Negative television: for the time being, people against it

Recently I sow What? Where? When? TV programme, whose participants should within one minute to find an answer to the question TV viewers ask them in their letters. I remembered that 20 years ago, the programme’s participants plaid on books, but not on money. While my son who also watched the programme noticed that now participants of our TV plays play even not on money, but on annihilating their opponents. Steven King forecasted this situation already in the 1980s. Let us remember at least his novel The Running Man and the film with the same title with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a main character. Though, in the film, the situation of a TV-game with hunting a human being was a sign of irreality of the events. While now, in our TV programmes, a player is not even being hunted, but simply sent to hell, like in the TV game Russian Roulette. The ceremony of the “guilty” falling into a trap is very similar to execution through hanging shown in the Lars von Trier film Dancer in the Dark. Sympathy with the sufferer is out of question. Here, other emotions rule. 2001-2002 season on Russian TV presented to the viewers a series of similar programmes which are accounted on the worse reaction of the audience. These negative emotions are even fixed in the titles: “Greed,” “Weak Link,” “People are against.” The Russian culture tradition which could be expressed by the proverb “Perish yourself, though rescue your companion” is forced out by an opposite tendency. 20th century formed this paradigm which is expressed by Latin phrase: "Homo homini lupus est", what means “A human being is wolf for another human being.” TV viewers are being taught to be brutal and indifferent. Any qualified psychologist would explain that the methods used in the TV programmes signify manipulation of both the viewers and the programmes participants’ mind, creation of the situation which provokes individual protection reaction and ruins the model of collective behaviour of microsocial groups. In other words, television inspires with the thought, that it is much more advantageous now to act according to the principle: one against all. While legendary slogan of Alexandre Duma’s musketeers “One for all , and all for one” sounds like an anachronism now. The new purpose was the most obvious in the TV-6 projects “Behind the Glass” and “Last Beefsteak,” where the viewers had to vote not “for” but “against” a participant. What was justly called “negative voting.” The word “negative” could characterize also other products of TV, because it defines all what happens in TV as “negative television.” Is it odd, that after observing youth living in a glass flat or making young people choking with last beefsteak, the programmes’ creators received annihilating results of the viewers’ poll. This was why, at the end of last year, a third of the respondents said that they were not sorry for the channel’s closing. The creator of such projects aim their product first of all for young audience from 14 to 28 years, supposing they are the most susceptible to such shows. While older public is more difficult to deceive: at least that are more or less educated people who remember the Soviet Union being called the most reading country in the world and suppose people stop thinking when they stop reading. Now, we more watch, than read. TV substitutes for book, newspaper, even sport exercises. Simplicity in the screen is now much higher estimated than rendering an occasion to think and to suffer with. Ecology of today’s television is not the best for the growing generation. Films and programmes showing violence or erotic scenes is a usual practice. 70th anniversary of the famous film producer Andrei Tarkovsky showed the full indifference of the professional journalism to the issue of the youth education. In the day time, no one Tarkovsky film was demonstrated in TV. The 1980s logic, practiced by Mikhail Gorbachev – “what is not forbidden is allowed’ – caused creation of the whole violation system of moral norms accepted in the society. First of all, the question is about mass media. Television which plays the role of tutor of the growing generation, catches them already as teenagers, while showing to them the worst examples of human behaviour. While the part of TV broadcast for children reduced within last year, according to Gallup Media, and made: RTR channel – 6 percent, ORT channel – 3 percent, NTV channel – 1 percent. While these percentage is gathered at the expense of foreign animation films. While fairy tale films of native production are usually demonstrated in the early morning. Economical troubles of TV should not touch young viewers, while TV does not have mercy on youth and fills their brains with commercials of beer and hygienic means. While in the commercial plots, beer is usually consumed by persons of leisure, lingering through bars and discos. The State Duma tried to stop the expansion through passing certain laws. Though, while limiting commercials in TV, the deputies did not pay attention to certain criminalization of TV. The most usual programmes of Russian television are: “Independent Investigation,” “Criminality,” “Criminal Russia,” “Out of the Law,” “Law and Order,” “Criminal Note.” In addition to it, series like “Killing Force,” “Copes,” “Secrets of the Investigation,” “Bandit St Petersburg,” and others. In every channel, in every series somebody fires or kills somebody else in any another way or shares with the audience his secrets of the comparatively honest way to take away money from the population. “Good news is bad news” – this method of Western journalism is fully adopted by Russian journalists. A reader could only sigh after having read this text feeling hopeless. Though, not everything is so tragic. According to a poll, carried out by St Petersburg Sociology institute of Russian Academy of Science in January, from 1,500 respondents, only 16 percent positively reacted to the Behind the Glass show, while 40 percent of the viewer who at least once saw it negatively appreciated the show. These figures fill with careful optimism towards moral health of the viewers. So we could more or less assuredly say: for the time being, people are against “negative television,” however they cannot help watching it.

Sergei Ilchenko Specially for PRAVDA.Ru St Petersburg

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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