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Swine Flu – it was all a bit blah really January 29, 2010

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Every generation has had to fight for their survival against the latest killer disease to enter society. For my generation it was the fear of AIDS and the world went crazy getting people to practice safe sex. Which was fun. For my grandparents it was Polio, which despite sounding like a fun game enjoyed amongst the upper classes, killed about 10,000 worldwide.

More recently, we’ve been experiencing multiple outbreaks which threaten to wipe out humanity and leave our pets to rule the world. Before Swine Flu there was SARS. And before SARS was the MMR vaccine scare (which deserves a separate post all in itself!). But the problem with Swine Flu was that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the disease as a Pandemic. Now, by normal standards, a Pandemic had previously required “enormous numbers of deaths.” And at 13,000, this certainly wasn’t the case here. 

What relevance does this have to media studies? Well the media were certainly involved in whipping up a moral panic (remember Stanley Cohen and the Mods and Rockers?). This time however, money was involved, which is why the WHO are currently meeting in Geneva amid claims that they, along with drugs company GlaxoSmithKline, created the moral panic in order to sell more of the vaccine they’d discovered. Conspiracy theory anyone? Read more about the story here.

Glastonbury coverage costs public £1.5m January 29, 2010

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The BBC are in trouble again after it was establlished that they forked out a whopping £1.5million to send a total of 227 reporters to last years Glastonbury festival.

The National Audit Office are currently investigating whether the cost was excessive and deciding whether we – the license fee payers – are getting a good deal. Read the NME’s coverage of the story here.

Looking at this argument from a different perspective, one could argue that this is merely just a drop in the water when you consider that the BBC pay out over £10million per season on Doctor Who (which has never been the same since Billie Piper left).

Post your Mashups here! January 27, 2010

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Let’s see some of your suggestions for your favourite video mashups – send me a link and I’ll post.

You can’t mistake my biology… January 26, 2010

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Great story to think about when tackling We Media and Democracy A2’s – some students who sat their Biology exam this week were so horrified by the difficulty of the paper that they set up a facebook group to complain about it. Check the whole story here. Amazingly, the exam board – AQA – did actually respond to the protest, advising that they would bear the comments in mind when marking the work.

This is a fantastic example of what we in the Media world like to call Web 2.0, which literally references the “second” coming of the internet whereby blogs and social networking sites took over. In addition, this is a good illustration of how the We Media has enabled the media industry to become more democratic than before.

And so it begins… January 20, 2010

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The New York Times has become the first major publication to announce plans to charge visitors to their website who read their news story.

In a statement released today, the paper said:

“Starting in early 2011, visitors to NYTimes.com will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site.

But executives of The New York Times Company said they could not yet answer fundamental questions about the plan, like how much it would cost or what the limit would be on free reading. They stressed that the amount of free access could change with time, in response to economic conditions and reader demand.”

What’s your thoughts on this issue? Are publishers not already receiving enough income to pay their bosses those overinflated salaries? As you all know, what starts in the US eventually ends up becoming the norm over here, so expect your regular news sites to implement a similar scheme in the next few years.

This is one to think about when considering how digital media is impacting the industry. Could we perhaps see a rise in citizen journalism following the enforcement of charges?

Regulation: Gingers and airbrushing January 16, 2010

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Thanks very much to Kieran Jones for highlighting two fantastic examples of contemporary media regulation.

First up is this rather appalling story about the ad campaign for Living TVs ‘Dating In The Dark’ (what will they come up with next?) which begged the question “how do you spot a ginger in the dark?” Virgin Media, who own Living, responded by saying that the ad was used to “challenge people’s perceptions of attractiveness and encourage decisions based on personality as well as looks”.

The ads received only 3 complaints, which was enough for the ASA to pull the ad stating that it could “be seen as prejudicial against people with ginger hair”. More info about this story can be found here.

Next is a coup for women everywhere – 60 year old model Twiggy recently appeared in an ad for some Oil of Olay eye cream airbrushed up to the nines. Two complaints (with an additional 700 from an on-line anti-airbrushing campaign) were enough to pull the ad on the basis that the ad could give consumers a “misleading impression of the effect the product could achieve”. Check the Media Guardian’s coverage here.

This one is a representation issue – does this advert reflect the truth of reality or a reality constructed in order to get its audience to waste money on overpriced moisturising creams?

What a Dappy mare January 16, 2010

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The BBC. The bastion of British Broadcasting. And when things go wrong, the press are quick to jump down their throats (and why not? We pay them well over £100 a year for the privilege of receiving their services).

This week the company is in trouble for allowing one of the members of MOBO award winning band (how did that happen?) N-Dubz to respond to a listener who had sent in a text criticising the band. Lead “singer” Dappy sent the following response to the said listener: “Your gonna die, U sent a very bad msg towards N Dubz on The Chris Moyels show yesterday Morning and for that reason u will never be left alone!! If u say sorry I will leave u alone u ****”.

Note the correct use of grammar and punctuation.

Anyhow, what this little story does is to once again leave the BBC open for criticism for allowing N-Dubz to obtain the listeners contact details. In this day and age of on-line democracy, should celebrities behave in this way? Surely freedom of speech should mean that listeners to a radio station should not be fearful of sending in their comments about one of the most talentless and idiotic acts to come out of Britain in the last decade?

One guess where the story originated from. Check your answer here.

The Butterfield Diet Plan January 14, 2010

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Well done for Abi Brennan for highlighting a hilarious sketch which I thought I’d post on here as it’s just too funny to ignore. Bonbonbonbons.

Watch and learn – and singalong too! January 12, 2010

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Just a reminder that ‘Glee’ kicked off its run on E4 last night with a belter of an opening show. This show is an amazing example of cross-media convergence and is currently leading by example in the States by demonstrating that if you utilise new technology, you have a much better chance of your media product surviving.

So far, sales on itunes of songs performed in the show have generated over $3million in additional income. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what kind of shows we’ll be seeing on our screens over the next few years.

Keep a close eye on this one folks as it’s an all-singing all-dancing perfect example to use in your Summer exam, both for AS and A2.

Oh, and note from the image above whereby it’s situated in the American TV schedules – what does this say about the show?

Cowell expands his empire January 12, 2010

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Good old Simon Cowell. Not satisfied with having the highest rated show in the States (that would be American Idol for those living under a rock), he’s decided that 6 months a year of laughing at fat, ugly Americans isn’t enough and he’s now due to launch the US version of The X Factor.

Despite receiving $36 million per year for being a judge on Idol, Cowell has decided that this amount of cash won’t support his passion for Tiara’s and rent boys and consequently he has managed to sell his X Factor concept to the Fox TV network, who also air Idol.

What does this all mean? Well, more money for Simon Cowell for one as he will also enjoy the additional revenue that X Factor generates in single and album sales. For Murdoch’s Fox TV Network, the news will pretty much guarantee that Fox will not only have the highest rated show in America, but the top two highest rated shows. How’s about them apples?