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Eastenders: storyline beyond belief?

Do we want to watch cot death and baby snatching on our television screens? Is that entertainment? With over 6000 complaints, has Eastenders gone too far?

The storyline that has caught the attention of thousands has caused uproar, fury and upset. Ronnie Mitchell and Kat Moon having given birth to baby boys within hours of each other. Little James Ronnie’s son dies from cot death and whilst wandering in the Square for help, she hears Tommy crying upstairs in The Queen Vic: she swaps her dead baby for Kat and Alfie Moon’s baby Tommy. Wow. Let me catch my breath. I did just say that two babies were born, one died and then they got switched. Sorry for any bluntness that may have caused offence. Did the scriptwriters think about the repercussions of this storyline?

Life and death are sensitive issues not to be taken lightly, in jest or to be ridiculed. In the case of child deaths our media, over the past few years, has been bombarded with children being abducted, abused or dying. Therefore this storyline caused outrage amongst many who found it offensive, disrespectful and all in all insensitive.

However, soaps are not meant to represent reality. They offer escapism, pleasure and food for thought. Theorists have argued that soaps tackle issues that we like to hide from society that do not fit into the “normal” family structure that people aspire to create in their lives.

The actress Samantha Womack (who plays Ronnie) is reported to be leaving the show and one of the reasons is the horrific storyline. The programme-makers already made last minute edits to the New Year’s Eve episode: a scene showing Ronnie touching the cold hand of her dead baby and Kat (in blood-soaked pyjamas) after Alfie Moon (her husband) finds her haemorrhaging in her bed.

The character Ronnie has suffered immensely throughout her character’s life: abused and raped by her father, having a baby when she was a teenager and her father led her to believe the baby was dead. Evidently many people have felt that this is a step too far for the character and completely over the top. Discussions have been raised about the believability: would you recognise your own baby? In addition most people feel this is the wrong time for such a tragic storyline. Christmas and New Year should be a joyous time and promoting self fulfilment for the year ahead, instead we find soaps competing for the craziest and most eccentric storyline. Is this the sad state of Britain’s soaps? Or is it a harsh portrayal of difficult issues? With the exception that baby swapping (in our culture and society) is very rare.

The last storyline in Eastenders to cause such a stir was only back in April 2009 when Danielle Jones (Ronnie’s daughter) was killed in a car crash. Is this the response of audiences saying enough is enough? How far will television producers and writers go to entertain the public? Is the BBC really conforming to the PSB format? Instead of seizing the opportunity to create happy memories with two strong, independent women in the script entering motherhood after storylines of tragedy and pain, Eastenders took the wrong turn. Through this controversial decision they have probably lost loyal fans as they have simply found the storyline too upsetting and devastating. The insensitive coverage of losing a baby did not consider viewers who have experienced this tragedy and underestimated the emotional trauma it has caused: who in their right mind would even contemplate swapping a dead baby for someone else’s living baby? Eastenders in the past has tackled issues in a thoughtful and responsible manner (story line) considering ethical, emotional and personal problems. Has the focus this time been too much on causing shock and gaining the highest ratings over the Christmas period? What do you think? Dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnn…..

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Warmer weather hotter prices

From Tuesday 4th January 2010 VAT will rise from 17.5% to 20%. Ed Miliband has announced to the BBC that this is the wrong time for a tax rise.

Who will this affect?

The rise in VAT will affect any VAT-registered business that purchases or sells goods or services that are currently subjected to the current standard rate of VAT.

What will not be affected by the VAT rise?

Most foodstuffs, children’s clothing and books will remain zero-rated. Reduced rates will remain on items such as  fuel and power supplies and children’s car seats.

What is the aim of the VAT increase?

To help the UK’s current economy, tackle the deficit and raise £13bn.

Will spending increase?

The Labour leader Ed Miliband has said the average family will have to find an extra £7.50 “each and every week”, resulting in an extra £389 a year.

What is the prediction for 2011?

The BBC have predicted retail sales will fall by about £2.2 billion in the first four months of the year.

The VAT increase has been discussed continuously over the last few months by various political leaders and therefore the public planned ahead. Individuals spent the majority of their ‘Christmas spending money’ over the month of December and personally I have resisted the January sales. To help save money and spend wisely see a previous blog post offering advice on how to look fashionable and not spend a penny or how to provide high entertainment at low costs.

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

Gaming addiction: myth, medical condition or moral panic?

December 6, 2010 2 comments

How much is too much?

Reporter Raphael Rowe on Panorama, investigates the state/reality of gaming addiction in the UK.

A surprising statistic caught the attention of many in the first ten minutes of the show with half of all homes in Britain owning at least one console. How many are in your house?

People queue for hours and hours just to get their hands on the latest release. Games such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft (Cataclysm launched tonight) have become so popular they have dominated the gaming world. So with over three billion pounds a year being spent on gaming (more than films/music) what is the harm?

Two very clear views were given during the programme. For and against the idea of ‘gaming addiction’.

Case studies provided a clear-cut argument against gaming and its negative effects. One boy followed the motto of “eat, sleep and play games” and had got kicked out of higher education, which subsequently meant he was damaging his relationships with his friends and family. Another study revealed the violent results of parents trying to gain control over an “addicted gamer”, the boy kicking a hole in his sister’s wall and becoming full of rage after his parents disconnected the internet. A screen shot of a game character was used to express this rage if the description wasn’t enough.
The World Health described gaming as a “serious threat” and it was discussed that national recognition was needed. This addiction, unlike others, was suggested as subtle and lacks obvious signs, however, with more funding and research the idea of gaming addiction can be explored and defined.

To remain balanced the programme did discuss the benefits of gaming. Gaming itself is active and can enhance intelligence whilst also acting as beneficial escapism for gamers.

Is it just media hysteria? Moral panic that we always hear about?

Korea was provided as an insight into a country that has dealt with the issue of gaming addiction. Korea has a strong focus on gaming and technology with PC bangs on most corners, providing a night’s entertainment of gaming. Gaming is also highly recognised as a sport in Korea and shows gaming as almost culturally integrated.

Panaroma addressed the number of fatalities due to gaming: twelve. The most horrific case was a baby starved to death due to neglect from parents as they were playing online games. However the parents of the child were recognised to be depressed and with a low IQ. The mother of the child was even described as mentally unstable before gaming so this example seemed very stretched and unreliable. The game they were playing whilst their child was suffering was raising an online virtual baby. This story is not only heartbreaking but in one sense painfully ironic.
Korea has set up camps to address and rehabilitate people who may be addicted to gaming. These camps focus on social aspects such as improving communication and building relationships with family and friends. As these seem to be the worst side effects from gaming. This innovative approach to tackling ‘addicted gamers’ seemed beneficial in the fact that youths were reminded about other alternatives to gaming such as  the outdoors and the importance of relationships. However, the camp seems like a step too late in my opinion.

Overall Panaroma discussed important points to help combat the idea of ‘gaming addiction’. Ideas suggested that more money is needed to fund research which can help establish whether games themselves are addictive  or whether addiction stems from the person. Is it a personality trait? The programme recognised that games do incorporate powerful psychological techniques to create a compulsion loop, but without these there would be no substance to a game.

Many people suggested that games themselves should take responsibility in offering advice not only to the consumer, but in the instance of (vulnerable) children playing games, parents should be provided with guidance on what traits to look for in ‘gaming addiction’.

Perhaps games should also have ratings on addiction levels (formed from research) which can help a buyer decide what game to choose. A rating can be a basis on assessing whether the user of a game is mature and capable enough to handle the game and the level of addiction it provides. In an ideal world age ratings and addictive ratings could possibly combine and work together in harmony to ensure games are used by suitable users.

More funding, more clarity and more responsibility is needed in order to tackle the issue of ‘gaming addiction’. Right I am off to go and chat to all of my friends in Tunisia. Woops, I mean I am going to put on my headset, plug-in my X-box and play Call of Duty.

Related links

BBC Iplayer Panorama: Addicted to gaming

Listen to the James Hazzell show about gaming addiction and self harm

Guardian article on Panorama

Bournemouth welcomes snow

December 2, 2010 3 comments

The white blanket has finally reached the South in the UK. Reports, interviews and images from the BBC this week have documented how the cold weather has affected people commuting to work via public transport, flights bring delayed/cancelled, schools closing and even baboons have suffered a terrible ordeal!

However, as a student it will not interrupt my studies, routine or travel. I will embrace the weather shift. Although at 12.30am this morning (2nd December 2010) it has interrupted my sleep pattern. The picturesque snow in Bournemouth:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See my flickr account for more pictures.

The real question tingling on everyone’s lips is, how is the snow affecting your week? The Marmite question. Do you love it or hate it?

The MeteoGroup predict a cold week ahead in Bournemouth. So wrap up warm with layered clothing, appropriate shoes and the essential hat, scarf and gloves, leather gloves are especially good at protecting your hands in this cold weather.

Is Google abusing its position?

November 30, 2010 8 comments

Google is the subject of talk again on Rebecca’s World and in the media. You may have read a previous Google article ‘Morality on the internet’ or ‘Fashionable Google’; however this post is questioning Google’s search engine appearance, as an investigation by EU is being launched into Google’s honesty.

Google is being investigated after sites such as Foundem (price comparison) and ejustice.fr (search engine) and Microsoft’s Ciao issued complaints. These sites claim that Google have penalised their websites and favour its own services.

Foundem and ejustice.fr have complained that Google have treated their sites differently as they are in the same competitive market. With the BBC’s figures in 2010 stating Google,

“has about a 65% share of the US market and about 90% in Europe”

It is clear why these sites have filed complaints, Google’s impact is overwhelming and they may feel this is due to Google’s ‘own specific structure’. Though the enormity of Google is bound to upset a few people, or should I say companies along the way.

The issues raised highlight and emphasise to us, (users of the web), just how prominent Google is in our everyday lives. I have seen Google as many people’s homepage and a commonly used search engine for absolutely anything from recipes to spellings to Google Scholar. The best example of Google being put to good use was when a friend of mine searched for Google. On Google. It almost brought a tear to my eye and made me realise the rise and expansion of Google has effectively made us (oblivious) and more dependent on the search engine. How many of us have Google as our home page? Let’s be honest. *Raises hand*.

From reading articles discussing the allegations towards Google you can understand the viewpoints of those websites filing complaints. They want answers, clarity, a resolution and a fairer search engine platform on the web. However, Google have responded by explaining how results (of those websites filing) are ranked. The reasons for these websites having little coverage, is not down to Google’s manipulation, but these sites are ranked poorly due to compelling reasons such as Foundem duplicating a large majority of its website content from other sites. The originality of a website is the first protocol to ensure trust between a company and a user. Copying does not sit well with most people.

I will continue to ‘search’ and report on the Google investigation in the upcoming weeks. Keep following the stories on Google by subscribing to this blog.

Related Links:

Paying our way to a lighter future

November 16, 2010 4 comments

The government is considering taxing fatty foods in order to reduce obesity. The BBC emphasise the increase of obese people in the last twenty years and that our country can not ignore this warning. A fatty good tax, is a (needed) wake up call and signal to society that change needs to happen, and soon. As quoted from the BBC article :

“Would putting up the price of junk food – with its high sugar and fat content – cut these rising obesity rates in the same way as a tax on cigarettes – vigorously contested by the tobacco industry at the time – has helped reduce smoking?”

Last night, Panorama aired a documentary, ‘Fat Tax’, with reporter Shelley Jofre, discussing the tax being enforced and the positive effects. As discussed by Private Healthcare the programme did not offer a new or fresh angle to obesity, however, it was informative but not necessarily inspiring for all viewers.

I think it is important to address the issue of obesity but there are a lot of unanswered questions with this approach. Who would decide what is ‘fatty food’ exactly? In order for effective taxing on ‘fatty foods’ the public and governing body would need to define what is ‘fatty food’. This term has been used continuously and repeatedly by media organisations and I for one feel it has lost a lot of value, content and effect. In a supermarket you may have heard something along these lines, “Oh no I am not eating that. That’s junk food. Yuk. It’s fatty food”. I feel there is a need to remind and update the meaning behind the phrase of ‘fatty food’ in order for us to progress as a healthy eating nation.

I feel this tax is forgetting a key aspect in battling obesity. Yes you guessed correctly. Exercise. We need to promote and encourage physical exercise in our lives and different lifestyles. Whether it is half an hours yoga in a morning, to participating in a particular sport, jogging every couple of nights, joining a club or society or attending a dance class. There needs to be more focus on media hype and publicity on the positive aspects on combatting obesity. Surely, a positive approach to such a negatively discussed issue would motivate people?

So don’t starve me of information now, as I need to know, would you pay a little bit extra for that one slice of chocolate cake? So rich, dark and velvety that simple melts on your tongue. A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips. And also on the bank debt. Or would you (as they hope), seek a healthier alternative and a quick fix to a ‘better’ body?

See the full Panorama ‘Tax the Fat’ programme

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