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Special pleading from the Bearded One


Sky tv has a special place in British wallets. It’s the only way for couch potatoes to get their footie fix, and BSkyB, an offshoot of the worldwide Murdoch empire, knows how to charge for it. This is jolly unfair, Richard Branson writes in Friday’s FT. With more consumer choice, the fans wouldn’t need one of those horrid Sky dishes, or be forced to lock themselves into 12-month contracts with dozens of channels they never watch.

This is all very fine, and Branson likens BSkyB to British Airways before Virgin Atlantic came along to spoil its Heathrow-New York monopoly. Curiously, he can’t find the space in his article to mention which competitor to Sky would be best placed to benefit should Sky be forced to offer films and footie to other broadcasters at regulated prices.

Yep, it’s the cable business formerly known as NTL, into which Beardie injected his Virgin brand in 2006. Cable in Britain is an industry where the costs which have been sunk under the streets will never earn a decent return, going from exciting start-up to technological decline with no boom in between.

Branson has sold down his interest in Virgin Media Inc, but he retains a significant holder, and of course he gets a royalty payment from the use of the Virgin brand.

Simon says no thank you to Kraft cheese slices


It’s not often that you hear an investment banker urging shareholders to consider their duty, unless it’s their duty to vote for his latest money-spinning deal. But Simon Robertson is not your average investment banker, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see him writing to the FT criticising Kraft’s attempt to buy Cadbury.

Formerly of Kleinwort Benson and Goldman Sachs, Robertson’s list of current directorships makes you want to lie down somewhere quiet: HSBC, Berry Brothers & Rudd, the Royal Opera House, the Eden Project, the Royal Academy Trust – oh, and chairman of Rolls-Royce.

This stats spat will run and run (probably)


In case you missed it, there’s a fine spat going on in the letters page of the FT. First off came Ralph Cordery’s perfectly sensible point about the failure of government statisticians to capture the creeping inflation in the incredible shrinking Mars bar, as its weight was cut from 62.5g to 58g.

Somewhat intemperately, he asked; “When are those lying bastards going to stop lying to me?” This was too much for Dame Karen Dunnell, who labours under the ttitle of the National Statistician. the remark was “deeply offensive, unjustifiable and unnecessary’ she bleated.