I don’t watch television much — two lots of news in the evening, an occasional program on something that interests me, and Test cricket when it’s on. I find TV distracting, for the most part. And I am weary of grim visuals, even when they are preceded by a warning that ‘some viewers may find these images confronting’.
I don’t actually find them confronting, but I do find them message-filled, the message being that the people responsible for there being such an image are wicked. Conflict is much too complex for such a simple message always to be accurate.
But I’ll leave war-zone stuff on this occasion and focus on three things that really irritate me. The come in increasing order of irritation. Readers are warned that following text has been written by someone in a Grumpy Old Man phase.
Most of the time our radios are tuned to Classic FM, but even there listeners have to be reminded, again and again, about particular programs that are coming. Yes, I know that people might tune in and have missed the last announcement, so the next one is for them. But for this Constant Listener, the repeated reminders are a pain.
On commercial television there can hardly be such a rationale. You can get the same ad repeated within minutes, and then repeated again. It puts me off to the point where I would vow never to buy such a product. My wife has the happy skill of simply turning off her ears — and she can read and watch television at the same time, a female multi-tasking skill that eludes me. I sit there and suffer, occasionally yelling at the screen not to run that ad again. How dumb do advertisers think we really are? (Pretty dumb.)
There are people who can say the following message in five seconds: Yes shoppers the giant thingatron is available again at this unbelievable price but only if you go to Fred’s Thingatronnery today this sale must end by Sunday remember no payments or interest until the next century conditions apply and while you’re there check out the great bargains on the first floor.
I wonder sometimes whether there is a machine into which you can speak at a normal pace, and when you have finished it will speed up the replay without distorting your voice. Or are there men and women out there who spend hours of practice until they can reel all that off so that it is (barely) intelligible to somebody? Again, my wife doesn’t notice the ads, and there are viewers who turn the remote to mute. I haven’t mastered that skill either.
The Microphone Vultures
Anyone arriving at or leaving court, or the premises of ICAC, or at their house, if they are a person of interest, is now highly likely to be pursued by camera-wielders and microphone vultures, the latter asking the most asinine questions. No one ever answers.
This practice, which is part of TV news, seems the height of rudeness to me. The worst example I can remember was a woman interviewer asking a bereaved mother, ‘How do you feel now you’ve lost your son?’ But the ordinary questions are just awful: ‘Are you sorry for what you’ve done?’, ‘Do you think you should apologise to all these people?’, and the like.
It looks like an utter invasion of privacy to me, and I am sympathetic to those who block the camera with their outstretched hand or push the microphone way. In my darker moments I invent a whistle which you can conceal on your person, and operate without anyone being aware that you are ding it, that has no effect on the whistle-holder but ruins all cameras and microphones within thirty feet — sorry, nine metres — and gives those holding them a short but painful headache. The other day someone who had given evidence at an ICAC hearing was spotted ducking away from the media throng, which raced off in hot and completely undignified pursuit, and then reproached the man for his actions. I was for him, whatever his sins.
I guess that it’s all part of ‘reality TV’, and apparently it’s what somebody wants. I would prefer some decent investigative journalism, which has practically disappeared, not just from the Australian media, but from those in the rest of the world as well.
Yes, I could watch only the ABC, and rid myself (almost) from advertisements. But then, as I have explained in other essays (as here), I rather dislike the ABC’s view of the world, and its ease in finding a worrying ‘climate change’ angle to almost any story. So I balance it with Channel 9.
It’s a hard life…