Thursday, November 28, 2013

TOP BILLING - HAS IT FAVOURED BLACKS IN ITS R6-million COMPETITION?


Dear TV Viewers,

         I don’t know if I will fall foul of South Africa’s new Secrecy Law if I reveal this, but I’m going to take a chance any way.
         Have you noticed that odd things have been happening lately on Top Billing, one of the Government’s South African Broadcasting Corporation’s most popular programmes?

         In a land where most of the people are poor and half of them are unemployed Top Billing highlights the lives of the very rich by showing homes and other luxuries that very few people will ever be able to afford.
         Since the Black African National Congress came to power in 1994 their policy of Black Economic Empowerment has been implemented to ensure that Blacks get jobs before anybody else and that being the right colour is the most imported qualification for everybody.

         However if this is allowed to creep into a COMPETITION with a Grand Prize valued at nearly R6-million it devalues the whole thing.

         Top Billing has been running this to celebrate its 21st anniversary. In keeping with its luxury image the Grand Prize consists of a Cape Town apartment valued at R3.5-million sponsored by Private Property; furniture and appliances worth R1.5-million; a R700 000 Cabriolet sports car and a R100 000 Woolworths spurge.
         As part of the competition two competitors have been competing each week in a quiz via telephone live. The show airs on SABC 3 every Thursday and in this Private Property section competitors can win an iPad mini and be entitled to go forward to the next round of the competition. The questions relate to the particular episode in which the quiz takes place.

         However in two of these that I watched it appeared as if Blacks were getting preferential treatment.
BASSIE KUMALO

PATIENCE STEVENS

         Top Billing is produced by Tswelopele Productions that was founded by Patience Stevens and Basetsana Kumalo, a former Miss South Africa and Miss World runner up. This company also produces two other SABC programmes Pasella, which is in Afrikaans and Ses’khona which is in the local Siswati and Ndebele tongue.

         Stevens, who heads the company, has said that it is one of the very few empowerment (presumably Black empowerment) television companies. And that although it is important to us, in that we are proud to be recognised as one of the Top 300 empowerment companies in  South Africa, we never assume the acquisition of business contracts based on this. Companies want to work with us because of our reputation of getting the job done on time in the most professional manner. For them, the fact that we were empowered is just an added bonus.

         This is what happened on the iPad quizzes I saw. 

17 October 2013:
THULANI XHAKAZA
The competitors were a Black guy Thulani Xhakaza and Manoj Bhudia. They were each asked questions and from what I saw the presenter appeared to be perfectly satisfied with the way it went and I could see nothing wrong with it either. Xhakaza was well beaten with Bhudia getting four questions right to Xhakaza’s 1. So he was declared the winner of an iPad enabling him to go through to the next round.             
MANOJ BHUDIA
                                                               

The following week I was surprised to see Xhakaza appearing on my screen again; given an iPad and told that he was still in the competition. So I asked Patience Stevens for an explanation.

         
She explained that having reviewed the show of the previous week they noticed that on the second question our presenter had not heard Thulani Xhakaza say his name first, so she did not give Thulani the chance to answer first. This happened again on question four.
So in the interests of fairness to both parties and to give Thulani the benefit of the doubt that he could have answered both the questions correctly had he been given the chance, and therefore won 3/2, both Thulani and Manoj were award prizes.
This means that both their names go into the draw for the one place amongst the ten finalists that will be filled by a winner of the smart tablet competition.
I then asked her in an email: But even if one accepts your explanation surely it is totally unfair to give somebody an iPad and advance them in the competition when they haven’t won anything by answering questions as the other people have done? But she didn’t reply to this.

Her explanation did not make sense as the rules make out that competitors take it in turns to answer the questions.  

24 October 2013:
        This time the organisers seemed determined to make sure that there was not a repeated of what happened the previous week. The competitors were a Black woman, Thandi Tlaka and Clifford Olivier. Some of their questions were repeated and they were given help with the answers. And both were given an iPad on the basis they had an equal number of correct answers.
AIDEN BENNETT
         I made a point of recording this quiz which began with presenter Aidan Bennett saying: You each have a turn to answer a question.  

         He asked Olivier where the dream home was situated: Was it in De Waterkant or Woodstock? When he didn’t answered immediately he was told it rhymed with water and he then gave De Waterkant, which was the correct answer.

         One of Tlaka's questions was: Telkom are
known as the leaders in fixed broadband or fixed wireless? After having the question repeated she answered quite deliberately Fixed broad brand.
         Absolutely correct Bennett told her when it wasn’t.
         I told Stevens that I had let three people with much younger ears than mine listen to the recording and they all agreed that what Tlaka had said was brand not band.
         But when I put this to Stevens she maintained that Tlaka had hesitated for 2 seconds and responded with ‘fixed broadband.’
         While the question was repeated for Thandi, Clifford Olivier was given a clue regarding the suburb in which the dream home is located which helped him answer the question correctly, so both contestants  were given an equal opportunity to succeed, and both won an iPad, Stevens maintained.said.
         If Clifford had not been given the clue Thandi would have been the winner.
         So whatever version you accept, mine or hers this was not fair to other competitors who didn’t get the same kind of help.

         She maintained, In all instances we aim to be fair to our viewers and contestants and to allow them a chance to win and enjoy being part of the competition.
      
JUSTIN CLARKE
  
Justin Clarke
, the founder and head of Private Property that lists properties on the web, told me his company was not involved in the judging in any way.

         I have read your comments and don’t feel there is anything unfair in the way the competition has been run. There are still further levels of the competition so whether there are 10 or 20 iPad winners, it will have no real significance on the overall outcome.

         In two subsequent episodes I watched nobody had a question repeated and nobody was given a clue. And when I mentioned one of these to Stevens saying: This was how all of them should have been done.

         She replied: Glad you were happy – thanks for the feedback.

         SO YOU BE THE JUDGE: WAS TOP BILLING PRACTISING BLACK ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT IN THIS COMPETITION OR WAS IT BEING IN ANY OTHER WAY UNFAIR TO OTHER COMPETITORS       


Regards Consumer Watchdog Jon










JERSEY EVENING POST -THE ONE EYED PAPER


     

TOP SECRET

Not for Publication. Any breach of this will be dealt with severely under Jersey’s DATA PROTECTION LAW.


Dear Andy Sibcy, Editor Designate of the Jersey Evening Post,

CHRIS BRIGHT & ANDY SIBCY
         On 31 October I sent an email to your Editor Chris Bright asking various questions about my son Simon Abbott who died in Jersey last June aged 47. (See my posts DID CYBER-BULLIES KILL SIMON ABBOTT? DEFENDING MURRAY NORTON by Tony Bellows; BBC'S DILEMMA - DEFINING CYBER-BULLYING etc)

My questions were of such an inflammable nature and so dangerous to the safety of the States of Jersey that Bright felt he could not answer me by email as that was far too risky.  So, through his PA Corinne Wiseman, he asked for my address so that he could post me a letter.

It didn’t seem to occur to him that if that was intercepted my cover as an MI 5 operative would have been completely blown and everyone would know where I lived.

Anyway I took the risk and then you replied on his behalf in a letter dated 8 November. But I can tell you I have doubled the number of day and night armed guards around my home.

As you know this is what I said with your answers in orange and my additional comments in brackets.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I gather you are the Editor of the JEP and as such could you help me. As you no doubt know my son Simon Abbott was extensively cyber-bullied by Murray Norton, Ian le Sueur and others over a period of about two years. The result was that he instituted a libel action against these two and six other people in Jersey’s Royal Court. Even the greenest cub reporter would recognise that this is a crackerjack story, especially on a small island like Jersey. So can you tell me why your paper never so much as mentioned a word of this?
You state as a matter of fact that your son was ‘extensively cyber-bullied’ by Murray Norton. I cannot agree with your cut-and-dried assessment. It is true that serious allegations have been made about the behaviour of Mr Norton, but these remain unsubstantiated. I am informed by the States of Jersey Police that there is currently no police investigation into those allegations.
MAIL ON SUNDAY ARTICLE
We were not aware of accusations of cyber-bullying until the article in the Mail on Sunday. (That just shows how blind your paper is to very newsworthy events that happen under your nose in Jersey. The cyber-bullying of my son had been going on for about two years before the Mail article appeared on 13 October 2013. And any decent paper would have fired all its reporters if none of them had heard about this, especially on a small island of only 100 000 people. This is so improbably that one can only assume that you had a more dubious reason for keeping this out of your paper)

You go on to say: Had your son’s libel action against Mr Norton and others got to court, the Jersey Evening Post would have reported those proceedings. (That’s either a lie or a case of your news team once again being so incompetent that it is unaware of what’s happening on your island)

At the time when Simon began his civil action the Royal Court did not release papers relating to such proceedings to the media. In any event they would not have become privileged documents until the other parties had filed a response with the court. (I suppose it would come as great surprise to you to hear that this was done towards the end of last year making the entire case available for any paper to report on. Living in South Africa half a world away from Jersey I was able to get copies of all the documents after my son died, yet your paper was unaware that they were even available for publication. On any decent paper, that doesn’t have a very dubious hidden agenda; the editor could be fired for that)

Even in the last few days when your paper carried reports about moves to outlaw cyber-bullying your paper reported that my son’s inquest was still to be held but you did not mention his name or anything about the background to his case. Why was that? But you did carry a story about some American girl who committed suicide because of cyber-bullying, hardly something that was relevant to Jersey. Standing Orders of the Island’s Parliament forbid the naming of people in the Chamber in situations like this. In this case we felt it was responsible to follow that protocol. (Come off it. That was just another excuse for you not to mention my son’s name or the circumstances surrounding what had happened to him. From what you say the Standing Orders do not control what newspapers say)


On 30 October Norton announce on his Jersey Radio show that this was his “last day for the foreseeable future.” Has you paper carried a report on this?

Norton’s contractual arrangements with the BBC are of no great news interest to us. (In this one sentence you have revealed exactly why you never reported on people who were cyber-bullying Simon – it was to protect Norton and his friends)

I now understand completely why some people in Jersey call your paper the JERSEY EVENING PROPAGANDA or is it the JERSEY EVENING PRAVDA?


Regards Jon, a disgusted former journalist, father and Poor Man's Press Ombudsman. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

BBC'S DILEMMA - DEFINING CYBER-BULLYING



DAVID HOLDSWORTH
Dear Readers,

         You would think that the BBC that well known pillar of British broadcasting that sets a high standard of investigative journalism with programmes like Panorama would know what cyber-bullying is. In the case of my son Simon Abbott the corporation couldn’t even recognise it after looking up its definition in the dictionary.
         But then white wash was clouding its vision and it was even more difficult to see things clearly when one of its own had been doing the bullying.
         This is what happened when I complained to Jon Gripton, head of the BBC in the Channel Island of Jersey, that Murray Norton, one of his radio presenters had cyber-bullied my son (See my posts DID CYBER-BULLIES KILL SIMON ABBOTT; CYBER WOLVES HUNTING SIMON ABBOTT  etc). It was after my son had died of a heart attack in Jersey aged 47 and I was unaware that he had previous complained to Gripton.
         I sent him a comprehensive dossier that included extracts from the court records of when Simon sued Norton, his photographer friend Ian le Sueur and six others for libel in a desperate bid to get them to stop trashing his name on social media.  

Gripton replied with this brush off. He said he and the BBC complaints team had previously investigated what I had raised after Simon had complained. He added that he did not condone cyber-bullying and refuted any allegation that BBC Radio Jersey initiated or condoned this. He told me that if I didn’t agree I should take the matter up with the Jersey Police.
It was only after I emailed him the same day saying he had neglected to tell me what the result was of his investigations that he replied saying that they found Simon’s and your allegations against the BBC unfounded.
Norton, he wrote, was a freelance and he had told Simon that if he had a complaint against Norton outside his work for the BBC he should pursue it elsewhere as it was not for me to investigate.
I told Gripton that he protesteth too much as I had never suggested that the BBC was involved in cyber-bullying or that it endorsed it. I told him that if the BBC considered this totally unacceptable it was warped morality for it to say it wasn’t its problem if a freelance did this in his spare time because it could still reflect on the BBC.
I also told him he was not convincing when he claimed that he personally did not condone cyber-bullying and I asked: Wasn’t it you who stated it was ‘very amusing’ when somebody was cyber-bullying Shona Pitman, a member of the Jersey parliament, with ‘particularly offensive comments’? In the same Tweet you mocked her husband Trevor.
A couple of days later Gripton sent me an outline of how Simon’s complaint was handled. This made our BBC chief look even more ridiculous. He stated that he got Simon’s complaint in October 2011 and he then made Norton aware of his responsibilities as a freelance presenter working on the BBC, stressed the need for impartiality and reiterated the need to bear this in mind in any dealings in his personal social media or indeed elsewhere.
What! Was this the same person he was talking about when he told Simon that what Norton did outside his work for the BBC was not for me to investigate?
GRIPTON coming out.
Further down the outline he sent me Gripton made himself look an even bigger Charlie by stating: I was of course aware of his (Norton’s) postings on his private Facebook page, but felt, following  my investigations, that this was not a matter for the BBC.
And although he describes himself as a social media wizard Gripton forgot that on Norton’s Facebook page he is listed as his friend since 2011. And that he was also in the Facebook circle and was one of the Twitter followers of Norton’s friend Le Sueur, who aided and abetted Norton in bullying Simon.
So don’t you think you should have got somebody else to investigate Simon’s complaint as you could hardly be described as an impartial judge, I asked him.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT HE'S SMOKING


That was when he decided to pass the buck up the line to David Holdsworth, Controller, English Regions, BBC News.
Absolutely DEVINE
As Simon had earlier got no joy from Gripton he had complained to the BBC’s Regional Head, Leo Devine, who did his own investigation and still sided with Gripton.
A couple of days ago Holdsworth came back to me with his decision. He supported his subordinates who had found no evidence that Murray Norton had engaged in or incited cyber-bullying on either BBC or personal accounts, or on public websites.
Holdsworth also concluded that the investigations were properly done.

But how odd is this? According to Holdsworth Divine spoke to Norton, who had ceased posting any comments about Simon Abbott in 2011, after your son had complained and confirmed that he would not be posting further comments.

Norton was doing nothing wrong in the BBC’s eyes, but he suddenly stops doing it when Simon complains. Well actually that’s not quite true. He fired at least one last salvo at Simon on his Facebook page in about November 2011.

This is what he said: I have pretty much run out of patience with this guy. I’ve met him, tried to help him (like hell) and he has even had the cheek to complain to the BBC that I am harassing him. The Police and the press and possibly the taxation authorities must be sent all complaints, with hard evidence that Simon has actually done something wrong, if they are to do something. In Surrey, where his late sister lived, the local Sutton newspaper is tracking him and have been in touch. In Devon the press are following him. I got this the other day. Damien Mills: ‘Hi I’m a journalist in Exeter, Devon, where Simon Abbott is staging another of his infamous fashion shows.’ Give him a shout and tell him your stories and concerns. My concern is his constant appealing to the ‘wannabe’ mentality of young girls asking for models for events that do not exist. He appears to get some replies for unsuspecting girls, some of whom give their details and even phone numbers. Simon, if you are reading this, which my friends he might be, give it up, come clean on the finances of the Trust, put the items you claim to have from the famous to good use. I’ll auction them for some people in real need instead of fake events that help no-one, even those of us trying to raise funds.
Helpfully Holdsworth included this Oxford Dictionary definition of cyber-bullying in his letter to me. It is the use of information technology to bully a person by sending or posting text or images of an intimidating or threatening nature.

Well I don’t think anybody who understands the English language would possibly say that this comment of Norton’s was anything other than intimidating and threatening.

Evidently three of the BBC’s senior executives thought otherwise.

What made it even worse was that this painted Simon as a rogue when there was no evidence to support this at all. Had this been the case the Police would have acted against him which was something that never happened.
All Simon was trying to do was to raise money for the Samantha Abbott Trust. He set this up to help women suffering from post natal depression, because that was what his sister was suffering from when she committed suicide.

MURRAY NORTON
The entire emphasis of the BBC’s investigation appears to have been on what Norton actually posted with the result that no mention is made of what Norton’s photographer friend, Ian le Sueur got up to clearly at Norton’s instigation. Norton organised for Le Sueur to snatch a picture of Simon when he met Simon at a church. 
Flash IAN LE SUEUR
Le Sueur then used this picture to bully Simon on the internet and to enable their fellow bullies to identify Simon whenever he went out so they could post further harassing messages with the result that he was scared to leave home alone towards the end of his life. 
And as Norton organised for the picture to be taken he must share the blame for what Le Sueur did with it.

 
SIMON'S cry for help after LE SUEUR was spamming Twitter with his picture calling him a con man


Was that not clearly inciting cyber-bullying or am I once again confusing plain English with double Dutch?
That's LE SUEUR'S business

If I, as an outsider, could find out that Gripton had a jocular view of cyber-bullying and was too close to both Norton and Le Sueur to judge this matter impartially surely, if the BBC’s sleuths did not already know about it, they could have found out.
So the only inference one can reasonably draw is that they chose to ignore it because it reflected badly on Gripton and as such on the way the investigation was handled.
Wouldn’t this be a good one for Panorama or better still CNN’s 60 Minutes.

Regards,
Jon 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

SIMON ABBOTT'S INQUEST - WILL IT TELL THE REAL STORY?


Dear Readers,

         The inquest into the death of my son Simon Abbott is scheduled to take place early next month in the Channel Island of Jersey. Hopefully this will clear up some of the mysteries surrounding his early demise at the age of 47.

         One of the main questions that needs to be answered is this: Did two years of relentless cyber-bullying coupled with one or perhaps two assaults contribute to his death. (See my posts DID CYBER-BULLIES KILL SIMON ABBOT? CYBER WOLVES HUNTING SIMON ABBOTT etc)
         He died in hospital on Monday 17 June this year after collapsing at a cafĂ© in St Helier, the Island’s capital.
         The very thorough post mortem was done by Dr Russell Delaney who concluded that the cause of death was severe coronary artery atherosclerosis. In layman’s language this was hardening of the artery, one of the leading causes of heart attacks.
         His report refers to some disturbing things that happened to Simon in the year before he died and touches on what turned out to be deplorable treatment he received at Jersey’s General Hospital.

         The General Practice notes, Dr Delaney wrote, indicated that he had attended in September 2012 complaining of headache following several assaults involving punches to the head. A CT scan showed no abnormality and the post mortem did not show any changes to suggest that a previous assault contributed to his death in any way. There was an attendance prior to that for headache. He was known to suffer from anxiety.

         Simon claimed to have been assaulted by Ian le Sueur, a freelance photographer on the Island and close friend of BBC Jersey radio presenter Murray Norton.
IAN LE SUEUR

         And it was around September 2012 that he began libel actions in Jersey’s Royal Court against these two and six other people he claimed had defamed him on social media.
         But what Dr Delaney didn’t mention, no doubt because he was unaware of it, was what happened when Simon went to hospital.
Jacques Chartier was in one of the wards last year when Simon came in. This is what he told me: Simon mentioned he had been assaulted and was a bit agitated, but still polite to everyone. He did not get any help from the staff and I explained that it had taken four days for someone to speak to me. Simon asked to see a doctor and while making his complaint he asked the doctor to take notes.
A few minutes later he asked to see the doctor’s pad and it was blank.  Simon was not at all happy, so he signed himself out and went home.

To say that this was shocking would be a remissful understatement. But that was not the end of it, there was more.

Dr Delaney reported that Simon also attended A&E (Accident and Emergency Department at the Jersey Hospital) in early June complaining of chest pains. No abnormality was noted on ECG and he was reassured.

A court hearing in relation to Simon’s libel action was held on Friday 14 June 2013 and Jacques saw him the following day.

He was happy that he was progressing with his court case, Jacques told me. He complained of being out of breath and feeling chest and arm pains (As a layman I believe these are classic signs of an impending heart attack). I told him he should go and see a doctor and he said he had been to the A&E and they told him there was nothing wrong with him.

       There was so little wrong with him that TWO DAYS later he was dead.

         According to Dr Delaney Simon had not been under the influence of alcohol or any of the common drugs of abuse. That was comforting otherwise the bullies would no doubt have used that to slander him still further even though he was dead.
         The doctor concluded his report by saying, I note the history of possible ‘cyber-bulling’. It is recognised that acutely stressful events can be associated with sudden cardiac death when there is a clear temporal relationship between such an event and the sudden death. In this case it would appear that any such stressful event was occurring over a long-term basis, and in my opinion there is no causal link between this and his sudden death.   

         Dr Delaney doesn’t seem to have taken into account the fact that for Simon the cyber-bullying was no doubt an acutely stressful event that happened almost on a daily basis for something like two years right up until the time he died.
         The doctor’s use of the words possible ‘cyber bullying’ implies that this might not have happened when there is amply proof that this did happen over an extended period.

         However in an article headed Stress Breaks Hearts. Emotional Stress Alters Heart Function, Ups Heart Disease Risk, Daniel DeNoon of WebMD Health News reported on the findings of Daniel Brotman, MD, director of the hospitalist programme at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, USA.

         Brotman’s study concluded: 

·      People who suffer chronic anxiety are more likely than others to suffer heart attack and sudden heart death. 

·      Emotional trauma such as the death of a spouse, mental or physical abuse increases the risk of heart attack and heart death. (In Simon’s case his sister died after his mother had already died and not long afterwards the cyber-bulling began and he was also assaulted, evidently in relation to this cyber-bulling) 

·      Even when intense bouts of emotion (like Simon had because of the cyber-bullying) don’t kill, they may cause long-lasting heart damage.

 
            So according to this study what Simon endured not long after losing his mother and then his sister and only sibling, which left him essentially alone in Jersey without the support of a single relative, made the stress caused by the cyber-bullying a very likely link to his sudden death.

Here’s one of the worst examples of what Simon had to contend with on one occasion after Norton had set the ball rolling on Facebook and others joined in.

Edgar Steinberg

From what I read I would like to see this man seriously being hit on his face. Twice. Honestly. 

Simon Soar

I'd donate money to charity to see that.

         Even on the day he died somebody couldn’t resist having a final dig at Simon.




         And probably the same person sent me this comment for a post I wrote about the funeral of my daughter Samantha who committed suicide.

 

Of course it was Anonymous. This kind of person doesn’t have the guts to be named. What’s the opposite to the Victoria Cross?
         We will now have to wait for the inquest to see what happens.    

Regards,
         Jon