Sir Terry Wogan, Internet guru

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Declan Curry | 15:42 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010


What is the Internet for? For some, the answer can only be - Sir Terry Wogan. He's the reason some people bought a computer and taught themselves how to use email, so they could play their part in his celebrated Radio 2 programme by sending in their comments, exhortations, rebukes and occasional items of filth and innuendo.

Long before we started using peculiar phrases like "user generated content", listeners would join in by post. Goodness it was slow. He'd say something "witty" on air. Several days and a significant quantity of tumbleweed would pass. Then a letter would flutter in (probably starting "Dear Jimmy Young ...")

Now it's so much faster, and he's seen all the big changes in modern communication technology. He brought the fax machine into his studio. He was coaxed into email. Now he's twiddling with Twitter, has faced down his fear of Facebook and is one of the most popular BBC podcasts.

So there's no better person to turn to if we want to encourage people who aren't online already to sign up for broadband.

I couldn't imagine modern life without it; I use email rather than letters, pay bills and keep a check on my bank account online, and shop for everything from books to food to - er - food. And there's Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Skype for everything from guest booking to cooing at photos of the latest Curry cousins.

I think anyone who isn't online is missing out on an extraordinary range of fun, information, social contact and financial savings. But preaching by the converted isn't much use. Those who haven't discovered the joy of the Internet by now want a trusted guide who shares their own scepticism and wariness, but is enthusiastic once they discover its benefits.

Which is why Sir Terry popped into the Working Lunch offices this week to give me a quick Internet lesson. He showed me his favourite sites, told me how he uses the web in everyday life, and shared some tips he has for people who want to get started for the very first time. All done with the priceless, unmistakable Wogan wit we've all enjoyed for decades. Watch it here.

It's all part of Radio 2's "Get Connected"campaign and Working Lunch's "Get Online" week, starting Monday 15th March. Too many of our viewers - and his listeners - have yet to be tempted onto the web. We hope this will be the extra sweetener they need. If only technology was this much fun all the time ...

I made a mistake!

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Declan Curry | 15:57 UK time, Thursday, 21 January 2010

When I make a mistake on the programme, I want to admit it as soon as I'm aware of it.

It doesn't excuse the error, and doesn't change the fact that I should have been right first time. But owning up to it, and saying I'm sorry for it, is the very least I can do.

So thank you to WL viewer Michael Taylor for spotting my howler in today's stock market report - and emailing me about it immediately.

I was talking about the supermarket Morrison. It had a good Christmas, thanks to our love of party food. Sales of some canapés have almost doubled. Champagne sales were boosted by special offers.

So far, so good.

Then we got to the nitty gritty.

I said Morrison's pre-Christmas sales were 4.3 per cent higher than the same time the previous year.

I then compared that with Sainsbury - which saw its holiday sales rise by 4.2 per cent - and Tesco, which had a sales increase of 4.9 per cent.

If you were watching at home, the obvious inference is that Morrison did better than Sainsbury, but not as well as Tesco.

(That is, by the bye, a perfectly respectable place to be in - and a whole lot healthier than Morrison's perilous state just a few years ago. The turn around in its business has been remarkable.)

Just one problem ...

Morrison's per-Christmas sales were actually up by 6.5 per cent. I had, by mistake, written in a sales increase recorded by the company earlier in the year.

It's a very silly, and very a stupid, mistake and I am correctly ashamed. I'm sorry to you for giving you the wrong information. You deserved better.

And I'm sorry to the thousands of Morrison's employees who worked so hard in the run-up to Christmas to serve their customers and deliver this sales increase. I wouldn't want to undermine their achievement or their efforts.

One other thing I said was that the City had expected more. That much remains correct. The city's analysts saw Waitrose's champagne-popping sales figures earlier this month, and other research which suggested we'd splashed out on treats and better-quality fresh food this Christmas - and had hoped for a larger rise in sales than Morrison's delivered.

That's why its share price slipped today.

You may choose to file that away in the "some people are never happy" folder.

Meanwhile, I'm going to stand in the naughty corner for a bit longer. Well, until Naga lets me out again.

Bank charges - your charged comments

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Declan Curry | 11:28 UK time, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Supreme Court is expected to decide on Wednesday if fair trading watchdogs have the power to supervise bank charges.

It's been a long-fought case. And if the banks lose, it could cost them billions.

First, they may be forced to refund many customers who have already paid charges in the past.

And it could also cost them a regular flow of income in the future; they make more than a pretty penny from those charges.

That's money the banks will want to replace - possibly by putting new charges on everyday services, like cash withdrawals or cheques.

This is why some experts have warned we may see the end of free current account banking.

Unsurprisingly, you're not very happy about this - and made it crystal clear in your emails after Monday's programme..

Paul in East Dulwich wrote, "the major banks have just made huge profits, in the billions, and they seek to charge for use of a current account? Where will their greed stop?"

But if there's one thing Working Lunch viewers hate more than the banks and their profits, it's other bank customers. Especially those who dip into the red without permission, and then moan about charges afterwards.

Stuart wrote, "people who ran up overdrafts were informed before they did so of the charges to be incurred. Why then can they renege on their contract and force those of us who have acted responsibly to pay their debts?"

John White emailed to say, "someone who spends more money than authorised is stealing. Why should those who remain within spending limits subsidise the greedy?"

And E Lawrence noted, "unauthorised overdraft is tantamount to theft."

The banking expert on Monday's programme said the high street banks would think they're entitled to charge service fees for current accounts, as they provide a service of considerable value. Many of you said we already pay the banks - by letting them use our cash.

Alan Hall emailed, "the banks hold our cash deposits free of interest. Why should we pay to withdraw money when we need it?"

Andy said, "I agree that using the cash machine and writing cheques certainly cost money. But when you use your credit or debit card the banks do charge. They charge the retailer."

You also think we've paid a price in lower standards of service, as the banks cut their costs of doing business.

From Brian in Devon - "the banks introduced cash machines in order to save money. Local branches were closed all over the country and replaced with machines. To suggest that it provides a service that should be paid for, when the banks save money via the machines, is quite laughable!"

As a child of the 70s, I've only had two jobs in my life where I was paid in cash. (Oh those heady days as a hotel toilet cleaner.) Everything else has been paid by cheque or direct transfer into my bank account. It's the same for almost everyone else, either in work or in retirement. The banks are the conduit for our income - making us utterly reliant on them, and making it difficult to avoid any charges they might bring in.

Michelle notes, "this is a captive market. We have no choice but to use banks to lead an ordinary normal life. It is compulsory. So this gives the banks an unfair power over the consumer. It should be a public service."

Jon and Martin both say if the banks bring in charges for essential services, people should have the option of receiving their pay packets in cash once again.

Tom O'Connor: "It was the banks who encouraged employers to move from wage payments in cash to salary payments directly into bank accounts. They have access to our funds and make a nice earning off them. Don't let the apologists for the bank present this as a response to our irresponsible behaviour as customers; they brought this situation about themselves."

Rita adds, "my pension is paid into my bank account. I have no choice. If it comes to pass that fees will be added to current accounts, might there be an alternative for me if I do not want to pay?"

But there was at least one person who thoughts the banks might have a point.

Dorothy wrote, "I recall from my early days in having a bank account - over 50 years ago - that there was a small charge for having a bank account. A reasonable charge might be acceptable," she says.

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