January 3rd, 2007
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Mary: TV broadcasts and the internet have an uneasy relationship: if you miss a TV programme nowadays, it’s standard practice to log onto video site youtube.com to see if some kind soul has recorded it and uploaded it for you. Well, it beats kicking the TV screen in, anyway: just don’t mention ‘copyright infringement’. Now, however, the BBC has cut a deal with the Google-owned Youtube site which will see the launch of three new online “channels”, officially making BBC programmes available online for the first time. The new services available would be divided into three: a BBC channel with no advertising, offering trailers and clips with the intention of promoting BBC television services; a BBC Worldwide channel providing entertaining clips, which would carry banner advertising and possibly also display video adverts before clips; and a BBC News channel, funded by advertising, showing around 30 news clips per day. The BBC hopes to reach new audiences through the deal with the vastly popular website. Unsurprisingly, the advertising revenue involved makes this a controversial and groundbreaking move for the BBC. The BBC News channel would not be available to UK customers because of the advertising used, but many still feel that this service will be too commercial, compromising the BBC’s commitment to providing a public service funded solely through TV licensing.
Mary: The Government announced its plans for a “traffic-light” scheme of food labeling back in March last year. The idea is to simplify nutritional content labels in order to assist rushed shoppers in selecting the healthiest options. Foods labeled green can be eaten often; amber less often; and foods with a red label should be avoided except for the occasional treat. All very well. The problem, of course, lies in determining which foods deserve which labels. The current system, adopted by Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, includes four coloured labels which relate to the levels of fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. Whilst the majority of these labels concur with conventional healthy eating advice and common sense, such a reductive system fails to take into account other factors, such as general nutritional content and the level of processing involved in food production. This results in a ridiculous scenario which sees highly processed McCain Oven Chips given 4 green lights and therefore an “eat often” blessing from the Food Standards Agency, whilst cheese is labeled as something to avoid as it is high in fat and saturated fat – ignoring the fact that it is not intended to be eaten in large quantities and contains many positive nutrients such as calcium and protein. With so much conflicting nutritional advice floating around the media, is this system really helping people to make healthier choices?
Mary: The Government first recommended that we should eat more fish for the good of our health and our waistlines back in 1994, and it’s now accepted as good healthy eating advice, along with "eat more fruit and veg" and "not too much red meat". All very well for us, as we begin our January diet plans. However, the depleted state of British fishing stocks means that it now looks as if eating more fish - or indeed, eating fish at all - isn't going to be an option for much longer. The types of fish we consider the most common or easiest to get hold of are often the ones whose populations are most threatened by overfishing - for instance, whitefish like cod and plaice. As it becomes more and more obvious that fish populations are dwindling, the European commission’s recommendations become tougher – in December they urged the EU to reduce cod fishing quotas by 25%. The Food Standards Agency has now gone back to the drawing board to come up with a new dietary recommendation on fish that is not in conflict with advice from the environmental lobby that we cut back on fishing. However, all is not lost – yet. Greenpeace doesn’t ask consumers to give up fish entirely, but to be more selective about the fish they buy. Line-caught fish are best, especially those from the South-West of the UK rather than the over-fished North Sea.