Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cliches of 2011 #3

"Young female TV presenters are a response to market demand".

Last week former Countryfile host Miriam O'Reilly won a case against the BBC on the grounds of ageism, after losing her job the moment she turned 50.

It was reported that O'Reilly "had been asked if it was 'time for Botox' and was warned to be 'careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in'". The case ended with the BBC issuing an apology and Director General Mark Thompson phoning Miriam saying: "Sorry, we got things wrong in the way older women are treated".

One category of people, however, reacted to the news with little sympathy, their views typified by entrepreneur James Caan. On last Thursday's BBC Question Time, he said: "TV channels respond to market demand", adding that "if we're really honest, as a consumer society [we want to see] young, pretty, dolly-looking people" on TV.

And so here we are again. The mythical notion of "the consumer society" evoked to justify anything that suits whichever ruthless practice of the day - nevermind questions of humanity, taste or simple pig-headedness.

It's the 21st-century version of the Ancient Spartans' custom of chucking people off a cliff as a means of 'purging' their population of weakness. "Sorry very much, it's what the market demands", become the default smokescreen for anything, crass varieties of geezerist ageism included.

Shame these people never specify which "market demand" or "demographics" they're referring to.

No doubt there are copious amounts of randy people who genuinely look forward to seeing "young, pretty, dolly-looking people" on the telly, the same way there will always be a constituency for the Sun and various rags of an onanistic inclination.

But what about the equally vast amounts of viewers who are unfazed by all of the above? Haven't they got a right to have their "market demand" heard too?

There are millions out there who don't judge the quality of a programme on the basis of whether the presenter was born in 1940, 1960 or 1991.

Those who would rather television reflected real life (ie not everybody looking like a fembot); those who find this obsessive quest for everything "young" and "fast" and "trendy" and "wicked" both pathetic and patronising.

Or those who think that we've already fulfilled our fix of giddiness or trollop-ness on both the TV screens and the newsagents' shelves.

Ignore all of the above and the market demand becomes a severely crook-eyed one.

Click here to access the full list of cliches (2010-11):
"You've GOT to own your own home";
Society benefits from extreme wealth at the top";
"There are jobs out there if you really want one";
"The Royal Family brings in tourism revenue";
"Iain Duncan Smith is a kind and honourable man".


Alex said...

That's the problem though. The viewers who are eager to see pretty young things on their screen will make viewing decisions based on that. The ones who don't care about age or looks, don't care.

Brian Lawton said...

Good post, Claude. For a nice change, I quite agree with you!

claude said...

Thank you, Brian, I appreciate that.

Richard said...

Good post.

Personally I have a hard time believing that the viewers of Country File were desperate for "young, pretty, dolly-looking people". Certainly when I'm watching a documentary or information-based program I'm not terribly interested in the age or attractiveness of the presenter.

I'd love to know how James Caan et al explain David Attenborough.

roym said...

they also disappeared Michaela Strachan!

That james caan is a right grade a tit for want of a stronger word. i saw him once at an event at the royal institute on "how to encourage invention"
he managed to shanghai proceedings and whinge about how folk are jealous of people who make money.