tv

Discrimination in Action

TV news makes many sins of omission and other propaganda techniques are in there.

However, you often find much more propaganda, lifestyle propaganda, in other programs on TV.

This lifestyle propaganda is all about showing people what those that control the TV output believe to be acceptable behaviour.

Here we have a truly stunning example, with 4 adults ganging up to bully a 16 year old girl, and her father, who is watching, seems to be happy about it.

Rafflesia The Gentleman Thug – A Short Review of David Attenborough’s Life On Air

I have just finished reading David Attenborough’s Life on Air. It is not the kind of thing I normally read because I don’t like reading green room stories or memoirs about a life in TV. In fact, I don’t much like TV so as I said, it was an unusual choice for me but I felt David Attenborough is something of an exception so I determined to give it a go.

Before I get to the content, I should just say I bought the book in a shop in South England where I had a temporary job last summer. It was a charity shop and it had no price on it. I asked the woman how much it was and she replied, slightly surprised, “Oh, you’re very Scottish”.

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this. These possibilities leapt to mind…

  1. Yes, can I help you?
  2. And?
  3. Do you go around just naming things? Do you say “oh, that’s a shelf, and that’s a floor” every time you see one?

Anyway, I have to say the book was an excellent read. Some of it seemed familiar because the documentary of the same name covers a lot of the material but most of the things in the documentary are covered in more depth in the book.

There is a bit of internal BBC politics but  mostly from a bygone era and not enough to make you stop reading it. Everyone knows the wildlife documentaries but less people know about his spell as controller of BBC 2 and also Director of Programming for BBC television. The angle about these things in the book is that although in part interesting jobs, thse things eventually became distractions from his real desire to make wildlife programmes.

Although, having said that, the word wildlife doesn’t really cover it all because there have been plenty of Attenborough written/produced/narrated/commissioned programmes about  geology, paleontology and anthropology too. He also mixes in some telling words about the worsening environmental crisis that threatens to destroy a large number of the species he has been filming.

Also, for a man with a fair number of royal titles to his name he seems to have a rather healthy disdain for the whole ridiculous merry-go-round. This is revealed in a couple of places, the first was how he tried to get out of being the man responsible for the Queen’s speech and the second I will come to.

With all these things in mind the book never really gets bogged down in one particular area. At the beginning there is a lot of in the pioneering days of nature filming stuff and it makes interesting reading when you consider who it is coming from. It seems that in the early days part of the point of the programs was to capture some of the animals for London Zoo although this practice seemed to die out fairly quickly.

When we move past that we get into landmark series such as Kenneth Baker’s Civilisation and others and then onto some of the more remarkable modern series that have been made.

The only thing that disappointed me in the book was that he didn’t directly address the issue of  certain stations buying his documentaries and then editing out the references to evolution. I would have enjoyed reading his take on that.

So why this title about Rafflesia then? Well, Raffles the Gentlemen Thug was a very funny character in Viz Magazine. This character was basically a modern hooligan using victorian era language and the juxtaposition made it funny. Sentences like “My scarves are fashioned of the finest silk sir. Any man who suggests differently is a c*nt” are pretty memorable.

While I doubt that Attenborough is a reader of that magazine Attenborough wrote about the plant Rafflesia which produces the “largest unbranched inflorescence” (not the largest flower) in the world. The plant is a parasite which lives inside a host vine and the only visible part of it is the flower. Attenborough had this to say about it…

I am not one of those, like Aesop or Robert the Bruce, who readily derive moral precepts from the behaviour of animals, and I thought I would be even less likely to find them in the cycle of the life of plants, but Rafflesis did seem to me to provide a parable. One has to ask why this particular plant should produce the most extravangt and flamboyant of all flowers. It occured to me that Rafflesia does not work for its living. The vine itself has to build leaves and stems to produce its food and ultimately construct its flowers. But Rafflesia does not concern itself with such practical matters. It simply absorbs all the food it needs from its host. Indeed there is virtually no limit on how much it can take and no curb to its extravagance. So it can build the most grandiose of flowers. It is the aristocrat of the tropical forest plant community.

ADVERTS

With a big thank you to mikevotes I just want to say that this video is interesting.

It is about 3 minutes long and shows you how you can use a google application to put whatever advert you want on the TV. The people in the video made their own advert and had it broadcast.

I wonder how quickly this feature would be stopped if activists started using it to broadcast some uncomfortable facts?

PODCAST TWO

In this one I speak with Professor David Miller of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

David Miller is the author/co-author/editor of several books including “A Century of Spin: How Public Relations Became the cutting Edge of Corporate Power” and “TELL ME LIES. Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq.” He is also the co-founder of http://www.spinwatch.org and http://www.spinprofiles.org. He occasionally appears on the BBC too,  including this rather amusing one from Newsnight.

In fact, in this podcast we discuss the BBC, it’s history and origins, how it has been controlled and manipulated by governments and how all this fits into the wider media context.

I hope the production is a little better on this one than the last.

If you go to THIS LINK HERE then you can listen to it online or download it as an mp3. You want the VBR MP3 link where it says ‘Audio Files’.

You can also LISTEN ONLINE HERE

Hope you like it and thank to ourmedia.org for making a great little service.

FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS

another perspective

another perspective

People from in and around the Scottish village of Carrbridge in the Cairngorm mountains have been complaining about the BBC weather coverage.

They say that it lumps them in with nearby Aviemore and ignores the micro-climate that exists in their area.

They say the knock-on effect of this is that tourists and visitors are dissuaded from going because they are put off by the prospect of bad weather.

Ok, I will go with this for a minute.

First of all, I have been there several times and it is a lovely place – you should go there.

Secondly, this speaks of a grander problem about weather forecasting – and I don’t mean its accuracy. Personally, my favourite line about the weather people was always the Half Man Half Biscuit song with the lyric…

….opinionated weather forecasters telling me it is going to be a miserable day. Miserable to who? I quite like a bit of drizzle so stick to the facts.

Very often when you watch the BBC weather on the main 6 o’clock News [UK-wide, that is] you see the weather man explain London and surrounding areas and then vaguely wave his hand toward Manchester and say in ‘the north bla bla bla’.

Now, notice that this is for a UK weather broadcast. But that is the north of England being referred to – and not even the real north of England. It is just assumed that we all know what ‘the north’ means as it is never specifically identified that this is the north of England.

After that, Scotland gets about the same amount of time as Manchester or something, which is strange as Scotland is about 80% of the size of England geographically and therefore is quite unlikely to all be having the same weather. One weather forecaster famously did mention the Western Isles of Scotland in his forecast but went on to say something like ‘who cares’ or ‘there is nobody there anyway’ or something like that.

Some people do get fairly irritated by all of this – in Scotland and in the border areas and Newcastle and so forth. I don’t watch the weather much anyway, unless I want to go camping because it is always fairly changeable in Scotland. Other than camping I don’t really let the rain stop me doing anything.

The problem here for me is that what happens with the weather forecasting is reflective of UK planning policy.

Allow me to illustrate the thought process…

  1. Take care of London and the important parts first
  2. Near London and those important parts second
  3. North a bit and middle England get some attention
  4. Above Manchester and [southern] Scotland get a wave of the hand and a ‘one size fits all’ measure
  5. Who cares about all those other parts anyway