Newswatch: From box office to ballot box

On the horizon: A glimpse of what 2015 might bring?

A UK election is looming and it’s too close to call. The Eurozone is flirting with catastrophe again. And Hollywood hopes for its biggest boom year since 1971. What else will 2015 hold?

Britain votes On May 17, UK citizens will flock to voting booths in what may be the closest election of modern times. In the blue corner stand David Cameron’s Conservatives, who have led the country in coalition with the Liberal Democrats for five years. In the red corner are Labour, the centre-left opposition headed by Ed Miliband. Bookmakers are giving both parties identical odds on ending up in power. But to thicken the plot further, the two main parties' traditional dominance is under threat. Both will have to reckon with populist UKIP’s apparently unstoppable rise and with a Scottish Nationalist Party fired up by the independence referendum, as well as the Lib Dems. Even the Green Party may gain seats. The result will decide the future of the British economy and state. It may even determine whether the UK stays in the EU.

Europe returns to the brink Two years ago, the EU’s future hung by a thread. The Greek economy was in tatters and bankruptcy threatened; many economists predicted that the entire Eurozone economy might collapse. Only an enormous last-minute bailout deal saved the day, at the cost of merciless government cuts in Greece. Now that deal is under threat. The Greek government faces a series of elections and polls suggest that a far-left party may prevail. If so, they have promised to reverse the austerity policies on which the bailout was founded. That in turn could force Greece out of the Eurozone and cause havoc throughout the continent.

IS on the defensive The terrifying progress of the so-called Islamic State (IS) through Syria and Iraq has been one of the most unsettling news stories of 2014. But after 12 months of marauding brutality, IS’s advance has finally stalled. A coalition of more than 60 nations, including many from the Middle East, has succeeded in pinning the militants back. Can this alliance vanquish IS before it consolidates? The next 12 months will tell.

A blockbuster boom But 2015 won’t be all war and hardship. It’s also a bumper year for Hollywood: a flurry of blockbusters will hit screens imminently, including new instalments in big-name franchises like Star Wars, Jurassic Park and James Bond. Film industry experts predict that ticket sales will be even greater than the record 176 million achieved in 1971. But some film buffs will be dismayed to see box offices once again dominated by sequels and reboots. And even a miracle year may not dispel fears of a crisis in the movie business, with budgets rising while studio profits decline.

Virtual reality becomes an actual reality Sci-fi writers have been prophesying for decades that we will one day inhabit rich artificial worlds constructed by computers. But until now this idea has remained in the realm of fantasy. Next summer could be the moment that changes. This April, Facebook paid over £1 billion for a company that builds futuristic headsets offering users a comprehensive imitation of reality. The device is on course to be released in the coming year — but that is not all. From an ‘immersive journalism’ project on Syrian child refugees to a simulation that transports viewers to the perspective of a bird in flight, 2015 will be packed with breakthroughs in virtual reality.

You Decide

  1. What do you think the biggest news story of 2015 will be?
  2. ‘The world is nowhere near as depressing as the news makes it seem.’ Do you agree? Why / why not?

Activities

  1. Go to The Day’s ‘Choose the News’ feature and hold a class debate on the most important news story of 2014. Then vote for your choices and see whether other people agreed!
  2. Write down five predictions for 2015. Then put them all together in an envelope and set a reminder to open them in 12 months’ time.

Some People Say...

“News is only the first rough draft of history.’Alan Barth”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Independence referendum
In September 2014, Scots voted on whether their country should remain part of the United Kingdom. In the end they narrowly elected to stay, but the campaign has invigorated politics in Scotland enormously and propelled the SNP to a formidable lead in Scottish polls.
Eurozone
An economic unit consisting of all the countries that use the Euro. Problems in one country affect all the other nations in the zone and a Greek exit would be catastrophic.
Islamic state (is)
The self-styled 'Islamic State', hard-line jihadist militants also known as ISIS or ISIL, exploded into the headlines last year, taking advantage of the anarchy created by Syria’s civil war to launch a brutal offensive on several towns. Although many pundits assumed this would be short-lived, IS have retained control of large portions of Syria and Iraq.
Budgets rising
The average budget for a modern blockbuster is £125 million. Each film has to make more than this to break even — a big ask, especially with online film piracy threatening movie revenue.
Futuristic headsets
The headset is called Oculus Rift.

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