We’ve joined forces with others on our latest campaign to get people a fairer deal on their energy bills. Here, TV reporter Jonathan Maitland explains why he’s involved in the Big Switch – and how you can be too.
I’m a television reporter. It’s a great job but there are downsides. For one, it gets repetitive.
One story that keeps coming back is energy bills. For nearly a quarter of a century I have covered the same theme: people are struggling to pay their bills and the tariffs are too numerous and complex.
In 2010, after my 23rd attempt at the story, I decided to stop singing the same old song and write a new one. Why report rather helplessly from the outside when, as a (reasonably) influential media practitioner, I could actually try and do something about it?
My idea was simple and, I modestly thought, brilliant. Why not get everyone (i.e. millions of us) together, and bargain collectively with the energy companies for lower bills? After all, it’s what the internet was made for.
The different arms of the Big Switch
I went to see Which? and hey presto, I realised I wasn’t so brilliant after all – they had been thinking of much the same thing. So we decided to work together.
They also suggested I see the people from 38 Degrees, a new-fangled social lobbying people power website thing, whose members number – amazingly – one million. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of them. But then I am 50 – and way more out of touch than I had realised.
38 Degrees, it turns out, were like minded. I was pushing at a door that was already half way open. Encouragingly, the people I was pushing with were just the sort you want when the door gets a little stiff.
Which?, you won’t need me to tell you, is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country and 38 Degrees, despite being the new kid on the block, already has notable successes. Last year, in the space of just a week, they got the government to reverse its policy of selling off our woodlands.
Why you should sign up to the Big Switch
So here we are – a combo of old and young, new and old media, attempting to do something rather exciting. We want to take back some of the power that is rightfully ours, and pay less for our energy. Which begs the question: how come we are paying so much in the first place?
For a start, energy as a raw material is more expensive. We can’t blame the energy companies for that. But there is something else. Once, energy companies were run for the benefit of the customers – us. They may have been unwieldy and inefficient, but they were ours.
Not any more. These days, they are not run for our benefit, but for the shareholders’. Their raison d’être is to make people rich, hence the six billion annual profits made by British Gas and its parent company.
It’s not illegal to generate that kind of wealth, of course, but it does seem a little excessive when some of us are freezing to death because of worries over heating bills. The time has come to do something: so please sign up. Now.
We’ll be taking registrations for our Big Switch until 31 March, and we want to gather a huge crowd. When registration closes we’ll go to the energy companies and Which? will use the people power we’ve amassed to negotiate the best energy deal it can get. If we can secure a great energy deal, we’ll send details of it to those people who signed up and they then get to choose whether to take it.
So if you want to find out what people power can really do, join us in the Big Switch.