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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Honesty, editing and the end of TV


There is a lot of talk in old media about the TV 'scandal' - which is a bit odd. As it almost seems to be similar to when politicians talk about corruption in politics. It's too close. The phone-in quiz blanket ban is seen by some as a storm in a TV cup. But by others as the thin end of a wedgie. As long-time blog readers will know the contract between viewer and creator (in whatever media form) is something I've posted about many times. I have detected a disquiet for a number of years, a growing and simmering revulsion towards broadcast TV. I even predicted a sort of implosion within television, a downward spiral of desperate measures, falling audience, 'safe' bets, drop in income, plummeting budgets.

But a strong media is good for the country and the BBC is perhaps the UKs most important asset full stop. So I hope this isn't the start of that prediction. But its time to take stock and look at honesty in TV.

There is a difference between using editing techniques to present what happened and using it to distort what happened.

If you use edit techniques to simply slice a show together, make it accessible and make it of a suitable length you are still presenting what you found. The emphasis is that way around. You as a programme maker are reflecting life, reflecting people.

If you use edit techniques to distort the truth then this is dangerous. The danger is you are using the techniques to present your agenda. You don't care about the reality of what was filmed because you had decided what the reality was before you even filmed.

The public expect TV to be a slightly chopped up version of real life. They don't expect it to be lies. Like it or not the broadcasters do have a 'contract' with the audience - at least in the audience's mind. Just like a customer does if they go into a shop and buy something.

If the shopkeeper says 'This jumper is made of wool' it had better damn well be made of wool. What would we think of a shopkeeper who would say 'It's nylon really but that's better isn't it, more exciting, they don't want wool anyway. Besides they will never notice'.

Who is to blame for this shift - commissioners / producers. They are putting a squeeze on budget but more importantly demanding a full vision of the final programme before it is shot so as to avoid disappointed and to live a more risk-free life.

If I was in News, current affairs, reality TV style programming or quiz shows I would be watching my back.

My advice to TV makers of any level:
Be bold, be honest, be on the side of the audience. Treat them as equals - you will get treated well in return. Stick to your guns - if that means doing the show elsewhere (on-line, DVD, in theatre) then do that.

You serve the audience, not the format. Be proud of what you do.

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For my own honesty I point out again that I am an outsider to this issue.

Image from one of my TV proposals to equip children with media savvy skills. The proposal wasn't picked up.
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