The newest Reality Show

The lead story on our local noon "news"? Security cameras are great! The privacy comissioner has no problem with private security cameras being put into use. Police think that they are vital tools in crime fighting. This coming after last night's story about how people would willingly trade personal freedoms for more security.

After the London bombings, speedy arrests (and the murder of one Brazillian who committed the crime of having black hair) everyone is pro-camera. I thought our local TV station was pro-camera because someone got a bug to cover it. I was right. All across Canada, Global TV stations and their sister newspapers are lauding the wonders of a closed circuit television future. Why?

Theory A We're becoming an authoritarian state with Orwellian overtones. Well, yeah. But, we've been going that direction since the introduction of the ATM card. It's not big news anymore.

Theory B Sports has always done well in the ratings. Really well. There are good guys and bad guys and it's all real. But sports' heyday was back when women cooked, men watched TV and metrosexuals were a typo. Declining attendance, high viewership in the female demographic and people like me who hate watching sports have wrecked that trend. Then in 1999 a naked gay guy, Richard Hatch, started outplaying his opponents in Survivor and the Reality TV trend went from a burble to a torrent. At last count there were 57 Reality TV shows on the air waves. The problem is: a TV show costs about $200K per hour to just be produced-- forget stars, sets, jets to location shoots. Those extras come on top of that figure. This is why Extreme Makeover pays for $50K in plastic surgery per episode. It's a bargain.

What if $50K for liposuction was too pricey? What if people get tired of watching sweaty idiots backstab each other for coconuts? What if the reporter you hired is too stupid to wear pants let alone carry out investigative journalism? What if investigative journalism takes time and effort? What do you put on the air? Well, you do the reports based on what the police tell you, but instead of showing a lot of boring pictures of blood splatters and crime scene tape, show the crime in progress! If you have it play out you can send your news crew out later to get an interview with the police to capstone the report and voila! You have two or three minutes of TV that is more dramatic and cheaper to produce. After all, what's more gripping? A shot of a spent rubber glove or footage of someone who looks like your Aunt Marge being beaten with a baseball bat?

Gee. I wonder why this week many of the Global news outlets in Canada are hyping a technology (1) (2) that would make their jobs easier? If they used a lot more security camera footage, they could reduce the number of technical people (cameramen and sound guys) they would have to hire. In retail, a lot of stores have bulldozed their stockrooms and put all their stock on the floor. Keeping the hairdos who read the news and ditching the people in the field would be journalistic equivalent of this move. If only they could convince people to install more security cameras...


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