Thursday, 24 July 2008

in spiked July 24

Patrick West
Let’s give credit where credit’s due
Whether sped-up to an unreadable blur or minimised to the point of invisibility, devaluing TV end credits devalues programme-makers.

"There are two things traditionally understood to have the television viewer reaching for his or her remote control: commercial breaks and end credits. In our zapper, YouTube era of zero concentration and instantaneity, they are regarded as an anathema to the viewer, and likewise perceived by the networks as a proper nuisance. And, consequently, in our age of digital evolution, both are undergoing a process of necessary adaptation.

As I have written before (see Why should we pay the Orwellian licence fee?), the proliferation of television stations in the UK over the past two decades has severely compromised the effectiveness of the commercial break. (And now with Sky+’s pre-record, ‘live pause’, rewind and fast forward facility, you can delay watching your programme by about 10 minutes and skip the adverts altogether.)

Back in the early 1980s, of course, the TV commercial wielded real power. Admittedly, its power may have arisen by default - your parents couldn’t be bothered to get up and turn the station over from ITV, BBC2 was airing a five-hour conference special featuring malcontent windbags from the TUC, or BBC1 was broadcasting some unfunny racist sitcom. But it was power nonetheless..."

Read on at

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

in spiked July 18

Patrick West
Hollyoaks and the madness of the TV nutterMentally ill people are very rarely dangerous - so why do soap operas so often portray them as homicidal maniacs?

Are the makers of Hollyoaks mad, or what? The popular Channel 4 soap opera – popular, that is, with teenagers, hungover students and TV reviewers who really should know better – is currently running a story about a teenager with schizophrenia. And the programme, like so many soaps that venture to address this issue, is perpetuating the notion that all people with this condition are dangerous nutcases with quite literally split personalities.

The current storyline features a troubled ‘emo’-type lad called Newt (played by Nico Mirallegro) who is constantly pestered by an ex-Army, anti-capitalist fundamentalist ‘friend’ called Eli (Marc Silcock), who persuades him to steal, plant bombs, and generally torments him. ‘Eli’ appears to him when he is troubled. But only to him. This is because ‘Eli’ does not exist. He is a figment of Newt’s disturbed imagination. As will be confirmed next month on Hollyoaks, this is because Newt is clinically schizophrenic. And of course, as night follows day in TV world, he is a dangerous one."

in spiked July 11

Patrick West
Jeremy Clarkson: because he’s worth itHe may caricature greens as cabbage-eating lesbians, but Clarkson says what people think. And the Beeb is right to pay him handsomely.

"Are BBC presenters a waste of money? Why are they getting paid so much? These questions seem all the more pressing these days, what with the likes of Jonathan Ross, Terry Wogan and Jeremy Clarkson currently being awarded phenomenal wages at the licence-payers’ expense. Why should we be forced to pay million-pound wages to assuage the egos of these egomaniacs, we cry?

Well, the truth is that some of our presenters are much better value for money than others. The problem is that by criticising BBC presenters in general, the Corporation’s detractors fail to acknowledge which presenters actually make a net profit for this country. The politics of envy are always stupid, but, when it comes to the current debate over BBC pay, they become supremely idiotic..."

Friday, 4 July 2008

in spiked this week

Patrick West

Middle-class murder: so much more palatableWhy are so many murder dramas set in posh areas? Because TV execs think only the well-to-do have interesting reasons for killing each other.

"Murder seems to be all over the TV these days. And I’m not just talking about news coverage of the propensity of South London teenagers to go round stabbing each other to death or the promise of their fellow adolescents in Glasgow or Manchester to ‘juck you up’ (ie, stab you).

I’m not even referring to those other morbid staples of television news reportage: losers dressed in black going on a high school rampage in America, taking revenge on the ‘jocks’ by gunning them down; Japanese cult members letting off poisonous gas on the Tokyo subway; or that perennial favourite of the Western media, religious nutcases in the Middle East blowing up buses in Jerusalem, Karachi, Baghdad or Basra.

No, I’m talking about our unabated fascination with fictional murder..."

Read on at