Учебно-методический комплекс дисциплины гсэ. Ф. 1 «Иностранный язык»



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РАЗДЕЛ 3. СОДЕРЖАТЕЛЬНЫЙ КОМПОНЕНТ ТЕОРЕТИЧЕСКОГО МАТЕРИАЛА

Содержательный компонент программы для 1 курса по английскому языку представлен в УМК Philip Kerr & Ceri Jones Straightforward Intermediate издательства Macmillan, который представлен в достаточном количестве в библиотеке МГПУ. Данный УМК состоит из Student’s Book, Work Book, 3x CD.

Содержательный компонент программы для 2 курса представлен в серии аутентичных текстов, содержащих лексические и грамматические упражнения, которые согласуются с материалами программы по специальностям. Задания, содержащие профессионально-направленную лексику, направлены на обогащение словарного запаса и развитие монологической и диалогической речи на английском языке.
Лекция 1. Britain and the British
1.1. Geographical position of Great Britain and its population

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated on the British Isles – a large group of islands lying off the north-western coasts of Europe and separated from the continent by the English Channel and the Strait of Dover in the south and the North Sea in the east.

The British Isles consist of two large islands – Great Britain and Ireland, and a lot of small islands, the main of which are the Isle of Wight in the English Channel, Anglesea and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, the Hebrides – a group of islands off the north-western coast of Scotland, and two groups of islands lying to the north of Scotland: the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands.

Historically the territory of the United Kingdom is divided into four parts: England, Scotland (including the Orkney and Shetland Islands), Wales and Northern Ireland. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands between Great Britain and France are largely self-governing, and are not part of the United Kingdom.

The total area of the United Kingdom is 242. 000 square kilometres.

The main areas of high land are in Scotland, Wales and Cumbria. In the centre of England there is a range of hills called Pennines, which are also known as the “backbone of England”. Nearly the whole of Wales is occupied by the Cumbrians. The highest mountains are in Scotland and Wales: Ben Nevis is 1. 343 metres and Snowdon is 1. 085 meters.

The rivers of Britain are short, the water level in them is always high. The rivers seldom freeze in winter. Many of them are joined together by canals. This system of rivers and canals provided a good means of cheap inland water transport.

The most important rivers are the Severn, the Thames, the Tyne, the Trent, the Mersey and the Clyde.

British lakes are rather small and have no outlets. They afford limited ,eco`nomic possibilities in the system of navigable water ways. But most of them are famous for their unique beauty and picturesque surroundings.

Great Britain is rich in coal. There are rich coal basins in Northumberland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, South Wales, North Wales and near Glasgow. Among other mineral resources there is iron, tin (олово), copper and silver.

Great Britain is situated in the temperate zone of Europe. The nature of Great Britain is greatly affected by the sea: there is no place situated more than 100–120 km from the seashore, in the northern parts only 40–60 km.

The climate is generally mild and temperate. Prevailing winds are south-westerly and as these winds blow from the Atlantic they are mild in winter and cool in summer. Due to the prevalence of mild south-west winds and the Gulf Stream, which flows from the Gulf of Mexico, Great Britain has warmer winters than any other `district in the same latitude.

The mild winters mean that snow is a regular feature of the higher areas only. Occasionally, a whole winter goes by in lower-lying parts without any snow at all.

The popular belief that it rains all the time in Britain is simply not true. The image of a wet foggy land was created two thousand years ago by the invading Romans. In fact, London gets no more rain in a year than most other major European cities, and less than some.

The amount of rain falls on a town in Britain depends on where it is. The wettest part of Britain are the areas where high mountains lie near the west coast: the western Highlands of Scotland and Lake `District and North Wales. Autumn and winter are the wettest seasons, except in the Thames district, where most rains fall in the summer.

With its mild climate and varied soils, Britain has a rich natural vegetation. When the islands were first settled, oak forests probably covered the greater part of the lowland. Now woodlands occupy only about 7 per cent of the surface of the country. The greatest density of woodland occurs in the north and east of Scotland, in some parts of south-east England and on the Welsh border. The most common trees are oak, beech, ash and elm, and in Scotland also pine and birch.

Most of countryside England is agricultural land, about a third of which is arable, and the rest is pasture – пастбище and meadow.

With the disappearance of forest, many forest animals, including the wolf, the bear, the boar, the deer and the Irish elk, have become practically extinct. There are foxes in most rural areas, and otters are found along many rivers and streams. Of smaller animals there are mice, rats, hedgehogs, moles, squirrels, hares, rabbits and weasels.

There are a lot of birds, including many song-birds. Blackbirds, sparrows and starlings are probably most common. There are many sea-birds, which nest round the coasts.


    1. The political system of Great Britain

Great Britain is a parliamentary monarchy. Other countries have ‘citizens’, but in Britain people are legally described as ‘subjects of Her majesty the Queen’. Officially the head of the state is the king or queen. The power of the monarch is not absolute but constitutional. The monarch acts only on the advice of the ministers.

The now reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is a descendant of the Saxon king Egbert, who united all England under his sovereignty in 829. The Queen’s title in the United Kingdom is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and Territories. Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”



Rules of descent provide that the sons of the Sovereign are in order of succession to the throne according to the seniority, or, if there are no sons, the daughters in order of seniority. There is no interregnum between the death of one Sovereign and the accession of another. The automatic succession is often summoned up in the phrase “The King is dead; long live the King!” Immediately after the death of a monarch an Accession Council issued the proclamation for the new Sovereign.

The coronation of the Sovereign follows some months after the accession. The ceremony has remained much the same in substance for nearly a 1,000 years. It consists broadly of recognition and acceptance of the new monarch by the people; the taking by the monarch of an oath of royal duties; the anointing and crowning; and the rendering of homage by the Lord Spiritual and Temporal. The coronation service, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is held at Westminster Abbey in the presence of representatives of the peers, the Commons and all the great public interests in the United Kingdom, the prime Minister and leading citizens of the other Commonwealth countries, and representatives of foreign states.

The Queen reigns but does not rule. The UK is governed by Her Majesty’s Government in the name of the Queen. There are still many important acts of government which require the participation of the Queen.

The Queen summons, prorogues and dissolves Parliament. Normally she opens the new session with a speech from the throne which outlines her Government’s programme. When she is unable to be present, the Queen’s speech is read by Lord Chancellor.

Before a bill which has passed all its stages in both Houses of Parliament becomes a legal enactment it must receive the Royal Assent, which is declared to both Houses by their Speakers.

The Queen is the ‘fountain of justice’ and as such can, on the advice of the Home Secretary, pardon or show mercy to those convicted of crimes under English law. There is a principle of English law that the monarch can do nothing that is legally wrong. In other words, the Queen is above the law.

As the ‘fountain of honour’ the Queen confers peerage, knighthood and other honours. Twice a year, an Honours List is published. The people whose names appear in the list are then summoned to Buckingham Palace where the titles are given to them by the Queen in a special ceremony. The present honours system is so complicated that few understand it. The honours themselves largely belong to two institutions: feudal chivalry which is 500 years out of date, and the British Empire, which is 50 years out of date. They are awarded partly for achievement, but the grade of award is determined by social status. A senior diplomat might be appointed KCMG (Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George), known irreverently ‘Kindly Call Me God’. There is only one higher rank for a diplomat, GCMG (Grand Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George), so senior indeed that ‘God Calls Me God’. A middle-rank civil servant’s efforts may be recognised with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) or MBE (Member of the British Empire). A high proportion of honours are given to politicians and civil servants, but they are also given to business people, sports stars, rock musicians and other entertainers.

The Queen makes appointment to many important state offices. She appoints or dismisses Government ministers, judges, members of diplomatic corps. As Commander-in-Chief of the armed services (the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force) she appoints officers, and as temporal head of the established Church of England she makes appointments to the leading positions in the Church.

The Queen has the power to conclude treaties, to declare war and make peace, to recognise foreign states and governments, and to annex and cede territory.

An important function of the Sovereign is the appointment of a Prime Minister. Normally the appointment is automatic since it is a convention of the constitution that the sovereign must invite the leader of the party commanding a majority in the House of Commons to form a government. If no party has a majority, or if the party having a majority has no recognized leader, the Queen has the duty of selecting a Prime Minister. In such circumstances she would be entitled to consult anyone she wished.

Power in Great Britain is divided among three branches: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch.

The legislative branch is represented by Parliament. The British parliament is divided into two ‘houses’ – the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

* * *

The House of Lords consists of hereditary and life peers and peeresses, a cirtain number of Irish and Scottish peers, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and some bishops of the Established Church of England. Full membership of the House of Lords is over 1000. Members of the House of Lords are not elected. They are members as of right. In the case of some of them, this ‘right’ is the result of their being the holder of an inherited title. But since 1958 a new practice has appeared: the practice of ‘creating’ new peers. They are called ‘life peers’, because their children do not inherit their titles like the children of hereditary peers. New peers are created by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister. The life peerage system has established itself as a mean of finding a place in public life for distinguished retired politicians who may no longer wish to be as busy as MPs in the Commons, but who still wish to voice their opinions in a public forum. Political parties are especially keen to send their older members who once belonged to the leadership of the party to the House of Lords. Informally, this practice has become known as being ‘kicked upstairs’. As a result of the life peerage system there are more than 300 people in the House of Lords are life peers.

The House of Lords sits, on average, for about 140 days in each session. The Lord Chancellor is the chairman and sits on a special seat called the Woolsack. A peer who attends a debate receives salary in addition to travelling expenses. Of all the parliaments in the world, the lowest quorum needed to adopt a decision in the British House of Lords. A decision is held to be accepted if a quorum of three Lords is present.

The House of Lords has little real power any more. All proposals must have the agreement of the Lords before they can become law. But the power of the Lords to refuse a proposal for a law which has been agreed by the Commons is now limited. After a period which can be as short as six months the proposal becomes law anyway, whether or not the lords agree.

The modern House of Lords is a forum for public discussion. Because its members do not depend on party politics for their position, it is sometimes able to bring important matters that the Commons has been ignoring into the open. More importantly, it is the place where proposals for new laws are discussed in much more detail than the busy Commons has time for.

There are 659 members in the House of Commons. They are elected by a general election. There must be a general election every five years, but the Government can order a general election at any time within the period if it is so wished. The United Kingdom is divided into 659 areas called constituencies. Each constituency is guaranteed one representative in the House of Commons. A person may represent a constituency even if he does not live there. MPs are elected by direct and secret ballot. Citizens of 18 and over have the right to vote. At a general election a person votes for the Labour candidate or for the Conservative candidate, or for the candidate of some other party because of his preference for one party rather than the others. Elections in Britain are decided on a simple majority on each constituency – the candidate with the most votes is elected.

The British political scene is dominated by a two-party system: one party in power, the other in opposition. They are the Conservative and the Labour Parties.



Conservative party.

  • History: developed from the group of MPs known as the Tories in the early nineteenth century and still often known informally by that name.

  • Traditional outlook: stands for hierarchical authority and minimal government interference in the e`conomy; likes to reduce income tax; gives high priority to national defense and internal law and order.

  • Organization: leader has relatively great degree of freedom to direct policy.

  • Votes: the richer sections of society, plus a large minority of the working class.

  • Money: mostly donations from business people.

Labour party.

  • History: formed at the beginning of the twentieth century from an alliance of trade unionists and intellectuals. First government in 1923.

  • Traditional outlook: stands for equality, for the weaker people in society and for more government involvement in the e`conomy; more concerned to provide full social services than to keep income tax low.

  • Organization: in theory, `politics have to be approved by annual conference; in practice leader has more power than this implies.

  • Votes: working class, plus a small middle-class intelligentsia.

  • Money: more than half from trade unions.

Among the other parties one can mention the Liberal Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Nationalist Party), British National Party (it was previously called the National Front, which was formerly the Communist Party), the Green Party.

A session of the House of Commons lasts for about 160–170 days. Parliament has intervals during its work. By present custom, a session is divided into 5 periods: from November (when the session is opened) till Christmas, from January till Easter, from Easter till Whitsun, from Whitsun till end of July, and 10 days in October. Members of Parliament are paid for their parliament work and have to attend the seatings.

Most MPs are full-time politicians, and do another job, if at all, only part-time. The House does not sit in the morning. From Monday to Thursday, the House does not start its business until 14.30. On Friday it starts in the morning, but then finishes in the early afternoon for the week-end. The average modern MP spends more time at work than any other professional in the country. From Monday to Thursday, the Commons never finishes its work before 22.30 and sometimes it continues sitting for several hours longer. Occasionally, it debates through most of the night. MPs’ mornings are taken up with committee work, research, preparing speeches and dealing with the problems of the people they represent. It does not leave MPs much time for their families. Politicians have a higher rate of divorce than the national average (which is already high).

The opening of Parliament is an occasion of very picturesque ceremony. First, the Queen’s servant, called ‘Black Rod’ knocks on the door of the House of Commons and demands that the MPs let the Queen come in and tell them what ‘her’ government is going to do in the coming year. The Commons always refuse her entry. This is because, in the seventeenth century, Charles I once burst in to the chamber and tried to arrest some MPs. Ever since then, the monarch has not been allowed to enter the Commons. Instead, the MPs agree to come through to the House of Lords and listen to the monarch in there. By tradition they always come through in pairs, each pair comprising MPs from two different parties. So the Queen goes to the House of Lords and reads a speech. The members of the House of Commons listen to the Queen standing at the entrance to the House of Lords. After the Queen’s speech MPs go to the House of Commons and start their work.

The party that has won the general election makes up the majority in the House of Commons, and forms the Government. The party with the next largest number of members in the House, or sometimes a combination of other parties forms the official Opposition, and Leader of the Opposition (“Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition’) is a recognized post in the House of Commons. He even gets a salary to prove the importance of this role. He or she chooses a ‘shadow cabinet’ – a group of politicians in the opposition party who study and speak about the work of ministers in the government.

The members sit on two sides of the hall, one side for the governing party and the other for the opposition. Although MPs do not have their own person seats in the Commons, there are two seating areas reserved for particular MPs. These areas are the front benches on either side of the House. These benches are where the leading members of the governing party (i.e. ministers) and the leading members of the main opposition party sit. These people are thus known as ‘frontbenchers’. MPs who do not hold a government post or a post in the shadow cabinet are known as ‘backbenchers’.

Important member in the House of Commons is the Speaker. The Speaker is the person who chairs and controls discussion in the House, decides which MP is going to speak next and make sure that the rules of procedure are followed. If they are not, the Speaker has the power to demand a public apology from an MP or even to ban an MP from the House for a number of days. The Speaker is, officially, the second most important ‘commoner’ (non-aristocrat) in the kingdom after the Prime Minister. The Speaker is elected at the beginning of each new Parliament. Hundreds of years ago, it was the Speaker’s job to communicate the decisions of the Commons to the King (that is where the title speaker comes from). As the King was often very displeased with what the Commons had decided, this was not a pleasant task. As a result, nobody wanted the job. They had to be forced to take it. These days, the position is much safer one, but the tradition of dragging an unwilling Speaker to the chair has remained. In 1992 the first woman Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, was appointed, so that MPs had to get used to addressing not ‘Mr. Speaker’, as they had always done in the past, but ‘Madam Speaker’ instead. Once a Speaker has been appointed, he or she agrees to give up all party politics. The Speaker cannot debate or vote with other members unless the voting is equal, in this case the Speaker votes with Government.

Each parliamentary day begins with Question time, lasting an hour. During this time MPs are allowed to ask questions to government ministers. Questions to ministers have to be ‘tabled’ (written down on the table below the Speaker’s chair) in 48 hours ahead, so that ministers have time to prepare their answers. After the minister has answered the tabled question, the MP who originally tabled it is allowed to ask a further question relating to the minister’s answer. In this way, it is sometimes possible for MPs to catch a minister unprepared.

After Question time, the main debate of the day takes place. During many of the debates, MPs come and go because they are often wanted on business in other parts of the building, but during important debates they remain in the House, and the sittings may go on until late at night.

Parliament’s main function is to make laws. The procedure of making new laws is as follows: a member of the House of Commons proposes a bill, which is discussed by the House. If the bill is approved, it is sent to the House of Lords, which, in case it does not like it, has the right to veto it for one year. If the House of Commons passes the bill again the following year, the House of Lords cannot reject it. Finally the bill is sent to the Queen for the ‘royal assent’, after which it becomes a law. Royal assent has not been refused since 1707.

* * *


The executive branch is headed by the Prime Minister. After each general election the King or Queen invites the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons to become Prime Minister and form the Government. The Prime Minister has an official London House while he (or she) is in office; it is № 10, Downing Street.

The Prime Minister selects the ministers to compose the government. Most of the ministers are chosen from the House of Commons, but a few must be in the House of Lords, so that government plans can be explained there. Government usually consists of about 100 ministers.

Most ministers are in charge of departments which keep them busy. Most heads of government departments have the title ‘Secretary of State’, e.g. ‘Secretary of State for the Environment’. The minister in charge of Britain’s relations with the outside world is known to everybody as the ‘Foreign Secretary’. The one in charge of law and order inside the country is the ‘Home Secretary’. Another important person is the ‘Chancellor of the Exchequer’, who is the head of the Treasury, the department which deals with the money collected and spent by the Government. The Prime Minister himself often takes charge of one of the departments. He usually First Lord of the Treasury.

The new appointed ministers are presented to the monarch for the formal approval. The most important ministers of the government (about twenty) form the Cabinet. The Cabinet is a kind of ‘inner government’ within the Government. Over the years the membership of the Cabinet has varied in size between 17 and 23 and includes the Lord President of the Council – лорд-председатель Тайного совета, the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, etc.

The Cabinet directs the administration, controls the process of lawmaking, and dominates the House of Commons. It decides what subjects shall be debated in the House.

Members of the Cabinet make joint decisions or advise the Prime Minister. All ministers must agree on the policy of the Cabinet. If a minister finds he cannot agree, he resigns. The Prime Minister himself may require a minister to resign. Within the Cabinet the Prime Minister is meant to be first among equals. In fact the Prime Minister has much more power. Ministers must obey his will, or persuade the Prime Minister of their own point of view.

‘Cabinet Government’ is the main feature of the British political system. So the leading role is played not by the Monarch, who remains head of state, or Parliament, which is officially the supreme lawmaking body, but the Cabinet.

Although government is essentially political, it depends upon a permanent body of officials, the Civil Service. Over half a million men and women are employed in the huge number of offices. Governments come and go, but the civil service remains. Civil servants serve ministers from any parties in power, so they know the secrets of the previous government which the present minister is unaware of.

Unlike politicians, civil servants, even of the highest rank, are unknown to the larger public. But for those who belong to it, the British civil service is a career. There are different grades in the civil service. The lowest grade is composed of the clerks and typists who deal with letters, or prepare the information required for their seniors or for the members of the public. In charge of them in the next, higher rank, are the men and women in the Executive Grade. Their duty is to carry out the details of legislation. The highest grade of all is the Administrative Grade, composed of the chief officials who advise the minister in charge of a department and decide how laws are to be implemented. These most senior positions are usually filled by people who have been working in the civil service for twenty years or more. These people get a high salary (higher than that of their ministers) and stand a good chance of being awarded an official honour.

The heart of the civil service is the Cabinet Office, whose secretary is the most senior civil servant at any given time. He has the title of ‘Permanent Secretary’.

The system of local government is very similar to the system of the national government. There are elected representatives, called councillors (the equivalent of MPs). They meet in a council chamber in the Town Hall or County Hall (the equivalent of Parliament), where they make policy which implemented by local government officers (the equivalent of civil servants).

There is no system in Britain whereby – посредством которой a national government official has responsibility for a particular geographical area. There is no one like a ‘prefect’ or ‘governor’. Local councils have traditionally been fairly free from constant central interference in their day to day work. So they manage nearly all public services.

Local councils are allowed to collect one kind of tax. This is a tax based on property. All other kinds are collected by central government.

* * *


The judicial branch interprets the laws.

There is no police force in Britain. All police employees work for one of the forty or so separate forces which each have responsibility for a particular geographical area. Originally, these were set up locally. Each police officer had his own ‘beat’, a particular neighborhood which it was his duty to patrol. He usually did it on foot or sometimes by bicycle. The local ‘bobby’ was a familiar figure on the streets, a reassuring presents that people felt they could trust absolutely.

Later, central government gained some control over them. It inspects them and has influence over senior appointments within them. In return, it provides about half of the money to run them. The other half comes from local government.

The exception to this system is the Metropolitan Police Force, which polices Greater London. The ‘Met’ is under the direct control of central government. It also performs certain national police functions such as the registration of all crimes and criminals in England and Wales and the compilation of the missing persons register. New Scotland Yard is the famous building which is the headquarters of its Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Since the middle years of the twentieth century, the police in Britain have lost much of their positive image. In 1980s there were a large number of cases in which it was found that the police officers had lied and cheated in order to get people convicted of crimes. As a result, trust in the honesty of the police has declined. Police officers are no longer known as ‘bobbies’ but have become the ‘cops’ or the ‘pigs’.

Nevertheless, the relationship between police and public in Britain compares quite favourably with that in some other European countries. Police officers often still address members of the public as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’. They still do not carry guns in the course of normal duty, although all police stations have a store of weapons.



The system of justice in England and Wales (there are separate ones for Scotland and Northern Ireland), in both civil and criminal cases, is an adversarial system. In criminal cases there is no such things as an examining magistrate who tries to discover the real truth about what happened. In formal terms it is not the business of any court to find out ‘the truth’. Its job is simply to decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a particular proposition (in criminal cases, that a certain person is guilty of a certain crime) after it has heard arguments and evidence from both sides (in criminal cases these sides are known as the defence and the prosecution).

There are basically two kinds of court. More than 90 % of all cases are dealt with in magistrates’ courts. Every town has one of these. In them a panel of magistrates (usually three) passes judgement. In cases where they have decided somebody is guilty of a crime, they can also impose a punishment.



  • If it is someone’s first offence and the crime is a small one, even a guilty person is often unconditionally discharged. He or she is set free without punishment.

  • The next step up the ladder is a conditional discharged. This means that the guilty person is set free but if he or she commits another crime within a stated time, the first crime will be taken into account.

  • He or she may also be put on probation, which means that regular meetings with a social worker must take place.

  • A very common form of punishment for minor offences is a fine, which means that the guilty person has to pay a sum of money.

  • Another possibility is that the convicted person is sentenced to a certain number of hours of community service.

  • Wherever possible, magistrates and judges try not to imprison people. This costs the state money, the country’s prisons are already overcrowded and prisons have a reputation for being ‘schools for crime’. Even people who are sent to prison do not usually serve the whole time to which they are sentenced. They get ‘remission’ of their sentence for ‘good behaviour’.

  • There is no death penalty in Britain, except for treason.

  • For murders, there is a life sentence. However, ‘life’ does not normally mean life.

Magistrates, who are also known as Justices of the Peace (JPs), are not trained lawyers. They are just ordinary people of good reputation who have been appointed to the job by a local committee. They do not get a salary or a fee for their work (though they get paid expenses).

Even serious criminal cases are first heard in a magistrate’s court. In these cases, the Jps only need to decide that it is possible that the accused may be guilty. They then refer the case to a higher court. In most cases this will be a crown court, where a professional lawyer acts as the judge and the decision regarding guilt or innocence is taken by a jury. Juries consist of twelve people selected at random from the list of voters. They do not get paid for their services and are obliged to perform this duty. In order for a verdict to be reached, there must be agreement among at least ten of them. If this does not happen, the judge has to declare a mistrial and the case must start all over again with a different jury. The judge’s job is to impose a punishment on those found guilty of crimes. A convicted person may appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal (generally known as the Appeal Court) in London either to have the conviction quashed or to have the sentence reduced. The highest court of all the Britain is the House of Lords.

Scotland has its own legal system, separate from the rest of the UK. The basis of its law is closer to Roman and Dutch law. A very noticeable feature is that there are three, not just two, possible verdicts. As well as ‘guilty’ and ‘not guilty’, a jury may reach a verdict of ‘not proven’, which means that the accused person cannot be punished but is not completely cleared of guilt either.

There are two different kinds of lawyer in Britain. One of these is a solicitor. Solicitors handle most legal matters for their clients, including the drawing up of documents (such as wills, divorce papers and contracts) and presenting their clients’ cases in magistrates’ courts. If the trial is to be heard in a higher court, the solicitor normally hires the services of the other kind of lawyer – a barrister. There are only about 5000 barristers in the UK, and they are the senior branch of the legal profession. The only function of barristers is to present cases in court.




    1. The Mass Media

Britain's first newspapers appeared over 300 years ago. British people are the world’s third biggest newspaper buyers; only the Japanese and the Swedes buy more.

Newspaper publication is dominated by the national press: nearly 80 % of all households buy a copy of one of the national papers every day. There are more than eighty local and regional daily papers; but the total circulation of all of them together is much less than the combined circulation of the national ‘dailies’. The only non-national papers with significant circulation are published in the evenings, when they do not compete with the national papers, which always appear in the morning. Most local papers do not appear on Sundays, so on that day the dominance of the national press is absolute. ‘The Sunday papers’ are so called because that is the only day on which they appear. Some of them are published by the same company but employing separate editors and journalists. The Sunday papers sell slightly more copies than the dailies and are thicker.

Local papers give information about films, concerts, and other things that are happening in the local neighbourhood, including, for example, information about local people who have been married or died recently. There are also many free local papers which are delivered to people’s homes whether they ask for them or not. These papers contain a lot of advertisements and also some news.

Each of the national papers can be characterized as belonging to one of two distinct categories. ‘The quality papers’, or ‘broadsheets’, cater for the better educated readers. The ‘popular papers’ or ‘tabloids’, sell to a much large readership. The tabloids contain far less print than the broadsheets and far more pictures. They use larger headlines and write in a simple style of English. While the broadsheets devote much space to `politics and other ‘serious’ news, the tabloids concentrate on ‘human interest’ stories, which often means sex and scandal. However, the broadsheets do not completely ignore sex and scandal or any other aspect of public life. Both types of paper devote equal amount of attention to sport. The difference between them is in the treatment of the topics they cover, and in which topics are given the most prominence. The reason that the quality newspapers are called broadsheets and the popular ones – tabloids is because they are different shapes. The broadsheets are twice as large as the tabloids.

The daily broadsheets are: Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Times, Financial Times. The Sunday broadsheets are: Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Observer, Independent on Sunday.

The daily tabloids are: Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Star. The Sunday tabloids are: News of the World, Sunday Mirror, People, Mail on Sunday, Sunday Express, Sunday sport.

The way politics is presented in the national newspapers reflects the fact that British political parties are essentially parliamentary organizations. Although different papers have differing political outlooks, none of the large newspapers is an organ of a political party.

Most of newspapers are right-wing. These are the Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mail and the Sun. The Times, the oldest newspaper in Britain, did not formerly have one strong political view but it is now more right-wing. The Guardian is slightly left-wing. The Independent does not support any one political party, and neither does Financial Times, which concentrates on business and financial news. The Daily Mirror is left-wing.

What counts for the newspaper publishers is business. All of them are in the business first and foremost to make money. As newspapers receive no government subsidy, their primary concern is to sell as many copies as possible and to attract as much advertising as possible. The British press is controlled by a rather small number of extremely large companies. This fact helps to explain two notable features.

One of these is its freedom from interference from government influence. The press is so powerful in this respect that it is sometimes referred to as ‘the fourth respect’ (the other three being the Commons, the Lords and the monarch). This freedom is ensured because there is a general feeling in the country that ‘freedom of speech’ is a basic constitutional right.

The other feature of the national press which is partially the result of the commercial interests of its owners is its shallowness. Few other European countries have a popular press which is so ‘low’. Sometimes newspapers’ pages are full of stories about the private lives of famous people. Sometimes their ‘stories’ are not articles at all, they are just excuses to show pictures of almost naked women.

The British press is not only newspapers, there are a lot of different magazines catering for almost every imaginable taste and specializing in almost every imaginable pastime. Among these publications there are a few weeklies dealing with news and current affairs. The best selling weeklies are those giving details of the forthcoming week’s television and radio programmes: What’s On TV, the Radio Times and TV Times. Second to them in popularity are women’s magazines: Take a Break, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Woman, Woman’s Realm. Among men’s magazines, the most popular are Loaded, GQ and Esquire. The leading opinion journals are The Economist, the New Statesman and Society, the Spectator and Private Life.

* * *

In 1936 the government established the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to provide a public service in radio. It also began broadcasting that year on the recently invented television. In 1955 the establishment of independent and commercial television and radio removed the BBC’s broadcasting monopoly.



In spite of its much reduced evening audience, BBC radio still provides an important service. Its five radio stations (BBC radio 1–5) provide: non-stop pop music, light entertainment, classical music, arts programmes and academic material (some for Open University courses), news and comment and discussion programmes, sport.

  • Radio 1 began broadcasting in 1969. Devoted almost entirely to pop music, its birth was a signal that popular youth culture could no longer be ignored by the country’s established institutions. In spite of recent competition from independent commercial radio stations, it still has over ten million listeners.

  • Radio 2 broadcasts mainly light music and chat shows.

  • Radio 3 is devoted to classical music.

  • Radio 4 broadcasts a variety of programmes, from plays and comedy shows to consumer advice programme and in-depth news coverage.

  • Radio 5 is largely given over to sports coverage and news.

The BBC additionally runs 38 local stations, providing material of local interests.

Two particular radio programmes should be mentioned. Soap operas are normally associated with television. but The Archers is actually the longest-running soap in the world. It describes itself as ‘an everyday story of country folk’. Its audience is mainly middle-class with a large proportion of elderly people. Another popular programme is the live commentary of cricket Test Matches in summer.

Commercial radio offers three nationwide services: Classic FM, which broadcasts mainly classical music; Virgin 1215, broadcasting popular music; and Talk Radio UK, a speech-based service.

In addition there are 180 independent local radio stations which provide news, information, music and other entertainment, coverage of local events, sports commentary, chat shows and ‘phone-in’ programmes.

An important but separate part of the BBC’s work is its ‘external services’. The BBC World Service broadcasts by radio in English and 43 other languages. The service is funded separately from the rest of the BBC, by the Foreign Office. Although the BBC has freedom in the content of what it broadcasts, the government decides in which foreign languages it should broadcast, and the amount of funding it should receive. As such, the service is a promotional part of British foreign policy.

* * *


Television is the most popular form of entertainment in Britain. It is also independent from government interference. There is no advertising on the BBC. But Independent Television (ITV), which started in 1954, gets its money from advertisements in screens. It consists of a number of privately owned companies, each of which is responsible for programming in different parts of the country on the single channel given to it. But ITV news programmes are not made by individual television companies. Independent Television News (ITN) is owned jointly by all of them. For this and other reasons, it has always been protected from commercial influence. There is no significant difference between the style and `content of the news on ITV and than on the BBC.

There are four channels which all viewers in the country receive: BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV and Channel 4.


Table 1. The Four channels


Channel

BBC 1

ITV

BBC 2

Channel 4

Started

1936

1954

1964

1982

Advertising

No

Yes

No

Yes

Early weekday mornings

A rather relaxed style of news magazine punctuated with more formal news summaries

Open University programmes

A very informal breakfast show

Mornings and early afternoons

Popular discussion programmes, quizzes, soaps and a relaxed type of magazine programme, usually with a male-female pair of presenters

Educational programmes, some aimed at schools and others with a more general educational purpose

Late afternoons

Children’s programmes, which vary greatly in style and content

General documentary and features (feature film – a full-length cinema film with an invented story and professional actors)

Evenings

News (including regional news programmes) and the most popular soaps, dramas, comedies, films and various programmes of light entertainment and general interest

Documentaries and programmes appealing to minority interests; drama and ‘alternative’ comedy; comparatively serious and ‘in-depth’ news programmes

Late at night





Open University



Weekends

Much of weekend afternoons are devoted to sport. Saturday evenings include the most popular live variety show

Channel 5 is a commercial channel, which is received by about two-thirds of British households. Started in 1997. Its emphasis is on entertainment but it makes all other types of programme too. Of particular note is its unconventional presentation of the news, which is designed to appeal to younger adults. There is also a Welsh language channel for viewers in Wales.



    1. Family life, leisure and private life in Great Britain

In recent years there have been many changes in family life. Even the stereotyped nuclear family of father, mother and two children is becoming less common. Since the law made it easier to get a divorce, the number of divorces has considerably increased: one marriage in every three now ends in divorce. Britain has a higher rate of divorce than anywhere else in Europe except Denmark. As a result, there are a lot of one-parent families. The great majority of single parents are women. One in three children under the age of five has divorced parents. Forty per cent of children experience the divorce of their parents before the age of 18. Single-parent families often experience isolation and poverty.

However, the increased number of divorces does not mean that marriage and the family are not popular: the majority of divorced people marry again, and they usually take responsibility for the children in their second family.

Though the family unit is still the basic living arrangement for most people, the number of people living alone has risen significantly, from one in 10 in 1951 to one in three in the twenty-first century. Some women prefer independence, which they fear they will lose by marriage. In the period 1979–91 the proportion of single, widowed, divorced or separated women aged between 18 and 49 increased from 11 to 23 per cent of women in that age group.

There is an increasing proportion of men and women living together before marriage. About one in four of the couples living together never do get married. The proportion of children born outside marriage has risen dramatically. But about three-quarters of all births outside marriage are officially registered by both parents and more than half of the children concerned are born to parents who are living together at the time.

Extended families are not typical, except among some racial minorities. It is unusual for adults of different generations within the family to live together. The average number of people living in each household in Britain is lower than in most other European countries. The proportion of elderly people living alone is similarly high. Members of a family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – keep in touch, but they see each other less than before. Significant family events such as weddings, births and funerals are not automatically accompanied by large gatherings of people. It is still common to appoint people to certain roles on such occasions, such as ‘best man’ at a wedding, or godmother and godfather when a child is born. But for most people these appointments are of sentimental significance only. They do not imply lifelong responsibility. In fact, family gatherings of any kind beyond the household unit are rare. For most people, they are confined to the Christmas period, which is the traditional season for reunions, and relatives often travel many miles in order to spend the holiday together.

* * *


Historians say that the class system has survived in Britain because of its flexibility. It has always been possible to buy or marry or even work your way up, so that your children belong to a higher social class than you do. As a result, the class system has never been swept away by a revolution.

People in modern Britain are very conscious of class differences. They regard it as difficult to become friends with somebody from a different class. It results from the fact that the different classes have different sets of attitudes and daily habits. Typically, they tend to eat different food at different times of day and call the meals by different names, they like to talk about different topics using different styles and accents of English, they enjoy different pastimes and sports, they have different values about what things in life are most important and different ideas about the correct way to behave. Stereotypically, they go to different kinds of school.

The sense of social class or group is affected by social circle as well as education and wealth. A relatively poor but highly educated family may find itself associating with wealthier but similarly highly educated friends. A traditional landowning but less highly educated ‘gentry’ family will probably associate with other landowners of similar education level.

An interesting feature of the class structure in Britain is that it is not always possible to guess the class to which a person belongs by looking at his or her clothes, car or bank balance. The most obvious and immediate sign comes when a person begins speaking. And what the speaker says is less important than the way that he or she says it. The English grammar and vocabulary which is used in public speaking, radio and television news `broadcasts, books and newspapers is known as ‘standard British English’. Most working-class people use lots of words and grammatical forms in their everyday speech which are regarded as ‘non-standard’. Nearly everybody in the country is capable of using standard English (or something very close to it) when they judge that the situation demands it. They are taught to do so at school. But most people cannot change their accent to suit the situation. So a person’s accent is the clearest indication of his or her class.

The most prestigious accent in Britain is known as ‘Received Pronunciation’ (or RP). The combination of standard English spoken with an RP accent is usually called ‘BBC English’ or ‘Oxford English’ (re`ferring to the university, not the town) or ‘the Queen’s English’. RP is not associated with any particular part of the country. Anyone with an RP accent is assumed to be upper or upper-middle class. The vast majority of people speak with an accent which is geographically limited. In England and Wales, anyone who speaks with a strong regional accent is automatically assumed to be working class. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the situation is slightly different; in these places, some forms of regional accent are almost as prestigious as RP.

Traditionally there are three social classes in Britain: upper class, middle class and working class. But market researchers in 1950s applied six classes to Britain, and they have tended to be used ever since. They are:



  1. Upper middle class (senior civil servants, professional senior management and finance);

  2. Middle class (middle managerial);

  3. Lower middle class (junior managerial, non-manual workers);

  4. Skilled working class;

  5. Semi-skilled or unskilled working class;

  6. Residual (dependent on state benefit, unemployed, occasional part-time).

Most people generally mix socially with the same kind of people as their work colleagues, and usually live in streets or neighbourhoods which reflect that social grouping. This suggests a static situation, but there is major movement between classes. Many people move from one category to another during their working lives. Marriage outside one’s class is much more common than it used to be. The working class is rapidly declining. But the middle class is growing. There has been a great increase in the number of people from working-class origins who are houseowners and who do traditionally middle-class jobs. The lower and middle classes have drawn closer to each other in their attitudes.

* * *


In terms of everyday habits, British society probably expects a sharper difference between the sexes than most other European societies do. In spite of having a female monarch and having had a female Prime Minister for over a decade, the female sex in Britain gets less than its fair share of power, freedom and wealth.

In the early nineties, only about 5% of MPs were women, only 20% of lawyers in Britain were women, less than 10% of accountants were women, only 3% of company directors were women. In 1995 the first woman ever was appointed as a police Chief Constable. In 1996 only 7 per cent of university professors were women. In 1997 only 6 per cent of High Court and Circuit judges were women. In order to succeed in such spheres women must be outstandingly better than men.

Women are also paid less than men. On average, women earn 31 per cent less than men. The average hourly wage for full-time women workers is ₤7, only 80 per cent of what men earn.

Although men take a more active domestic role than they took forty years ago, women still do about 8 hours more domestic work weekly than men. Most people assume that a family’s financial situation is not just the responsibility of the man. But everyday care of the children is still seen as mainly woman’s responsibility. Although almost as many women have jobs as men, nearly half of the jobs done by women are part-time. In fact, the majority of mothers with children under the age of twelve either have no job or work only during school hours.

In recent years the situation has slightly changed. More women succeed in business. Nearly every institution in the country has opened its doors to women now. One of the last to do so was the Anglican Church, which, after much debate, decided in favour of the ordination of women priests in 1993. However, there are a few institutions which still don’t accept female members – for example, the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London, an association for graduates of these two universities.

* * *


There are numerous religious groups in Great Britain practising their faiths in the country today.
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