The Reporter
Issue 493, 27 October 2003
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University research featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme four days in a row this month. Record levels of consumer borrowing, insufficient pensions, community policing and the irritating sound of mobile phones were all covered by the flagship news programme. See below for details.

‘Cost of easy credit: a 70% rise in arrears’ declared the front page of the Guardian, picking up on research by the University’s credit management research centre, also featured on the Today programme. The survey found that ‘a record 20 million cases – worth £5 billion – were passed to bailiffs’ in the past year, reported the Daily Mail. In the Times, Professor Nick Wilson explained that ‘plastic credit’ was the main driver of borrowing. On the BBC one o’clock news Professor Wilson said: “If interest rates start to rise and house prices don’t continue to rise there will be no equity left to resolve the situation and households will struggle to cope.”

The Today programme also highlighted new research showing that many people aren’t preparing enough for their old age, with many have no private or company pension and being unsure of their eligibility for state support. The survey of financial well-being by Professor Kevin Keasey and colleagues in the international institute for banking and finance was covered by the Financial Times and in the Daily Express, whose front page warned: ‘Millions forced to retire in poverty’. Professor Keasey said: “People are likely to be much worse off in retirement than they are expecting and may find that their income isn't enough to support them when they finish work.”

Residents in New Earswick had high expectations for the extra police time bought by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust for the north Yorkshire village. However, Stuart Lister, Adam Crawford and David Wall in the school of law found that the villagers’ expectations may have been too high. Their findings were reported the Today programme and news bulletins on Radio 1, 2, Radio Leeds and BBC Look North. The Yorkshire Evening Post, Daily Mirror, London Evening Standard and the Independent described how the additional 24 hours of police time weren't provided due to other incidents drawing on police resources. The Guardian described crime as ‘not a serious problem in New Earswick before the experiment’ and additional policing ‘heightened concerns about security and safety’, reported the Yorkshire Post.

Dr Denis McKeown from psychology was another Leeds academic to have their research featured on the Today programme. An expert on auditory attention, Dr McKeown explained that the rise of more sophisticated mobile phone ring tones may lead us to change our views of certain sounds. He said: “Pleasant sounds are rated low urgency but unpleasant sounds are associated with high urgency. Increasingly mobile phones are using pleasant ring tones – such as birdsong – but because of the phone association that sound will become unpleasant.” Dr McKeown warned that this may backfire, with user acceptance of the new tones being low.

Research by the universities of Leeds and Leicester testing whether a high caffeine intake can increase a mother's chance of giving birth to a small baby (see Reporter 492) was covered by the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Yorkshire Post. In the Yorkshire Evening Post, Dr Janet Cade from the Nuffield Institute for Health said: “It’s been thought for some time that caffeine is a problem but the evidence isn’t conclusive. Previous studies have ignored a wide range of caffeine sources and just looked at tea and coffee.”

 

See the press releases at www.leeds.ac.uk/media/press_releases.htm and details of press coverage at http://wwwnotes2. leeds.ac.uk/cuttings.nsf/today

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