Viewers of BBC3 were recently treated to a showing of Castaway – complete with “an on-screen message promoting Casanova… for the duration of the film”, which, apart from being annoying, presumably obscured some of the more, shall we say, revealing aspects of the film.
According to BBC Complaints, people were unhappy, and “some viewers found this ‘programme pointer’ distracting”. What a surprise! They continue “We do not usually put such pointers over films but on this occasion wanted to draw people’s attention to Casanova and felt this was a useful service”.
Aw bless! The poor old BBC, doing its best to provide a useful service to those ungrateful viewers! What utter tosh. It’s the same old BBC arrogance that we see time and again, obsessed with promoting itself and its expanding media empire before all else.
The BBC’s constant adverts for itself are a constant source of irritation – taking up more and more of our already paid for viewing time. It’s not unusual for a programme break to feature: 1) closing titles with a split screen and voice over trailing something else; 2) a ‘coming next’ clip (i.e. next after the adverts!); 3) a lengthy trail for the BBC; 4) another lengthy trail for the BBC; 5) a summary of what’s on other BBC channels; 6) a voiceover about what’s coming up after the programme that’s about to start; 7) a BBC ‘ident’ – e.g. on BBC1 we get one of the red themed artsy people prancing around to simpering music idents (what was wrong with the popular hot air balloon idents featuring beautiful landscapes from around our beautiful country? Presumably they weren’t red enough or artsy enough or non-British enough for the comrades that run BBC1). We’re even getting BBC adverts stuffed into the previously non-existent gap between the Six O’Clock News and the local news!
On terrestrial commercial TV in the UK, advertising is limited, on average, to a maximum of seven minutes per hour. I read recently that the BBC currently spends up to five minutes per hour advertising itself. If this is really the case, the BBC’s case for refusing paid for advertising is weak – they could replace some of their own blather with paid-for adverts – and we viewers wouldn’t notice the difference.
Well, actually, we would notice a couple of differences: 1) The Telly Tax (a.k.a. licence fee) would be cheaper; 2) there’d be less repetition of boring BBC adverts*. Additionally, TV advertising would be more plentiful, which might open up UK TV advertising to more smaller, leaner businesses rather than the high-price high-cost operators who currently dominate TV advertising. Before anyone asks, ITV, C4 and Sky are all more than big enough to look after themselves in a changing world!
* Technology will soon deal with boring, repetitious adverts – a PC could filter out crap advertising as soon as it spots it – e.g. by turning down the volume or by automatically switching to another channel and then back again when the programme resumes and so on (just imagine, no more of those slit your wrists “The Big Game. You know it… blah blah blah” adverts that Sky News insist on running month after month!). Adverts that work will then have to be either useful and informative or amusing and entertaining, or, at the very least, not plain irritating.