Written by Media

Writers Who’ve Annoyed Me In The Last 48 Hours

Sorry – there’s no good reason for this entry apart from allowing me to let some steam off.
First of all there was Kathryn Flett in The Observer. She gets 1600 words to write about television from the last week, and she manages to waste precisely 884 of them on I’m A Celebrity. She’s so “riveted” that she’s even watching (and subjecting us to a review of) the sister show on ITV2.
Seriously. The Observer is a grown up newspaper. Surely there’s room for some reviews of some good programmes? The theatre review pages don’t bother with local repertory performances (and I realise I’m doing a disservice to some undoubtedly find repertory companies), and the music review pages don’t bother with buskers or pub performers. Yet, that’s really what we’re getting the cultural equivalent here.
It’s not even as though it’s being done with wit. I’m currently reading Dawn of the Dumb, the new compendium of Charlie Brooker columns, which regularly turns its guns to popular reality fare. But it’s done in a clever manner.
I just have to keep reminding myself that Clive James was once the paper’s TV reviewer. And I’d certainly prefer a return of John Naughton who currently is hidden away just beyond Media in the Business section.
Over in today’s Media Guardian, guest editor Peter Fincham (until very recently, controller of BBC One) had invited commenters to answer the question “What is television for?”
Now obviously there are going to be all sorts of responses to that – some I could easily agree with, and others I couldn’t. But there in the middle of them all was Peter Bazalgette who these days is the Chief “Creative Officer” for Endemol. He really is full of it.
He runs through the major television broadcasters one by one sharing his thoughts.
“BBC – needs to be debated from scratch to decide whether it gets a licence fee at all in ten years’ time. The new agenda in favour is that it should be a trustworthy voice amid the gossip, rumour and paranoia of the internet.”
Hang on. He’s suggesting that the BBC might not get a licence fee at all in ten years’ time? So it’d either be commercially funded or bye-bye if he were in charge. I find this staggering from someone who makes his money getting commissions from, er, the BBC.
Let’s assume for a moment, that he’s not in this industry for personal gain, but for the good of all mankind. And maybe, somehow, that world would be better if there wasn’t a BBC in its current, licence funded state. Where are we left. Well, either it disappears off the face of the earth, or it competes directly with ITV. In which case, we can probably look to significantly lower revenues for both companies. The advertising pot isn’t getting any larger. Simplistically, ITV’s revenues would halve. And that means far fewer commissions for companies like Endemol.
But you see, Bazalgette believes that television is to entertain and only entertain. Yes, the most powerful cultural force in our time should just be there to entertain us. Obviously Endemol is there to fill that void. Talk about dumbing down.
How about ITV?
“ITV – has to redefine its model from that of a broadcaster to a creator of branded content whose channels are just one way of distributing its shows. It needs to be freed from Ofcom’s apron strings – why is a regulator still deciding how many ads it can run? That’s for consumers to judge.”
What on earth is a “creator of branded content?” You see, I quite agree that we’re going to “consume” our programming in a whole host of ways. We might watch it live; record it for later on a PVR; stream it online; download it to a PC or playback device; or just buy it later on DVD. Indeed, we’re already doing that. But you know what? I don’t chase “brands” on TV. I chase programmes. I may see a trailer, watch an ad, read a review or preview and then discover a programme for myself. Unlikely though it may seem, I’m still happy to watch the odd drama on ITV (their recent remake of A Room With A View wasn’t bad). I don’t especially care whether it was on ITV, Channel 4 or the BBC. I liked what I heard about it, and recorded it to watch later.
What most people don’t do, is worry about who made a programme. If ITV was notorious for terrible programmes, then it might matter, but there are a few gems scattered around on the channel, so I still give it the time of day.
Moving on.
“Channel 4 – has to be the home of the individual voice (writers, directors, or even would-be celebs) which swims against the tide. And if it’s genuinely radical it’ll keep its younger constituency. If not, Gordon Brown has an alternative.”
Well he’s not saying much there. That’s pretty much the raison d’être of the channel in the first place. Patently it’s not that radical, hence the 8pm hour most weeknights. And running Big Brother 27 isn’t exactly radical either.
“BSkyB – for selling subscriptions to people who want entertainment and communications.”
“Virgin Media – see BSkyB above and dilute. All the others must find well defined niches or perish.”

Well yes. No news there. I doubt shareholders would expect otherwise.
It’s just a shame that such a powerful television producer is so cynical about the whole business he’s in. Yes, it’s a business, but it’s more than that. We’ve seen in the last year, if you stop caring about your customers, then they’ll leave you in droves. And you’ll never get them back.