Monday, April 25, 2011
Killing Boredom as Your KPI
With television increasingly dominated by the Outrage Business and shamelessly exploitative and cheap 'reality' shows, the 1976 Sidney Lumet-directed Oscar-winning movie 'Network' looks increasingly prescient. In this bitter satire of the effect that intense commercial competition has on broadcast standards, Australian Peter Finch plays Howard Beale, a TV demagogue so appalled by the profit-driven amorality of the network that employs him that he urges his viewers to turn their sets off.
Network's scriptwriter Paddy Chayevsky understood the nature of television as a sideshow, its primary aim to put bums on seats and eyes on advertisers' products. In the end, it doesn't really matter what Howard Beale or Andrew Bolt or any talkback ranter or tabloid preacher says. If he's successful, half the audience will hate him, half will love him and no-one will be indifferent. The important point for the broadcaster - and the number one KPI for the talent - is that they build an audience. And in the end, as the fictional Beale proclaims in the movie's pivotal scene, that's all that matters to the network.
"Television is not the truth," Beale says. "Television is a goddamned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a travelling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, actors, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. Folks, we are in the boredom killing business. You won't get any truth from us."
When 'Network' first came out 35 years ago, it was seen as a satire, a deliberately over-the-top send-up, in which cynical network owners allowed clearly extreme and deliberately inflammatory commentators on air to deliver ratings points. Beale, for instance, dies in a hail of bullets fired by an extremist urban terrorist group hired by the producers to breathe new life into the show.
For some reason, it now doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Posted by Mr D at 12:19 PM