A few years ago I used to teach video production. Mid way through the courses I read Four Arguments, and my world changed. I’d never been a big fan of tv, but I was a big fan of the making of video. I knew crap tv was – uh – crap, but Mander’s writing turned my long-held vision that documentaries were valuable into a premise demanding more scrutiny. There are few things more annoying than a cogent, convincing argument that turns a well reinforced opinion on its head. And few things more useful.
It’s seemed that for years I’ve moaned about tv – my wife tells me I’m always on about it – and I’ve always felt slightly guilty about it – I have no compunction about not watching tv, however, the trouble is, with video production a distribution vehicle is required, and that vehicle, until relatively recently, is tv. So my position has been one of those snappy, yappy, bite the hand that feeds you; except that because I’m not involved there any more, tv is not even the hand that feeds me. So here I am, this solitary, whining voice who doesn’t watch tv, bleating alone in the wilderness about not watching tv, to people who watch tv. Truly pathetic. Curse you, Gerry Mander!
Time has continued to move from the future to the past, and today producing technically high quality moving images has never been simpler, easier, or cheaper. The laptop I write this on has significantly more fire power in every respect than the Fairlight CVI I used to use in the late 80s, early 90s.
As an aside, the Fairlight was never quite broadcast quality, but one thing that was superb about the Fairlight was the fact that the essential control was the square orange button on the front of the box. No other do-dah. Click – it booted – it genlocked – you were in business. Just yummy. A much missed approach to computing.
I found ‘Thou Shall Prosper’ in the library, and having just written about the changing values of money and work I grabbed it for a read, top lip pre-curled with horror at the somewhat cheesy title. Rabbi Lapin’s book transcends the title – I’ve found it well worth the read and very thought provoking. Lapin lays about him on the subject of tv (See? You knew I’d love him.) from a perspective I’d never thought about. His concept is that the purpose of television is to amuse us. He deconstructs amuse into – muse – the source of an artist’s inspiration; and ‘a’ as in ‘keeping away from’. Think ‘aseptic’ (free of or using methods to keep free of pathological microorganisms), ‘amoral’ (without moral standards or principles), and ‘avoid’ (refrain from doing something). Lapin makes the jump that ‘amuse’ then is to be free of or away from inspiration and creativity. Interesting. I’d never thought about it like that before and I’m inclined to agree.
Me and about 10 million others. According to an article in the UK’s Daily Express, ‘The golden age of television is over as millions of viewers switch off because of poor quality shows.’
The Sunday Express survey by ICM has revealed people are turning to new forms of entertainment, such as the internet and DVDs, because they feel let down by the programme makers.
Fifty-three per cent of viewers believe TV is getting worse and only 10 per cent that it is getting better.
Apparently, one in four people watches less television now than five years ago. There’s 42 million television households in Britain, the results mean about 10 million of them are switching off their TV sets because of substandard programmes. Ten years ago, when I used to buy advertising, one of the big issues then was – where are the audiences? Even then the audience was fragmenting – obscure magazines, fickle readers/viewers/listeners, special interest groups – it was genuinely difficult to track down a meaningful, i.e. congruent, audience in our target market; almost at any price. People turning off tv is a marketer’s nightmare.
Counter pointing, perhaps complementing, Lapin’s ten commandments for prosperity, there are the Cluetrain Manifesto’s 95 theses – number 95 ‘We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.’ And number 90, ‘Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we’ve been seeing.’