There is a minor media storm currently doing the rounds about the Facebook group entitled Women Who Eat On Tubes.
[I should add here that – having long ago given up trying to be ‘up to date’ or technologically literate – I am not 100% sure what a Facebook group is and in any event have not yet seen this particular one].
As I understand it, the vehicle does solely and simply what it says on the tin – it posts pictures taken on trains of women eating. There appears to a facility for visitors to the relevant Facebook page to add comments, some of which have apparently been insulting and/or offensive.
The aforementioned media storm is built around the gulf between broadcast media, which has a series of codes regarding what editorially and legally it can record and broadcast without the consent of the ‘subject’ [summary: very little, and only in certain ‘public interest’ circumstances], and the legal and moral constraints upon what can be recorded and broadcast upon internet-based ‘social media’ [summary: practically nil].
On television last night, I watched various media pundits and social media commentators giving their opinions. One such gentleman pointed out that, not for the first time, the world of the internet and social media is so technologically advanced and fast moving that what might broadly be termed ‘the law’ has great difficulty in keeping up with – and maintaining any control over – its developments.
Having I worked in the media myself ages ago [viz. the 1980s and 1990s], I am all too aware how antediluvian were the laws and union conventions applying in England & Wales towards the rights of originators of what might be termed ‘creative items’ (i.e. books, scripts, music, poetry, set designs and even artistic performances by actors, musicians or dancers). These were intended not least to protect the right of such originators to benefit financially from the use of their works by members of the public.
The world of music publishing represented the biggest and weirdest minefield of the lot.
For example, if a television company wished to feature a piece of music in one of its programmes, whether that be as a featured theme song or – for example in a drama programme – as nothing more than a song supposedly playing on the radio in the background of a scene, it had to clear several hurdles.
In certain circumstances, by union agreement, you had to bring musicians into a studio to record a ‘new’ version of the tune [this requirement being designed to ensure session musicians got regular employment] … rather than simply do the obvious alternative of just going down to your local record store and buying the relevant piece of vinyl, like any ordinary member of the public. You then had to pay a sliding scale fee for the right to ‘make your own recording of that tune and physically add it to the medium [e.g. video or film] that you were operating in’.
Finally, you then had to make another payment to the relevant music industry society for actually ‘broadcasting’ the finished piece over the airwaves.
From the management’s point of view, as you can imagine, all this was desperately frustrating, but – rightly or wrongly – the writers/musicians/actors basically had the television and film industries over a barrel.
I say ‘rightly or wrongly’ because, of course, there is a degree to which it is perfectly reasonable that, say, the composer of a great television series theme tune should be entitled to benefit any time that tune is subsequently used in the making of a film or television show.
There is a counter-point to be made, of course, which is that it was a bit like playing the lottery. If you are a music composer and, even decades after you’d composed it, a nondescript little tune of yours is suddenly picked out of the blue for inclusion in a major Hollywood movie, even if this were done for ironic reasons (e.g. the tune was so poor that it was effectively chosen in order to be the specific butt of amusement) it could make you literally millions of dollars in royalties.
Anyway, my purpose today is not to discuss the iniquities – or otherwise – of the British music industry thirty years ago … nor even to point out how the world of the internet and social media has blown its staid old law and conventions to smithereens and forced musicians and their representatives to find newer and cuter ways of benefiting from their creative efforts.
My purpose today is simply to register that this crabby old bird regards the Facebook group Women Who Eat On Trains as a terrific and worthwhile concept.
There are many horrendous aspects of travelling on public transport, e.g. overland trains, Tubes, buses and coaches. One of them is definitely stepping on board and finding yourself in close proximity to some slovenly, unthinking fellow passenger who – whether sitting or standing – suddenly opens a carton, or unfolds a wrapper … and begins to munch with unseemly gusto upon a Burger King whopper with fries, or a piping hot Cornish pasty, or even a ‘ready meal’ of Mediterranean salad and/or pasta.
Exposing such idiots for what they are, whether on the internet, social media and/or just in prime-time terrestrial television would certainly get my vote.
Or indeed, any Facebook group entitled Drunk People On Trains.
And – last but not least – any Facebook group entitled People Who Get Into Trains, Begin Performing (Usually Singing) Horrendously And Then Tell The Whole Carriage How They Won’t Have A Roof Over Their Head Tonight Unless Everyone Present Makes A Donation And Then Go Through the Carriage Holding A Cap Out … And Then Switch To The Adjoining Carriage At The Next Stop.