Richard Ingrams: Why show the debate where lots of us can't see it?

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The Independent Online

I searched the Evening Standard TV guide on Thursday to try to find details of the great election debate but there was nothing to say when it was on or on which channel you could watch it.

That was because the debate went out on Sky News, a digital channel which was not listed in the paper – though I presume it would have been in the Murdoch press.

I don't know how many people have yet to acquire a digital TV set but I imagine it would run into a few million. So they would have been unable to watch the programme unless they stayed up till 11:30pm when it was repeated on BBC 2.

How was it that a debate of this kind, which everybody agreed was of national importance, came to be shown on a channel which a great many viewers do not have access to?

I can only think that it was agreed to by all three political parties simply in order to curry favour with Rupert Murdoch, the elderly Australian media baron whose support they all desperately crave, though, now that he has given orders for his newspapers to give whole-hearted backing to the Tories, it is hard to see why Brown and Clegg should be bothered one way or another. So desperate are they that they are even prepared to put the appeasement of Murdoch before the rights and wishes of their potential supporters. And then they all have the nerve to go on air and talk about restoring the public's faith in politics.

No better trying to make a journey by train

After all the delays, the frustration and uncertainty I was just glad to get back home safely.

No, I was not a victim of the great air travel crisis that followed the volcanic eruption in Iceland. I had simply been travelling on a Great Western train between London and Oxford. The train came to a lengthy and unscheduled halt just outside Maidenhead. The driver in the meanwhile made repeated apologies and regretted that he had no information as to what was causing the delay.

After about half an hour he announced that a "serious incident had occurred" – I was told later that a car had hit a gas main further up the line – and that we would have to return to Maidenhead, which we eventually did.

Whereupon a few hundred passengers were dumped on the platform of Maidenhead station and left to their own devices. There was no information about what was happening, and there were certainly no bus services to take anybody to Oxford. In the end I managed to share a taxi with two other passengers which cost us £30 to get to Reading. At Reading station there was a similar scene of confusion. The only answer was another taxi to my local station where my car was parked.

All of which suggests that the airlines are not the only organisations to treat their customers with indifference if not contempt. Incidentally I was interested to see that Mr Andrew Haines, head of the Civil Aviation Authority, which grounded the planes, was previously the boss of First Great Western.

One TV mogul hoist with his own petard

A man whose house was burgled after it was featured on the Google Street Maps blames Google for showing a picture of him in front of his garage which, prior to the burglary, contained a washing machine and other valuable items. Unsurprisingly, the all-powerful Google denies any responsibility for what many people may consider an invasion of privacy.

The story reminds me of a court case some years ago when the creator of Granada television, Lord (Sidney) Bernstein, sued a photographer who had flown over his house and taken a picture of it which he later offered to sell to the TV mogul. The case – worthy of the surreal humour of the "Beachcomber" column – involved the interesting question of how far someone's property could be said to extend up into the sky. Lord Bernstein's lawyers quoted an ancient statute using the Latin phrase "Usque ad caelum" – "Even unto the heavens".

But, unfortunately for Lord Bernstein, the defendant then called the TV journalist Bill Grundy, who told the court that he had been employed by Granada to make a programme which involved filming houses from a helicopter. Lord Bernstein lost, and, as far as I know, the question of aerial property rights remains undecided.