent, the Informer notes that Scotland voted to remain part of the UK today. Both factions became increasingly shrill and partisan as the moment of truth drew near and it’s probably too much to hope that the vote signals the end of moaning on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall. Still, it proved fertile ground for social media larks, with Twitter especially forthcoming.

Tweeter @JamieDMJ provided a couple of Facebook status updates on behalf of Scotland. In the first, Scotland went from being “married” to “it’s complicated”. Then, after the vote, the country reverted to being “in a relationship”.

Scotland status 1Scotland status 2

One other piece of Twitter frivolity was the consequence of an appeal by the Scottish Sun newspaper for readers to fill in the blank page that is post-referendum Scotland. The Internet duly obliged, and this is just one of the responses, some of which have no place in a mature, dignified publication such asTelecoms.com

Scottish Sun

Take care.

The Informer



  1. Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 24/09/2014 @ 11:15 am

    That’s what they’re counting on.

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