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Are the French getting their act together?

Mon dieu! Riots in the Sorbonne. Trades Unions picketing the Champs Elysee. And why? Because Dominique de Villepin is to pass a law allowing employers to fire under 26 year olds without giving a reason.

Incroyable! People being fired for not being very good at their jobs! It couldn't happen here could it? Thought not.

Back from the grave

Boo.com is preparing for a relaunch. And why not? It’s got the best known brand name in cyberspace. And the internet is now fast enough to do what it attempted in 2000.

No word on what’s it’s going to sell. What was it flogging first time round? No, I can’t remember either.

At last, the internet speeds up

Just as the government’s demanding we spend gazillions switching from analogue radio and tv to digital, along comes a technology making Freeview and DAB obsolete.

ADSL2+ is a way of making the internet go faster. Much, much faster. It sends information over the existing copper cables at a higher frequency, so instead of getting 2MB a second top speed, you get 24MB. This means you can watch high definition TV over the internet. Equally amazing is the cost - Be Internet offers a 24MB service with no download limits for £24 per month - not much pricier than BT’s ‘fast’ offering of 2MB. Full story here .

The implications for this breakthrough are massive. No need for satellite dishes and subscriptions to Sky. No need for costly DAB radios. And because the internet is global, you’ll be able to watch Premier League football without paying for it (although the commentary might be in Chinese).

The VC industry already realises this: Be Internet’s just raised £24.5m. AOL is investing £120m to convert local telephone exchanges to ADSL2+. But does the government, which is furiously timetabling the digital switchover, realise what’s happening? Does Rupert Murdoch?

PS: Peasants who live in rural areas such as Lincolnshire, Wales, Scotland etc, will not get this new service. But the Freeview signal’s going to be iffy too. Tough.

Crazy Frog's advertising binge

Where would the British media be without the Crazy Frog? Last year the irritating anthropomorphic amphibian spent £45m promoting himself in the UK, £28m of which went on TV adverts, £16m on print.

To put this into context: £45m is a quarter of what the top advertiser Unilever spent promoting all its products. It ’ s £11m more than Microsoft spent!

For his money the Crazy Frog got some serious airtime. In May alone he bought 73,716 spots on British TV at a cost of £8m. This meant 87 per cent of the UK population saw his ad , at an average of 26 times. An estimated 10 per cent of the population saw it more than 60 times. Pity those poor souls, but remember: ITV was trousering £4m a month from the Frog during that period. Welcome money when the best thing you've got to broadcast is Celebrity Love Island.

Bernanke: Lamont’s no1 fan

Will Norman Lamont be remembered as the most inspirational politician of our times? Impossible? Well consider this: Ben Bernanke, the new guy at the Fed is a Lamont fan. For years Bernanke has been advocating the US adopt inflation targeting, the strategy Lamont pioneered in 1992 and which has been adopted in 20 countries including Australia, Canada, Israel, Sweden and the European Central Bank.

Lamont came up with inflation targeting in the aftermath of "Black Wednesday" in September 1992. His revolutionary objective was to keep underlying inflation within the range 1-4 per cent but aiming for "the lower half of that range". In addition, a target rate of 0.4 per cent was retained for the narrow monetary aggregate M0, and a "monitoring range" for the broad monetary aggregate M4.

The effects of this approach have been wonderful - an end to political tinkering with the interest rate and stable and low inflation, something unimaginable before Lamont. Is he recognised for this? No - all the press remembers are his Gerald Scarfe eyebrows and his role in the ERM fiasco.

This is unjust. For starters, Lamont always opposed Britain’s membership of the Euro, and forecast the problems that occurred. He was the first to propose handing over control of interest rates to an independent monetary policy committee, which Gordon Brown effected in 1997. He was cool under fire, singing in the bath during crises and declaring "Je ne regrette rien" about the Britain leaving the ERM.

And Lamont’s fiscal record was superb. His 1993 budget, The Times’s Anatole Kaletsky says, "put Britain’s fiscal house in order once and for all after Black Wednesday and paved the way for more than a decade of uninterrupted economic growth".

The man is a legend, as Bernanke will testify. Isn’t it time we Brits gave "Norma" a long-overdue pat on the back – and remind Gordon Brown just who really is reponsible for our current prosperity?


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