Monday, 24 March 2014

Regurgitated media

I was recently introduced to the phenomenon of GoggleBox - a television programme on Channel 4.  Billed as a window into the world of 'Britain's most opinionated viewers', GoggleBox features a variety of 'ordinary people' watching television and talking about it.

It was not long into my first viewing of GoggleBox before I realised that instead of watching television, I was watching other people watch television.  I was consuming second-hand television - instead of choosing to watch something myself, and form my own opinions about it, I had chosen to watch other people do that.

Quite apart from the fact that we are more obsessed that we have ever been about what 'ordinary people' think about anything (that is a topic for another day!), this must be a very easy programme for Channel 4 to make.  It doesn't need a set, or costumes, or scripts, or stuntmen - it doesn't even need any original or creative thinking to make it.  And this, I think, is the main issue I have with GoggleBox; there's nothing new in it - it is regurgitated media.

More and more media these days falls into this category.  On the internet, you'd probably expect that - the average Tumblr Blog probably has more content 'reblogged' from other users than original posts written by the Blog's owner (just one of the reasons why I don't like Tumblr).  But sites like BuzzFeed have taken collating and redistributing other people's material to a whole new level - and now even serious, reputable newspapers post 'articles' which are just a collection of Tweets or posts from other sources, apparently thinking that this constitutes journalism.

On television, though, that feels a little like cheating.  GoggleBox is on at nine o'clock on a Friday night - that's seriously mainstream primetime television - but it doesn't require the creation of any original material at all.  It is simply relaying people's reactions to other original programmes which have already been broadcast.  Channel 4 are passing this off as a television programme in its own right, but I think they're having a laugh.

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