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New media and new perspectives on the crisis in Hong Kong

by Stephanie Szeto (@StepSzeto)

Stephanie Szeto






The high penetration of the new mobile technology and social media enables some Hongkongers, who don’t have much prior knowledge of computer, to access internet media and enjoy spontaneous mobile mass communication, such as Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.   In past few decades, only few TV media existed in Hong Kong. Television Broadcasts (TVB) is completely monopolising the media market as Asia Television (ATV) produces limited domestic programmes and is facing major financial problem that has to terminate some news broadcasts.  People are now used to read news from wide variety sources for having different perspectives, for example independent press, rather than from the traditional mass media, such as the two existing free-to-air terrestrial television stations, (TVB) and (ATV). Young people are more accessible and develop critical views to various news angles and discover nested interests of different media stakeholders may affect the political stands or economic positions of various commentaries or social media blogs.


In last October 2013, tens of thousands of protesters marched to the government headquarters of the Hong Kong SAR claiming the violated Hong Kong’s core values of freedom as the monopolisation of existing TV public media eventually led to rejection from the government in issuing an additional free-to-air TV licence to the Hong Kong Television Networks (HKTV).  The march originated from a social action organised with the help of a Facebook page claiming to gather ten thousand of HKTV supporters and simultaneously gained nearly five hundred thousand LIKES.  Facebook has become a powerful social media to magnify the tearful speeches of HKTV staff and celebrities that were spreading quickly on the web which explained the underlying nested interests of politicians in rejecting the license application.  Protesters claiming that, despite a 85% of respondents in a public survey conducted by The University of Hong Kong indicated more free-to-air TV choices, the government turned down HKTV’s application as a result of politically decision.  Mr. Ricky Wong Wai-kay, the boss of HKTV, presented that he would create a station that will truly belong to Hongkongers by giving alternative choice, such as ‘dark’ comedy and drama, which allows different political satire may capture the popular sentiment.  Therefore, Hongkongers believed that the government was crushing the city’s core values of freedom and vowed to have social movement against the media monopolisation.  Wong questioned whether Hong Kong was still governed by the rule of law and the HKTV, in the end, resorted to broadcast by over-the-top online platform.


With more easy access to online platforms, Hongkongers are now relying less on traditional TV news as they believe it offers more pro-government perspective to the audience.  On the other hand, posts of independent press and internet radio have acquired a higher share of media influence.  This situation is confirmed by the findings of crisis communication research that some people give higher level of credibility to new media than to traditional media in terms of having different perspective of the crisis (Jin, Liu, & Austin, 2014). One would see the new media has become a real battle ground for people to exert their political influence and gaining publicity through the emerging mobile technology.

applied psychology depression mental health postgraduate

Ten Years On: Improving Access to Psychological Therapies; The Case of Depression

lizBy Dr Liz Smith

Over ten years ago, after finishing my degree in Psychology, I secured funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to do a PhD investigating why clinical guidelines (which at the time had become an increasingly familiar component of health care) were not always implemented.  I knew that there was a massive gap between evidence and practice and that this was particularly true for depression.  At this time antidepressant prescribing had increased for all age and sex groups over the previous 20 years.  GPs regularly handed out anti-depressant drugs but very rarely referred patients for therapy even though this may have been the preferred treatment. So my PhD focused on how clinicians used clinical guidelines in depression.


The first couple of quantitative studies I carried out confirmed that (1) a gap existed between clinical guidelines and practice; (2) the GPs in my study tended to overprescribe relative to recommendations and (3) prescribing no drugs at all was extremely rare.  This led me to the question of why.  The next study I undertook  was one of the most enjoyable research studies I have ever carried out.  It was a qualitative study using in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of GPs.  Here I aimed to elicit GPs’ views about the depression guidelines, how they used them in their practice and any barriers they thought there were that prevented them from implementing them.  The GPs who took part in the study were from general practices across the Scottish Grampian region and North East England.

The main findings were that (1) the GPs did not always agree with recommendations of the depression guidelines current at that time; (2) they thought the guidelines were insufficiently flexible to use with the variety of patients they see; and (3) lack of resources, particularly mental health professionals for referrals, were seen as the main barriers to guideline use.

For these GPs lack of resources emerged as a major barrier to following guideline recommendations. They had problems in referring patients to mental health specialists.  They reported having no specialist to refer them to, patients being misled about specialists’ qualifications, and problems with patient confidentiality issues. Several GPs reported that they had tried their best to follow the guidelines and refer patients for some form of talking therapy but by the time patients received appointments from mental health specialists, the patients reported that their depression problems had disappeared and they no longer wanted appointments. Waiting times reported were between 2 to 26 weeks for psychiatrists or community psychiatric nurses and 9 to 12 months for psychologists. These delays partially explained GPs’ tendency to over prescribe relative to recommendations.  In sum, these GPs saw the lack of mental health professionals as a main barrier to following depression guidelines.  When this study was published we recommended that those involved in guideline production should be demonstrating the case for more mental health professionals.

Since this time I have not given the issue much thought as I changed my career track and worked on research within a business school for 8 years.  However, last year I returned back to the realms of psychology, here at the University of Salford.  On checking out the courses which ran from here I discovered that there is a postgraduate course in Applied Psychology (Therapies).  The University advertises these courses as providing great opportunities for students to prepare to undertake a role in therapeutic interventions and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which is high on the government agenda “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” (IAPT).

The IAPT programme has its own website where it claims to support the frontline NHS in implementing National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for people suffering from depression and anxiety.  The website states that the initiative was developed with the aim of offering patients realistic and routine first-line treatment, combined where appropriate with medication which they say was traditionally the only treatment available. It is amazing that something I found out to be true in my early research days has been addressed by the government and the institute where I carry out my current research actually trains people to prepare them for the IAPT programme.  In chatting with the leader of the course, Dr Simon Cassidy, he tells me that a substantial number of students graduating from the Applied Psychology (Therapies) course go on to work in this initiative.

It’s really great to see that someone somewhere has recognized the need for psychological therapies in the treatment of depression.  It would be marvelous to obtain funding for a follow up study to investigate how clinicians use clinical guidelines in depression today and to see if the gap has closed between evidence and practice.

Contact Details: Dr Liz Smith, Email:

Image courtesy of Jaypeg on Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Getting Published: Research experience as vital work experience

dawn smailIn 2011, Dawn Smail graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and continued on her academic journey to recently complete her MSc in Applied Psychology (Therapies) here at Salford.  Dawn’s first publication, written during her time here as a student, originally featured in the North West of England Branch newsletter called “The Update”.  In her article, she considers the value of gaining research experience as an undergraduate, and how one opportunity can lead to another such as gaining her first publication.  To see the original version of Dawn’s article click here.  We would like to thank the British Psychological Society for giving their permission for this post to be republished on our blog.

Research experience as vital work experience: reflections on being an undergraduate psychology student in the field 

By Dawn Smail

As an undergraduate student, I was presented with an opportunity to work for an ongoing interdisciplinary research project at the University of Salford.  The main aim of the research was to carry out social survey questionnaires with residents living in areas where construction work was being carried out nearby.      In the third year of my studies, to say I was a tad anxious before going into the field is perhaps an understatement.   However the excitement I felt about getting some much needed work experience soon outweighed any anxieties I had.  I knew it would be challenging work but with my background knowledge in psychology waiting to be put into practice, I felt ready to take on this new challenge.

Before commencing the research I attended a mandatory two-day workshop that was designed to inform and teach us, the trainees, how to comprehensively prepare for every stage of the research process. The interactive programme included discussions around the following broad topics:  communication skills, ethical issues, project management, and cultural sensitivities. This training prepared me for the challenges of social survey fieldwork, particularly door knocking as a method of recruiting participants in research.

Due to my research methods training on my degree course, I knew that developing rapport and trust between the researcher and the participant was an essential element for good quality research.  On the doorstep, I realised how difficult developing a connection with a participant is in such a short space of time. Not being able to develop an instant rapport with the participant made me feel slightly defeated and less motivated. However I did overcome these feelings and realised that ‘real world’ research is very different to what can be known from a lecture or a textbook.

On a daily basis, many hours were spent visiting people at their homes where a substantial amount of doors remained closed and those that opened did so with a ‘no thanks’. When people agreed to be interviewed I felt a great sense of achievement which appeared to have a cascading effect on the rest of the day.  I really enjoyed interviewing residents and what I learned from the experience has, without doubt, given me a better understanding of doing research with people.   I also found that working in a team of researchers allowed me to share my ‘doorstep’ experiences.  Our team meetings were an invaluable source of support which also helped to foster a sense of progress and success.

This experience gave me the opportunity to meet with other researchers, many of whom I have remained in contact with since.   My role as an employee, rather than student, was an excellent way for me to expand my knowledge of Psychology as a science by gaining first-hand experience of research in action and gave valuable insight into the day-to-day work carried out by academic researchers.

I would like to see more work experience opportunities for Psychology undergraduate students on offer. The DIUS (2008) argue such skills are undoubtedly beneficial to a fresh graduate and offer an advantage when applying for further clinical training or job applications.  Therefore I feel very fortunate that I was given the chance to work on this project. It has opened doors to further opportunities for me such as writing this article.


Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (2008) Higher education at work – high skills: high value, London: DIUS, (Available at: