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The Lowdown on the UK’s 5p Plastic Bag Charge

“We’re livinggg in a material world and I am a material girl…”

Well Madonna, the materials are slowly but surely being sorted out! If you haven’t noticed, as of October 5th 2015, shoppers in the UK are being charged 5p for every plastic bag given out by supermarkets/large stores. The UK have been quite behind in implementing this change, but it is one that is much needed for our environment and resources.

As the BBC discusses the aim is to “cut the 7.6bn bags given to shoppers at major supermarkets every year, and retailers are expected to spend the money raised from the charge on good causes”. The latter is obviously dependent on the supermarket and as we know, [here comes the cynic], big corporations often have other plans or hidden agendas.

Astonishingly, last year witnessed 7 major supermarkets giving out over 7.6 billion plastic bags. This is a phenomenal, jaw dropping amount which the BBC equates to 140 per person and 61, 000 tonnes in total. Think of how many football pitches that could fill!

So, is this a welcome change?

Since this charge has been introduced I have heard a lot of mixed views, from colleagues to friends, to fellow food shoppers browsing the grocery aisles. Some people feel that if they buy something from the supermarket they expect to receive a bag [free of charge] to transport it home. People can’t always be expected to carry plastic bags around with them, can they?

On the other hand some people feel this initiative is well overdue and it will hopefully undo some of the damage we have inflicted upon our environment. As well as:

  • Save money clearing up litter
  • Save money in carbon savings
  • (Hopefully) reduce the number of animal related injuries and deaths with plastic bags

People may ‘umm and ‘ahh but the bottom line is plastic bags are not biodegradable and this is a problem (and always has been).

What do you think?

When will you have to pay for a bag?

The 5p charge only applies to shops with 250 or more full-time employees.

The Association of Convenience Stores, which represents over 33,500 local shops, reports that only 8,000 of these were planning to charge for plastic carrier bags. We may see this fluctuate in the next few months.

When will you not be charged for a bag?

Free bags are provided when buying uncooked meat, poultry or fish, prescription medicine, some fresh produce (flowers/potatoes), live aquatic creatures in water, and unwrapped ready-to-eat food such as chips.

Most home delivery services are also giving consumers an option to opt for a ‘bagless service’. Morrisons and Ocado in particular are still charging 5p per bag for deliveries but will return this cost when customers return the bags back to them to recycle.

Although it may still be confusing to know exactly when you will be expected to pay for a bag, this change will hopefully shift people’s way of thinking. It is early days and all changes require time. In my opinion, this will hopefully encourage people to look at their behaviours and promote sustainable actions. It isn’t hard to be prepared and have bags at the ready, whether that is kept in a handbag or in the boot of your car.

A resourceful and renewable outlook is one that we should transfer to other areas of our lives. Food waste, recycling etc. Sustainable living is something that needs to be practiced as well as preached and I am pleased to see this change. It is just a shame it takes a law to make obvious changes that benefit our world…


If you still haven’t got your bag’s worth, check out these interesting related articles:

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Recipe: White and milk chocolate muffins

November 5, 2012 2 comments

My sweet tooth has definitely been alerted after reading this BBC article on sweets. It questions the nostalgia/novelty surrounding our most loved sweets and I for one, have a strong craving for sour boiled sweets now!

Therefore for all you chocolate lovers, I thought I would share a recipe that I have perfected. It is really simple and takes about 20 minutes preparation time and 30 minutes cooking in the oven (total time = 50 minutes). Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon or mid-week treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 130g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 160ml whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 160g unsalted butter
  • 70g white chocolate
  • 50g milk chocolate (or I use Galaxy Counters)
  • 12 hole-muffin tray with paper cases
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C
  2. Mix the egg and sugar until well combined and pale in colour. You can use either a handheld or electric whisk.
  3. In a different bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and add the pinch of salt.
  4. In another bowl combine the milk and vanilla extract.
  5. Gradually add the two mixtures to the egg mixture. Beat until all the ingredients are fully mixed together.
  6. Stir in the melted butter.
  7. Chop the white chocolate into small chunks and half the Galaxy Counters (or chop milk chocolate). Then add all the chocolate to the mixture.
  8. Using an ice cream scoop, add one scoop to each case and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Tip: Ice cream scoops are ideal for ensuring each paper case contains a similar amount of cake/muffin mix. It saves using two or three spoons to scrape the mixture. Simple and easy giving a professional finish to your end baking results.
  9. After 30 minutes check to see if the sponge bounces back when touched and use a skewer to see if all the mixture is cooked.
  10. Leave to cool before turning out onto a wire rack.
  11. Enjoy your sweet, moist muffins avec a cup of tea!

 

SOPA and PIPA, will they leave us speechless?

January 18, 2012 7 comments

It has been a while since I have last blogged and this is mainly due to the demanding workload of my third and final year at university. However, today marks an important day for the internet that cannot be ignored, with SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), anti-piracy bills, being considered in the USA.

The legislations are aimed to stop online piracy but many people feel there will be devastating consequences regarding freedom of speech and movement online. If the laws are put into action they can create blacklists of websites to be censored, remove these websites from search engines and cease funding. The DNS (Domain Name System) would be manipulated by these laws and could therefore make websites vanish in the blink of the eye. This might not always be a “bad thing” you may say, but for example, if it were to stumble upon a contaminated blog, instead of discarding of that one, single blog the entire website/company would cease to exist.

Innovation, liberation and freedom would all be squandered by these two movements. If the legislations offered greater fairness and well-thought and developed arbitrary values then perhaps they would be considered more useful to the internet. However, this is not the case.

The BBC (2012) state that

The bills propose that anyone found guilty of streaming copyrighted content without permission 10 or more times within six months should face up to five years in jail.

This will benefit those that are damaged by people committing piracy which is right and just, however as stated above the delivery methods of punishment are not as clear-cut nor effective.

Those in favour include music publishers, film companies, book publishers and television channels and networks. Though PIPA and SOPA have caused a stir amongst large online presences such as Wikipedia whom are feature a black out showing their utmost support against the proposed laws. Others include eBay, LinkedIn and Google.

PIPA is currently being cradled by the Senate whilst SOPA currently remains in the hands of The House of Representatives. The body of the internet is yet to be disfigured but these changes may just be the making of an unattractive global medium.

Useful links

BBC article discussing sites protesting the legislations

The Guardian– Stop SOPA or the web really will go dark

Categories: Blog, Opinion Tags: , , , , ,

Downton Abbey set to go off with a bang!

Downton Abbey returns to our television screens (ITV) this Sunday (18th September 2011) at 9pm. Following the incredible success of series one with 11m viewers for the last episode and eleven nominations at the Emmy’s; Downton Abbey has captured the attention of the entire nation.

The first series followed the lives of the Crawley family and their servants with engrossing storylines of love, betrayal and extreme class division. The series left the audience in suspense with the declaration of the First World War.

The airing of the new series faces rivalry of the new series of the spy drama Spooks. However with the explosive opening of Downton, (shown on BBC today) it will be very hard to move from the edge of your seat. Series two trailer:

So why do we love period dramas?

A blog from The Telegraph helped answer this question. Audiences love the costumes, the architectural setting, the (poetic) use of the English language and all in all the history is what makes the future. Downton Abbey offers audiences escapism, enjoyment and above all entertainment.

Although Julian Fellowes, writer and producer of the show, has come under scrutiny for historical inaccuracies, Downton has earned a renowned status: most popular costume drama since Brideshead Revisited in 1981 and has been sold to more than over one hundred countries.

Fellowes describes the show’s level of popularity as:

‘We were playing to something like a third of the adult population,’ he said. ‘I mean, nobody could expect that level of success, except for Simon Cowell. It was completely mad.’

With a strong cast, well written script and beautiful scenery Downton Abbey is not to be missed. Follow the story unfolding further this Sunday and be part of history. Stay tuned into my blog for a review of episode one next week!

 

The biggest event of 2011?

The UK has recently been voted the ‘second most popular country‘ and that comes as no surprise when we are blessed with a monumental occasion on 29th April 2011. The royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, or is it?

The media coverage of this event will be phenomenal yet until that date we will, and are, constantly overwhelmed with articles and videos speculating, scrutinizing and spying on the royals.

These are a mere selection of todays latest revelations:

However, there is a particular article that caught my eye on the BBC and it may please you, if like the article, you feel the events coverage, media framing and attention is just a little too much: the royal wedding naysayers.

Are you looking forward to the event? Do you reckon it will it help encourage marriage in Britain, as some people have argued? Or is the coverage too much? Are we focusing with blinkers on a wedding dress when we should be addressing other issues, such as Libya and our economy in the police force. Should we be ordering the official merchandise and planning our street party?

None the less Rebecca Craft’s world will be covering the event nearer the time, (but will resist) the urge to cover extensively the remaining seven and a half weeks until the big day…

Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

February 21, 2011 1 comment

Cast your mind back to 2002 and you may remember The Queen’s Golden Jubilee.  The celebrations across the UK were phenomenal featuring a royal tour and a pop concert featuring guitarist Brian May playing a God Save the Queen solo from the roof of Buckingham Palace. To mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 requires great preparation, organisation and skill.

The Queen’s diamond emblem has been revealed. It has been designed by ten-year old Katherine Dewar. One of the thirty-five thousand entries run by the children’s BBC programme Blue Peter. The design is simple yet effective with the union jack being surrounded by diamonds. This design will feature on everything from tea towels to teacups. The official emblem can be downloaded free of charge from the Monarchy website and you can discover more about the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

It has been announced that the celebrations will fall on the first weekend of June 2012 which is only weeks before the beginning of the London Olympics. The government have agreed to move the traditional Bank Holiday at the end of May to 4th June and grant an additional bank holiday on Tuesday 5th June. Making a long four-day weekend to celebrate a monumental occasion and celebration in history.

Comparative analysis of BBC News vs. The Guardian

The internet “has been called the greatest advance in communication…nearly every national magazine…has a Web site” (Foust 2009:1). Online journalism is competitive, and to be successful websites have to be able to meet user’s needs on the Web. The five key elements of online journalism will be analysed: design and layout, SEO (search engine optimization), usability, interaction and content features on the BBC News (2010, a) and The Guardian (2010), referred to as BBC and Guardian, identifying whether user’s needs are being addressed and how, with examples.

Design

“Once users arrive at a page, they can usually figure out what to do there” (Nielsen 2000:164). Design helps a user know where they are and what the website is about. The home page discussed by Nielsen (2000) is often the first page a user sees therefore the use of a prominent logo helps explain a website. “BBC News” and “Guardian.co.uk” are at the top of the page with two navigation bars below (categories). A user quickly establishes both pages are online news websites and with (ten +) categories each site shows extensive depth. The BBC home page features the iconic world logo, reflecting “core values” (Allan 2006) which as a PSB is to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC’s established ‘world image icon’ used in the media (newspapers/television) communicates its journalism content; worldwide and ethos orientated. In contrast, Guardian does not have a representational image but a distracting advertisement banner (content features).The four principles of design are unity, contrast, hierarchy and consistency, Foust (2009). Unity is achieved through a basic design on Guardian and BBC. The top navigation bars are used as users are “comfortable with it” (Foust 2009:107). A recognisable layout means an enjoyable experience for the user and the website subtly appears unified through its simplicity. Foust (2009) suggests that web pages should have the most important information readily available at the top of a page (hierarchy); the two websites use this format. The article picture of the day is featured at the top with news lower down following importance. The most important news at the top means a user does not have to scroll down (usability).

Contrast in BBC and Guardian is shown through the layout of text and colour. The BBC uses red, brown and blue to divide sections of the news on the front page, whilst Guardian focuses on red, blue and grey. The affect of colour contrast is the same for both websites- allowing users to distinguish the different sections and the colours continuously relate to both webpage’s intentions (Foust 2009). On a connotative level, the colours represent patriarchy (UK flag) therefore users assume both websites offer British based/focused journalism.

Hierarchy of articles is established from top to bottom (highest- lowest) with various image sizes. One large image on each homepage, (BBC, snow pictures and Guardian, Wikileak photograph), then a variety of other size images below offers a “visual hierarchy” to users (Wolk 2001:113). A variety of headline sizes and six column sections of news and nesting of frames adds complexity to layout (Robbins 2006). The hierarchy makes users consider newsworthiness of articles (interaction) and consistency of design reassures users that articles are credible.

Usability

A website’s success relies on usability, “users experience usability first and pay later” (Nielsen 2000:11). Linking effectively helps usability: structural- pointing to other levels of a site, embedded- offer more information and associative- related pages (Nielsen 2000).

The BBC mainly uses structural and associative links with related pages to other BBC articles and structural links navigate users to different areas on the website. In contrast, Guardian frequently uses embedded links to external websites/data to provide more information (substance). When external links are embedded within BBC articles too many lexis are used as hypertext anchors, “in the journal Antiquity, an international team said“ which opposes the advised amount, 2-4 lexis that are easy to scan (Nielsen 2000). However the BBC can manipulate users by shifting attention away from anchors and keeping users on the BBC website.

Gunter (2003) observes internal links in websites to ‘its’ own news stories (audio/video/text) enhances news operation. The BBC uses internal links “Related stories…Iplayer” to encourage users to remain within the website which can be restricting. However as long as a user is informed about “the rhetoric of departure” and “arrival” when clicking an external link, and can relate to their new context, external links can provide depth and offer users different points of view (Nielsen 2000:66). The Guardian uses external links to give users alternative views, information, and loyalty is created “By setting up layers of information into which you can drill for more detail, sites are adding value for which either people may be prepared to pay or to which they will return” (Webber 1998: 234).

Both websites cater for people with disabilities, with text enlargement, printing options and accessibility “statement” or “help” available at the bottom of all pages and highlighted colours relate to the section a user is viewing (Nielsen 2000: chapter 6).

SEO

Users may not see the home page (design). Salwen (2005) discusses people using a search engine when using the web first then unintentionally discovering news through results. To increase SEO, page titles and headlines must be easy to understand and contain simple key lexis, as search engines “merely try to match words” (Foust 2009:93), therefore key lexis should be used in order to feature (highly) in search results.

BBC and Guardian are well established websites so their results frequently feature highly in results, however, headlines still need to be clear, Guardian “PM signals school sports rethink”, BBC “Rethink over school sports cuts”, as otherwise search engine users will not follow the link.

Nielsen’s study (2000:223), on users using the ‘search’ button on websites showed “half of all users are search-dominant” emphasising the importance of the button and results in fulfilling a user’s need. The search button on the Guardian offers searching in three categories: on the Guardian, contributors or Google (external) and refined in five areas with associative links. However, the BBC only offers users BBC areas (internal) to search, with interactive elements being offered, video or Iplayer. The results show page abstracts – between “150 or 200 characters” to ensure users can scan abstracts easily (Nielsen 2000: 233). However the page abstracts on Guardian are paragraphs whereas the BBC uses 2-3 sentences. The search results from the BBC in comparison to Guardian shows users are provided with more accessible amounts of information, manageable page abstracts.

Interaction

Interactivity on Guardian and BBC allows users to feel a closer proximity between themselves, journalists and the text, the “audience has the ability to enhance journalistic output” (Wardle and Williams, 2010:795). The BBC offers sections “have your say…your pictures…your story” allowing users to become involved with the website or “get in touch” via the telephone. In contrast, Guardian offers blogs where users can ‘freely’ post comments, “comment..discussion..feedback..job..dating” Thurman (2008) discusses that users are allowed to post without pre-moderation (unique quality of Guardian). The lack of moderation does raise issues about objectivity; however the Guardian overcomes this with guidelines for users.

BBC presents a selection (controlled), of user’s images and stories on their website, making users feel valued. The Guardian however encourages feedback and comments from ‘registered’ users which creates proximity (relationship). High interactivity opportunities on a website can increase usage and promotion, whilst “editors understood that secondary benefits existed as user-generated content initiatives could provide a source of stories and content for stories” (Thurman 2008:154). Interactivity is also beneficial for the user- creating a relationship, and to journalists of the website retrieving information/sources.

Content

Writing on the web needs to be easy to scan, with short paragraphs, bulleted lists and as mentioned before using hypertexts (usability) to split up information (Wolk 2001: Nielsen 2000). Nielsen (2000:111) uses “one idea per paragraph rule” with clear titles and plain language headlines. Guardian and BBC use plain language for headlines but Guardian makes more use of bullet points to present facts/information, and on average, uses more hyperlinks. The legibility (font size, background and colour of both mediums) contribute to (Wolk 2001: 91) “chance that a user will stay on a story”. The Guardian and BBC are aesthetically pleasing with use of white space and fonts. Guardian uses clear fonts, sans (‘Commercial’ 2004) and BBC’s font, Gill Sans is highly recognised (BBC, 2010b).

Media offers commentary and mood setting to Guardian and BBC pages. Animation is seen by a user’s peripheral vision on Guardian, (Nielsen 2000), with an advertising banner on the home page informing users that Guardian is linked to marketing and selling whereas the BBC is funded by users (PSB). Guardian pages use a range of audio, video and emotional images whereas BBC use mostly informational/graphic images and sometimes video and audio (Foust 2009:173). The range of images offer personality whilst reflecting the reporting type and content, therefore users feel BBC offers less emotion and uses images to present a factual account. Videos on BBC play automatically unlike Guardian, which also, intentionally, makes a user stay on that web page.

Foust discusses accessibility (2010) in chapter twelve, Guardian and BBC make their websites accessible “users can access information anytime” by providing settings for phones, Ipad and articles can be embedded on other interactive platforms “twitter”.

Overall the two websites make good use of the five key elements. The layouts of both websites are informative with maximum SEO in the content so that search engines can retrieve the articles. The usability and interactivity are used effectively but Guardian uses more external links and involvement focusing on the user-website relationship. The BBC’s involvement is community orientated relating to purpose, PBS.

In conclusion the BBC is the most accessible with its design, SEO and content, however Guardian provides more depth in interactivity and usability. The two websites are two successful journalism websites but from analysis of features, they could both improve different elements to increase traffic.

 

References

Allen, S., 2006. Online News. Berkshire: Open University Press.

BBC, 2010a. Available from:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ [Accessed 1 December 2010]BBC, 2010b. Do typefaces really matter? Available from:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10689931 [Accessed 3 December 2010]Commercial Type, 2004. Commercial type. Available from:

http://commercialtype.com/about [Accessed 3 December 2010]Foust, H, C., 2009. Online journalism: principles and practices of news for the Web. 2nd ed. Arizona: Holcomb Hathaway, Publishers, Inc.

Guardian, 2010. Available from:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/ [Accessed 1 December 2010]Gunter, B., 2003. News and the Net. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers.

Nielsen, J., 2000. Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. USA: New Riders Publishing.

Robbins, N, J., 2006. Web design in a nut shell. 3rd ed. California: O’Reilly Media, Inc,.

Salwen, M, B., 2005. Online News Trends. In: Driscoll, P, D., Salwen, M, B. And Garrison, B. Online News and the Public. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers, 47-81.

Thurman, N., 2008. New Media & Society. Forums for citizen journalists? Adoption of user generated content initiatives by online news media, 10, 139-157. Available from:

http://nms.sagepub.com/content/10/1/139.full.pdf+html [Accessed 1 December 2010]Wardle, C and Williams, A., 2010. Media, Culture & Society. Beyond user-generated content: a production study examining the ways in which UGC is used at the BBC, 32, 781-799. Available from:

http://mcs.sagepub.com/content/32/5/781.full.pdf+html [Accessed 1 December 2010]Webber, S., 1998. Search engines and news services: Developments on the Internet. Business information Review, 15 (4), 229-237.

Wolk, D, R., 2001. Introduction to Online Journalism. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.

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