OPINION

Expendables in the TV cattle market

Hundreds of thousands of people – be it due to exhaustion, boredom, financial constrictions, addiction, family pressures or whatever else – fix themselves in front of the television every day under the delusion that they are escaping from reality when actually they are rooted right inside it. Also every day, hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people find themselves literally inside the world of television, representing the raw material of the broadcasted spectacle. And I am not talking about the «usual suspects» – prominent figures from the world of politics and arts, as well as those who are famous for no other reason than they appear on television – who revel in their recognizability and fame while simultaneously fearing that this glow they have acquired may fade and plunge them back into obscurity. I am talking about the «expendables» of the whole televisual spectacle, those «little people» who eagerly scramble after a free gift or a «ticket to success» or a few seconds of fame; people who are prepared to do virtually anything to entertain that beast known as the «television audience» and to please the TV channel heads even more by boosting ratings. Whether these people appear as players or as members of a studio audience, it is evident that they are being obliged to conform to the terms of an unwritten contract, the main condition of which is extremely simple: They must endure every conceivable kind of humiliation and spiritual and mental abuse without complaint; they must play the ape, pretend that they are squealing with joy, sing and dance as if they mean it, lay out their innermost secrets to the insatiable public eye, often exaggerating and magnifying reality in order to make more of an impression. In effect, this entire circus is nothing more than a peculiar form of cattle market where transactions are made to appear as free exchanges. Ostensibly, nobody is forcing anyone to make a fool of themselves or just sit there and take it as TV channel heads make a public mockery of them. But surely those who phone in to lunchtime gossip programs to condemn their mother-in-law for being a «country bumpkin» or their daughter-in-law for being «stuck up» are worthy of criticism. Indeed they are. However, one should first condemn those responsible for creating this entire system for receiving, even extracting, complaints of all kinds from television viewers; one should direct one’s anger firstly at those who make a profit by exploiting the weaknesses of their viewers. However, the fact that TV channels must face the threat of a fine to make them respect fundamental values and principles shows the awful depths to which we have sunk.