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Under The Radar – 31 December

Photo by Vincentas Liskauskas on Unsplash

 

This week, we discuss:

  1. 2021: Under The Radar’s Year in Summary

  2. A small step forward for Amazon workers

  3. What is rotten in the UK’s Police Forces

  4. Once upon a Dime in Hollywood

 

2021: Under The Radar’s Year in Summary

As 2021 draws to a close, we took a look back at every story we covered last year to see who and what dominated Under the Radar’s attention.

The most mentioned issue in 2021 was China. As the world remained focused on COVID-19, with pockets of the media transfixed on the lab leak hypothesis, we picked up on trends like China’s increasing grip on Hong Kong, the Evergrande property crisis and mounting tensions with Taiwan.

Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and the BBC were tied in second place. Regarding Joe Biden, our focus was primarily on his efforts to reconfigure the economy and the immigration crisis on the southern US border. When it came to Boris, we covered his green agenda, televised Downing Street briefings and his meeting with Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The BBC was the last major topic that came up in various guises throughout 2021, including a number of stories relating to the BBC’s attempts to spread its wings and move away from the London bubble.

As we head into 2022 it is hard to predict what the news will bring, but at Under the Radar there is one thing we can say for sure: what the mainstream media overlooks, we won’t!

 

A small step forward for Amazon workers

What happened?

Amazon reached an agreement with the National Labor Relations Board that could pave the way for its almost 1m US employees to form a union. The agreement requires Amazon to notify all its employees of their right to organise with colleagues without interference. 

What does it mean?

At the very least, this agreement suggests that lawmakers are now willing to enforce existing labor laws after decades of allowing companies like Amazon to sack workers for attempting to organise. Substantial legislative action to further protect workers may now follow, given President Biden’s vocal support of unions.

This should be welcomed regardless of your political leanings considering what is known about the conditions in these warehouses. Just this month, six workers were killed in an Illinois depot during a tornado, after apparently continuing to work to meet the tech giant’s strict productivity metrics. Meanwhile, an Amazon union in Alabama recently claimed that six workers died on site this year, with one even having a stroke after being denied sick leave.

This has been a massive PR failure for Amazon, whose brand is increasingly becoming associated with Victorian era working conditions. The company has been on the backfoot as a result of sustained union pressure, with high-ranking executives even starting Twitter spats with Senator Bernie Sanders, a vocal supporter of the workers.

What’s worse, Amazon – who deny any involvement – appear to be behind thousands of bot Twitter accounts that claim to be happy Amazon workers. These accounts churn out suspiciously similar content and attempt to discredit unflattering news stories surrounding the treatment of workers, whilst arguing why unionising would leave their colleagues worse off.

Despite having more resources than most nation states, by publicly gaslighting politicians, the media and their own workers, Amazon has ended up with egg on its face.

 

Something is rotten in the UK’s Police Forces

What happened?

UK Police Forces are ending a year of embarrassment with another case of an officer acting indecently: Merseyside PC Ryan Connolly committed multiple disciplinary offences over a six-year period, including sending racist WhatsApp images and taking selfies at a murder scene.

What does it mean?

PC Connolly’s case is eerily similar to the two convicted Met police officers who took photos at the crime scene of murdered sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry. Rocked by countless scandals over the past 12 months, public confidence in law enforcement has dropped with 48% of the public saying they are unconfident in the police, according to a recent poll.

Unsurprisingly, London’s Met have experienced the largest change in trust. The murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer shocked the city and nation alike, as did the high-profile murder of Sabina Nessa. The Met’s “botched”, and “unsatisfactory” response was met with calls for Met Commissioner Cressida Dick’s resignation.

The slogan “one rule for them, and another for us” is often banded about Westminster in regard to the double standards enjoyed by politicians, particularly during the pandemic. However, this phrase can similarly be applied to UK forces and not just in relation to offences committed by serving officers.

Fictional Crime-thriller TV show Line of Duty perhaps hit a little too close to home in highlighting some of the institutional failures and incompetencies of the force which, in reality, have enabled and perpetuated a culture of secrecy, impunity and lack of accountability.

It seems incredulous that the very institutions which are meant to protect us – the supposed stalwarts of law and order – can act above the law. Questions must be answered, and immediate action taken to fill the current void of passive negligence. However, without a major upheaval of current institutions, it is hard to see how any meaningful change can come about.

 

Once upon a Dime in Hollywood…

What happened?

The return to pre-pandemic film production levels has driven a spike in the market for real estate in Hollywood and other production hotspots as demand outstrips supply.

What does it mean?

Private Equity firms are investing billions to acquire production facilities across North America and Europe as the ‘streaming wars’ hot up. The likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney are pumping in cash to compete in the increasingly saturated streaming market.

For some time, mega streamers have been prioritising producing original television series over films with noticeable knock-on effects. US TV shows are typically shot in Los Angeles where most actors and production companies are based. Films, on the other hand, are more likely to be spread out across different locations. This trend has meant that the demand for locations in LA has spiked in recent years, with everything from industrial warehouses, malls, churches and even an IKEA store being repurposed for filming.

Investors, including Blackstone and TPG, have committed over $4bn to acquire production facilities across North America and Europe in recent months. TPG have acquired studios in Chicago, Toronto and Germany while Hackman Capital has invested over $7.5bn on studio spaces since 2018.

Streaming has facilitated the investment in larger scale production facilities due to the scale of production. The streaming giants can commit to much longer leases than the dominant production companies of ten years ago due to the volume of productions lined up. In the past these investments were more of a risk.

The spike in demand for real estate is symptomatic of the streaming market as a whole. Netflix and Amazon have set a pace that Disney, Apple, Universal and others are attempting to match, but with new subscribers ‘drying up’, pretty soon the market may simply run out of space.

 

This week’s must reads:

  1. “‘One rule for them’: how a simple slogan helped change the political landscape” by Ben Nunn for The Guardian

  2. “Air strikes or invasion: what are Putin’s military options for Ukraine?” by Max Seddon for The FT

  3. “What Ghislaine Maxwell’s conviction in Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking trial means for Prince Andrew” by Victoria Ward for The Telegraph

  4. “Brexit passporting: Little appetite among EU finance firms to stay in London as FCA applications disappoint” by Michiel Willems for City A.M.

 

Chart of the week:

“National Parliament Voting Intention” – Published online at Politico.eu. Retrieved from: ‘https://www.politico.eu/europe-poll-of-polls/united-kingdom/’ [Online Resource]

 

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