Archive for August, 2007
A piece I’ve written for the Guardian’s Comment is Free about Jeremy Paxman’s MacTaggart lecture:
Fuelled by pipe tobacco and past experiences of mescalin, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a play – Les Séquestrés d’Altona – in which one of the lead characters appeals to a court of crabs to judge his actions and his guilt. The crabs were meant to signify both his peers and posterity, and the appeal is symbolic of the ethical dilemmas we face and of our need to be judged (I think, although the exact meaning of the play is famously obtuse).
I was reminded of Sartre’s existential angst by Jeremy Paxman’s MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival – Never Mind the Scandals: What’s it All For? In an atypically reflective, but reassuringly spiky critique of the television industry, Paxman appealed to a court of his peers to “rediscover a sense of purpose”, to do “less hyperventilating and more deep breathing”. We need more cogitation and rumination, Paxman said, and less herd-like stampeding for media “impact”.
For the rest of ‘TV: fading to a dot?‘ (not my title by the way), go to http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/martin_moore/2007/08/tv_fading_to_a_dot.html
A dozen years after a group of directors rejected the decadence of modern film-making and signed up to a back-to-basics manifesto, Five News has announced it is going to take steps to restore viewer trust by banning editorial tricks from news broadcasts.
“There are some TV news tricks”, the Five News editor told the Media Guardian, “that have been used for many years that date back to the way people used to have to edit things. But technology means we can be more explicit about things now.” Staged interview sequences, interviewers talking to empty chairs, and ‘Contrived walking shots’ will all, according to David Kermode, be banned.
This is not quite Dogme 95 but it’s a good start. And, if Five keeps to its new rules, and makes them explicit to viewers, they will – gradually – have an impact. Already the BBC and Sky are talking about following Five’s lead.
Unfortunately we don’t know whether Kermode is asking his journalists to sign a ‘Vow of Chastity’ as Dogme 95 did (and does?), or indeed if Kermode has written his rules down.
Dogme’s 10 manifesto mixed the disciplinarian (‘Shooting must be done on location. Props and sets must not be brought in’) with the slightly batty (‘The film must not contain superficial action. (Murders, weapons, etc. must not occur.’).
Still, there are some that news broadcasters could adopt. Rule Number 7, for example, states that ‘Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden. (That is to say that the film takes place here and now.)’.
News statements of principle have a mixed pedigree. Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane famously splashed a ‘declaration of principles’ across the front page of his first edition and then promptly ignored them. At the time Jedidiah Leland (Joseph Cotton) commented that they were as likely to be used as a “first report card” as a constitution. I wonder if Five News will find the same.
Still, the idea is as much a statement of purpose as a set of rigid rules, and it signals a growing acknowledgment that – in news at least – it’s much better to be straight with the public than to try and fool them.
Old school political partisanship is alive and well in the papers today.
Cameron’s law and order speech captures the attention of the Mail and the Telegraph. Writing in the Telegraph Philip Johnston goes so far as to compare the speech to Tony Blair’s after the murder of Jamie Bulger in 1993: “Fourteen years later it is Mr Cameron’s turn to call for moral rearmament, better discipline, effective policing and a challenge to the popularisation of casual violence”. Hoping to avoid any media distortion, Cameron gives his own write-up of himself in the Daily Mail – and must be heartily gratified by the endorsement he gets from the paper in response (‘At last! Mr Cameron is talking like a Tory’).
The Mirror avoids reporting on the speech directly by going straight for Jack Straw’s rebuttal (‘Cam£6bnSham’). While the Guardian prefers to trumpet its egalitarian credentials and expose the ‘Boardroom Bonanza’ being enjoyed by the UK’s chief executives.
Are the papers drawing up their party lines in readiness for an autumn election?
Perhaps, although if the Sun’s the first to know when an election will be called – as it has been for the last 3 elections – then we’ve got a while to wait. The UK’s biggest selling paper leads today on the frightening news that Amy Winehouse is ‘out of control’ and that her father is worried about her.
It’s pretty rare you can say an OFCOM report is a page turner, but The Communications Market 2007 is just that – thanks to some gobsmacking statistics about UK media consumption, some audacious predictions of how our media use is changing, and some wizard diagrams.
In the press today, the Guardian stressed the report’s finding that women (of a certain age) now use the internet more than men, the Independent led on how internet usage is now cannibalising traditional media, the Telegraph focused on the huge increase in web use by ‘silver surfers’, while The Sun was (like me) most astonished by the news that we now spend, on average, 7 hours a day watching TV, listening to the radio, surfing the net and talking on the phone. Seven hours a day (and yes – here I am).
But even outside these headline stories there are masses of stats and statements in this report that show not only how addicted to media we’ve become, but how quickly our use of it is evolving.
Take the stuff about Web 2.0.
542 hours of video are loaded onto YouTube – the equivalent of more than 22 television channels broadcasting continuously
3.74 million photographs are uploaded to Flickr – meaning, that even if you only looked at each photo for a second, it would still take you more than 6 weeks constant viewing to look at one day’s photographs
…and 1,845 new articles appear on Wikipedia – equal to about 22 UK broadsheets worth
Unique audiences to websites like YouTube are now reaching terrestrial TV levels. YouTube has a unique UK user base of 6.5million – although the average user only watches it for three-four minutes a day.
And what about storage (not normally a subject to get the heart racing):
Only 7 years ago a hard disk that could store 80 hours of TV would have cost you £1,500. Now it’ll cost £25.
There’s more, lots more. If you didn’t think we were going through a media revolution before, you will do after you read this. (This last sentence is for the back cover – if OFCOM ever decide to publish the report in paperback).