It is reasonable to assume that generally, Radio, TV and the Press gain most of their revenue from advertising. The corollary, therefore, must be that the quality of the product of these organisations is determined by the tastes of the advertisers. One thing that has always defeated me is how the vast number of photographers, reporters and cameramen, who are seen fighting for content, in so many situations, can make a living. There must be a mountain of money involved. What started this essay was that in station-hopping, I came across two quiz programmes running concurrently which were so different, with one so psychologically cruel, that I was repelled and the other treated the contestants not as fodder, but human beings. ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ was conducted with humour, and anticipation, and when a man, through his own greed, lost about 100 pounds, one was sorry, but it was his decision. In ‘Take it or leave it’, contestants are required to successively answer questions, in competition with one another, to build up a large financial pot. Having achieved this they still have the final hurdle, which is a five to one lottery that they’ll be going home with nothing. I found this abominable, greedy, and sadistic, on the part of the Channel. When programmes are devised, I believe that their niche, their slots, and the audience, have been evaluated, together with the revenue that these parameters will generate. So they know how much money they have to give away, to start with, so it is reasonable that they could modify the rules to allow people who have amassed quite a lot of money to at least go home with a portion. But we have now created the society which demands more than just fun, a bit of stupidity, and success and failure. There is now a brutal, confrontational element introduced, witness Big Brother, that demands that the contestants should be humiliated – grieved. There are also those programmes that while the prize-money appears to be astronomical, the take home quantity is a lot less. There are many programmes, from the Japanese endurance tests to Eggheads, that fall into these unpleasant categories.
In my slightly critical mind, as it is the advertisers who are calling the tune, it is the general public, whose reaction to the adverts, who are endorsing this trend – not the other way round. In effect, we only have ourselves to blame. Big Brother, for example, treats the contestants as if they were not humans at all, but some strange beings that they can put under a microscope, selected and manipulated so there will be every emotion, from love, hate to near murder. This isn’t entertainment, it is a zoo for people to gawp at, and akin to dog baiting. You will have heard that dog baiting is a big European industry, flourishing in spite of the law and in spite of good taste and a respect for animals. Another vicious trend, with money at the core.
As I have said before, films being produced today are far more violent, crazily so, to the extent that it is the violence not the story, which is the product. With this sort of trend in all the aspects of so-called ‘entertainment’, that is what it is categorised as by Sky, I find it unsurprising that more young people today are clearly more mindlessly vicious, more unruly and more ill-mannered than in living memory. It is interesting also that films like Notting Hill and Pride and Prejudice are so popular they are repeated ad nauseam – perhaps there is also an audience for mannerly fun.