Not Enough Telly

Coming up: some questions about why TV programme makers think we have the attention span of an ADHD gnat, or an excited Peter André placed between two equally shiny things.

That’s ‘why TV programme makers think we have the attention span of an ADHD gnat, or an excited Peter André placed between two equally shiny things’.

And now, for readers who have just joined us, the story so far: we’re looking at the vexed question of why TV programme makers think we have the attention span of an ADHD gnat, or an excited Peter André placed between two equally shiny things.

Recognise the technique? You will if you watch virtually anything at all on Channels 4 and 5; any programme involving selling tatty bric-a-brac or acquiring run-down property; and every documentary series featuring deep sea fishermen, lumberjacks or, for all I know, Quantity Surveyors In Peril or Dental Hygienists On A Mission.

The reason behind this skull-cracking repetition, this nerve-shredding Groundhog Day disease, this virtual face-slapping which screeches at us to remember stuff which we watched mere minutes before? There can only be one answer.

There is not enough telly left to go round.

We’ve had a serious TV habit in this country for sixty years, give or take, dating back to the time when the notion of viewer choice was like looking for a gourmet dining experience in Lidl – you could try all you liked, but in the end you had to make do with what you were given.

But as the wonderland of flick-flick-flicking through the channels has opened up before us, we find we’ve been short-changed. In the olden days (and I think I mean the Nineties here) you watched a programme which started at the start, sat through everything in the middle and, when it finished, so did you.

Now, you’ll get a frenetic, blinky-eyed snapshot of everything you’re about to watch for the first six minutes, then the titles, then small lumps of fresh content grudgingly squelched in between re-runs of what’s just occurred and previews of what’s to come. Some of it, just to rub your nose further into the mire, in slow motion.

An hour’s viewing has been scientifically proven (i.e. made up for the purpose of ramming home the point) to contain less than 5 per cent of actual content.

If the process continues at this rate, there’ll be so much what you’ve just seen and what you’re about to see that there won’t be time left for any programme at all, and you’ll have to tune in next week.

But these days the viewer can mount a popular people’s front uprising, armed only with the trusty doofer, zapper, thingy, flipper, clicker – the remote. With everything stored safely on our hard drives, we are all programme controllers, speeding through the garbage at 30X and winkling out the 10 minutes of actual telly buried under the weight of all that noise and padding.

It might be the end of watching TV live – but it’s the beginning of getting all those wasted hours back.

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