The Skip button

Submitted by Garry on Thu, 19 Apr 2012 - 07:14

The typical Commercial TV Program promo – It's essential to have a voice-over person who is well practiced in unnaturally long vowel sounds – "Heeeee was in lerrrrrrv with herrrrrrrrrr. Sheeeee was in lerrrrrrrv with hiiiiiim ... and togetherrrrrrrrr .... " (etc.) – False sincerity with deep tones are expected – Add orchestral stabs, dramatic drumming, LOTS of whooshing noises, and the best seven seconds of the program, et voila!

I look at commercial TV infrequently now. They have only themselves to blame for losing me. I could start with a discourse on the nature of so-called 'reality' programs, where there is so little substance that the same content is repeated before and after every break, but I'll focus mostly on what lies between.

Over 31% of air time is advertising or promotion. We know this from the DVDs of TV shows we buy where an 'hour long' episode is barely 41 minutes.

If you're prepared to put up with this appalling ratio of sales pitch to program content, then you also need a very strong stomach for the rich mind-numbing landscape of revenue-raising advertising. This alone is usually a complete assault of colour, CGI, speedy editing, noise, vacuous premises, artifice, inane facial expressions, stupid or supercilious behaviour and stereo-types. On top of this, add the often infuriating tone of program promotions (and even the ABC are heading further in this direction).

Every time we channel surf, there is a very high chance that we'll stumble on an Ad or promo instead of a program, so we skip further. The programs are after all why we watch at all (the infomercial shopping channels have no chance with me). There is an assumption here too that I might be vaguely interested in cheap exploitative 'reality' programming, game shows, unfunny sitcoms, forensic or police pulp drama. There is very little substance there.

OK... so I keep surfing in the hope of actually finding something to entertain or engage me; 7 to 71 to 9 to 99 to One to 10 and so on. Even SBS has a diminished chance of grabbing me in peak time.

The program content itself is an endless array of scrolling text, spinning logos, wipes and watermarks in the guise of more promotion and distraction. The end credits of programs are another promotional opportunity. A voice-over alone is not enough. A sensitive ending to a film will be squeezed into an illegible mush of pixels in the bottom half of the screen for a loud intrusion. You know this practice well.

There are other layers of treating viewers with contempt; not separating editorial from advertorial, infomercial from program content, cutting programs in lieu of advertising, in-program advertising on Pay TV (OMG that's like paying twice!)

How do I deal with this insulting crap? If I ever find anything to watch on commercial TV, I record it. There are 2 buttons on my PVR that skip forward/back 60 or 10 seconds. I will happily wear them out. A successful recording is certainly easier now with the electronic schedule transmitted to my PVR, where deliberately overrunning advertised air times is accounted for. Remember the bad old days of manually programming a VCR, where you had to add at least 40 minutes to the end of recording to be sure to capture it all?

15 minutes well spent every week is Media Watch with Jonathan Holmes (ABC TV). He digs into a lot of bad behaviour. I love it.

What about commercial radio? Ahh, there's another creature worthy of copious derision.