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A history of online news

Dave Gilbert’s written a great piece for the Beeb talking about his role in developing online news services. Well worth a read.

This post was filed under: Media, Notes, Technology.

Doctors get (even more) vocal about MMC

Doctors’ ProtestStableSound have made two songs about the complete mess Patricia Hewitt has created in MMC, which has left thousands of doctors without an appropriate job. Perhaps this reflects a small slice of the general feeling about the problem amongst the medical profession.

MMC Song:

Study for Nothing:

There are many, many more great songs from StableStound on other topics here, and I’ll be revisiting this very popular post soon for more musical discussion.

And there’s more on MMC coming your way tomorrow, right here. Can’t wait.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

Iran, the Navy, and BBC News 24

BBC News 24 coverageIt strikes me as interesting today that BBC News 24 is referring to Iran’s detention of 15 Royal Navy personnel as a “kidnapping”, which seems to me to be extremely loaded language.

Iran contests that the boats involved in the incident were in Iranian waters, while the UK and US state that they were within Iraqi territory, so it appears one word against another. If the Iranians are right (and it is very hard to tell in such disputed territory with complex divisions), then they are well within their legal rights to detain the Royal Navy personnel, so to describe them as “kidnapped” in this rather less-than-clear situation seems unfortunate at best.

Most other news organisations – including their own website – are using diplomatic terms like “seized” or “detained” which, in themselves, do not imply that either side is right. So why is BBC News 24 deliberately choosing to do differently? I hope, not least for the renowned journalistic standards of the Beeb, that this wasn’t a decision taken because “kidnapped” fits better on a headline graphic.

Some of their presentation decisions are already irritating and somewhat questionable, but if presentation is the reason for this decision, then standards really have reached a new – very depressing – low.

Image courtesy of dragonhhjh at TV Forum

This post was filed under: Media, News and Comment, Politics.

Gordon Brown eats his greens. From his nose.

Not the world’s most pleasant video… I know it’s not big, and it’s not clever, but it most certainly is Gordon Brown picking his nose and eating it at PMQs yesterday. In what I assume must be a Prime Ministerial way, of course, given that he’s after the top job. Mr Brown’s future rival Mr Cameron may be accused of not yet having a grip on the issues, but at least he’s discovered tissues.

[flashvideo filename=”http://sjhoward.co.uk/video/brown2.flv” title=”nologo” /]

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics, Video.

Gordon’s rainbow budget

Gordon BrownGordon Brown today announced the detail of his tenth, and final, budget. It has an environmentally green donation to African rainforests, a Labour-red increase in spending on schools and hospitals, a Tory-blue tax cut, and probably something Lib Dem-yellow in there too. Frankly, I got too bored wading through it to notice.

It’s the all-things-to-all-men budget. It sticks up for the little guy by cutting income tax, then screws them over to reward big business by increasing tax rates on small companies while cutting corporation tax. It tries to be green by increasing tax on the biggest gas guzzling cars, but then restricts itself to only the biggest gas guzzling cars. It claims to simplify the tax system by cutting the 10% rate on income tax – but confuses everybody by keeping it for savings income.

Perhaps the main message from the budget comes from all of the ensuing media coverage – nobody quite knows whether they’ll be better off or not, because this Chancellor has created a tax system so complex that it’s impossible for any human to get to grips with the changes right away. Yet he still gets his headline tax cuts, despite the fact that it’s likely many people will be worse off. So everyone loves him while also being screwed over by him.

It’s headline-driven sound-bite government. And they said Gordon Brown was different…

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

Hazel Blears: Different world

I note that on this morning’s Today programme, Hazel Blears announced that the fact 95 MPs refuse to do Blair’s bidding means that he’s gained authority (or, at least, he’s done the opposite of losing it). What world does this woman live in?

This post was filed under: Notes, Politics.

Reform of the Mental Health Act

Mental HealthLabour have long wanted to reform the Mental Health Act, and made their first attempt with the Mental Health Bill 2002, which failed rather spectacularly. Several further attempts have also proved fruitless. But now they’re having an all-new attempt at reforming the Act.

Firstly, in true modern NHS style, it now means that the range of people empowered to do things is vastly extended. Where the power to detain people and force treatment upon them was previously restricted to a select few with the necessary skill and experience, the Government now wants to extend this power to a great many more people – in fact, pretty much anyone who claims to work with the Mental Health sector who’s been on a short course. And it will be the Social Service – not medics – who decide if someone can be deemed to be an Approved Mental Health Professional.

This is nurse-prescribing gone mad. Of course, Mental Health nurses have long been highly trained in the detention of individuals for short periods, and they play a very important role in this arena. But now the government wants to open this up to any Mental Health professional. Dodgy counsellors will no medical training will soon be able to sign up for a course, then will be able to detain people. That sounds unhelpful.

Just to make it even easier for these poorly trained individuals to know who they can round up, the Government would like to change the definition of a Mental Disorder. Instead of detailed definitions of each kind of disorder, the Government now wants us to accept “any disorder or disability of the mind” as a definition. This is beyond stupidity. Now, anyone who has epilepsy or has suffered a stroke or has any number of conditions suddenly falls under the provisions of the Mental Health Act, and the mountains of bureaucracy that entails. I’m sure that’ll come as a particular delight to overworked GPs, general physicians, and mental health workers nationwide.

And, ho-hum, they feel a need to better regulate these powers. So they’re introducing much greater use of Mental Health Tribunals. Anyone who’s ever tried to organise a Tribunal for a patient will know that it’s damn-near impossible, so to use more of them seems – well, not a great idea.

Yet this stinking piece of terrible legislation is getting very little media coverage because of public embarrassment about Mental Health.

There is one glimmer of hope – It’s hard to deny that most of the Cabinet have “disorders of the mind”, so we can wait till they pass the new legislation, then lock the lot of ’em up. If Yates of the Yard doesn’t get there first…

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

2 + 1 ≠ 3 in the world of ITV

ITV PlayNews reaches my ears this afternoon that ITV are pulling their much-criticised quiz channel ITV Play, and replacing it with ITV2+1. Which is distinctly not ITV3. Though with all the recent controversy, it seems rather fitting that the service has been replaced with one with a name that makes it look like ITV can’t add up.

Apparently this has nothing to do with the recent concern over premium-line phone-in competitions. Despite the channel being based on, erm, premium-line phone-in competitions, and recently being pulled temporarily due to an investigation into – oh, premium-line phone-in competitions. The reason it won’t be returning is because they’ve decided it doesn’t make the best the best use of their available spectrum. Of course, it was the best use of this spectrum less than a year ago when it launched.

I shouldn’t be too hard on them. The fact that it’s gone is doubtlessly a good thing. But it will be staying overnight – you see, it is the best use of space then. Mainly because it’s profitable. And if there’s one thing ITV can add up, it’s shareholders’ profits.

This post was filed under: Media.

Notes from a drug user

This post was filed under: Health, Notes.

Newsflash: Patricia Hewitt doesn’t care

Patricia HewittTo all those people that are complaining about Patricia Hewitt distancing herself from the recent (predictable) problems with Modernising Medical Careers, and saying she’s hiding behind Lord Hunt – you’re missing the point. She doesn’t care.

Patricia Hewitt has said publically that she thinks the NHS has too many doctors and nurses. If doctors are choosing to go abroad – good riddance! That’ll help to balance the books, so Ms Hewitt can pay for more managers.

After all, if doctors are starting to complain about things, then something’s clearly wrong: They’re not being worked hard enough if they have time to make a fuss. We clearly need more managers.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

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