Simon Cowell – too powerful?

A throwaway remark from the compere on last night’s X Factor rather gave the game away – going first to Simon Cowell because he was “contractually obliged to” rather pointed out who’s really in charge of the whole, carefully staged event that is The Simon Cowell Show – er, sorry, X Factor.

Good luck to Simon. He’s made pots of money from his ventures. But I do worry about how many hours his enterprise has of TV time, plus his apparent armlock on the whole process of creating new pop stars. In the real world, we know there are plenty of other ways to achieve what you want – but what’s worrying is the number of the general public who seem to think that winning the X Factor is the only way they will achieve success. And they think that becoming a pop star will make them happy. 

And, oh the amount of crying along the way (whether they win or lose, it seems). With product placement about to become legit, it’s a shoe-in for Kleenex!

But, on the day when the Daily Mail printed a lengthy apology to Madge announcing it had paid substantial damages for publishing pix of her wedding without her say so, I’m just wondering if celebrities don’t have too much control of the British media.


Ryanair and the BBC ready for a fight

So the BBC Panorama programme has been investigating Ryanair and is about to run a programme all about how the airline works. 

And boss Mr O’Leary doesn’t like it. In particular, he objects to the fact that the Panorama folks wouldn’t interview him for the programme – but only if they met his demands not to edit the interview, or to run the interview live. Sorry, but if you want unedited airtime, it’s called an ad – and you can buy the right to run those between the programmes on commercial TV!

What are we about to be told we didn’t know? Ryanair specialises in challenging the norm in its industry. It claims to have the lowest fares; it has salami sliced pricing which confuses this claim; it trys to get the customer to do everything except drive the plane; it has public rows with airports over landing fees; it is ruthless. And these different ways of doing things annoy some folk, while others who get very cheaply from A to B are happy with the deal. 

Personally, my view is tempered by a trip to Venice (well, an airport some way off) when we pre-booked a hire car with Ryanair. Having landed, the car hire guy simply didn’t have a car for us – the airport was so small, the cars were only delivered individually for customers, and ours had been forgotten. We got a cab to the nearest town, a room for the night, and had to organise another hire car from someone else; a fair few incidental expenses. And trying to get a refund from Ryanair was a nightmare in practice. 

To quote John Ruskin: “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s also unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. 

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do. 

The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can’t be done. If you buy the cheapest, it’s well to add something for the risk you take. And if you do that, you will have enough money to pay for something better.”


National Enterprise Academy inspires

It was inspiring to be at the launch of the second year of the National Enterprise Academy in Amersham. Here’s a new initiative to get our teenagers schooled in some useful life skills, rather than perpetuating the myth that school is preparing them for a life of steady employment. That’s never going to happen again! 

Having got through its first, trial year, this initiative led by Peter Jones of Dragon’s Den fame is now on track to funnel and harness the entrpreneurial skills of  an intake of students both at the Amersham campus and a new facility in Manchester. Having worked with last year’s students, I am delighted it is proving so successful – they are so keen to learn and make a success of their lives. 

The irony is, if they had gone to university to study existing courses, this entrepreneurial drive would probably have been wasted or at least stifled. I look forward to working with these exciting young people in the year ahead.