Scourge of ‘light’ entertainment

It was a foregone conclusion that state television channel Net would exploit the 24-hour strike by journalists on Tuesday by filling the blank airtime with extensive extracts from the exhaustingly long Eurovision Song Contest, broadcast live from Finland at the weekend. But it must be said that our state channel was rather stingy with the repeat coverage it offered. Such gifts should be given unstintingly, without reservation or thought. What Net – and the other two state channels – should have done is rebroadcast the contest in its entirety. And not only Saturday’s contest but also the contests from last year and the year before so that we could have compared the various versions of «Shake it» – from Sakis Rouvas’s original to Elena Paparizou’s reworked version and Sarbel’s effort this year. Haven’t our state channels spent the past few years trying to convince us that winning the Eurovision Song Contest is something of a national vision? Hadn’t Paparizou’s success in the 2005 contest been debated even in Parliament, lauded as a national achievement to be proud of? Hadn’t the «fathers of our nation» joyously declared that a combination of successes – hosting the Athens Olympics, winning the European football championship and winning the Eurovision Song Contest – had elevated us to the «number one» slot once again? So why then was our state television gripped by such a lack of generosity on the occasion of this year’s Eurovision? For months and months, it squandered heaps of taxpayers’ money (with the generosity that grips us when handling other people’s money) and lots of airtime to promote its «product» with special programs but also in news bulletins which were dominated by the subject: First we would get an update on Sarbel’s tour, then the costume being designed for his performance, thirdly the hairstyles of the backing dancers, and fourth the structured bond scandal rocking the government (briefly followed by the French elections, the political crisis in Turkey and all manner of other «minor» news items). Thanks to Eurovision, state television managed to attract a large portion of the viewing public riveted by a burgeoning culture of «light entertainment,» foolishness and kitsch which has characterized private television ever since its inception. However an additional problem – a political, moral and aesthetic one – is that state channels are subsidized by taxpayers. One may remember the example of the incomparable Melina Mercouri, former culture minister and national heroine, who refused to pay her television fees in protest at the quality of the programming. Since then, state television has demonstrated its chameleon-like adaptability, tinting its broadcasting with the color of the government of the day and aspiring to outdo the private channels in areas where the latter have so far held sway.