Media

Control in a mass society August 8th 2019

The traffic was and always is awful on the M25, especially first thing. BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme helps pass the time, though its smug comfortable overpaid out of touch presenters can be irritating, but always amusing because of these qualities. It is not the warm friendly harmonious programme as it was inj the days of Jack Demanio.

They never see themselves as part of the problem, always part of the solution. Their main concerns seems to be the gender pay gap and promoting fake Brexit. They are typical voices from privilged patronising public service broadcasting.

Yesterday they were lamenting the massive decline in viewers for terrestial BBC and ITV channels, in spite of all the wonderful home grown content. They were especially concerned by the decline in younger viewers who spend, on average, watching little more than an hour each week- preferring Netflix and YOU TUBE.

I suggest that the home grown content is far too patronising, politically correct and with messages meant to be subliminal but obviously loaded. So called new drama. with doyens like Dame Judy Dench, Helen Mirren and Sarah Lancashire rather predicatble and sickly to thev taste of most of us. The scripts are written by comfortable people, usually English literature grads, some writers hand picked from the ‘underprivilged groups’ like feminists.

I watched one nauseating Channel 4 production being partly filmed in my now twee home town of Winslow, I saw and talked to a production crew whe were from very different world to the one most of us live in. The production was called ‘The Little Visitor’ with story revolving around life in a big country house from long ago and far away, like these fim makers. Humourless and pretentious, like the book it was based on in my view.

Harry Potter actor slips into Winslow’s time warp for the insipid Channel Four Production ‘The Little Visitor.’ Image Charles Close

The article below explains much of the mind set and why mainstream TV is primarily and overtly about social control. It talks down to the masses.

What is the future of public service television?

Jane Martinson Ofcom believes PSB is in good shape – but decisions on the BBC and Channel 4 could transform the landscape @janemartinson

Sun 25 Oct 2015 18.08 GMT Last modified on Wed 29 Nov 2017 08.34 GMT

David Puttnam

David Puttnam is launching an inquiry into public service television Photograph: Rex Features

Before they started at secondary school two years ago, my older children regularly read the sports pages over breakfast or cuddled up to watch The X Factor on a Saturday night. Nowadays, they constantly scroll through Instagram and YouTube on phones that appear to have been grafted on to their fingers. The biggest threat to public service television is there, live and kicking, in my front room.

Where do they get their news from? Or learn about the world? Surely not just from videos of how to paint nails in ever weirder ways, or from vlogs on how to beat their mates at imaginary football games?

Their ability to make and share video content or communicate with their friends and the world beyond is infinitely greater than mine ever was. But just how good, for want of a better word, is that content? Does it make them better citizens as opposed to just bigger consumers with a lot more choice?

It’s hard to be sure. Research on the behaviour of the i-generation born after 2000 is relatively limited. We know that their slightly older peers watch far less television than their parents did. Among 16-24 year olds, viewing of live TV news dropped by 29% between 2008 and 2014.

Public service television isn’t all about news, of course. Ofcom has a marvellously rounded definition of the term as “high-quality content, made for as wide a range of audiences as possible, and for public benefit rather than purely commercial ends”. It adds “diversity” and “plurality” and the need to “reflect and examine society as a whole”. Lord Reith boiled it down to “inform, educate and entertain”.

The entire debate probably sounds as Victorian to my children as my own grandmother’s description of pounds, shillings and pence did to me. Teenagers may well scoff at the idea of public service broadcasting (PSB), a vague thing that encompasses children’s content as well as religious broadcasting, arts and culture. Isn’t most of that for old people anyway? But what about national sporting events? Or homegrown drama about British lives, wherever they are?

Analysts at Ofcom, which published its public service broadcasting review in June, think it possible that once this generation reach 35, possibly with children of their own or at least less money or desire to go out every night, they could start watching more public service content on a range of platforms. But this appears less than scientifically based.

It seems clear that Ofcom’s overall view that “public service broadcasting is in good shape” with a relatively robust advertising market in television is only true for the next decade at most.

Some will argue that parental concerns about technology are akin to previous generations worrying about boy bands. Yet, decisions being made over the next 18 months – about the future of the BBC and Channel 4 but also the purpose of public service broadcasting – could help create a very different environment whether we like it or not.

The government is looking at the BBC, as is the House of Lords. Yet Labour peer and filmmaker Lord Puttnam is right to launch a broader inquiry into the nature, purpose and role of public service television today and I’m glad to be a member of the advisory committee. There are huge, broad questions to be asked and now seems as good a time as any to ask them.

The first may be why we still need public service broadcasting, or whether it should continue to come from the main public service channels which currently dominate. With investment in new, UK-originated content by these channels down by over £400m in real terms between 2008 and 2014, according to Ofcom, this might be a moot point anyway.

Education, arts and religion saw the biggest real-term declines, though the smallest overall totals. Yet in those areas, other providers have stepped in: Sky Arts in cultural provision, for example, or, in the field of formal education training, the teacher network run by the Guardian where professionals share resources.

But what about the impact of commercial competition in televised sport?

As many fans have argued, including my colleague Barney Ronay, the battle to broadcast Premier League football has ended up with consumers spending the same and getting less sport for their money.

And for those who argue that choice and competition will provide, it seems wise to point to the financial services industry. That didn’t work terribly well either, did it?

There are obvious hazards ahead, but the more questions we ask now, the better.