Two major items of international news are tearing at the emotions of television viewers around the globe right now. If you’ve not watched TV or read a newspaper lately, you may imagine they concern major disasters – the suffering in Iraq; a devastating flood or earthquake – but no, nothing so mundane.
The first item originates in the UK. It involves a number of minor ‘celebrities’ who have chosen to incarcerate themselves in the “Big Brother” house and bitch at each other – presumably for cheap publicity. One of them, Indian actress Shilpa Shetty, got upset when two other she-bitches picked on her because of her race and culture. It’s exactly the sort of thing “Big Brother’s” production company, Channel 4 TV, love. The ratings have gone through the roof.
In India, it’s creating an international incident. Britain’s likely next
president prime minister, Gordon Brown, unfortunately chose this week to visit his Indian counterpart and has found himself having to calm the troubled waters
It’s all a storm in a teacup, but that’s the sort of species we are.
The second emotional upheaval comes from the US, and concerns the rather more serious and disturbing case of two boys from Missouri, both kidnapped by the same man. One of the boys, Shawn Hornbeck, was held for four years by his captor.
Although at first glance, this case and the “Big Brother” story have little in common, what makes them similar is how the media has used both to try and wring the last ounce of emotion from viewers.
It’s not the first time Channel 4 has allowed mayhem to reign in the Big Brother house. The program thrives on bitchiness and controversy. The hypocrisy is in their public attitude, declaring a self-righteous condemnation of those directly involved, while secretly rubbing their hands with glee at the improved ratings.
NBC Nightly News tonight ran the kidnap story yet again with the preview of: “Disturbing new details emerging tonight in the case of Shawn Hornbeck……….”
While it was obvious the “disturbing new details” were meant to imply sexual assault of the boy by his kidnapper, the relevant segment only served to highlight that Hornbeck had not spoken of any such happening. Finally, right at the end, his father was asked if he thought the boy may have been assaulted. He answered, “Yes.”
Here is another example of a production company (NBC) wringing the emotional effect out of a story to gain viewers’ attention, and at the same time keep the ratings score up. Even if the boy had admitted he was assaulted, it’s nobody’s business but his and his immediate family. What right has NBC or Oprah Winfrey (the family appeared on her show, of course) to pry into the matter and lay the victim’s life bare before three hundred million Americans?
Why do they do it? For ratings – and the subsequent financial rewards.
Such is the state of our media today.
Filed under: Ratings wars