Friday, August 17, 2012

Layer 541 . . . Simply a Banana

One of the more interesting comments I've come across in defence of the 2012 Olympics' closing ceremony is, "A banana is just a banana". In other words, we shouldn't expect such a thing to be anything more than a facile, shallow entertainment, or some kind of gaudy circus with sound and lights.

I disagree. In fact I strongly disagree.

This is like saying that movies and television programmes can only be shallow entertainments that aim for the lowest common denominator, by which we mean a level of entertainment or stimulation that is little more than visual stimulation which grabs and holds the attention of a mass audience. I find this thought deeply depressing, not least because it's driven by business and commerce, first and foremost.

What those of us watching a three hour programme on the BBC tend to forget is that in most countries the Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies will have been watched by people tuned in to commercial TV channels, whose main concern is to sell products and make money for themselves and for the big corporations that can afford to advertise on them.

The assumption of the commercial TV stations is that anything that's too 'challenging' for their audience is likely to cause them to switch off or to change channels, with potentially serious consequences for the revenues of the TV stations. Their ability to charge very high rates to advertisers is directly linked to the size of audiences.

Hence the decision by NBC television in the USA to not show certain segments of the 2012 Olympics' opening ceremony, on the grounds that those passages would cause their audience to switch off or switch over. Instead they showed some talking heads in their studio discussing what had just been shown! In other words, they attract an audience by saying they're going to show the opening ceremony, but they censor what they consider the dull bits because they patronisingly decide that the majority of their audience won't like those particular bits. I guess this is standard practice on commercial TV. In fact it's their entire ethos and their modus operandi - which of course has led to the general awfulness of television right around the world.

Seen from this perspective it's a miracle that we in Britain still have the BBC and a broadcasting system that's funded by subscription first and foremost, and driven by a desire for quality plus a mission to 'educate, inform and entertain'.

Danny Boyles' opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics, and both the Beijing ceremonies, were informative, educational and entertaining. The London 2012 closing ceremony was none of these things.

It was just a banana.

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