Well, I’d missed this one somehow. But thanks to my subscription to the unrivalled Private Eye, I discovered this week (No. 1268, p9) that Richard Desmond has bought Channel 5, one of the 5 terrestrial channels in the UK (which is supposed to offer a ‘public service’, unlike the cable channels which can be specific and focused).
What’s the big deal, you might wonder? Well, he is building quite a little media empire of his own. It’s not quite on the Murdoch scale, but it’s not insignificant in this country. But where did he start out? Well, on top of now owning the Daily Express and Sunday Express newspapers, + OK! magazine , he made his millions in porn. And he still owns a lot of porn magazines and pay-to-view sex channels on digital and satellite.
So what? Is Q now going to get all censory and holier than thou on us? Well no. Quite apart from what we might think about the whole porn industry (e.g. review of Tim Chester’s excellent Better Vision), Private Eye gives plenty of reasons for being concerned simply on the basis of the number of times his organisations have broken advertising and journalistic standards in the past. I just wonder what this might mean for a channel which I have to say is pretty rubbish anyway (I can’t remember the last thing I watched on it, in fact).
But it reminded me of something from David Dark’s fascinating, though rather alarmingly titled, book Everyday Apocalypse.
Yet as it is, television most often caters to our own worst instincts, driving us to base our identity in what we’re able to purchase, hijacking our hopes with the emptiest of slogans and scenarios, and wasting our sympathies on tales that are devastatingly shallow and sentimental. It can even be argued that our relationship with television has crippled our ability to recognize, within ourselves, the need for a better way. We’re numbed to our own deterioration. Actor/entertainment personality, Ben Stein has prophesied that by the year 2030, it will all be pornography. (Dark, p43)
You might think from this quote that Dark is simply out to bemoan all the failings of popular culture. Well, it couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a book that thrillingly wanders through such pop culture icons as The Simpsons, Radiohead and The Matrix to find sacred resonances and truth.
So it makes this observation all the more chilling. I hope he’s wrong – but I’ve a horrible feeling he’s not…