Photograph turned Portrait

Friday, February 3, 2012

I haven't been active on Deviant Art for a few months now and I was surprised (and a tad flattered) to see one of my photographs, Eye of an Equus used and translated as a drawn portrait by Cleo Valkenaers (aka 2BrightEyes). I think it has come out beautifully. 
Portrait by Cleo Valkenaers
Original photograph (c) Megna Kalvani (2010)

iOS5's Ipad is most indefinitely beautiful!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Comparative analysis: German and Italian media in the twenty-first century

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This article compares the media environments of two western European countries, Germany and Italy. The study discusses how economic, political, regulatory and social factors have come to shape and influence German and Italian news media over the years.

Germany and Italy look back at a long history of mass media such as newspapers, radio and television that have played an important role in the construction of their national identities (Anderson 1983). Both nations have features of rich tradition, interpretative journalism, spiced with political partnership, sales-stimulating sensationalism and provocative criticism that may or may not have collectively contributed as a factor to give rise to the world’s largest media companies that currently have a significant and growing representation in Western Europe (T. Scott 2009).

It is commendable how the German media system have remade and extensively developed itself not once but twice in the twentieth century; once after World War II and again after reunification of the “two Germany’s” in 1990. Today, Germany stands to be the fifth largest economy[i] and Europe’s second largest nation (after Russia) with over 82 million[ii] inhabitants. A ‘dual system’ coexists in Germany characterising its media organization into two main forms: a private commercial daily press and public structure of broadcasting (Hickethier 2007).

On the other hand, we have the founding member of the European Union with a population of over sixty million[iii], Italy has a diversified economy whose GDP ranks lower than Germany but higher than 27 other EU countries. Although, the growth has been evidently slow over the recent years, Italian media is unique and a competitive market that is concentrated in a few hands. Media baron, Silvio Berlusconi thrice prime minister of Italy and owner of three of the four largest Italian TV channels and a variety of newspapers and magazine, plays an influential role as he blatantly uses his extensive media interests to fulfil his recurring political agendas  (Doyle, 2002; T. Scott, 2009).

Concentration of Media ownership

With the likes of Italian media giants De Benedetti, Fiat Rizzoli and Berlusconi and the world’s largest companies owned by Bertelsmann and Axel-Springer in Germany, the director of the European Journalism Observatory recognizes a “frightening concentration of press” in the Western Europe (Russ-Mohl 2003; T. Scott 2009). The economic expansion of the media system in Germany is more balanced with private, independent media conglomerates, such as the Axel Springer and the Bertelsmann Group dominating the print media while the electronic media is financed by license fees and subsidies and controlled by the government (Pfetsch 1996).  Whereas, Italy has had an unrelenting replacement of public by private media ownership since, the 1980’s, giving rise to a highly competitive market (Barlie and Rao 1992).

Traditional Media

Germany has a strong local and regional newspaper market that dates back to the beginning of the seventeenth century (J. Wilke 2000). Print media is dominated by 10 of the largest publishers who control 44.8 percent of the market, among them Axel Springer Group reins a bulk of 22.1 percent (BILD, Welt, Hamburger Abendblatt, Berliner Morgenpost, etc.) followed by Verlagsgruppe Stuttgarter Zeitung, a regional publisher who owns 8.5 percent of the market. The top-selling German tabloid paper, popularly known as the "boulevard press” is BILD Zeitung, with a circulation of 3.3 million. Sixty percent of the German magazine sector is controlled by four publishing giants Bauer, Springer, Burda and Bertelsmann.  Weekly publications like Fie Zeit and magazines, led by Der Spiegel, a liberal and highly political publish investigative and interpretative style of journalism adding to the field (J. Klenisteube and Thomass 2010; T. Scott 2009; Hickethier 2007).

Italian newspapers are fragmented by privatized groups and owners. L'Espresso group is the owner of broadsheet La Repubblica, three magazines and 15 local paid-for newspapers while the Mondadori group, is controlled by Silvio Berlusconi's family, vital book publishers in Italy, owning 40 magazines like Panorama, a right-wing publication. Italy ranks the lowest in Europe in terms of circulation and readership (only the Greeks and Portugese read less) (Mancini 2007). Italian’s most prestigious newspapers, Corriere della Sera and Repubblica, has been steadily declining for over a decade (Barlie and Rao, 1992; T. Scott 2009) as their sales dip from 1.93million in 2004 to 1.73million in 2009 copies (Giomi 2010).

Even though, Italian press has a strong regional character it continues to have “historically low level of readership; a predominance of regional over national papers; a notable lack of independence of the press; virtual nonexistence of a popular press; and the existence of a group of daily ‘news’papers that are devoted solely to either sports, religious news or other specialized and sensationalist topics” (Lumley 1996; Doyle 2002).

Broadcast Media

Radio and television markets in Germany and Italy are competitive and highly depended-on by the public for news and entertainment.

·         Radio

German radio is similar to the ‘public institution’ style of BBC Broadcasting, only more diverse as it is regulated separately in each of its 16 (Länder) states (Hickethier 1996; Pfetsch 1996). There are 51 AM stations, 767 FM stations, and four short-wave stations in Germany out of which only six percent of the public depend on the radio for news from the 77.8 million radios in Germany. Evidently, German radio is losing its importance in the twenty-first century (Ross and Fuher 2006; J. Kleinsteube and Thomass 2010).

Radio televisione Italiana (RAI) is the largest state owner of Italian’s public service broadcasting service. Two of RAI’s most listened-to stations are Radio Uno (news, public affairs, culture) and Radio Due (news, culture, music, entertainment) with an average of 6.2 and 3.8 million listeners in 2009. Radio Tre and Radio Capital are both “talk-radio formats” owned by RDI and L’Espresso group respectively.  Among numerous local FM stations, the largest share belong to music stations RTL, RDS-Radio Dimensione Suono and Radio Deejay; all have over 5million listeners (Giomi 2010; T.Scott 2009; Barlie and Rao 1992).

·         Television

Germans television is split between public and commercial programmers. ARD[iv], the first regional broadcaster set up in 1950 and is renowned for its oldest nation-wide TV channel “Das Erste”. The Second German Television or ZDF[v]  is based on an agreement of all Länder (ZDF-Staatsvertrag). Commercial broadcasters in Germany are ProSiebenSAT, previously owned by Kirch and Bertelsmann’s RTL Group S.A. who owns TV channels in about a dozen European countries (Reinemann and Eichholz 2006).

There are three main television networks in Italy; RIA is the leading state-owned broadcaster (Rai Uno, Rai Due, Rai Tre), pay TV Sky Italia, a News corporation venture and commercial broadcaster Mediaset (Rete 4, Canale 5, Italia 1), which is owned by Berlusconi. Unlike Germany, Italian television is the main source of information for viewers and ‘main agenda setter’. Traditional TV consistently maintains its centrality within Italian media consumption patterns. According to Census, in 2007 television was regularly (at least three times per week) viewed by 86 percent of all Italian people, more than in other European countries excluding. Print media deal with issues depending on how much has been analysed and said on television programmes (Giomi 2010; Statham 1996).

Online Media

Since 2000, economic and technological developments or limitatons have led German and Italian newspapers, radio and television channels to adapt and adopt towards the online medium as a news platform. German magazine, Spiegel-online and news websites of La Repubblica and La Gazzetta dello sport were among the most-visited websites in 2009. Half of 24 million internet users in Germany depend on the net to obtain news at least once a week. While, internet penetration is still low in Italy compared to other European countries as only 41 percent of households have internet access (Giomi 2010; Wilke 2010; Reinemann & Eichholz 2006; B.Eimeren & Gerhard; C.Neuberger 2000).

Language and Foreign Media

Media in Germany and Italy are disseminated in their official languages German and Italian. The literacy rate among the German populace is 99 percent[vi] and unlike Italians they take their media seriously (Reinemann and Eichholz 2006). Italy has a 98 percent literacy rate which has improved over the two decades but it is said that they ‘still do not prefer to read newspapers’ (Giomi 2010; Barlie and Rao 1992).

Italy is fairly dependent and limited to its major media produced in their own language and corporations. However, in Germany is a more diverse consumption of international media and different perspectives. Over the past 50 years, foreign public service programming has been a developing field especially since Germany’s has a history of high numbers of immigrant labour coming to Germany in the 1960’s who were soon regarded as ‘permanent part of the German society, if not the nation’ (Kosrick 2000; Rissomet al 1977). International broadcasters are Deutschland-funk and Deutsche Welle, ‘international voices of Germany’. Deutsche Welle broadcasts German television programs to 31 countries worldwide from Berlin, transmits radio by satellite around the globe to 29 nations in addition to Deutsche Welle World, who provides a multimedia Internet service. Paris Match, Elle, Vogue and W are some of the reputed foreign magazine and western newspapers that are also easily available.

According to the study by Kolmer and Semetko (2010), Germany heavily focuses on Europe (32 percent) followed by East Asia (16 percent) and Middle East and North America toed and ranked third (13 percent) for foreign news. Same rank order exists in Italy.

Censorship and Regulatory bodies

German media has no official censorship and is one of the highest rated European countries for press freedom while Italy is ranked 49th, by the World Press Freedom Index (2010)[vii] due to its strict Italian penal code and laws.  Reporters Sans Borders (RSF)[viii] identifies reasons such as “violation of the protection of journalists’ sources, the continuing concentration of media ownership, displays of contempt and impatience on the part of government officials towards journalists and their work, and judicial summonses,” for Italy’s inability to develop its deteriorating press freedom over the recent years.

In Germany, the only regulation over the media was passed in 1995 against any child pornography on the Internet (Schweiger 2000). This bill was defined which online activities required licensing or structuring. Albeit, Germany has no official monitoring agency, it does have the active and independent bodies like the German Deutscher Presserat (Press Council) and Rundfunkrat (Independent Broadcasting Council) that oversee the operation of the print and broadcast media respectively and regulating both private and public media.

Journalism and Education Training

Journalism as a profession is not determined by any compulsory practical training in Germany but by in-house training (internships) and professional socialization (Frohlich and C.Holtz 2003). A freely available high-school diploma is sufficient to train an individual in the core aspects of journalism. Social and economic situations of journalists have improved since the 1960’s, journalists part of the German Association of Journalists  and the German Union of Journalists have negotiated for higher wage claims as acceptance of journalism as a profession has improved. High job satisfaction is evident as there are low levels of attrition.  

In contrast, joining a union or a corporation is a must for any aspiring journalist in Italy. Once certified by the Order of Journalists (Ordine), they will categorizes journalists into two: professionisti (full-time professionals, typically employed by one newspaper), and pubblicisti (free-lance journalists). Italian journalists find it cumbersome to follow the “complicated and conflicting laws and government processes” (T.Scott 2009; Weischenberg, Loffelholz and Scholl 1998). Others use the metaphor of a ‘journalist cut in half’ to describe the journalism environment as economic and political groups play a prominent role (Mancini 2007; Pansa 1977).

German and Italian media in the twenty-first century is rapidly evolving although we still see prominent features in today’s media environment that existed more than five decades ago; such as strong ties between the media and political parties in Italy or the ‘dual system’ in Germany these contribute as some significant factors if not all that have made German and Italian media, what it is today and will continue to shape their news environment (Mancini 2007) in years to come.

[i] According to the census by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook updated on December 2010,the German economy is the fifth largest economy in the world in PPP terms and Europe's largest – is
a leading exporter of machinery, vehicles, chemicals, and household equipment and benefits
from a highly skilled labour force.
[ii] According to the census by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, Germany has an estimated population of 82,282,988 (July 2010) and ranks 15th most populous country in the world; second to Russia in Central Europe.
[iii] According to the census by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, Italy has an estimated population of 58,090,681 (July 2010).
[iv] ARD is an abbreviation for Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Rundfunkanstalten Deutschlands or “Consortium of public-law broadcasting institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany".
[v]  ZDF, German abbreviation for Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen; The Second German Television.
[vi] According to the census by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, the literacy rate in Germany is 99 percent where everyone above age 15 can read and write German.
[vii] World Press Freedom Index (2010) is collated by Reporters Sans Frontiers (,1034.html)
vReporters Sans Frontiers (a.k.a Reporters without Borders) is a France-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press;

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Facebook: A Life Saver?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

It comes by no surprise to readers that if Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world after China and India with over 500 million active users. And like every country it too has its share of virtues and vices.

Being the largest social network site, Facebook has become one of the most pervasive mediums making it unavoidable for anyone to not take interest in it. But it is more than just a place to meet and connect with ‘friends’.

Facebook is so powerful that it not only gets people hitched but also breaks them up. It has the ability to trigger protests and stop wars; save lives while becoming a point of contact for someone contemplating death. Facebook has groups where users can shed grief and remorse but can also resort to online bullying and hatred.

With millions of users are exposed to this and more, “Facebook is under increasing pressure unlike other social networks to be a bit more responsible on what happens on their site,” said Rory-Cellan Johnes, Technology correspondent on BBC.

Johnes added that the social network are currently under pressure by regulators from all over the world, particularly the UK to do more, to look after users that are vulnerable and young.

Simone Back, 42, of Brighton, UK, updated her status that read, "Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone." at 10:53PM on Christmas Day 2010.

On January 6th 2011, The Daily Mail reported the story of Back's suicide. The charity worker had a history of depression. The paper spoke to her mother, Jennifer Langridge, who pointed out that her daughter had 1082 Facebook friends but not one of them responded to her cry for help in-person or contacted her mother.
Back's last status update was, in fact, seen by a number of her Facebook friends. Some responded with nasty comments but no one took her threat seriously enough, cared enough, felt comfortable intervening, or knew what to do.

According to the Daily Mail report, "Facebook friends from out of town begged online for her address and telephone number so they could get help, none of those who lived closer did anything to help."

This is just one among several incidents on Facebook that acted as a catalyst for the social network to adopt and launch a system that allows users to 'report' friends who they think may be contemplating suicide.

Anyone worried about a friend can fill out a form, detailing their concerns, which is passed to the site's moderators. It follows reports of several cases where Facebook users announced their intention to commit suicide online.

The reporting page asks for the address (URL) of the Facebook page where the messages are posted, the full name of the user and details of any networks they are members of.

Suicide-related alerts will be escalated to the highest level, for attention by Facebook's user operations team.
This feature has become active since the beginning of March 2011 and is being run in conjunction with the Samaritans, which said several people had used it during a test phase. So far the system had been operating in a trial mode, without publicity for three months, during which it received several genuine reports and no hoaxes, according to Samaritans.

It is hoped that the new reporting mechanism will help prevent cases like that of Simone Back, who died on Christmas day after taking a drug overdose.

Samaritans added that the new system was not launched in relation to one specific case, but to raise awareness of the ways in which people could get help.

“Some Facebook friendships are very distant acquaintances, at best.” said Dr. Irene S. Levine on 

Levine, a psychology professor added that we live in the same virtual community, we are neighbours. When you have any suspicion that someone's health or safety may be compromised, it's always better to say something than regret doing nothing.

With this in light, it’s obvious how a range of industries have started using Facebook and social networks to their advantage. 

"Organisations now understand the value of collaborating using public consumer tools like Facebook," said David Lavenda, WorkLight's vice president of marketing and product strategy.

Media stations, advertisers, public relations, marketing and event agencies are some markets desperately trying to gain the consumers attention by using Facebook as a promotional tool. Police and Forensics implement Facebook into their work by finding and identifying suspects and criminals. 

On a medical front, patients share their symptoms on Facebook only to be helped by friendly doctors and advised by friends. 

Not a medical forum but Facebook saved Kate Robb's life 

And this isn’t quarter of the list. With all this in mind, one can’t help but wonder what Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook must be thinking, bet he never thought his site would help people in such a manner and extent.

Hall Pass Movie Review

Director: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Starring:  Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, Nicky Whelan, Richard Jenkins

The Farrelly Brothers are back, the ones who brought you those classic unforgettable comedies like ‘Dumb and Dumber’,’ There’s something about Mary’,’ Shallow Hal’ and ‘Me, myself and Irene’.

Similar to their previous works, Hallpass will be Farrelly’s eleventh comedy film only this one will be brimming with sexual humour, embarrassing pick-up lines and enough “No they didn’t!” moments, that could make you go ‘ewww’ or ‘awww’ all in a span of two hours.

Hallpass tells the story of Rick (Wilson) and his best friend Fred (Sudeikis) both happily married for years but unable to leave their lusty single ways completely in the past. Their wives decide to test them by giving them a week off their marriage, a ‘hall pass’ to live out their sexual dreams. But they're less than happy when their wives (Fischer and Applegate) are also tempted to let loose. So can the couples work it out? Watch to find out!

Undoubtedly, the movies secret weapon has to be Saturday Night Live's, Jason Sudeikis who plays his first major movie role. Sudeikis has an agreeably dorky, bootlicking officiousness making this film funnier than it had any right to be, largely due to the way he delivers his lines and facial expressions.

If you like the Farrelly brothers then in all likelihood you’ll love Hallpass. Although, if you do wish to enjoy this movie to its maximum, not only should you watch it with a group of friends but try not to predict the thin plot, for not knowing will guarantee a lot of great laughs.

In other words, stay away from spoilers. For you will remember the car arrest, the spa rescue and the girl with appendicitis. You'll tell your friends about them. You'll enjoy Hallpass and may even watch it again because of the story. Or not.

Rating: 6/10

Have you done something amazing this Christmas?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas is not all about presents it’s about charity, sharing, love and spreading that Christmas spirit. There may be a lot of presents with your name on them under the Christmas tree, but there are many people in our Preston community who have never received gifts because they are victims of war, poverty, disease and natural disasters. ‘Do something amazing this Christmas is one such project that strives to make a difference this year. 

Jane Taylor, brainchild of this project says that this is her way of giving back and helping our local community. ‘Do something amazing this Christmas’ is a project that strives to pack essential requirements in over 50 shoeboxes for various centres across Preston, including Parkinson House (a mum and baby unit for disadvantaged families), Fox Street Homeless Shelter and Merriweather Care Home (for 16-25 year olds experiencing times of hardship). 

Shoeboxes filled unwanted clothes, toys, toiletries and anything else of good quality. 

“We researched online the different charities doing it such as Samaritans, but decided that we'd like to have a more hands on approach and have control over where the presents went, so I researched centres in our local area that could use our help and chose three that catered to women, men and children. This meant we were helping a more diverse group and having a bigger impact,” said Jane Taylor.  

The shoe box donation will have ended by 17th December as the items will be put into shoe box style presents and are planned to be delivered to them on Christmas Eve, all wrapped up.

Organizers urged everyone to make a difference during Christmas, “Everyone at this university is fortunate to be working or have access to university education. There are plenty of people in our local community who have nothing. Let's make a difference.”  

When asked what memories she takes from this experience, Taylor replied that hardest time was going in to visit the different centres and seeing what an amazing job the staff were doing, but how much help they still needed. “I suppose you feel like whatever you do it won't be enough, but if everyone thought the same nothing would get done! So we just have to do what we can.”

While her special moment yet was coming into university to find over 30 emails in one day responding to her requests for donations which were quite touching.

“But I'm sure the best bit is going to be giving out the presents.” she added.

The shoe boxes will be displayed at Preston North Premier Inn until Christmas.