Losing Trust in Television

13 03 2007

There were a number of scandals in TV last week while I was away, and they are all summed up neatly in this Guardian article. Voting phone numbers given out after lines have closed, pre-recorded shows running competitions that have already been won, fake winners announced on screen, this has been a bad time to lie to your audience. The line in the piece that made me think was the one about viewers trust in TV.

When matters of ethics are raised – the reduction of a complex answer to a sound-bite, the whopping anachronism in a historical drama, the quiz show which is more or less impossible to win – a high-up will often insist: “The viewer isn’t stupid.”

Here, the quality being imputed to the viewer is not intelligence but weary sophistication. The contemporary audience, it is implied, would never be so naive as to imagine that television stations have any more inherent veracity than second-hand car lots.

As I write this I’m reading about a new scandal, with Channel 4 Racing suspending their phone lines pending investigation that winners were chosen before voting was closed.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people show blind faith in the TV above all others, including friends and family. As you can imagine, I am always recommending shows to people, those I think share the same sensibilities and humour as me. But very often they will ignore my pointers, and go with the thing that the promos said was good. I’m not bitter, but it’s just that TV is in people’s living rooms, and as such is almost a relative to most, or at least a dear friend of the family. I’m sure some people hug it when nobody else is around.

And it’s not just what to watch. Sometimes TV’s representation of locations and people is so skewed it’s unreal. If there is a country you have been to that has been portrayed stereotypically on TV, you will know what I mean. But people fall for these portrayals all the time if they haven’t been to a place, trusting in full the interpretation of a rogue cinematographer. Africa is Jungles and Desert. India is markets and Taj Mahal, Tower Bridge is over your shoulder wherever you are in London, that sort of thing.

After all that rambling, my point is whether that trust is slowly eroding away among the viewers, or will this all be brushed under the carpet as people call/text in their millions to choose the best singer/dancer/candlestick maker? In the long term, how much more can the viewers take?



One response

26 09 2007
James Jett

Not just Television, but the entire media is working hard to influence and control this nation. They want to decide what we buy and who will sell it to. My phone calls, emails and meeting with people that appear as guests tell me that money is the reason the media have decided to control this society. Fire trucks, car chases, crime, like killing in poor neighborhoods and deaths in a rich neighborhood put eyes on the tube, butts in the seats and ears tuned to the radio. Fifty to 60 millions (my guest) are hooked on this danger and disaster behavior, yet it is all but encouraged by all the media.

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