Scroll down or click here for a video of the unwrapping of our Advent candle.
Around the country, delicate perforated cardboard doors have been torn back, neat aluminium foil has been sharply poked, and determined fingers have mined miniature chocolates out of Advent calendars.
It’s that time of year again.
Actually, technically speaking, Advent begins tomorrow (Sunday) – the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. Derived from the Latin adventus, which means ‘coming’, this is the period in which Christians like myself prepare for the coming of Christ.
One alternative to Advent calendars is an Advent candle. Marked on the wax are the 25 days from 1 to 25 December. As Christmas nears, a little bit more of the candle is burned.
Yesterday, a brown parcel arrived from Lincolnshire (home county to my aunt and her family) with an Advent candle wrapped carefully inside. The annual exchange of these gifts between my father and his sister is a Burdett tradition that goes back many years.
Rather sadly, this (Saturday, 1 December) is the first day of the last month of this incredible year. The beginning of the end, one might say. Don’t forget to look out for my Review Of The Year (2011’s is available to view here), coming soon.
Back after a half-term break, tonight saw the return of Furze Platt’s Seniores programme (a series of weekly ‘interesting talks by interesting people about interesting things’). Dominic Hurst, a senior producer at BBC News, was one of the most eagerly-awaited speakers.
If I’m honest, this is the big one for me; the one I’ve been most looking forward to. As a news junkie, I’ve followed Dominic on Twitter for years, and have loved reading his tweets while he’s been working ‘out in the field’ – whether he be in the heat of the London riots, or with Welsh search and rescue teams looking for the body of April Jones. He has, I think, a fascinating job – unpleasant at times, highly enviable at others, but always extremely exciting.
His talk – entitled The Media And Its Role Within Society – could hardly be being given at a more appropriate time. “Currently, the two biggest media organisations in the UK are under investigation,” he begins, “News International and the BBC. One is being investigated because of the methods by which it obtained its stories, the other for not actually running certain stories.” He’s referring, of course, to the phone-hacking scandal (around which Lord Justice Leveson’s soon-to-be-published report is centred) and to the dropped Newsnight film about the Jimmy Savile child abuse allegations.
He’s open-collared, still wearing his BBC security pass, and oscillating between the two sides of the study room in which nearly thirty fellow Sixth-Formers have turned out to hear his talk.
“The thing about Savile is that he used his celebrity to hide his actions. I believe absolutely the terrible things that it’s said he did – what’s not clear is why that Newsnight investigation was shelved.”
Dominic explains that Nick Pollard, a former executive at Sky News, is today starting his BBC-funded inquiry into what editorial decisions were made at the Corporation that prompted the near-complete item to be scrapped, and who knew what about why.
“What every news-provider relies on is the trust of its consumer,” Hurst explained. “As soon as that trust goes, the provider can no longer survive. Three days after the News Of The World was found to have hacked the dead schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone, the paper had lost the trust of its readers, and James Murdoch realised he had no option but to shut it down.” Hurst continued: “The only way the BBC can retain the trust of its own consumers is to find out exactly why the Newsnight investigation was shelved – and that it’s doing with the Pollard Review.”
Dominic concluded that these are changing times for Britain’s media. “Every major broadcaster now makes use of social-media websites to connect with its audiences… and, for the first time, allows its audiences to connect with it through those same channels.”
In a quick survey, Dominic asks us how we get our news updates. A few (myself included) raise our hands to indicate that we read national newspapers every day, about half of us state that we regularly watch or listen to television or radio bulletins, but (as is widely expected) virtually every arm is extended high when the internet is mentioned.
“The old one-way system is now very different. Today it’s a two-way, interactive operation, continuing to change at an amazing speed.”
‘The centre of the world’ is a media hyperbole used too frequently to describe something that people from around the world are perceived to be focussed on. But last night’s breathtaking Olympic Opening Ceremony really was just that: a spectacle beheld by an estimated 4.8 billion people (meaning more individual eyes watched than the sum of all populations of all nations). And, taking place just over four miles virtually due north of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (Greenwich Park the Equestrian and Pentathlon venue for the Games), there’s no denying that, last night, E20 2ST really was the centre of the world.