SIC bans Shetlink & Alec Couper for Christmas #1

Rage Against The Machine is Christmas Number One this year. How I relish writing that phrase. For those of you who haven’t heard about the biggest upset in the history of the UK music charts, the political heavy rock rap legends have beaten Joe McElderry, the X Factor winning, plebeian pleasing pop pan-flash, to number one!

The latest X Factor(y) winner hitting the top spot is now as much a part of Christmas as worrying if mam’s eBay purchased present will make it to Shetland on time. But an Internet campaign urging people to buy copies of RATM’s seminal profanity filled anti establishment 1990s classic “Killing In The Name” from online retailers has ruined the fuzzy festive feeling the music industry machine has traditionally enjoyed.

Or has it?

Whilst the online campaign has halted the X Factor’s symbolic fairy reaching the top of the Christmas music tree, the campaign has resulted in a huge increase in sales of Joe’s pop ditty.

The campaign pitted those that see themselves as ‘real’ music fans against those that think Joe is a nice chap who deserves a number one for his X Factor related efforts, but the only winners are Sony BMG; the music mega corporation that both acts are signed to that have directly benefited from the iPod fuelling feud.

And whilst RATM are a band I have always tipped my hat to, I can’t help feeling that using their ‘good name’ to do online battle with an unassuming innocent pop star has somewhat missed the point of what RATM are all about. If they’d reached number one due to genuine sales to fans, rather than being used tokenisticly to have a pop at the music biz, that would have truly been a triumphant moment. But I’m left feeling dichotomistic due to the disappointing ironies.

So how about we summon our collective music purchase powers and get a Shetland act to the top of the festive charts next year. I vote for Alec Couper’s “Lowrie Sells his Oo”. Who’s with me?

It would be an omission from this month’s column if I didn’t mention the decision taken by the Chief Executives Office to block council employees accessing Shetlink during specified times of the day.

Over the years Shetlink has had a very pro-active relationship with the SIC; the SIC closed their own discussion forum and redirected visitors to Shetlink several years ago; Shetlink has rented webspace to SIC departments; Shetlink has assisted the SIC with several public consultations; information on SIC events and initiatives is regularly posted on Shetlink; community campaigns supported by the SIC have used Shetlink as a hub for communications; information gleaned from Shetlink has found its way into several SIC documents; the SIC provide links to Shetlink on their website; Shetlink is an important forum for SIC related projects such as the Viking Windfarm and Charitable Trust consultation…

Conspiracy theories have abounded as to the raison d’être and timing of the ban, which seem to centre around recent discussions on Shetlink relating to SIC semi-scandals and councillor conduct. These theories have been raised in the local media recently so I won’t go into detail here. But the official reason espoused by the SIC is that the ban pulls Shetlink into line with their policy of banning ‘social networks’ such as Facebook and Twitter, despite the fact that no such policy seems to exist.

SIC employees are given access to online resources in order to carry out their contracted duties; Shetlink, for many, is one of those resources. The best course of action is to allow employees full access to the Internet, but if their managers deem them to be misusing their time, then access should be curtailed. However, the new rule regarding Shetlink is that access is truncated by default.

As a timely reminder of the value of online communication, Shetlink currently has a particularly active discussion on current road conditions. Folk from all over Shetland have been posting up to the minute information on the state of the roads; closures, ice patches, which roads have been gritted etc. The SIC have no such information on their own website and have blocked employee’s access to Shetlink at a time of day when many are planning their journey home. Hmm

Here’s hoping you’ve had peachy Christmas and a firm and fruity New Year!

Published in Shetland Life magazine, January 2010