Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Future of the Future

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  • Geoff Lealand,

    AC Nielsen provides ratings for every 15 minute slot.

    ACN's brief is to measure "presence in the room where a TV set is on". This happens for evrey 15 minute slot (well, more correctly, buttons are pushed), from a base panel of 500 NZ households. All that follows is conjecture, extrapolation or supposition.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2327 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    All that follows is conjecture, extrapolation or supposition.

    Exactly. With the arrival of digital TV I was hoping for a feedback loop from the TV (or STB/PVR) that could report exactly what was watched. This would remove the need for this conjecture. In turn, I believe this would have a big impact on advertising and programming.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Just by the way, I intensely envy Henry Sandon. He doesn't do what he does for wealth (although I would guess he is well off enough nowadays), he does it because he loves it. He is possibly the happiest man I've ever seen on telly.

    And he has a convertible Morrie 1000! That is another show I love zoning out to. Still haven't recovered from the US version once when someone brought in a Navajo blanket that just happened to be worth USD $500,000. And here it is... I could watch that all day.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    @Steve: I think the key concept is "icons". I've heard it said, for example, that much of the audience of History Channel is not particularly knowlegeable about history, but they do recognise icons,

    But why do they have to show what people already know about?It's not like the History Channel actually carries advertising, apart from advertising more shows about Hitler and Sharks. This is the sort of channel that I would like to see receive funding, if their programming was a little less "SENSATIONAL!!!" and a bit more educational.
    innit?.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Marcus Turner,

    @Steve: I'm not sure whether History Channel in the US carries ads, but I think they do. Do they not have any ads in NZ?

    History Channel will act in the best interests of its business. "Sensational" seems to work best, over many different genres and channels in US cable TV.

    I don't know how about viewing in NZ, but I've been led to understand that even the most loyal viewer of a US cable channel typically watches that channel for about half an hour or less, each night.

    It seems US cable channel viewers typically don't decide what to watch in advance; they sit down and begin to channel-hop until something interests them. To hold their attention, the programme must, within a short time, explain what it's about and offer the viewer something to look forward to. This explains why some "appointment viewers" or viewers who watch the whole programme find some programmes repetitive.

    (I understand that there's quite a lot of competition to be near the top of the channel listing on a cable service, since the channel-hopping viewer will typically encounter these first.)

    "Sensational" is an understandable product of the business model. And it seems to work.

    Who might fund a television channel, and for what reason?

    Since Nov 2006 • 203 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    When did our days become soooo careworn, that "entertainment" became what we craved?

    When did a desire to be "entertained" become the intellectual equivalent of admitting a fondness for kiddie snuff porn? In one of those delightful moments of cross-platform synchronicity, I just happen to have David Mamet's latest book of essays and he observes in his inimitably terse and cranky manner:

    The job of the dramatist is to get, and that of the actors and directors to keep, the asses in the seats. Period. That is what pays the rent. Whatever an individual may have to say, it will not be heard unless the audience is (a) there, and (b) paying attention. And no one pays attention to anything that bores them. Why should they? You won’t. I won’t.

    The purpose of the theatre is not to instruct, to better, to expatiate. It is to entertain. The great artist in entertainment may receive and so transmit something of an unusual or deep understanding of human nature or even human destiny — that is, he may do something more than entertain. But this is not necessarily better than entertainment.

    And I'd point out that one of the BBC's biggest successes of recent years was a 14 3/4 hour survey of five thousand years of English history. (Co-produced with The History Channel, despite the extreme shortage of Nazi porn FWIW.) I don't know about anyone else, but I watched it because it was vastly entertaining not because it was the audio-visual equivalent of getting my colon irrigated with cod liver oil.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    When did our days become soooo careworn, that "entertainment" became what we craved?

    Some time before 1985, obviously.

    And yeah, the content is FREE! FREE I tells ya! FREEEE! So MySky is totally out of the question, especially since I choose to transgress the national obsession with 15 a side.

    Oh I think you could find a way to stream rugby fine. My problem is that I'm obsessed with 11 a side - which ties me to Sky for the foreseeable future. Otherwise I would have gone Freeview all the way for sure.

    (Okay, there are a multiple 11 a side sports: it's cricket.)

    Oh, and +1 on wanting clarification on how you play scrabble/sex. This thread is throwing up more questions than answers.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Oh, and +1 on wanting clarification on how you play scrabble/sex. This thread is throwing up more questions than answers.

    More even than a final episode of Lost.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    When did a desire to be "entertained" become the intellectual equivalent of admitting a fondness for kiddie snuff porn?

    As usual, your questions are... rather difficult to answer. :)

    No one's against entertainment, per se, surely. The problem is when its omnipresence smothers other aspects of life.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    The problem is when its omnipresence smothers other aspects of life.

    What percentage of entertainment in life constitutes 'smothering'? Like, 33% is sleep, 33% (if you're really dedicated) is work, so... And actually, now that I think about it, what constitutes "entertainment"? I think cooking and eating are both pretty entertaining, but other people <coughPeterAshbycough> might not think so.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3662 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    what constitutes "entertainment"?

    I'm probably not the best qualified to answer that.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The problem is when its omnipresence smothers other aspects of life.

    "Attention all passengers. We are now entering "the mere existence of Battlestar Galactica prevents people being involved in politics". We may experience some intellectual snobbery and righteous indignation from people who feel their intelligence has been slighted. Please take the necessary precautions."

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    @Craig

    Since you're here, I just received my copy of The Windup Girl which I am devouring as time allows. I wonder whether reading it hard on the heels of Norwegian Wood is such a good idea. Especially as that was not, as I was reliably informed, about sex with Norse gods.

    [Droll]

    The problem is when its omnipresence smothers other aspects of life.

    To quote modern family, which I am ambivalent about, 'there's no father in smother'.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Intellectual snobbery? Come on. Everyone knows I'm a high-level consumer of pop culture rubbish. That doesn't mean I'm not concerned about the effects.

    But yeah, sorry, I forgot for a moment that this topic was on "the list".

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    But yeah, sorry, I forgot for a moment that this topic was on "the list".

    Sorry, I was trying to be light-hearted, but I can see it might not come across that way. Wasn't trying to dig at you.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    It's forgotten. :)

    My apologies for the misunderstanding.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    All right I'll post a copy of the rules for scrabble/sex as soon as Emma sends the copy I lent her back.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3434 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    The problem is when its omnipresence smothers other aspects of life.

    I spoke clumsily. To be honest, I knew as I was writing that that I hadn't nailed it.

    I'm thinking about the fact that "entertainment" (ie the showbiz type, not the seeing-people-slip-over-on-muddy-grass type) is, mostly, capital-I Industry. Make no mistake; the creators of content inject the psychological equivalent of whatever it is that Griffins put in Chocolate Chippes that makes you unabled to stop eating them.

    When that works - and it does - is it any wonder that resources eventually get diverted away from other areas? News suffers, "challenging" drama suffers, Current Affairs and the provision of documentary content suffers, the curation of historically important stuff suffers, and eventually the populace becomes inadequately informed (and, yes, I do include myself). That has real and significant impacts on society.

    I don't blame the "low-brow-ness" of consumers or the opportunism of producers; it's a systemic problem; an economic one, as much as anything else, I suppose.

    It may not be a very "hip" idea, but fuck it; that's what I think.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I'm thinking about the fact that "entertainment" (ie the showbiz type, not the seeing-people-slip-over-on-muddy-grass type) is, mostly, capital-I Industry. Make no mistake; the creators of content inject the psychological equivalent of whatever it is that Griffins put in Chocolate Chippes that makes you unabled to stop eating them.

    It's an important point, but it's really hard to make - which is why I link almost obsessively to Postman's book in discussions of this kind; he nailed his argument and it has stayed nailed ever since, indeed it still applies in the age of the Internet - is anybody willing to argue that the information-action ratio has meaningfully improved?

    Also: Postman was a snob. Sometimes lamentably so. He might have railed against reality television in the way that Brickley does, which is hardly helpful, because it buys into the polarised argument that Craig justly excoriates: it's not a matter of this or that television show rotting your brain. You really could say that of anything, including Mahler, and of course we've learned to be wonderfully disenchanted about the content that we consume. It's the co-dependent logic between the spectator and the media, whereby you demand to be entertained, and the culture in turn demands that you be entertained and nothing else.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    No one's against entertainment, per se, surely. The problem is when its omnipresence smothers other aspects of life.

    Perhaps, but I still have horrible flashbacks to balmy childhood days and the constant drum-beat of "why don't you get your nose out of that book, and do something useful?" :)

    I've also got to admit these kind of discussions (present company excepted, of course) too often take on a rather unpleasant and tiresome undertone that is equal parts Frankfurt School and the Upper Class Twit of the Year Contest.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Like I said: it's a very difficult conversation to have. I think it would be important to have it, nonetheless.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    It's the co-dependent logic between the spectator and the media, whereby you demand to be entertained, and the culture in turn demands that you be entertained and nothing else.

    What bugs me is the way spectacle parades as information so often on TV these days: the freak-of-the-week documentary, the fat people "factual" show, the way a cooking show can't be a fucking cooking show any more -- it has to be a contest or a mission-doc.

    (And then there are exceptions. Sometimes the freak-of-the-week is moving and enlightening; and I think Jamie Oliver's nutritional mission-docs have used the medium's power for the best possible reasons.)

    TV news' obsession with live crosses is another example. The information quotient of a live cross is frequently negligible; the spectacle factor is actually high on an unconscious level for the viewer as much as anything else.

    The networks don't want to commission documentary programming worth the name any more, and they don't acquire that much either, because it doesn't rate.

    Prime and TVNZ 7 do well within their budgetary limits, but BBC documentary programming is difficult to acquire -- BBC Worldwide charges a premium for programmes that simply won't return their cost of acquisition. With the money TVNZ 7 can pay, the good stuff often only comes as part of unattractive programme bundles.

    At the Heartland launch last night (more of which anon) I told Prime's Karen Bieleski that she should go for Welcome to Lagos , a BBC4 three-parter that blew my mind. I'm telling you the same thing. Find a torrent, hit me up for a flash drive if you know me.

    It tells the stories of the brilliantly hopeful people scrambling up from the litter of Nigeria's mega-city, and it did strike me that it was a much better use of my time than watching yet another drama about white folks.

    And it's not like any of this is really even a hard watch. It's all 16:9, beautifully photographed. I can get it. I just wish everyone could.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Alternatively, it looks like most or all of it is on the YouTube.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Russell Baillie climbs into Cheers for 50 Years:

    But just as it was a rubbish celebration of local TV history full of meaningless montages of past presenters showing the various golden eras of the TVNZ hair and make-up department, it wasn't even a very good quiz show - too many answers were flashed to viewers before they got a chance to participate at home.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome,

    But Graeme, you aren't actually disputing my thesis, which is that people use TV as a touchstone. Sure, lots of people watch TV that other people think is crap, but that doesn't mean they aren't intellectually involved in it. Being "intellectually involved" doesn't necessitate that what people watch is by any means "of superb literary credentials." It just means they treat it as something they engage with, talk about with friends and the like.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 424 posts Report Reply

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