We used to have these things on telly, they were called public information films. You may remember them.
They spanned many a subject. Who of a certain age, for example, can forget Charley and the matches; Derek Griffiths on bike theft; or Jimmy Savile's 'Clunk Click'? The one thing they had in common was that they were fears government had for us, about which it was felt we needed an educational warning. I can't remember anyone other than the state being asked to pay for them, though, because that is what taxes are for. Right?
Not any more, it would seem.
Sexting involves the sharing of sexually suggestive messages or images electronically, primarily between mobile phones. According to Ofcom, about 50% of eight to 11-year-olds and 88% of 12 to 15-year-olds own a mobile phone. The speed with which children and young people are gaining access to the internet—accelerated with the advent of smartphones, enabling children to access the internet from their mobile phones—is unprecedented.That's Labour MP Ann Coffey addressing the House last week. She obviously feels there is a serious issue which needs to be conveyed to young people on the potential dangers of mobile phone use, and she has a point.
So, will we get a public information broadcast or the online equivalent on targeted media seen by children and teens? Well, perhaps, but she doesn't think the government should have to shell out for it. After admitting that this should be something for parents to tackle, she puts forward proposals.
More needs to be done, however. I want the mobile phone industry to do more to highlight some of the dangers of its products, in the same way as the gambling and alcohol industries provide help for people who encounter problems arising from their products. The gambling industry provides funding for education and the treatment of problem gambling and the drinks industry funds the charity Drinkaware.A sage warning there, I think, that appeasing government is always a pretty stupid idea. Because it leads inevitably to further demands, like this.
The mobile phone industry has a great responsibility, given the profits that it makes and its targeting of young people to buy its products, to set aside money to inform young people of the dangers of sexting. The industry should provide an information and advice leaflet with each new mobile phone, warning of the dangers of sexting. It should also pay for advertising on TV and in the press and for the promotion of helplines, such as the NSPCC’s ChildLine. The leaflet with each new mobile phone should explain how, at the click of a button, an image intended for private use can lead to public humiliation and even fall into the hands of sophisticated sexual predators. I should like retail sales people to be trained to discuss the risks of sexting when selling phones to young people or to adults buying them on their behalf.Very free and easy with other people's money, isn't she? Who does she really believe will end up paying for all that in the end, or has it not crossed her cobwebbed mind?
Not satisfied with the huge tax receipts from the mobile phone industry - along with the eye-watering sums paid out by these companies for the privilege of being allowed to sell anything in the first place - Ann, being a true modern MP, demands more.
Ignoring the industry's profits she and her ilk have already spent on mandatory wage levels; sick, maternity, paternity, and fostering pay; statutory pension provision and holiday pay; along with licensing and health/safety red tape to name but a few, businesses haven't been punished enough, apparently.
Now they should be - according to Ann - forced to fund the kind of advert government used to accept it was there to provide.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that out of the incredible level of increased public spending this country is creaking under (last paragraph here), Westminster could at least countenance paying some of it out for public information.
So what does the Conservative spokesman, Tim Loughton, have to say in rebuttal?
I have found the hon. Lady’s remarks helpful. There is little to disagree with.It seems there is a massive disconnect between what the public believe the state should and shouldn't provide and what MPs think. The crippling taxes they impose on all of us seem - to politicians - to merely be free money with which to enrich the civil service and share amongst their favoured chums. Why should they spend any of it if they can get someone else to do so instead, eh?
If politicians want a more responsible public, educate them with the ocean of money swimming around treasury coffers like, you know, they're supposed to. However, if they want a hog-tied private sector unable to create jobs for the future, along with an inept and irresponsible population doomed to live life as infantilised morons with a death wish, our leaders (hah!) are following exactly the correct path.
And yet still they scratch their heads wondering why we view them all with utter contempt. Jeez.