The web is a valuable tool, but old-fashioned press practices can still be best
Water usage in north Africa and the Middle East is unsustainable and shortages are likely to lead to further instability – unless governments take action to solve the impending crisis
Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page
1. 20% of people in the UK today to become Centurions (or at least live to 100)
Nearly a fifth of people living in the UK today are expected to celebrate their 100th birthday, according to government projections released recently. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said its figures suggested 10 million people – 17% of the population – would become centenarians.
These are based on Office for National Statistics population projections and life expectancy estimates.
Pensions Minister Steve Webb said the “staggering” figures brought home the need for pension reforms. “Many millions of us will be spending around a third of our lives or more in retirement in the future,” he said, adding the government was determined to reform the pensions system to make it “sustainable for the long-term”.
The DWP estimates there will be at least 507,000 people aged 100 or over by 2066, including 7,700 people aged 110 or over, so-called super centenarians.
Currently 11,800 people in the UK are aged 100 or over and fewer than 100 are over 110.
The government figures suggest that of the more than 10m who will go on to reach 100, 3m are currently aged under 16, 5.5m are aged between 16 and 50, and 1.3m are aged between 51 and 65. About 875,000 are already aged over 65.
See some charts showing this here: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2010/dec-2010/dwp186-10-301210.shtml
2. End of the default retirement age
The Government has indicated an end to the default retirement age (DRA), following the consultation launched by the Coalition last July.
Ministers have decided to proceed with their plan to phase out the DRA between 6 April and 1 October this year to both reflect the changing UK demographic and enable more choice for workers as to when they want to retire.
As well as benefiting individuals – the Government argues – the freedom to work for longer will provide a boost to the UK economy in the face of an ageing population.
3. Older People on Television
Not surprisingly, lots of coverage in the past month about the successful ageism case former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly brought against the BBC.
Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, who won a landmark age discrimination case against the BBC, told the Sunday Telegraph she felt she had been “erased” from the Corporation. She said: “I found out through a press release that it was only the women who were going. It was like I’d never worked on the programme. I felt very hurt by it. I was very sad. I knew Jay Hunt [former BBC One controller] wanted to refresh the programme but I became angry when I realised it was only the women who were being ‘refreshed’.” She added: “I hope other women will take a similar stand. I think the BBC should be very worried.”
A recent edition of the Guardian’s weekly Media Talk podcast has a good summary of the case and its implications, you can listen to it online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/audio/2011/jan/13/media-talk-podcast-countryfile-miriam-oreilly-arizona-shootings
Meanwhile, a number of other broadcasters commented on the case, see:
- Terry Wogan in The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/terrywogan/8261994/Radio-and-television-are-not-jobs-for-life.html
- John Simpson in the same paper: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/8261761/Miriam-OReilly-verdict-Dont-write-off-our-wrinkles.html
- Janet Street Porter in the Independent on Sunday: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-two-cheers-for-miriam-but-the-bbc-wont-change-2185639.html
Whilst the Daily Mail has an extended interview with Miriam: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1347627/Countryfiles-Miriam-OReilly-says-theres-offensive-wrinkles.html
Writing in The Times, Patrick Foster, notes that one study found last year that only 20 per cent of presenters and actors on BBC One were over 50, compared with 34 per cent of the population.
Most recently, the Guardian ran a feature entitled: “Who are you calling past it?” which features interviews with Joan Bakewell (77), Jennie Bond (60), and others on their experiences as women working in the media: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/05/older-women-tv-radio-miriam-oreilly
Whilst The Sunday Times reported the BBC’s ratings-winning consumer show Rip Off Britain has given presenters Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Jennie Bond the chance to ‘defy the Corporation’s obsession with youth’ amid recent controversy surrounding the employment of older women. All of the presenters are in their sixties and seventies.
Rippon commented: “It shows that you should never underestimate your audience. They really do not care about the age or sex of the presenters. They just care about what they like. The public is more discerning than television executives over who they want to watch.”
4. BBC Director-General to chair Cultural Diversity Network
Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General becomes Chair of the Cultural Diversity Network (CDN) for a period of two years. He takes over from Channel 4’s Chief Executive David Abraham. As Chair, Mark Thompson will lead an association of Britain’s leading broadcasters and independent production companies to improve diversity in the television industry – both on screen and behind the camera.
The CDN is an association of Britain’s leading broadcasters and independent production companies, originally formed in 2000, to improve the representation of ethnic minorities in television both on screen and behind the camera. It focuses on working with its member broadcasters on sharing expertise, resources and models of good practice.
As members of the CDN, programme makers and commissioners are encouraged to think about ethnic minority representation, disability, sexual orientation, age, gender and social background when casting or recruiting.
The CDN introduced a Diversity Pledge in 2009 – a public commitment by independent production companies, in-house producers and their suppliers to take measurable steps to improve diversity in the television industry.
The pledge is split into four sections covering different aspects of diversity with practical suggestions on how to improve representation. The approach is flexible – it’s up to individual companies to set their own agenda.
The four aspects are:
1. Recruiting fairly and from as wide a base as possible and encouraging industry entrants and production staff from diverse backgrounds.
2. Encouraging diversity in output.
3. Encouraging diversity at senior decision-making levels.
4. Taking part in, or running, events that promote diversity.
5. Digital Inclusion
“We don’t have a computer. Are we missing out?”
This was the question posed by two older Guardian readers recently. The responses from the public don’t say anything you probably don’t already know, but it ‘s good to hear readers outline the arguments for – and against – rather than simply people who work in this field.
Read the comments here:
6. ‘Life Opportunities Survey’
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published interim results from the ‘Life Opportunities Survey’ (LOS), the first major longitudinal survey in Great Britain to apply the social model and explore disability in terms of social barriers to participation, rather than in terms of impairments or health conditions.
The LOS compares the experiences of people with and without impairments across a range of different areas. Barriers identified include ‘discrimination; the attitudes of other people; inaccessible buildings, public transport and information; as well as lack of support, equipment and adjustments’.
Key findings from the survey include:
- 29% of adults had an impairment
- 26% of adults were disabled as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
- 56% of adults with impairments experienced restrictions in the type or amount of paid work they did, compared with 26% adults without impairments (equipment was identified by disabled people as an enabler in employment)
- 74% of adults with impairments experienced restrictions in using transport, compared with 58% without impairments
- 12% of adults with impairments experienced a participation restriction in housing (accessing rooms within their home or getting in or out of their home), compared with 1% without impairments, with common barriers in both cases including ‘stairs, lack of ramps/stair lift’
- 29% of adults with impairments experienced a participation restriction to accessing buildings outside their home, compared with 7% without impairments
The survey was commissioned by the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) alongside two qualitative research reports. The research and factsheets summarising the findings are here.
7. Disability Hate Crime
Almost half of all disabled people are affected by disability hate crime. However, only 1,200 cases were prosecuted in the three years to March 2010. To counter this, Radar, the Royal Association for Disability Rights, is working to improve the reporting and recording of disability hate crime by:
– mapping disability hate crime third party reporting sites that already exist or are being set up
– exploring disabled people’s experiences of reporting disability hate crime.
Get involved now by visiting the Radar or ODI website: http://www.odi.gov.uk/about-the-odi/odi-news.php#radar
8. Wayfinding Technology
The installation of digital ‘wayfinding’ technologies to help blind people find their way around railways stations and other public spaces might not be cost-effective for five years or more, according to Dr John Gill, a consultant and former RNIB chief scientist.
His comments follow the publication of a report on “Evaluating wayfinding systems for blind and partially sighted customers at stations” has been published by the Rail Safety and Standards Board and is at http://www.rssb.co.uk/sitecollectiondocuments/pdf/reports/research/T881_rpt_final.pdf with the appendices at http://www.rssb.co.uk/sitecollectiondocuments/pdf/reports/research/T881_apps_final.pdf
The research found that there are a significant number of existing or potential rail passengers who are blind or visually impaired. Improvements to the network are being undertaken by several parties within the GB rail industry to provide benefits to passengers with a range of specific needs, building on the considerable investment in recent years in systems such as real time audio and visual information and provision or improvement of step free access to stations.
This work has included a pilot deployment of the RNIB React system in Scotland, RNIB ‘React’ is a talking sign system whereby audio messages are triggered by users carrying a special trigger fob when they approach. Whilst demonstrating some benefits of the React system, there were problems with planning, implementing and maintaining the React system cost-effectively: current estimated costs for implementing such a system across the entire UK rail network are between £250 million and £500 million.
Given this size of cost, “only those systems which provide some benefits to the wider rail-travelling community (as opposed to only the visually-impaired) look likely to be even worth considering”, the report says. In the meantime, the provision of extra staff to assist people with disabilities might be more cost-effective, as such staff would also be able to undertake other tasks, it says.
Dr Gill, who contributed to the report on the potential benefits of future technologies in this field such as radio frequency tags (RFID), smartcards and satellite location systems, said in time cheaper technologies could be developed combining positioning systems with live train information accessed over the web.
These alternative technologies include:
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
- Bar codes
- Wireless (including Bluetooth and React)
“The problems with implementing systems like React were not just related to technology but maintenance”, he said. “You need systems to see if it is working reliably. If there is a talking sign on the end of a platform saying don’t walk any further, and it’s not working, is actually creating a safety hazard. Any system has got to work 99.9% of time, so you can rely on it.”
The decision on when to make investments in wayfinding technologies is ultimately a political one, Dr Gill said. “It’s a matter of who is going to pay, and who else is going to benefit.
The rate of change of technology and economics is so fast that one hesitates to predict exactly when it will work out.”
Quotes from: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=530
A proposal for a ‘European Accessibility Act’, which will include accessibility measures on ICT and websites, will be put forward during 2012. The act, part of actions following on from a wider European Disability Strategy ( http://bit.ly/fDCRlP ) unveiled last year, will be based on an upcoming commission study of accessibility barriers for disabled citizens across Europe. The study will cover access to public services, public buildings and transport, as well as other areas.
The act will set out contain common standards to help regulate accessible design in a number of areas including ICT, the built environment and product design.
10. Next phase of superfast broadband plans announced
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has outlined government plans for ‘the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015’, working in partnership with the private sector, councils and communities. To reduce the ‘digital divide’, all parts of the UK will be covered, with government funding for areas that the market cannot reach. A ‘world class communications network’ is seen as fundamental for economic growth and for more efficient and accessible public services.
- a mix of technologies –fixed, wireless and satellite – to deliver superfast broadband
- developing the next generation of mobile broadband services, based on new wireless technologies
- a Publicly Available Specification for new build homes to give developers and builders a steer as to what connectivity homes should contain
Recognising the need to ‘ensure that consumers are comfortable with technology and that those currently excluded from the digital world, for whatever reason, are able to join it and reap the benefits’, the strategy refers to Martha Lane Fox’s Race Online initiative (details here).
There are also references to tele-working for disabled people and to the Whole System Demonstrator programme. The press release is here.
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is the delivery vehicle for these policies. To find out via this link.