March 2006

Arts & Letters

Television programming

By Kerryn Goldsworthy
Channel 7; Channel 9; Channel 10

These days even the most unsophisticated punter knows that when a TV station advises that a regular program will be shown ‘at the special time of X’, what they really mean is that they have re-jigged the schedule in order to feature some one-off TV ‘event’ in prime time, and the regular program will be shoehorned into the nearest available gap.

This occasional disorder becomes the norm over the summer. With no ratings to worry about, the stations change their schedules from week to week. Just when you’ve started to like an off-season program, it disappears off the screen because it’s time for the tennis, or the cricket, or the under-11 hacky sack championships.

Now that the new ratings season has begun and the glamorous housewives, the lost castaways, and the assorted idols, housemates and amateur ballroom dancers are all popping up again one by one, like meerkats, commercial TV has become relatively predictable once more. Seven, Nine and Ten will show their high-rating shows more or less regularly.

What the networks will also do regularly is run these programs anywhere between five and twenty-five minutes over time, so that you will be discouraged from changing channels by the prospect of missing either the end of one show or the beginning of the next. Episodes will be breathlessly touted as ‘all new’, meaning they’re not repeats, and we will be expected to be pleased and grateful.

Do they really assume that we don’t notice the spin? That we don’t mind when episodes are repeated or shown out of sequence? That we believe them when they say the ads aren’t louder than the programs? And if they do assume all that, then do they really think it wise to hold their viewers in quite such shameless and visible contempt?

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