Getting the Banned Back Together

It was announced last week that both the USA and UK governments have issued a ban on certain electronic devices being carried on flights in or out of their respective countries. The devices in question are any electronic items with a battery or plug, and that are more than 16cm in length. While this generally covers laptops, e-readers, tablets, portable DVD or games systems and some smartphones (the latest iPhone sneaks in by being just short of the requirements at 15.8cm long, but some other models of ‘phablet’, such as the HTC Ultra, are too long). While many believe that these measures are ineffective, others, particularly the airlines affected, at least have a sense of humor about things. But this is merely the latest ban on electronic devices, and while this one has very real ramifications and serious reasons for doing it, it’s not the only ban out there at the moment.

From the serious, to the deliberately light-hearted – comedian Chris Rock has announced a tour entitled “Total Blackout”. Part of the title has a very real application, as mobile devices will be banned from the audience. To do this, he’ll be making use of a company called Yondr, who provide self-sealing pouches to venues to stop audience members recording the whole show on their smartphones. It’s been an issue for Rock for a long time – in an interview conducted in 2014, Rock expressed concern that footage of him practicing jokes for a stand-up routine were being put into the public sphere before they were ready, and therefore ruining the act that would later be put together. He’s following the lead of his fellow comedians, Dave Chappelle and Louis CK (although the latter’s issues appear to run a bit deeper).

Sticking with showbiz news, another ban on using cellphones has been announced – but this is not for the audience, or even the stars. This is for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the accountancy firm. PwC, as you’ll recall, recently took responsibility for the biggest error in Oscar history – when the wrong winner of the Best Picture award was announced. It later transpired that one of the accountants responsible for holding onto the envelopes that contain the winners had been Tweeting photos of the stars just moments before the mistake was made. Whether this was the reason for the mix-up or not, it’s evident that the person in question was not concentrating on the task in hand, and next year, cellphones will not be permitted.

You might have thought that professional sports might be one of the few areas that doesn’t really need to worry about smartphones on match day. But over in Australia, the National Rugby League is banning phones from dressing rooms. There is a partial concern that social media is distracting some players before a match, but the bigger issue is one of illegal betting. Because the NRL only (currently) releases the team list one hour before a match, the governing body of the league also wants to stop information that may be passed on to gamblers from the players themselves. In a similar but unrelated move, banking giant Deutsche Bank has banned employees from using WhatsApp or SMS messaging on their company phones, in order to tighten up compliance with banking rules and regulations. Since they’ve accrued almost $14 billion in fines since 2008, anything they can do to stop problems arising seems like a great idea at this stage.

Finally, in the historic Roman city of Bath, England, a local pub has created a stir by banning phones at the bar. Apparently, this is as a result of calls from the local drinkers, who often ask the barman to make sure that people on phones go outside. Evidently, the landlord got sick of having to do this, and banned phones outright. It’s not the only pub in the country to ban phones – The Gin Tub in London has even gone so far as to construct a Faraday Cage around their bar. But to compensate for this, old-fashioned dial phones are on each table to make ordering/reordering much easier.