Turn it off:Internet advertising overtakes TV advertising…..

I read this story with some interest the other day; apparently, the UK has become the second country after Denmark to show that total spend on internet advertising has now exceeded the spend on TV advertising.  Not bad for a medium that was in its infancy 10 years ago.  Of course, TV folk are coming out of the woodwork to refute these figures and to say how unfair they are, but with commercial TV in this country in such a mess, it was a headline that was bound to happen.

I have said to various people in recent times that if you gave me the choice of losing my TV or losing my computer, I would have no problem in surrendering the TV.  Computers are just that much more versatile and I cannot imagine how we ever lived without them…..talk about the Dark Ages!  However, rather than concentrating on all the things my pc does, I’d rather examine how and why I fell out of love with TV…..

Actually, though I have had periods where I have watched a lot of TV, I think I have had longer periods where I have hardly watched it at all.  Last night I sat down to watch the Manchester United/Wolfsburg game on ITV, but I would have trouble telling you the last TV show I watched ‘live’ or ‘as it happened’ before that.

I grew up in a house where one of the cardinal sins was to leave the TV on all the time.  The TV went on when you wanted to watch something SPECIFIC…other than that it was turned off.  I think this perhaps said something about my parents’ values….they were aware even then that TV could be a useful tool but that it was not a good idea to let it get out of hand.  A  good grounding for me, I think, as I grew up with a rather sniffy, almost snobbish attitude to television which has meant that I have missed out on the odd ‘gem’ (‘Cracker’, ‘The Sopranos’) but has also preserved me from an awful lot of crap

What, you want examples?  OK, How long have you got?  Let’s start with every so-called  ‘Reality’ show, most if not all soap operas and certainly the current rash of ‘Let’s corral some minor celebrities and get them doing something out of character and stupid..in the jungle or on the dancefloor’…..it’s all cheap, trash TV, basically. Oh, and especially ‘Friends’ for being the kind of vapid rubbish that rots people’s brains and makes outsiders think that all Americans are shallow and vaccuous…  OK, OK, calm…calm…..deep breaths, now and….relax.  Wow, nearly went into major rant mode, there!

Other than sport, I think the last TV show that I found genuinely compelling and watched ‘live ‘ was ‘The X-Files’ , but even that ran out of steam after a couple of series.  ‘The X-Files’ followed on from ‘Twin Peaks’ (of which much more another time) which is up there with ‘Edge of Darkness’ and ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ as an all-time high-water mark of TV anywhere, anytime.



David Lynch on the ‘Twin Peaks’ set, explaining to Kyle McLachlan that the owls are not what they seem.

Since ‘Twin Peaks’ first came my way nearly 20 years (!!!) ago, I have become – via videotape, hard disk and DVD – a classic ‘time shift’ viewer.  Though I think the cable and satellite revolution has meant more, but certainly not better, programmes, there is still, of course, some stuff that I like to watch, but I like to watch it when I decide, not when some anonymous scheduler in London decides that I should. 

This has meant that I have missed some good stuff, apparently….the latest must-see that I haven’t seen is ‘The Wire’.  My loss, apparently, but I have piles of DVD’s to watch and there’s usually something square & green to interest me – sport, in other words.

For people like me, DVD’s – especially big box sets of them – have saved me from TV oblivion.  I spent most of this summer wading through 7 series of ‘The West Wing’  and bloody good it was, too, but I watched it on DVD, not only when I wanted to, but also in multiples of 3 or even 4 episodes at a time, depending on how I felt and how much time I had to spare.  And also without adverts…..

Which brings us back to ads on TV (generally an irritation) and on the Net (ditto, but they rarely take over your whole screen.)  Experienced surfers are usually able to block out or sidestep most ads and they are generally less of an irritation online. Certainly,  I find myself more tolerant of Net ads, whereas TV ads are usually just a reason to go and make a cup of coffee and used to be a reason to nip out for a cigarette.  Again, the issue is one of control; with TV ads, you have none, with Net ads, usually quite a lot if you know what you are doing.

I also think that people are generally falling out of love with TV…British TV used to have a stellar reputation for the production of high-quality programmes, but short of the latest David Attenborough Natural History epic (he’s bombproof, let’s face it) and the latest (inevitable) Jane Austen (or similar) adapatation, both good for overseas sales, the emphasis seems to be on increasingly contrived ‘reality’ shows of one kind or another or allegedly ‘heartwarming’ documentary series starring low-fee/low-cost members of the public  making fools of themselves but ultimately triumphing in that plucky Churchillian British fashion over whatever obstacles they (or the producer) has put in front of them.

Channel 4’s recent announcement that 2010 would be the ‘last hurrah’ for the whole ‘Big Brother’ monster was perhaps indicative of the fact that people are finally getting fed up with watching derisory rubbish such as this.  Certainly, I would like to believe so, but any optimism I have is tempered by the knowledge that diminished ad spend in the commercial sector and increasing pressure on the Licence Fee for the BBC is likely to mean more cheap drivel and less quality programming.

I think I’ll probably just wait for the DVD Box Sets to come out….


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