Media: Trendspotting #27

l mind names

One of the best-named awards a journalist can win is the Bigot of the Year award given out by the mental health charity Mind. It is awarded to the journalist who has done the most to keep our image of the mentally ill firmly in the Dark Ages.

It looks as if this year they had a lot to choose from. In a survey of 1,000 articles in the national press, the Health Education Authority has found that 40 per cent used words like "nutter" or "loony". And it wasn't just the language that was pejorative. More than half of all the articles were about crime or the mentally ill causing harm to others or to themselves. Only a fifth of articles carried the message that mental health problems are treatable. Overall, the negative stories outweighed positive stories by three to one. Mind may need more awards.

l sky viewers

Passengers on long-haul flights spend an average of two hours and 25 minutes watching television, according to research published in Marketing Week this week. This is just less than the average amount of television we watch in a whole week. According to figures for the second quarter of this year, we watch 2.94 hours a week of television in Britain - a fall of almost an hour in the past 10 years. The answer for programme-makers and advertisers seeking to reverse this trend is obvious - they need to strap us to our sofas and offer us free drinks all night.

l red tape rise

Defenders of John Birt's regime at the BBC use the fact that his Producer's Choice resource management system has helped to make savings behind the scenes that have allowed more money to go over the airwaves. In the three years to 1996, the corporation made pounds 233m in savings - or 12 per cent of a year's licence fee - and this money was earmarked for programmes. The savings were largely made by cutting staff numbers, by 4,000, to just over 18,000.

But there is one particular branch of the BBC where the trend has been in the other direction. The corporation's central bureaucracy, which deals with everything from public relations to paying staff, grew by 4 per cent last year, costing pounds 56m. In 1995, the central bureaucracy had grown by 5 per cent. This, presumably, is what provoked Charles Denton, former head of drama at the BBC, to describe the place as an "Orwellian nightmare" when he left last year.

l X-philes

There are 700,000 people in London who like bands who look at their shoes when they play jangly guitar riffs and wear their hair in their eyes. At least that is what Xfm hopes. The new London radio station launches today with a weekly reach target of 700,000 in the 15-34 age group with its "new bands" policy and alternative view on the world. After six years and three applications trying to get a licence - as well as two petitions to the Radio Authority and waiting for the members of the Radio Authority to change so they could win one - let's hope it's been worth the wait.

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