The woes of television

By August 13, 2014ABC, History, Media, Society

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…


Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • dlb says:

    My pet hate is these live crosses during the evening news bulletins to the scene of a drama earlier in the day. Usually everyone has packed up and gone home by this time with the reporter standing in an empty street. To my consternation even the ABC is doing it now, I call it tabloid creep.

    The other thing that amazes me is that we supposedly have a highly educated public with most people now going to at least senior high school. Yet the electronic and print media increasingly produce news and current affairs fit for a 12 year old!

  • David says:

    I talk to the TV quite a lot. Better than throwing my slipper at it. I press the mute button often but I still can’t get rid of the irritating channel advertising images, some sitting 300mm into the screen. My wife, like Don’s, can block out all these irritations. As a result the only TV I watch are programs I’ve recorded.

  • margaret says:

    Amusing! But what about SBS? It has the best news coverage at 6.30 where you get a true world view. It has the excellent PBS Newshour from America at 4.30. Tonight at 9.30 when you’re tucked up in your beds it has Borgen, a Danish series about a woman who has been prime minister and is now forming a new party the New Democrats. It’s brilliant – stay up for it, it’s worth it.

  • whyisitso says:

    Yes the microphone vultures are revolting. I find myself sympathising with the worst perpetrators simply because of this treatment. GOM? Yes, I plead guilty.

    Talking about GOMs, and nothing to do with the above, I was watching the AFL on the weekend and saw Western Bulldogs (aka Footscray) playing. I remarked to my wife that I clearly remembered being at a grand final that Footscray won and the teammates chaired captain Charlie Sutton off the ground at end. Then I remembered it was 60 years ago this year. OMG, it’s a shock to remember something so clearly from that far back.

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    Congratulations, Don! You’ve found a topic where we all appear to agree with each other.

  • Peter Donnan says:

    About ICAC and indeed many intrusive reporters outside courts etc. : I have thought of selling balaclavas to those being hounded by prying reporters with the words: ‘Nothing for the press’ emblazoned on them. It would be like a public service to protect hounding by the press posing puerile questions.

    You also wrote, Don, that ‘Readers are warned that following text has been written by someone in a Grumpy Old Man phase’.

    One of the most amusing grumpy old men around is Gerard Henderson who can be pleasant, incisive and a great commentator as long as you agree with him: but mention the ABC etc and he goes to the dark side! I accept that the ABC views life sometimes excessively through a left-wing prism, that it is publicly funded and is not always balanced but in my view it offers something worthwhile to many Australians.

    So in terms of humour I have clipped four tweets from a person I had not heard of until today. The name is TweetlikeGerard and here are four ICAC tweets:

    ??”All these alleged bribes are testament to how powerful and effective the Liberals are. I note no-one has bothered to bribe the Greens”.

    “Is Newcastle even in ICAC’s jurisdiction? I highly doubt it’s part of NSW. It doesn’t appear anywhere on my Sydney Institute map”.

    “Look, it was only $10,000. If this is all the taxpayer-funded ICAC can turn
    up, I think voters will question whether it’s worth it”.

    “If we privatise everything and run it behind closed doors between mates (like The Sydney Institute), ICAC won’t be needed any more”.

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