Trash TV

Scholars have for some time argued that television programming is increasingly targeted at the lowest common denominator. The bad drags down the mediocre into something worse – and everything continues to deteriorate. Unfortunately, their theories seem to be vindicated. Rarely has theory and practice been so convincingly brought together as in the case of the trash TV that has invaded most Greek households. From dawn to midday, from prime time until after midnight, Greece’s commercial networks overwhelm the viewing public, not only with the usual nonsense of the so-called information bulletins and tacky soap operas but, increasingly of late, with the blatant vulgarity of reality and talk shows. The topics and, more importantly, the language and style of these programs stretch the limits of any individual with a minimum level of intelligence and self-respect. A few minutes of watching TV are enough to stupefy even the best-intentioned of viewers. Reality show players are treated as expendable commodities, used as human firewood in the greedy engine of television – toward ever-higher ratings. The Colosseum and the Hippodrome pale next to the modern-day savagery and triviality of reality shows where naive, expendable figures are torn to pieces during trials set by their sadistic judges in front of millions of spectators (and would-be sadists). On talk shows, unbelievable show hosts, bimbos and airheads, simper, pose and curse without reason or purpose. Their guests include pitiful starlets, deluded wanna-bees and has-beens. The language, gestures and the general attitude exuded by these TV personas (who yield more influence than they should) would be a sick joke if they did not enjoy the exposure they do to millions of homes; if they were not exploiting what should be a public asset – TV broadcasting. Stupefied under a shower of bad taste and vulgarity, we tend to forget that the airwaves used by the commercial channels are a public good that should be monitored by the State. That does not mean to say that TV channels should come under the suffocating grip of the National Radio and Television Council. But it does mean that a set of rules must come into force and be respected by all parties. The council must regulate and watch for breaches of the law if it wants to maintain its prestige and justify its existence for anyhthing other than just awarding dubious broadcasting permits.