Dear Editor, The Birmingham Post reported on Thursday that ITV has been slammed by Ofcom for failing to meet its quota of programmes made out-side London ('ITV fails to meet programme quotas', 22/05/08), a stipulation of the 2003 Communica-tions Act.

It is right that a national TV channel should be required to have a national focus. But too often these requirements are met by focusing on the North of England in favour of the Midlands.

The BBC is soon to invest £450 million in studios in Manchester.

In our region, wilful neglect is more typical. Cutbacks have left us with only two local news studios. The studios at BBC Pebble Mill, for so long a nationally renowned symbol of Birmingham, were de-molished in 2005.

And it looks as if the new Drama Village, part-operated by the BBC, is about to be closed down too.

So ITV is not the only guilty party in this drama. We have a long-established tradition in the Midlands of producing high quality TV programmes, and the region's cultural industries sector is one of the fastest-growing in the country.

For how much longer will our vibrant, dynamic and populous region go ignored by the national media?

Neena Gill

Labour MEP for the West Midlands


Looking forward, or backward, to Tory rule

Dear Editor, As a socialist and ex-member of the Labour Party, I felt not the slightest dismay, or disappointment on hearing the result of the Nantwich & Crewe by-election.

This government has shown the electorate the same arrogance and contempt that Britain showed her 'colonial' subjects in previous centuries.

For the Health Minister to state publicly that the NHS is not being privatised, when clearly it is, then the Minister must believe that we are all as simple as we should be.

For a Government Minister to say that the 350-year old Royal Mail is not being privatised proves to me that not merely does it think we are simple, but imbeciles as well.

For a Prime Minister to drag us into a colonial war, show just how unfit he was to hold the highest political office in the country.

For a Prime Minister to tax the lowest paid section of the population, and relieve the highest paid, shows that he has inherited the same mental malaise as his predecessor. For the Conservatives to turn a Labour majority of 7,000 into a Conservative majority of 8,000 is stag-gering.

Has the Government got time to re-cover in two years?

Most unlikely.

We can all look forward (if that is the right word) to a decade or longer of Tory rule.




Facing up to a child's honesty

Dear Editor, My niece was being watched by her five-year-old son as she cleansed, toned and creamed her face.

"Mum", he asked, "Why do you do all that?" "Well," said mum, "It's to keep my skin soft and to take care of it so that it doesn't go all wrinkly and look old."

After a pause he looked at his granny and said to her: "Didn't it work for you granny?"

True story - the things kids say.




Unethical stealth charge by hotels

Dear Editor, I am a business traveller, and recently stayed at one of Birmingham's growing number of up-market hotels.

Given the room rate pof more than £160, plus £13 for breakfast, I was alarmed to find that the hotel does not pay its staff the national minimum wage. Instead the hotel takes income from customer tips to make up staff salaries, so it does not fall foul of employment law.

Staff, however, were very concerned about sharing this information, but the information was confirmed independently by two different waiting staff, one who beloved the hotel took 60 per cent of the tip to make up salaries, one who thought the hotel took even more.

Recent reports highlighted a number of London restaurants for adopting this practice. Some have since changed their policies embarrassed by the media coverage.

However, its a disgrace that Birmingham hotels should adopt such Victorian employment policy practices.

As consumers we have significant power.

I would encourage business traveller and others, to check when they book, as well as when they eat, where the tips are going; to staff or to management.

If management are collecting more than atoken 5per cent to cover their admin costs for visa and distribution, then we as consumers should decide whether we want a stealth charge on our bill and to condone unethical employment practices.


by email


At what point do cells become a human being?

Dear Editor, Regarding the abortion issue.

A few points on where I stand to get out of the way straight away: * I believe terminating a healthy, sentient, human life without its consent to be ethically wrong, full stop

* In an ideal, civilised, utopian society that abortions wouldn't happen, or need to happen

* I accept we don't live in an ideal, civilised, utopian society, and that ethics, like politics, is the art of the possible tempered by pragmatism and compromise, and that

* although two wrongs never make a right, sometimes one wrong can mitigate the worst effects of another wrong

* A woman has the right to choose what happens in and to her own body up to the point of terminating a healthy, sentient, human life.

So in some respect, you might say that where I stand is firmly on the fence. However that wouldn't be strictly correct; the key phrase for me is the one of the sentient human life; I do not believe there is anything magical about the point when a sperm burrows its way into an egg which immediately creates a sentient human life -to my mind the collection of cells which are formed in the first few weeks of a pregnancy are no more of a sentient human life than the collections of sperms and eggs which live in their separate containers beforehand.

So to my mind, the whole basis of the debate about abortion is based on the question, "at what point does the developing collection of cells become a sentient human being?"

At this point in human evolution, 'science' cannot provide the unarguable, definitive answer, & 'religion' does not speak an answer with one united voice - Roman Catholicism goes as far as saying every sperm is sacred even before conception, whereas other denominations and religions range from having conception be the point at which life begins, through a point somewhat later, to not actually stating an opinion at all.

My own view is the collection of cells becomes a sentient human life at the point where it takes on apersonality -and practically every woman who has felt a baby inside herself and especially seen the picture of it on the ultra-sound screen knows there is a point when that happens; generally it's thought that point occurs at some point in the second trimester of pregnancy; it's also generally agreed in reproductive science that its not until the second trimester that the pregnancy can be said to be established - spontaneous auto-termination can and does happen frequently and at any time during the first trimester.

So in my framework, sentience begins at a fuzzy point on a fuzzy line between the second and third trimesters. And to my mind, the law should also be fuzzy about it.Certainly, the number of people who subscribe to the religious belief that all abortion is wrong full stop are in a clear minority, so clearly that view should not be the one which prevails in law.

A just, ethical law would set an earlier time limit before which any abortion can take place on-demand, no questions asked, and a later time limit after which no abortion can take place regardless of circumstances. In the middle period, the sanctioning of an abortion should be something to which a great deal of thought has to be given, involving more people than just the woman carrying the pregnancy and the doctor(s) who would be carrying out the procedure; the granting of an abortion should be by no means automatic, but similarly it should by no means be automatically denied.

As to how to determine the timings of those points - well, they're only ever going to be ar-bitrary. It would make sense to make the earlier point the end of the first trimester, so why not make the second point the end of the second trimester? That would seem to me to be no less arbitrary than the irrelevant, and shifting, point of at what point this year a premature baby can survive with medical assistance.


by email